One approach to writing description – spread it out evenly

Long passages of description are generally frowned upon in our age. When Oscar Wilde would go on for three pages describing the sunlight in the garden, he had a more patient audience. Even so, the reader still needs enough information to imagine the scene. Slipping that information in without disturbing the flow of the plot is one of the tricks that seperate the pros (or semi-pros) from the hobbyists.

When you imagine the scene, take notes of what details you actually visualize. Write all of those down in the first drat that no-one’s going to see anyway (even if that draft exists -as mine do – only in your brain).

Then you need to ask yourself two questions.

Does the reader need to know? A corrollary would be, does this detail differ from what the reader would assume? We all have a ready image in our mind of what an old hobo, a rusty broadsword or a deserted parking lot might look like. The details you want to stress are the ones that wouldn’t immediately come to the reader’s mind. Of course the hobo’s clothes are filthy; tell us about the scar across his face, his Washington Senator’s baseball cap, or that he’s brandishing a rusty broadsword.

If the character, place or thing figures into the plot, or will appear multiple times, you definitely want to describe it.  Do not describe things that do not figure into the story, unless they are really cool – in which case, you might want to find a way to integrate them into the story anyway.

Does the reader need to know right now? You can, and should, spread the descriptions evenly across the book. Basic details up front: an abandoned parking lot. Later, as the hobo runs across it, mention the solitray, dim streetlamp and the rotting wooden fence that seperates the lot from the jungle. Even later, as the hobo fends off savage beasts with his broadsword, blood can splatter across the crumbling curbstones, body parts can tumble into small piles of discarded papers and smashed, plastic bottles,and so forth.

The gimmick is this: add a descriptive detail every time something happens. This not only spreads out your descriptions, thus avoiding the long narrative blocks we are so warned against, but it can also break up long monologues or thought processes or otherwise fill in the gap where you might otherwise write “He waited.”

It is always far better to show us something about your imaginary world through a detail than to just tell us – word count notwithstanding. Avoid the habit of trying to do this all up front. If compelling details keep coming, the reader will trust you long enough to piece together the world as he goes. After all, that’s part of the fun.

Tony Padegimas

[reprinted from here]


E-book price wars

A few length articles by a couple of people who have been keeping careful track:

With a Little Help: the Price is Right – by Cory Doctorow for Publisher’s Weekly.

Meanwhile, the mysteries of price and profit are on everyone’s minds these days thanks to the Macmillan-Amazon spat, with commentators on both sides of the debate drawing parallels to the train wreck of a decade the recording industry just went through.  […]   I think they’re both right.

A little more stridently pro author:

E-book Price Fixing: Who gets hurt in the end? – by Angela Hoy in Writer’s Weekly (which she edits and publishes)

The only way to protect authors and the integrity of literature itself is for publishers to continue to control their own list prices, which allows them to continue to control their own production costs and, in the end, the quality of the literature they are current delivering to readers.

A few of the more sane perspectives on e-publishing

Publishing, like most contemporary media, is currently caught in an upheaval of format and business  models. These changes are either revolutionary or apocalyptic, depending on which extreme side of the field you stand on, but for most of us in the middle its just confusing and messy.

We have cruised the internet for some relatively rational perspectives:

“We’re at a happy point, not just with Apple, but with Barnes & Noble and the ‘Nook,’ the 23 devices that have been launched, and Google Books seems to be just around the corner,” a source in the publishing industry said

But as their advances are cut, authors have failed to notice that during the worst recession for 80 years, book sales went down last year by just 1.2% in value and only 0.5% in volume. Non-fiction titles suffered but fiction is booming and all the publishers I spoke to are secretly optimistic.

  • Finally, veteran RPG author, and master of the movie or game novelization Mike Stackpole has posted a must-read series of blogs on the business behind e-books from an author’s perspective. The RPG industry, as Stackpole has noted elsewhere, is the case study disputing that e-books will automatically cut into the profit of hard-cover books. His Authors Can Be Stupid starts here – and goes on for several posts.

A quick survey of similar sites

Not comprehensive. We came upon these sites more-or-less at random.

Self Publishing Review []

Self-Publishing Review is a central site devoted to self-publishing news and reviews. It is also a social network where writers, readers, and everyone can join and connect, so please register. The aim of the site is to improve the attitude toward self-publishing and help authors find readers.

Magazine-style articles but with blog-level writing. SPR reviews book design but not content (yet), and features articles on self-promotion, and various perspectives on the trouble(s) with traditional publishing.

Best part:

WRITING: You're doing it wrong!

I don’t know who owns the copyright to this, but it’s not me, and I doubt its SPR.

Pacific Book Review []

It is our primary desire to provide unbiased, honest and quality book reviews for the experienced author as well as beginner authors who are just starting in the world of writing.

That said, the book reviews very often read like jacket-flap copy. While a few books reviewed are from mainstream publishers, most are self-published or micro-press products.

They will review your book for free, with no guarantee when (or if)  it will appear. However, for $75 they’ll guarantee a review within two weeks. For $20, you can get a small button for your book on the site. (That is, as far as I can determine, the extent of their “promotion” activities.)

Allbooks Review International []

ALLBOOKS REVIEW is the review source for POD AUTHORS as well as Traditionally published authors.  We do not discriminate between TRADITIONAL AND POD PUBLISHERS.

ALL BOOKS WELCOME.  Great coverage for your book for twelve months +.

Our reviews are honest and forthright.

We wish to make it clear, we do not charge for reviews, only the complete promo package based on the review.

This is supposedly a professional site run by professional people, but the lay-out looks like it was slapped together WordPress after several beers and during commercial breaks.

The review on the cover used the sentence: The story goes pretty much like this: Which would lower your grade automatically in junior college ENG 102. They also have a “promotional package” which consists of a bit of space on their site.

I don’t wish to get snarky.This is a new industry, and just about everyone in it is doing this beside their real job. Yet – if this is to be our most visible competition (witnessed that I found them first), it is hard to be intimidated.

Hello world!

This site is by and for authors trying to publish and/or market their own work – because the days when the big publishing houses take care of that for us are long gone – if they ever existed at all.

We cover the following topics:

  • Writing and the creative process behind the writing
  • The business and business strategy of getting a book published
  • Techniques and strategies (and perhaps gimmicks) for marketing books
  • Trends in both the near and future of publishing
  • Ebooks, podcasts and other new technologies that expand publishing even as the book industry contracts

And anything else we feel might bring traffic to the site.

Check out the works of the members/contributors to this project.

The future of publishing is wide open, but those who keep track of what is really going on need not be afraid.

-Tony Padegimas