Re: Ask the Editor

#41
I'm just gonna pop in here once, cuz all this talk about firearm and movie gaffes has given me a bit of a giggle in regards to a movie I was once involved in, set in America in the early 1800s. It pretty much felt like a high school project, because this movie was so indie that it didn't even have a crew. And they had me as a technical adviser (ha ha), along with a very good friend of the family. 

Now mind you, my friend is a teacher and our families have been involved in American Revolutionary War Re-enacting since 1973. Every scrap of clothing we wear, our tents, our gear, our battlefield tactics, all are proven to be 100% accurate via Primary Source verification. So this movie guy had permission to use a house built in the early 1800s to film the indoor scenes to a paranormal sort of thriller that was rapidly becoming a comedy, to allow random bits of absurdity to be laughed off as the plot moved along. 

I don't really know much of the story, since when you're filming a movie you naturally film scenes out of order. They were trying to get all the indoor scenes done before their permission to use the house reached its end, so there also was a frantic bit of tension. Besides the need for our expertise on the time period, the director also wanted to use some of our military gear, since costumes were readily available for him to use, but weaponry and acroutrements were not. 

Very few scenes were in need of weaponry, all of them taking place indoors and at night, so my friend and I were on set for only two evenings -- my friend mainly because of his expertise, and me mainly because I own a pair of authentic Charleville pistols, handsomely displayed in a homemade dueling case worthy of using to kill Lin Miranda in Hamilton.

So now to the funny part. The scene with my pistols in it involved the master of the house demanding his manservant go outside in the middle of the night in the pouring rain to hook up some horses to a carriage, for a helter-skelter sort of a ride to somewhere else. The manservant refuses to do so, so the master pulls out my two pistols and sticks them in the guy's face. 

The servant acquieses and leaves... and scene. Except for maybe three or four things. 

First off, the director thought pistols of the day came in holsters, and this guy would just whip them out, ala Clint Eastwood in a Western movie sort of fashion. Well, pistols of this time period came with belt clips -- basically a piece of spring steel that holds the pistol to the leather sling of your scabbard, or to the belt of your cartridge box, which is where you store your ammunition. If you are wearing a wool waistcoat and jacket (and who wasn't back then?) you could also hide a pistol under your jacket by clippping it between the thirteen or so buttons holding your waistcoat shut. 

But no holsters. Here are pictures of the lovely devils, to give you a better idea.
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Well, the director had no leather slings or cartridge box belts, and the actor was wearing movie prop clothes, not proper time period attire. So he was able to clip one pistol well enough to his pants, but the second pistol pretty much pulled them down whenever he walked around. He held the grips of both pistols to combat this problem, acting like he had his arms crossed in a gruff sort of manner. He then found he couldn't walk without looking stupid, so instead of entering into the scene, the director filmed it with him standing still. 

But these are flintlocks pistols, with an exterior pan where you pour blackpowder in and then shut it, to be flung open when struck by a piece of flint after you pull the trigger. As such, there is no such thing as a left-handed flintlock pistol. If you were to pull the trigger of a flintlock with your left hand, the resultant explosive flash of blackpowder going off in the pan would shoot sulphuric acid in your eyes and up your nose. 

Well we just pretended like that problem would be ignored. The master was under duress, after all. Except, again -- these are flintlocks with an exterior pan. Proper technique of the time was to draw the weapon, prime the pan with blackpowder, ram a cartridge down the barrel with a ramrod, and then hold the weapon with the barrel facing up until you are ready to aim and pull the trigger. If you were to prime and load a flintlock and then clip it to your pants with the barrel facing down, you're pretty much gonna pour blackpowder onto you shoes. 

We ignored that problem too. The actor also had to twist his left wrist with comedic awkwardness to pull a pistol out with that hand, since it had to be clipped to his pants facing backwards. 

Oh yes. A comedic paranormal thriller, involving the ghosts of dead children. I wonder what the end result looked like. Hopefully, the director just cut the whole Clint Eastwood two pistol scene. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#43

Dan Wrote: Appreciate it. I look for threads like this because I do read a lot, and I try to help people out where I can. The more I learn, the better. Being unemployed right now I have some time on my hands. Seems like a worthwhile thing to do.

Been there, done that, and I have the empty aspirin bottles to prove it. Incidentally, if you've never been on unemployment before, keep in mind that it makes tax season about ten times more annoying. It may be worth getting a local tax expert to do them for you just to save you the aggravation.
Dan Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: I have to give Royal Road authors credit on one thing: if this early sample is representative, then the author population here is much more open to getting a developmental editor's eye on their stuff early on, rather than have to rework things on the back end.

That's a relief. One of the ones I read and edited deleted their account for some reason or other, I believe. Was a bit worried I'd scared them off. There are some really good talents here, and good stories that I think a lot of folks would enjoy. There have been a few with better plot, pacing, and character development that is better than some of the stuff trad pub was pushing not too long ago.

Well, it's still possible to offend people, but Royal Road seems pretty chill about it. It could very well be that the author in question decided to take their work offline to work on it without further baggage.

Also, since coming to Royal Road, I've started to notice certain similarities to self-pub and indie books. I've been wondering if it's because of web novel influence, or if some of those novels were web novels and they just don't mention it on Amazon (or Audible, in this case; I tend to listen to a lot of books because I like keeping my brain engaged while doing the dishes or driving, etc.; but also because it's easier to turn off my editor brain if I'm not reading).
Dan Wrote: If authors are able to make a go of it *here-* well, not just here, but Amazon, too- that can't but be a good thing. Like you mentioned about gatekeepers earlier (agents), trad pub can only promote so many. Their coffers are not limitless, and the time of their editing staff is the same. Crowd-sourcing that stuff works. I've bought books that started here, and recommended them to friends and family.

Please feel free to recommend them to me, as well, if only so I can take a look at them for metadata purposes.

And yes, it is absolutely a good thing. More books out there means more audiences, not less. As I mentioned earlier, the rise of literacy between the World Wars wasn't what drove the sales of cheap pulp fiction: it was the other way around. Cheap paper meant more stories, which meant more opportunities to read, which meant more people found it worthwhile. This effect doesn't stop at even 100% literacy, either. Stories get read far faster than they can be written, and so audiences can cross-promote according to taste like never before. Add in web novels which are available without a subscription and you get plenty of opportunity to find new stories.
Dan Wrote: Even the ones that are written in present tense- those generally aren't my taste per se, and I can see there being challenges in writing well in present tense that are very different from third person.

The only present-tense book I didn't get a headache trying to read was Bloody Jack and its sequels. The first book starts in 1802, and it's about a street urchin named Jacky Faber, from London's Cheapside, who managed to get a berth as a ship's boy on HMS Dolphin because he can read. Absolutely fantastic Age of Sail fun, and since the book is narrated entirely in a Cockney accent I didn't have a problem with the present tense style.

Oh, incidentally, Jacky Faber's real name is Mary, and her adventures don't stop once her secret gets out. :P

Great series. Narrated in audio by the incomparable Katherine Kellgren, who was a one-woman cast. I say was because she died recently. I haven't been able to bring myself to finish the series because I feel like it'll mean she's really gone. Still, you almost can't go wrong with anything narrated by her. She also did the narration for the Enola Holmes series, the first book of which was recently adapted into a Netflix movie (the book is better, by the way).
Dan Wrote: The one example I recall most vividly that threw me out of a story was one I read a few years ago. Sci-fi man-out-of-time story, I enjoyed they heck out of it up to the point where the author portrayed a rape- actually, more of a psychic rape, but it was described vividly as such- that seemed to be seriously downplayed by the character's reaction to it. Kept reading, and still wasn't addressed more than a bare few lines. Not in a manner that suggested repression, or dealing with it in a psychologically healthy manner, just dropped. I gave up on the series and never picked it back up, despite it being one that interested me before.

I'd have dropped that one too. I've dropped series for less, including some that are highly popular.
Dan Wrote: Now that you mention it, I think I remember having a discussion about one of the early Honor Harrington books back in the early days about the math, but the details escape me just now. Just a dim recollection that there was a bit of a hiccup there. It didn't turn me off the series then and doesn't now. Eric Flint's 1632 series I had some minor quibbles about, too, but those didn't appreciably reduce my enjoyment of the story. They weren't major plot points.

I had a few with the initial 1632, but not enough to avoid rereading it or recommending it to others. My biggest quibble was actually the portrayal of the Spanish Inquisition, which was a caricature. He portrayed them as bloodthirsty, which was straight out of the English propaganda of the time but he (and many still today) didn't seem to realize that England might possibly exaggerate the faults of its enemies. It's worth noting that there are many records of people deliberately getting their legal cases transferred to the Inquisition's oversight because they had a better chance of a fair trial. For example, the right to face one's accuser comes from ecclesiastical courts like the Spanish Inquisition, and did not exist in most secular courts of the time.

Fortunately, Flint's decision to open the series up for collaboration helped fix a lot of his historical inaccuracies, including that one. The southern branch of the series (starting with The Galileo Affair) did an excellent job of handling popular misinformation about the topic, and rolled the evils of the Spanish Inquisition back to being about politics (completely accurate) rather than treating them all as serial killers (farcical). I never had a chance to talk to Andrew Dennis, but I happened to run into Chuck Gannon at a local event one time and we had a very pleasant conversation about the topic.

Also, I might or might not have cosplayed as Ruy Sanchez de Castor y Ortiz. ;)


Dan Wrote: There are books out there that get the details right- Larry Correia's Monster Hunter series is rock solid on firearms details, even if he is using them to shoot werewolves and sahagin. He managed to satisfy the subject matter experts and gain an wider audience by writing an entertaining story, though.

Larry Correia is an excellent example of someone who gained success in large part due to accuracy in his novels. He started out self-publishing Monster Hunter International, with most of his initial sales happening due to discussions on gun-enthusiast forums because they were overjoyed at finding entertainment that got the details right. I use several of his fans as go-to sources for any issues with firearms that pop up in manuscripts. I'm more of a blade guy myself.

ArDeeBurger Wrote: I'm just gonna pop in here once, cuz all this talk about firearm and movie gaffes has given me a bit of a giggle in regards to a movie I was once involved in, set in America in the early 1800s. It pretty much felt like a high school project, because this movie was so indie that it didn't even have a crew. And they had me as a technical adviser (ha ha), along with a very good friend of the family.  [snip]

. . . wow. Just wow. You were far more good-natured about it than I would have been. I'd have just told the director to stuff it and point out that the period-accurate thing would have been to threaten with a blade or blunt object.

LurkerWizard Wrote: What do you think about Masterclass courses (writing/screenwriting), Brandon Sanderson's free youtube course, Skillshare and Udemy?

I've never tried any of the sources you named there, but I don't believe there's such a thing as too much knowledge. Wrong knowledge, yes, but that's actually why you should look for advice from a wide range of sources. If, say, you learned only from me, then you'd only learn what I know, and I can be wrong. You won't know unless you go out and check for yourself.

And even if I were completely right all the time on facts, my tastes are going to color how I present things. There are beloved stories here on Royal Road that I simply haven't touched because something mentioned in a glowing review was something I knew I wouldn't enjoy. It's no slight on the story's writing quality or entertainment value. It's just not to my taste, so I don't bother. That will in turn affect what I offer up as examples, as well as my advice to authors who want me to critique their work when I frankly don't like what they wrote for personal reasons. The latter happened several times in my intro thread, and only some of them were mentioned (such as my issue with present-tense narration). The rest I left unremarked-upon, because my tastes are not subject to critique; but that doesn't mean I didn't let my professionalism slip, or even that I didn't overcompensate for my own tastes.

So, frankly, go listen to, watch, and read as much advice as you can stomach. There isn't a single expert out there who can claim to be anything like a sole authority on writing.

Re: Ask the Editor

#44

NovelNinja Wrote: You were far more good-natured about it than I would have been. I'd have just told the director to stuff it and point out that the period-accurate thing would have been to threaten with a blade or blunt object.

Yes. You are exactly right. A saber was the side-arm of the day. Any military man worth his mettle determined to protect his family would have strapped on his sling and scabbard before heading out in the pouring rain. This would have been true right up to World War I. And you wouldn't have threatened someone by pulling the saber out. Merely placing your hand on the pommel and perhaps extracing a half foot of the blade ought to have gotten those dumb horses hooked up to a stupid carriage.

Actually pulling out the blade all the way -- just like priming and loading a flint-lock pistol -- meant that you were going to use it. Right. Now.

And anyway, it was more fun to watch these guys footle about with their movie than to actually offer any usable advice. The scene with the pistols only took about a half hour or so at most. Far more fun was to watch this older lady scream at a fog machine for an hour or two, as that was where the dead kids' ghosts were supposed to be materializing from. 

Plus the house was really cool. It was a museum piece you see, and as a Rev War Re-enactor, it was great to have unfettered access to the rooms in the house. It had no electricity, though, so being that it was night, it was pretty darn dark in most places. 😁

Re: Ask the Editor

#50
Sadly, yes. There are a few reasons for why. One is economic, and one has to do with how the sausage is made.

Ugly part first. The Big Four are too consolidated, with just a few elites controlling things. Even though SF&F is a big genre, it's only the fourth largest fiction genre. That holds true even if you use the larger umbrella term "speculative fiction." Money talks, and if you're a stranger to the topics then you pay attention to the genres that talk the loudest. 

It's also "weird." Unless you're particularly young, you may remember that until about a decade ago, "geek pride" was a very niche thing. The straw that tipped everything over was the MCU franchise. It was okay to like superheroes in public. This spilled over into the rest of speculative fiction. D&D is now so mainstream they sell it in my local Walmart, and I live in an area that has more farm animals than people. (Note, I was raised a city boy, but I like peace and quiet. I used to live on a mountain before I got married.)

That's a big change, but it's very recent. There are plenty of people far more curmudgeonly and operationally conservative than I, and many of them are in charge of longstanding institutions. That doesn't just mean big corporations. Also, I specify "operationally conservative" because I want to emphasize that I mean hidebound and unwilling to change, and not the US or even the European definitions of "politically conservative" (two very different definitions). In fact, most of the people I describe are politically progressive/liberal, and while their politics do affect things, I have carefully cultivated an apolitical professional persona and would rather not go into those details. I'll stick with writing topics.

There are two types of curmudgeonly, conservative gatekeepers in the industry that you have to worry about if you want to trad-pub an SF&F novel. The first are those who have no idea how popular speculative fiction is, often because they only care about how action/thriller, romance, and mystery will sell more units. It's still weird, and what's weird gets shunned. They pick up the ones they feel they understand, often because they match a trend (vampires after Twilight, dystopia after The Hunger Games) or because they match a special interest (like needing more minority authors or promoting a socially conscious topic that matters for New York City cocktail parties or trending social media conversations -- the two are astonishingly similar).

The other type are the ones who in some way see the spread of mainstream speculative fiction to be a Bad Thing. They endured shame and humiliation for liking geek stuff, and now the jocks dare to wear Captain America shirts! Outrage! They demand tests for who gets to be considered a true geek and put up roadblocks for newcomers that can never be overcome even with obsessive resesrch to catch all the references. These figures hit true irony when you realize that they are mostly all over 50 and tend to praise what they grew up with but often ignore what came earlier. So they often denigrate Tolkien, Lewis, Heinlein, Azimov, and even later figures like Anne McCaffrey, all of whom shaped the genre, but attack newly-molted geeks who tend to like the latest innovations but haven't read Salvatore, never experienced vanilla WoW, and don't remember dial-up. (And that's before politics get mixed in. Such personages almost always use politics as a marker of whether someone is acceptable as a human being.) 

For the record, I vividly remember the scorn I faced for being a geek in school and my first college. I can't stand anyone who wants to turn around and perpetuate abuse. I'd rather welcome everyone regardless of their politics or experiences. More fans mean more friends. 

The really bad ones are the ones who manage to be both types at the same time, which is why both the SFWA and the Hugo Awards have declined severely. SFWA has gotten slightly better over the last three years, but they've become more of a country club rather than focused on improving the industry like they used to. (Their recent efforts to defend author rights against Disney is something I wholeheartedly acknowledge as improvement, and the current president and I have had very cordial conversations over the years regarding these differences.)

I can go into a lot more detail, but it would go past a sausage discussion and into a rant. Suffice to say there are a lot of details and experiences that have shaped my opinion of the industry.

On to the economic factor, which is much more pleasant. Self-pub has filled the gap left by the above, in large part due to why SF&F books grew in size faster than the other genres. I promise, that's an example, not a non sequitor. See, SF&F fans tend to be early technology adopters, so SF&F authors took to writing books on home computers first. The ease of use (no need to rewrite a whole page if you change one paragraph!) meant more detail could be described, and stories could be more involved, for the same cost in time and almost the same cost in printing.

Similarly, geeks tended to be more willing to try ebooks, and it didn't hurt that the only major non-NYC publishing imprint for SF&F (Baen) did an enthusiastic cannonball into the deep end of DRM-free electronic publishing nearly twenty years ago. Baen is in large part responsible for the better Amazon payments on ebooks today, because Baen refused to sell ebooks with Amazon until the latter gave more money to authors. Two years of negotiations resulted in the payment change, which helped fuel the ebook self-pub explosion.

This, however, also makes SF&F less attractive to major publishers, not more. Their market share has been effectively stagnant because a new path opened up. They're seeing the same thing happen with the three top fiction genres, but it's been slower and so many people act like if they ignore it long enough it'll go back to their glory days before you young whippersnapers and your e-readers.

Re: Ask the Editor

#51
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NovelNinja Wrote: I have carefully cultivated an apolitical professional persona and would rather not go into those details. I'll stick with writing topics.


*Snipped*


I'd rather welcome everyone regardless of their politics or experiences. More fans mean more friends.


I really don't care about an author's politics. It can be off putting when they bring it up, even when it is an issue I may agree with in my personal life. The only thing that bringing up current issue politics seems to do is to lose potential readers. It also doesn't particularly age well, in the vast majority of cases. I wholeheartedly agree with keeping politics out of professional life, and applaud you for doing so!

NovelNinja Wrote: Similarly, geeks tended to be more willing to try ebooks, and it didn't hurt that the only major non-NYC publishing imprint for SF&F (Baen) did an enthusiastic cannonball into the deep end of DRM-free electronic publishing nearly twenty years ago. Baen is in large part responsible for the better Amazon payments on ebooks today, because Baen refused to sell ebooks with Amazon until the latter gave more money to authors. Two years of negotiations resulted in the payment change, which helped fuel the ebook self-pub explosion.


My first taste of ebooks was the Baen Free Library back in 2013, I think. I believe Baen also published the first book I picked up that had recommendations for other books by different authors in the back. That, at the time, was huge. You didn't have to go to the bookstore every weekend and browse through the same titles you'd dismissed last week, or already had and read three times, to see if there was anything new that would catch your eye. That's how I found David Drake in the back of a David Weber novel, if I recall correctly. Amazon does this now to a certain extent with the also-bot. I mean, “also bought.” It is quite useful. Though for things that are very new or don't have a lot of purchases yet, sometimes the also-bot brings up things like mop buckets and power tools when I'm looking at books, so that may just be me.

NovelNinja Wrote: There are two types of curmudgeonly, conservative gatekeepers in the industry that you have to worry about if you want to trad-pub an SF&F novel.


Anyone who has been to one of several SF&F conventions in the past ten years or so has probably met these sorts of people, and heard them speak. The less said about these sorts, the better, in my book. In a roundabout way, it is part of why outside of a few favorites, most of my new science fiction and fantasy purchases on Amazon have been indie- there just aren't enough trad pub novels in my favored genre to match the pace of my reading appetite.

Sure there are some that make me want to... gently encourage them to have someone edit their novel before publishing, for the love of Zeus! *ahem* Then you have author's like Chris Nuttall that put out consistently clean works that scratch the mil sf itch (The Zero Enigma is good, too, fantasy instead of mil sf). Eric Ugland's Good Guys series is another one that I tend to pick up as soon as it is released (isikai/litrpg/fantasy), and one I've recommended several times before. His style is not the norm in the genre, having an MC that isn't a genius (and is personally aware of this, as is everyone around him), and usually manages to muddle through with a combination of physical strength and the ability to heal from nearly any injury outside of combat. 

I believe the Big Four are missing an opportunity in a big way in how they've treated ebooks in general, not just SF&F. Making the price of the ebook version comparable to the paperback was a mistake. They are ceding the initiative to, well, everyone else that has the guts and the determination to do something about it. Amazon built their business on shipping books, then created a platform to ship the stories via the internet rather than UPS. That capability existed since the first cell phones and laptops became common.

Here on RR, litRPG seems to be a more popular genre than on Amazon. I can't find any reliable statistics on how it has grown over the past five years or so since the term first started popping up. The increase in the number of stories coming out as litRPG/gamelit tells me there is something there, though. If you're interested, The Land by Aleron Kong is what I'd consider the gold standard for the genre. Engaging, entertaining, and well written. It could also be considered isikai, but that element is far less important to the story than the litRPG.

Sometimes, though, you just want the equivalent of comfort food in books. For me, that's sci-fi.

Re: Ask the Editor

#52

NovelNinja Wrote: Been there, done that, and I have the empty aspirin bottles to prove it. Incidentally, if you've never been on unemployment before, keep in mind that it makes tax season about ten times more annoying. It may be worth getting a local tax expert to do them for you just to save you the aggravation.

Appreciate the tip. I'm currently living off savings and trying to find a job that isn't going to require 24 hr on call in a hostile environment. Didn't realize what the stress and chronic lack of sleep was doing to my health and sanity. I'm lucky enough to have a tax expert I know check my work when I file, and am paid up on all taxes for last year already.
NovelNinja Wrote: Please feel free to recommend them to me, as well, if only so I can take a look at them for metadata purposes.

Two that I know of right off the top of my head are Return of the Tower Conqueror and Dungeon Crawler Carl. I plan on leaving reviews for both once caught up on the stories. 

Dungeon Crawler Carl is also available in audiobook, but I haven't listened to it yet, so can't comment on the quality of the narration. Return of the Tower Conqueror does not have an audiobook version yet.

NovelNinja Wrote: I'd have dropped that one too. I've dropped series for less, including some that are highly popular.

If it had been in book one or even two, it would have been dropped even faster. The fact that it was book seven, I think, meant I gave the author more reading to see if he'd somehow address it more cogently. Alas.

NovelNinja Wrote: Fortunately, Flint's decision to open the series up for collaboration helped fix a lot of his historical inaccuracies, including that one. The southern branch of the series (starting with The Galileo Affair) did an excellent job of handling popular misinformation about the topic, and rolled the evils of the Spanish Inquisition back to being about politics (completely accurate) rather than treating them all as serial killers (farcical). I never had a chance to talk to Andrew Dennis, but I happened to run into Chuck Gannon at a local event one time and we had a very pleasant conversation about the topic.


Also, I might or might not have cosplayed as Ruy Sanchez de Castor y Ortiz. ;)

Absolutely. It saved the series for me, and brought life back to what was beginning to look like someone had forgot the history part of alternate history on that note. 

And cosplay falls under the official protection of the Rule of Cool. Ruy Sanchez de Castor y Ortiz is entirely too cool not to, if you can pull it off. 

NovelNinja Wrote: Larry Correia is an excellent example of someone who gained success in large part due to accuracy in his novels. He started out self-publishing Monster Hunter International, with most of his initial sales happening due to discussions on gun-enthusiast forums because they were overjoyed at finding entertainment that got the details right. I use several of his fans as go-to sources for any issues with firearms that pop up in manuscripts. I'm more of a blade guy myself.


Tangent, but this is yet another reason I'm irked that Baen's Bar is down. There are several threads there and people that truly do know their particular subjects well that I can't mine for ideas. People who not only know about a topic, but can translate complex ideas into common language are rare. I can at least hum the tune when it comes to firearms, but other subjects are beyond my ken. I don't want to be the guy that thinks lasers in space have ballistic arcs. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#53
Hi!

First and foremost, thank you for posting this thread.

I don't know if you're still doing this since your last post dates back to 4 weeks ago. But here goes nothing. Three or four weeks ago, I've started a book on Royal Road (link in the signature below), and I'm still wondering if my first chap is any good at all. I've edited/rewrote it dozens of times. Still, something feels off. I've been told that my second chap can also be a good 1st chap in itself. Could you please take a look at it?

Oh yeah, got another question. My MC lost his memories but here's the thing: should he have lost everything? Meaning a return to a complete 'baby state'. no actual knowledge whatsoever. It isn't something I did in my novel. The MC knows how to talk and think. However, he is confused since he didn't ask for any of the coming events.

Ah another question (just sparked right now): My MC isn't a human but a skeleton who's goal is to regain his humanity. But it seems that his inhumane appearance affects his ability to be relatable sometimes.

Also, what do writing groups generally do? I'm trying to create one with a friend but we're a bit if not entirely clueless on the subject. And since English is not my first language, I think it is a necessity for me to find or create a writer group. I'm still struggling with word choices and grammar. But it is steadily improving.

Ok... this got longer than I intended. Sorry.

Anyway, I hope to hear back from you.

Best regards.

Re: Ask the Editor

#54
YoanRoturier Wrote: Hi!

First and foremost, thank you for posting this thread.

I don't know if you're still doing this since your last post dates back to 4 weeks ago.

Yep, still doing this. I'll keep doing it until I get bored, which will basically mean I no longer come to Royal Road. So if anyone reading this thread is curious, just check my profile for my recent activity. I can't promise I'll be here forever, but I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. I'll probably still be dispensing advice when I finally retire for good. I enjoy the subject too much to see myself quitting.


YoanRoturier Wrote: Three or four weeks ago, I've started a book on Royal Road (link in the signature below), and I'm still wondering if my first chap is any good at all. I've edited/rewrote it dozens of times. Still, something feels off. I've been told that my second chap can also be a good 1st chap in itself. Could you please take a look at it?

I read both chapters. I'll first respond to the question about which one counts as a "first chapter" (and I read the comment that suggested that as well). I think that the first chapter is necessary, though it can be straightened out to be better. Some of it has to do with memories and an emotional response, which I'll cover in response to your other questions below.

I like your concept. I've never played Dark Souls, but some of my students have enthusiastically told me about the games, so I was noticing some similarities.

I think you need more description on where he is. Normally, I would advise putting in smells, but he's a skeleton; on the other hand, as a skeleton he doesn't have eyes or ears, or a tongue with which to speak, so perhaps he can magically smell things as well. Either way, give a bit more detail to where he is and how it feels to what senses he has.

I also think he should ask certain questions at the start; you already have a convenient excuse for not answering them, so this will serve as an excellent way to head off readers who might object to him seeming too dumb. Those questions would include: "Why me?" "How many people get selected for this?" "What do you mean, souls? Do I have to kill innocents?" "Can I use SP to regrow my body?"

YoanRoturier Wrote: Oh yeah, got another question. My MC lost his memories but here's the thing: should he have lost everything? Meaning a return to a complete 'baby state'. no actual knowledge whatsoever. It isn't something I did in my novel. The MC knows how to talk and think. However, he is confused since he didn't ask for any of the coming events.

Oh, you have no idea how fun this particular question is for me. Most universities these days don't pay much attention to medieval European philosophy, primarily because it's almost entirely religious and mostly Catholic (with some Orthodox in there, and a decent amount of Islamic considering the only way the Islamic philosophers could operate openly was through the protection of sultans, but that's a long story and not relevant here). Modern philosophy rarely concerns itself with the soul, but that's exactly what you are asking about here. Fortunately, my alma mater covered it in detail.

To summarize about 1,800 years of discussion and approximately a year and a half of academic study, the conclusion of all those medieval philosophers (culminating in Thomas Aquinas, who literally wrote the book on the subject) was that if the soul existed, it had to be integral to the state of being human, just as we have bodies. Ergo, we are a body/soul composite, greater than the sum of our parts. Even back then, without the benefit of brain scans, they understood that the brain was where thinking took place; but they took the idea that the soul was the repository of it all, and that injuries could harm the ideal connections between body and soul -- as could damage to the soul itself (sin), but I'll get to that on your next question below.

The idea they had was that the reason why a person could only be judged by God upon death was that once the connection between body and soul was severed (the definition of death for them), that person could no longer grow and change. Similarly, angels and demons, being pure spirit, could never change either; which is why angels were always good and fallen angels could never repent. So a human could always repent up until the very moment of death; and in turn, that means we never stop learning until we stop living.

Here's how it's relevant to your story. In order for your character to grow and change, Fallen must have a body with which to let his soul grow. But since he's just a skeleton, he doesn't have access to the full benefits of his body-and-soul composite, which means he lacks full senses, full understanding, full empathy, and full memory.

To a certain extent, he will have a clearer head than when he was alive, because he isn't distracted by the details of being alive. That also means he won't have access to a lot of things he'd find very useful, however, including fight-or-flight reflexes; he'd be moving on pure willpower, and never instinct. He'd also have a lack of full emotions, and so wouldn't know how to really process things. He would, however, have a sense of humor similar to what you already described; these same philosophers concluded that humor is a natural power of the soul, though it's enhanced by what's called risibility, which is a fancy word for "the capacity to physically laugh." Angels, for example, have no risibility, and so their sense of humor is more akin to a sense of aesthetics.

So Fallen should be calm and collected, save for very basic emotions. For example, he can get angry, as you showed him doing when he attacked the altar; but he wouldn't necessarily be frustrated, which has a physical component. At the same time, you can easily fudge things because he has to be able to change, and so his body should be allowing him to do so.

This would be a good set of questions for him to ask himself as well. He should gradually figure out (or have already figured out in the first two chapters, if you edit them) that he's missing memories, that he should be able to do more mental and physical things than he currently can, and that his current state both helps (calming) and hinders (lack of instinct) him in getting to his goal. You can also have the goddess explain that his skeletal body is there to provide the minimum anchor necessary for his soul to grow and change once more.

YoanRoturier Wrote: Ah another question (just sparked right now): My MC isn't a human but a skeleton who's goal is to regain his humanity. But it seems that his inhumane appearance affects his ability to be relatable sometimes.

This is absolutely correct, though it's not just about his appearance. As I said above, when you get into this sort of philosophy, you start to see that (contrary to most of modern philosophy) the soul is not something that exists in a vacuum or separate from our intellect. It's a vital part of the human condition. So since you're already getting into the metaphysical, I strongly suggest you borrow from this kind of religious philosophy.

(Mind you, I don't actually advise reading Thomas Aquinas cold. He's hard to read even for experts. I'm a weird guy that actually finds him fun, but even I don't read him for fun.)

As I mentioned earlier, this philosophy taught that sin wasn't simply a list of violations, but actual damage to the soul. Your choices shape your soul, so actions you repeat over and over make for easier choices each time. If you choose to help others, it makes it easier to offer help later. If you choose to harm others, it is easier to choose harm later.

I don't know what Fallen's past is, but if you take my advice, I'd have him be someone who was originally a bad person, willing to do violence at the expense of others, but who had a moment of repentance close to death. He's therefore given a chance to prove himself by how he acts in these trials. Since his soul would still be shaped according to his previous choices, violent and cruel choices would be easier; so he'd have to put in extra effort to avoid harming innocents. This in turn means that his SP collection is itself a test, as he will likely have to pass up collecting SP in order to avoid profiting at someone else's expense.

Lacking full empathy would also be part of the test, as it means each choice will be almost entirely intellectual in nature. He can feel emotion on an intellectual level, but if he's operating without instinct he'll be unable to "go with his gut" even if he had physical guts.

YoanRoturier Wrote: Also, what do writing groups generally do? I'm trying to create one with a friend but we're a bit if not entirely clueless on the subject. And since English is not my first language, I think it is a necessity for me to find or create a writer group. I'm still struggling with word choices and grammar. But it is steadily improving.


I noticed a few issues with your English grammar, yes; particularly with commas and conjunctions. English is a difficult language. May I ask what your native tongue is?

A writing group is part critique, part motivation. The motivation comes from the fact that it's human nature to work harder if others around you are working as well; it's why many people have trouble working from home (aside from distractions) and why learning is easier with around 10-20 students -- smaller or larger groups reduce the effectiveness of feedback to both student and teacher.

So the best writing groups are ones where everyone can encourage others to work by committing to do work in the first place; preferably through investing time, rather than requiring minimum wordcounts. That said, an excellent practice that caught on a while back is to do what I like to call word wars, though I believe the most common term is word sprints. This is where two or more people sit down and write for a set period, such as twenty minutes, and then take a break. They compare word counts to see where everyone's at, and may provide advice to help bring up someone's output.

Beyond providing a social connection, a good writing group must also provide critique on what everyone is working on. This is where writing groups can fall apart, because it can only work if everyone is able to offer the right kind of advice. If everyone is focused on modernist romance, then the lone fantasy author writing swashbuckling adventure isn't going to get very helpful critique.

Even before the craziness of quarantines, online writing groups were very popular. Not needing a physical space, and not being limited just to those who are in your immediate vicinity, can really help get the right kind of crowd together. After all, it's hard to go down to your local library and find a writing group that can help critique a litRPG, but you can set up a Discord channel for that very topic with the click of a mouse.

Re: Ask the Editor

#56

ArDeeBurger Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: Modern philosophy rarely concerns itself with the soul

You have got to be kidding me. What the huck do they talk about, if not the mind and soul and body? 


No wonder why I like all the dead guys. 👻

Usually just the mind by itself, with a recently increasing focus on the body's influence. From what I've seen, the latter is always connected to treatises on gender, race, sexuality, analyzing political-affiliation-as-illness, or any combination thereof.


Sadly, modern philosophy is often hampered by throwing out what has been analyzed before. For example, every argument on the reliability of the senses (which used to be much more in vogue among philosophy students and academics) really needs to start with a refutation of Aristotle, but instead they act like no one before them is worth anything. It's important to understand roots even when deconstructing them, because unless you understand why they reached a conclusion you'll never get past "I reject your conclusion because I don't want to accept it."

Heck, that's even an issue with people teaching the older stuff. Back in my own college days, a few jokers kept trying to derail a philosophy class by trying to claim that because Aristotle was wrong on physics, we shouldn't study what he said about physics. Our professor was unprepared on the subject, so I stepped in. After the third day (when I proved that Aristotle was sufficiently close to Newtonian gravity to calculate orbits if he'd possessed calculus), the jokers gave up -- and the professor asked me for book recommendations.

Long story short, modern philosophy isn't progressive, because it throws out too many things. You can't progress if you're constantly coming back to square one. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#57

NovelNinja Wrote: I like your concept. I've never played Dark Souls, but some of my students have enthusiastically told me about the games, so I was noticing some similarities.

Yeah, got some of my inspiration from that game. I spent quite a few hours playing it. Good game by the way! Reserved for hardcore gamers tho.



NovelNinja Wrote: I think you need more description on where he is. Normally, I would advise putting in smells, but he's a skeleton; on the other hand, as a skeleton he doesn't have eyes or ears, or a tongue with which to speak, so perhaps he can magically smell things as well. Either way, give a bit more detail to where he is and how it feels to what senses he has.



I agree. I'll start editing this as soon as possible. Originally, the story already had 27 chapters, which are currently unavailable for public reading because I'm rewriting/editing at the moment. But your post is super useful. So useful that I might have to rewrite the chaps I already edited to a certain extent. I'm frustrated and thrilled at the idea. Weird feeling.

However, it might get boring for my readers. Something I picked up from online reading is that web novels usually don't partake in the lengthy descriptions of classic novels. At least a lot of them didn't until recently. Now there is some kind of resurgence towards lengthy descriptions.


NovelNinja Wrote: I also think he should ask certain questions at the start; you already have a convenient excuse for not answering them, so this will serve as an excellent way to head off readers who might object to him seeming too dumb. Those questions would include: "Why me?" "How many people get selected for this?" "What do you mean, souls? Do I have to kill innocents?" "Can I use SP to regrow my body?"


AAAAAh! I see what you mean. It would hint at those problems, without giving an answer from the start. Great, I'll take that!


NovelNinja Wrote: Oh, you have no idea how fun this particular question is for me.



Oh, you have no idea how painful this particular question is for me. I'm literally racking my brain on how to keep this coherent.
NovelNinja Wrote: Here's how it's relevant to your story. In order for your character to grow and change, Fallen must have a body with which to let his soul grow. But since he's just a skeleton, he doesn't have access to the full benefits of his body-and-soul composite, which means he lacks full senses, full understanding, full empathy, and full memory.

To a certain extent, he will have a clearer head than when he was alive, because he isn't distracted by the details of being alive. ETC.



That might get tricky. I'm already trying to do that but with fewer... peps? In the first volume, I want him to learn how to be human again, without a human appearance. The idea of the body/soul necessary balance to fully feel, think and understand is interesting. However, this is going to be a problem for me. I want my MC to be relatable. His inability to fully express what makes humans... well humans, is going to lessen that. Frustration, empathy, sympathy, and more. Those are necessary, to build it. At least I think so. What I'm trying to say is, I don't want to wait too long to have him feeling human emotions, since the process to win back his human body is going to take a long time.

So what I came up with was that the soul is life itself. It contains everything from emotions to memories. The body is just a vessel with no other purpose than carrying the soul. It takes time for a soul to adapt to its new vessel, that's why the MC won't entirely grasp what human emotions are. But since the potential for emotions is in the soul he will feel them nonetheless. What I also want to show by doing that is that one isn't born a human but becomes one. Well, something like that.

But If I'm taking into account what you said, I could use it this way. The MC gains back his body with each major improvement to his stat level (Low to Medium / Medium to High / etc.) I could also make it so that he collects enough SP to start to feel human emotions early in volume 1.



NovelNinja Wrote: As I mentioned earlier, this philosophy taught that sin wasn't simply a list of violations, but actual damage to the soul. Your choices shape your soul, so actions you repeat over and over make for easier choices each time. If you choose to help others, it makes it easier to offer help later. If you choose to harm others, it is easier to choose harm later.


I'll keep that in mind. I'm trying to implement something similar. But what I am aiming for is a perfect balance between the two. For in the story good and evil are but two faces of the same coin. Balance is what truly matters. I'm saying that but I have a tendency for my MC to do  heroic actions. I think I should tune it down a notch, or justify his heroic endeavors through other means than "Hey I feel bad for you so I'll help."


NovelNinja Wrote: I noticed a few issues with your English grammar, yes; particularly with commas and conjunctions. English is a difficult language. May I ask what your native tongue is?


French. I'm lucky we have the same Latin roots because I would be lost otherwise. But that hinders my train of thoughts too. Ways of expressing oneself in English are different in French. So it gets tricky sometimes. What am I saying all the time!

NovelNinja Wrote: don't know what Fallen's past is, but if you take my advice, I'd have him be someone who was originally a bad person, willing to do violence at the expense of others, but who had a moment of repentance close to death.


Concerning his past, I'll message it to you, cause I don't want this to be posted on a thread.

NovelNinja Wrote: A writing group is part critique, part motivation. Etc.



Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.

Re: Ask the Editor

#59
Ayo Ayo Editor Sir! In the realm of writin it is as though a hero of the pantheon has descended from Olympus to walk amongst the mortals as they-
We will be here forever and a day and a 'alf if we dain't go cuttin' that at the roots.

Me first question is in a way a two parter. What do you feel about grimdark stories, and what would you say is the furthest into the grim and the dark a story should go? (Writing for an adult audience)

The second question (Ha bet ya thought that were it!) is how far into a visual description should a story go? I always remember me teacher saying to paint a picture with words yet a few people have mentioned that me own interpretation of this phrase is... Erm... "Excessive..." I've linked me story below as an example if ye wish to read it to get an idea of this "excessive" tendancy.

Take care and may your pen remain full!
Täz
(Aka irritating Scottish lad who occasionally and randomly makes an appearance in the forum's with an almost alarming irregularity)

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/39144/the-fallen-city/chapter/609787/moonlight-rising
...
Yes I did forget to add the link in... This is an alarming regularity.

Re: Ask the Editor

#60
YoanRoturier Wrote: I agree. I'll start editing this as soon as possible. Originally, the story already had 27 chapters, which are currently unavailable for public reading because I'm rewriting/editing at the moment. But your post is super useful. So useful that I might have to rewrite the chaps I already edited to a certain extent. I'm frustrated and thrilled at the idea. Weird feeling.


That's . . . actually a fairly common reaction. :) My wife is currently rewriting the first few chapters of her second book because I made a couple suggestions, and it's opened up several new storytelling options for her.

YoanRoturier Wrote: However, it might get boring for my readers. Something I picked up from online reading is that web novels usually don't partake in the lengthy descriptions of classic novels. At least a lot of them didn't until recently. Now there is some kind of resurgence towards lengthy descriptions.

I've noticed the same thing, but I wouldn't say that trad publishing is full of lengthy descriptions. It's more that the kind of description is different. The online format lends itself to much shorter chapters in order to keep the pace up, which means that you have to seed description throughout the action, balancing one with the other. Which happens to be what I advocate regardless, so it's still pretty close from my perspective.


YoanRoturier Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: Oh, you have no idea how fun this particular question is for me.

Oh, you have no idea how painful this particular question is for me. I'm literally racking my brain on how to keep this coherent.
NovelNinja Wrote: Here's how it's relevant to your story. In order for your character to grow and change, Fallen must have a body with which to let his soul grow. But since he's just a skeleton, he doesn't have access to the full benefits of his body-and-soul composite, which means he lacks full senses, full understanding, full empathy, and full memory.

To a certain extent, he will have a clearer head than when he was alive, because he isn't distracted by the details of being alive. ETC.

That might get tricky. I'm already trying to do that but with fewer... peps? In the first volume, I want him to learn how to be human again, without a human appearance. The idea of the body/soul necessary balance to fully feel, think and understand is interesting. However, this is going to be a problem for me. I want my MC to be relatable. His inability to fully express what makes humans... well humans, is going to lessen that. Frustration, empathy, sympathy, and more. Those are necessary, to build it. At least I think so. What I'm trying to say is, I don't want to wait too long to have him feeling human emotions, since the process to win back his human body is going to take a long time.

So what I came up with was that the soul is life itself. It contains everything from emotions to memories. The body is just a vessel with no other purpose than carrying the soul. It takes time for a soul to adapt to its new vessel, that's why the MC won't entirely grasp what human emotions are. But since the potential for emotions is in the soul he will feel them nonetheless. What I also want to show by doing that is that one isn't born a human but becomes one. Well, something like that.

But If I'm taking into account what you said, I could use it this way. The MC gains back his body with each major improvement to his stat level (Low to Medium / Medium to High / etc.) I could also make it so that he collects enough SP to start to feel human emotions early in volume 1.


That's basically what I was thinking. I added in the additional explanations in case you wanted your character to wax philosophical on the subject, speculating on the nature of his growth when narratively appropriate.


YoanRoturier Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: As I mentioned earlier, this philosophy taught that sin wasn't simply a list of violations, but actual damage to the soul. Your choices shape your soul, so actions you repeat over and over make for easier choices each time. If you choose to help others, it makes it easier to offer help later. If you choose to harm others, it is easier to choose harm later.


I'll keep that in mind. I'm trying to implement something similar. But what I am aiming for is a perfect balance between the two. For in the story good and evil are but two faces of the same coin. Balance is what truly matters. I'm saying that but I have a tendency for my MC to do  heroic actions. I think I should tune it down a notch, or justify his heroic endeavors through other means than "Hey I feel bad for you so I'll help."

Enlightened self-interest can also work. It benefits him, therefore he does it. The "enlightened" part means that he might not have a direct benefit; think of it like moral investment, where if I do X, it'll cost me Y, but is likely to bring me Z at some point in the future. You may have heard the phrase "paying it forward"; that's a form of enlightened self-interest, founded on the belief that doing these things to help others makes the world a better place, and therefore makes it better for you.

Kind of my whole motivation for this thread. :) That and I just find it fun.


YoanRoturier Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: I noticed a few issues with your English grammar, yes; particularly with commas and conjunctions. English is a difficult language. May I ask what your native tongue is?


French. I'm lucky we have the same Latin roots because I would be lost otherwise. But that hinders my train of thoughts too. Ways of expressing oneself in English are different in French. So it gets tricky sometimes. What am I saying all the time!

Well, English doesn't technically have Latin roots. We speak an offshoot of German using Welsh grammar, simplified by the Norse, and complicated by French, Greek, and Latin vocabulary. However, there's so much from Old French, thanks to the Norman Conquest, that a lot of words probably sound very familiar. We've also had Latin seeded into the language various times, to the point that we have multiple words that carry different meanings, all from the same Latin word.



meili Wrote: Hiya, I have a question. If an author came to you with a book and their title was:

I'm Overpowered but I'll Let the Hero Do His Thing While I Save the Last Boss

Would you tell them to change it? I'm bad with titles. An option could be "I'll save the villain!"

That really depends. For a trad novel not aimed at anime/manga fans, neither title would work well. For a web novel, though, it's much easier thanks to the prevalence of other titles with that style.

Not being extremely familiar with those titles and their books, I can't say for certain; but it seems to be that they're all much more tongue-in-cheek, or lighthearted slice-of-life. If you were going for something more serious or more trad-pub, then I'd suggest a title like Villain Rescue. For something trad-pub but signaling humor, then Villain Rescue Service is good, too.

Ultimately, your title is an advertisement for your story. Part of your job is to pick one that will work for your target audience and draw them in.


TJ_Taz Wrote: Ayo Ayo Editor Sir! In the realm of writin it is as though a hero of the pantheon has descended from Olympus to walk amongst the mortals as they-
We will be here forever and a day and a 'alf if we dain't go cuttin' that at the roots.

No joke, I was facepalming before I got to "mortals" and so I spent a few extra seconds not realizing you were doing a humorous reversal.

TJ_Taz Wrote: Me first question is in a way a two parter. What do you feel about grimdark stories, and what would you say is the furthest into the grim and the dark a story should go? (Writing for an adult audience)

Well, it depends on what kind of story it is. Normally, especially after the DC movie series, I would have said that a show like Arrow was more of the same kind of mistake, taking heroic characters known for being inspirational and making them so dark as to be more akin to a tragedy. However, Arrow worked because of the kind of story they were telling, at least until it became a soap opera and I quit watching. Grimdark works with morality plays, revenge stories, war stories, dystopias, cyberpunk, and so on; it doesn't mix well with soaps.

As for how far into grimdark it should go, it depends more on the opinion of the audience. I personally don't like too much. The first two seasons of Arrow, or the original Blade Runner, are about what I like for the kinds of stories those are. Blade Runner is more noir than grimdark, but I'm using that as an example precisely because you can talk about grimdark elements in various different stories; just like The Thin Man is noir comedy, and Casablanca is a noir war story, you can categorize Blade Runner as noir grimdark.

TJ_Taz Wrote: The second question (Ha bet ya thought that were it!) is how far into a visual description should a story go? I always remember me teacher saying to paint a picture with words yet a few people have mentioned that me own interpretation of this phrase is... Erm... "Excessive..." I've linked me story below as an example if ye wish to read it to get an idea of this "excessive" tendancy.

I glanced through it. It's definitely over-descriptive.

The idea behind "painting a picture with words" is not to make something photorealistic. Your goal with traditional painting is to give just enough sense of detail to let the mind of the viewer fill in the gaps. I know it's cliche, but if you need a visual demonstration of this, just look up any Bob Ross painting video. You don't have to watch the whole thing; just skip forward enough to see how a painter adds little splashes of color that, on closeup, are just splashes of color; but if you move back to the wide angle it's a forest, a house, a sunset, etc.

For words, you want to give just enough to let the audience's imagination fill in the rest. I usually refer to this as 3-1-1: three major descriptors, one of which is non-visual, and you refer to one at a time every so often to refresh the audience's memory. For one example, one author was trying to describe a forest in a science fantasy setting, but was hung up on making "forest" seem interesting without going into irrelevant detail. I asked "What do they smell?" and all of a sudden the author added in a plant that had a sweet scent that would later turn into a plot point.

In another example, a YA novel had the main character tied up and stuffed into a gym closet at his high school, gagged with a dirty gym sock; but the author hadn't described the smell or taste. The author didn't find it necessary (since "gym sock" doesn't exactly imply that it's freshly-laundered), but I insisted that the character be discussed at the lingering taste in his mouth once he worked the gag free. The beta readers backed my judgement up, as the mere mention of a taste suddenly made it far more immediate and visceral for them.

The reason for both is that smell and taste are not what we normally use to collect information about our environment, but both are far more connected to memory than the other three senses. Spurring memory is very important when writing, because that's where the audience gets most of the gaps filled in. Describing the smell of baking bread isn't necessary because everyone knows what baking bread smells like, even if we don't encounter it on a daily basis; you can just say the smell is present and move on. And when it comes to the taste of disgusting things like gym socks, our memory of the smell will fill in for the sense of taste, because our sense of smell is primarily oriented toward testing food for safety (which is why our noses are oriented down, rather than outward like in most species).