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Author Topic: What Next!?
extrinsic
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I expect my grammar and style responses to fragments and writing discussion topics have at least frustrated any number of writers, if not disenchanted more than a few. My point made; that is, faulty grammar and weak style is an easy rejection, I decided I should probably cease grammar focus commentary and responses. Albert Einstein's famous proverb "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," applies to my flogging that grammar and style horse as well as to writers who are unconcerned about grammar and style's influences.

Grammar unawareness overlooks everyday grammar's "vulgar" and common, ubiquitous influences, "vulgar" to mean the most-common-denominator commoner language of everyday life that depends in larger part on vocal intonation and visual cues for meaning than on the words and their meanings themselves:

Be the source of that grammar television, feature film, casual conversation among acquaintances, blog chatter, talk-gossip news, off-the-cuff, on-the-fly, improvised-for the moment expression, twitter patter, social networks, text message grammar, self-published narratives, fan fiction network sites, ad nauseam, all of them and every corner of everyday-life, real-world communication. Yes, the voice of that grammar is real-world, emulated across any given era's discourse communities and hence has a place in literature; however, that vulgar voice is not an ideal one for written word expression.

That vulgar language is for many writers one they know intimately and instinctively, to the point they know no others. They neither learn nor develop any other for writing purposes--the one the only one for talk and everything expression. Each and every writer, narrator, agonist character, character generally speaks, thinks, reflects with one bland, indistinguishable voice; maybe age or sexual identity stands a slight distance away from one writer's voice next to anothers', though even those features melt into a muddled box-of-crayons soup along with the many others.

A composition first principle requires such everyday conversation features or any affects and effects of any language be timely and judicious, leavened in sparsely to give a flavor of the unique voice without overburdensome, bland repetition. Everyone talks that way as justification; successful writers write differently from talk to varied degrees. Invisible generally to ambitious writers though highly visible to submission screeners, agents, editors, publishers, that everyday slang voice stands out as talk, not as appealing, strong, and clear, concise written-word expression.

First and foremost, middle, last, and always, bland talk--absent vocal intonation and nonvocal, nonverbal expression--challenges willing suspension of disbelief, calls undue attention to the artificial construction of a narrative. An everyday, universal talk voice for written word is an overly ornamented voice--appears unornamented, though, from common and widespread use--of alienation and rejection, even though Everyone talks that way.

I don't mean a narrative's language need be erudite, wordy, sophisticated, complex, overly ornamented (purple), perhaps for one character or other persona when appropriate for characterization purposes; I do mean that a language ought as a best practice merge superficial what-is-expressed with how an expression is artfully, persuasively constructed: Style of both rhetoric and grammar that aptly suits, affectively and effectively, an audience's and an occasion's senses and sensibilities through use of figurative expression.

A guideline for which is the social contract a grammar enumerates at length, and a rhetorical grammar both familiar and fresh for any given audiences.

Otherwise than sparse use of everyday slang, a narrative language should, best practice, be lively, appealing, easily read and comprehended, and robust. Not too coincidentally, the prescriptive principles of a grammar, U.S. Standard Written English grammar, for example, hold guidance for reaching that result. Also not too coincidentally, followed grammar principles inform and enhance craft, voice, and audience appeals.

I can and do hope and wish for all Hatrack and ambitious writers' publication success. The more the merrier, for any fair and impartial, lively competition--I hear it is lonely at the top. I'll let you-all know. It's lonely, a writer's life is anyway. A mite of meaningful companionship is and will always be welcome.

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Denevius
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I've been pondering whether I should suggest something to Kathleen, held back, but I guess I'll go ahead and tack my comment to this.

Hatrack has a very small *consistent* membership. And really, only a handful of people consistently reply to fragments. This makes the replies feel repetitive, as the same people tend to make the same types of comments. And that can become discouraging if most of those comments are critical or hyper-critical. I don't think it actually serves anyone as the years go on.

However, critiquing the first 13 lines often times doesn't allow for a varied type of response. And generally, we're left with saying the same thing: the story opens too fast, or the hook doesn't show up fast enough. Or people look for the entire story to be told in those 13 lines, asking far too many questions for what can possibly happen in 13 lines.

So, my suggestion is how about we *try* the first page? First and foremost, just to have a bit of change on Hatrack, a site that hasn't changed in the three plus years I've been using it. And secondly, to my recollection, even getting into OSC's Bootcamp requires the first page and not the initial opening lines.

Just an experiment to freshen things up.

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extrinsic
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Hatrack's Thirteen Lines policy is a first page's content in Standard Manuscript Format. I don't believe doubling the quantity to a full page, or twenty-five lines SMF page, would make a difference for the main purpose of the exercise. Persuading readers, generally, and submission screeners specifically to read further than a first page is the point of the exercise.

Twice as many lines to shoehorn in rushed content would post twice as much rushed, condensed, summarized, explained lecture tell content into twice the space. Many of the fragments I evaluate squeeze four or eight or more times as much content into thirteen lines as is warranted, for me, the more common concern than enough line space to start a narrative.

A start only need provide accessible, implied introduction cues, no more, no less, of narrative viewpoint and voice, aesthetic distance, a main or bridge event, a setting and milieu, and characters, their dramatic complication and dramatic conflict, and an emotional state change from a routine to a pendent crisis.

At first glance, fitting all those criteria into thirteen lines is daunting, though that is what submission screeners look for. On top of grammar and style concerns, if those craft features are below expectation, more than thirteen lines will signal the same shortcomings for twenty-five lines or more, and of the whole, let alone thirteen lines.

[ October 17, 2014, 02:31 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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Well, extrinsic, you are not the only one to mention grammar etc.

Dave Farland mentions it every now and then in his Daily Kicks especially when talking about what he wants for WotF.

Other pro writers-editors also discuss it.


As to Denevius you can ask for a full critique--sometimes trading crits even though it's done through E-mail.

I'm not sure if that is what you wants since it doesn't seem to happen as much as it used to, but I had one person from here crit last quarter's story to WotF.

But the first 13 lines are very important as extrinsic said. He would know. In fact his use of the word daunting is correct. From what various editors--again Dave has mentioned this in his Kicks--have stated they want a lot in those first 13 line. Dave seems to want even more than some editors, but obviously it can be done.

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Denevius
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quote:
Persuading readers, generally, and submission screeners specifically to read further than a first page is the point of the exercise.
Extrinsic, I somewhat suspected you would say this, which kind of goes to my point.

Hatrack membership is small. A fair number of people come, but an awful lot also goes. And this has created a somewhat stagnant environment as mostly the same voices repeat themselves.

The reason why I suggest making it one page instead of 13 has little to nothing to do with publishing and more to stimulate the environment here. Other websites may not change their fundamental rules, but then there's also a larger membership which keeps the site feeling dynamic. New voices, new ideas about writing, different types of critiques.

Of consistent membership who respond at least three times a week, Hatrack probably only has ten to fifteen people (and I think that's a bit generous).

But there are lurkers. Sometimes a controversial topic comes up, and all of a sudden you have names you never see in the workshop portion offering an opinion. So again, why not try to mix things up a little? It's been 13 lines on this site for years. Let's go wild and make it a page. Maybe new topics about writing craft can be introduced this way that the same 13 lines don't inspire.

[ October 17, 2014, 01:30 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Denevius
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quote:
I'm not sure if that is what you wants since it doesn't seem to happen as much as it used to, but I had one person from here crit last quarter's story to WotF.
Which goes to the issue of a very limited number of members on Hatrack.

This site is quite insular. A shakeup of the fundamentals has less to do with getting published and more to do with keeping it dynamic.

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extrinsic
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I can't see new topics for response or writing discussion commentary coming up when the fundamentals are daunting enough on their own. Take distance, for example, I understand and appreciate the varieties and characteristics of distance due to many midnight candles burnt; however, the topic gets as many participant contributors as "attitude holder" criteria, a related concept: None. I see at best generally incomplete understanding of the distance concept; worse, misunderstanding of the concept altogether is as common as general writer unconcern about distance. Yet among skills that would most benefit writers' publication success, distance is among a top tier.

LDWriter2, I know Farland/Wolverton spends an inordinate amount of time and effort evaluating manuscripts, from his WotF judge work no less. I strongly advise any writer consider a similar practice on their own. A few tens or hundreds or thousands of manuscripts later, the process soon shows how easy manuscript evaulation is in ten words or less, let alone thirteen lines.

My editor work requires me to read every last word, evaluate every grammar aspect, every iota and theta and punctuation minutia, so that my guidance is neither wasted effort on a writer's revision part nor erroneous guidance on my part. I read thousands of pages a month for work and thousands of pages for writing skill development a month and thousands of pages a month because I read for whatever reason.

Nothing like full immersion for learning a skill, prose writing, for example. At first, years ago, I couldn't spot a dangled modifier to save my life. In time, and through intensive study, formal and independent over a decade or two--few grammar or style vices escape my notice anymore, let alone craft shortcomings.

As to member participation numbers, thirteen lines or a thousand will make no difference. Sites that allow longer excerpt or complete manuscript posts are, in my considered estimation, social popularity pageantry parades. Contributors play nice and sweet so that others promote their work in return, no matter how lackluster the writing. For me, nice, sweet, and social popularity pageantry parades are unkind, from giving false hope through insincere approval: "Phony," as Holden Caulfield labels popularity pageantry practices in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

[ October 17, 2014, 02:25 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
I can't see new topics for response or writing discussion commentary coming up when the fundamentals are daunting enough on their own.
But others may be able to see this.

Again, Hatrack is unnecessarily insular. For the web, it's a very small community. For a writing workshop site, it's decidedly un-dynamic.

quote:
As to member participation numbers, thirteen lines or a thousand will make no difference. Sites that allow longer excerpt or complete manuscript posts are, in my considered estimation, social popularity pageantry parades. Contributors play nice and sweet so that others promote their work in return, no matter how lackluster the writing.
I use other sites, and I know what the successes are of the writers who contribute to those sites, and I know what my own successes are. But over the last three years it's not as if Hatrack members have added a wealth of publishing credits to their name. 'Publications & Reviews' isn't exactly bustling with posts.

There's this single-minded focus on 13 lines that feels a bit obsessive. I don't doubt their importance, but I also don't think that they're a make or break for most publishers. If they were, you'd see more publishers only asking for the first 13 lines of fiction pieces if they *truly* only read that far in practice before rejecting a piece.

Again, unless it changed, I believe even OSC's Bootcamp asks for the first page. Hatrack is a workshopping website. The end goal is publishing, but we're here together to sharpen our writing skills overall.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
I can't see new topics for response or writing discussion commentary coming up when the fundamentals are daunting enough on their own.
But others may be able to see this.
See what "this"?
quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Again, Hatrack is unnecessarily insular. For the web, it's a very small community. For a writing workshop site, it's decidedly un-dynamic.

Please qualify "unnecessarily insular" and "un-dynamic." Frankly, I learned more here from fellow members than from graduate creative writing program study. No one ever raised "free indirect discourse," for example, in my six years of college studies, let alone agency, reader effect, distance, attitude, emphasis, rhetoric, for that matter, nor grammar, except once. Hatrack is at least as dynamic as college writing programs.

I learned a lot from college writing studies, though more as a consequence of pathway trailmarkers for further independent study. If insular means less writing popularity pageantry, less social networking for the sole purpose of social networking, more dedicated writing discussion, then give me more insularity.

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
I use other sites, and I know what the successes are of the writers who contribute to those sites, and I know what my own successes are. But over the last three years it's not as if Hatrack members have added a wealth of publishing credits to their name. 'Publications & Reviews' isn't exactly bustling with posts.

I sample, visit, and participate at other sites too. Many, if not all, of the posted "successes" are self-advertisements, and many are gloats and brags, are self-publication promotions, not especially successes.

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
There's this single-minded focus on 13 lines that feels a bit obsessive. I don't doubt their importance, but I also don't think that they're a make or break for most publishers. If they were, you'd see more publishers only asking for the first 13 lines of fiction pieces if they *truly* only read that far in practice before rejecting a piece.

If only thirteen lines signaled a narrative's overall merits, a writer's attention to every detail needed for a start, why then do screeners reject in more or less the same word count? Farland used to read up to three hundred words to give a narrative a second or third chance. He doesn't anymore unless no disturbance stands out or accumulates reason for rejection. Other screeners, judges, agents, editors, publishers who report how many words they read align with Farland's count. One agent reports reads of as few words as the title and first sentence of a submission. Farland, also, among many other screeners, agents, publishers, etc., has said the greater disappointments are narratives that keep readers' undisturbed eyes on the page but don't hold up interest throughout a whole.
quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Again, unless it changed, I believe even OSC's Bootcamp asks for the first page. Hatrack is a workshopping website. The end goal is publishing, but we're here together to sharpen our writing skills overall.

The Literary Bootcamp submission guidelines stipulate first full page of a short story, 250-300 words, as of July 2014. However, as an excerpt, the Bootcamp submission sample is kept confidential. By no means are any first rights consumed. Even a title posted at public access Hatrack has caused writers problems with first rights consumption concerns. The thirteen lines principle, though, does not consume those rights, at the least a compromise between a public writing community and preservation of publication rights.

Thirteen lines is ample space to illustrate grammar, craft, voice, and appeal skills. Sharpen first thirteen lines skills; sharpen overall writing skills: start, middle, and end.

[ October 17, 2014, 05:01 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Robert Nowall
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Three hundred words would be Page One and (most of) Page Two of a printed manuscript. I've always taken Thirteen Lines to approximate Page One, covering the lines after your name and address (upper left corner), word count (upper right corner), and title and byline (middle of the page).
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Denevius
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quote:
Frankly, I learned more here from fellow members than from graduate creative writing program study.
You know, it's actually a bit strange what high regard you have for the format of Hatrack considering you've never posted a 13 line opening in the three years I've been on this site.

quote:
I sample, visit, and participate at other sites too.
Do you actually post fiction on other sites, or do you just critique, and then, I guess, find fault with other people's critiques?

This conversation with you is actually somewhat surreal since you have *never* actually posted any fiction on Hatrack. I just did a search in the last year for Short Stories and Novel excerpts, and except for critiques, you haven't offered anything for analysis from your peers. Considering the extent of your detailed criticisms, no one even knows what you write or how you write.

Critiques and lectures. In three years, that's it. And groovy, if that's what you want to do, fine.

But I actually want to sharpen my craft, and the 13 lines, while necessary to get right, isn't the the sole importance of writing. And since I actually seek opinions from my peers, as well as offer them, I think I have slightly more credence than you in this request when, again, you have actually, to my knowledge, never posted *any* fiction openings on Hatrack. They're of such high value to workshop for everyone, except you.

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extrinsic
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Double more than thirteen lines to respond to is redundant for many grammar, craft, voice, and appeal situations. Usually, "critique" benefits responder more than writer's writing growth. I've certainly found that principle valid.

Recently, I've sharpened my grammar skills a whole ladder of progress above what they were only a short time ago. More importantly, I learned how much grammar and craft, voice, and appeal function synergistically together from my responses to fragments. To each their own according to their growth direction.

Two distinctive areas may sharpen your writing skills: stronger attitude of narrator and viewpoint agonist and, related, an appreciation for distance's written word functions, both emotional functions. Grammar's role for those functions is a profound and sublime contribution; that is, judicious, timely, robust nouns, robust verbs, robust adjectives, and robust adverbs function as emotional attitude commentary and close distance between reader and narrative.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Three hundred words would be Page One and (most of) Page Two of a printed manuscript. I've always taken Thirteen Lines to approximate Page One, covering the lines after your name and address (upper left corner), word count (upper right corner), and title and byline (middle of the page).

Thirteen lines is exactly that first page of a conventionally formatted page one. Half page sink of a twenty-five line page formatted for prose's Standard Manuscript Format submission, title centered above byline, above the first line of content, thirteen lines of content.

The point of a thirteen-line prose SMF submission is to avoid a text wall on the first page. The visual appeal of thirteen lines on a first page avoids a full-page text wall's initial quantity alienation for a screener's, more often than not, dreary job.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I expect my grammar and style responses to fragments and writing discussion topics have at least frustrated any number of writers, if not disenchanted more than a few. My point made; that is, faulty grammar and weak style is an easy rejection, I decided I should probably cease grammar focus commentary and responses. Albert Einstein's famous proverb "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," applies to my flogging that grammar and style horse as well as to writers who are unconcerned about grammar and style's influences.

I can relate to your concern about flogging that horse - for me, it's flogging the incorrect understanding of "passive voice" which I tend to tire of correcting.

I remind myself that new people are always coming along, even if they don't participate all that much, and so talking about grammar in general or passive voice in particular is also new and can still be helpful for them.

If I knew how to make topics "stick" on this forum, I'd certainly have posts by you on grammar where they could always be found easily, for those who really need to read them. (Of course, there's also the problem that people who need help with grammar may not realize they need help.)

Thanks, extrinsic, for your efforts in spite of feeling that you're flogging the grammar and style horse. It helps more people than you know.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Denevius, thanks for your concern.
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extrinsic
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Thanks, Ms. Dalton Woodbury. Pleasant to know my grammar and style posts help. Meditation upon and study of grammar and style topics and sharing them at Hatrack has assuredly helped my professional, personal, and writing lives.

"(Of course, there's also the problem that people who need help with grammar may not realize they need help.)"

A profound truth, that, a catch-22, double bind, and paradox as well. Continuing the horse metaphor: A horse can be shown to water though not forced to drink.

Realizing my thirst, I circled back to grammar study because I realized grammar flaws are an easy impersonal submission form rejection. I drank deeply of how successful submissions differ from unsuccessful submissions. authonomy.com and television are deep waterholes of the latter, libraries for the former.

[ October 17, 2014, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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There's some interesting points raised here.

Denevius is right, the 13 line exercise has limitations. I think it can encourage certain bad habits both of critique and writing. On the critique side it encourages nitpicking, pet peevery, critiquing an imagined manuscript rather than the page in front of you, and stylistic priggishness. On the writing end it can encourage overwrought prose where writers actually need to think about streamlining.

None of which precludes a 13 line critique from being an extremely useful exercise. It just means you need to participate in *other* kinds of critique as well. The site policies don't preclude people from reviewing each others' works offline. That may in fact be a better arrangment, since it is less prone to groupthink.

So perhaps it is best to think of giving 13 line feedback on this site as a kind of audition for a manuscript exchange.

Extrinsic's point about media-driven mediocrity goes beyond prose style. A lot of pop-culture influenced manuscripts I've looked at show a poverty of imagination too. It's not that I think that TV and movies are harmful; as a storyteller you inevitably find yourself in a kind of culture-wide conversation that includes Lord of the Rings, True Blood, Star Trek/Wars, and (these days) Game of Thrones. It's that reading great stories is essential. Reading a great story exercises the imaginative muscles so much more than watching its movie adaptation.

I don't want to hijack extrinsic's point about vulgar prose style, but I don't think the answer to that problem lies in feedback to 13 line excerpts. There isn't enough room to try different ways of shaping the delivery of information to the reader. It's like trying to learn to dance the tango while standing on top of your kitchen table. You can learn a surprising number of things about the tango in 20 square feet, but that's not quite enough space to learn how to actually do it.

The precise 13 line cutoff is a technological anachronism. Even though some agents and editors may still review submissions in hard copy, I'm skeptical of the applicability of the kind of feedback we give here to the "stand out from the slushpile" objective. We undertake our examination in a totally different way with totally different motivations. We give opening lines a super-close reading, usually with an eye to our ideas about how openings should be done. Someone plowing through a slushpile is skimming through one story opening after another looking for something he might be able to use. Whatever strategem an author is using, he'd better assume that the person doing the skimming has seen it a dozen times in the last hour.

It's even questionable whether standing out from the slushpile is something most of us should be focusing on.

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LDWriter2
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extrinsic

Even though I may not need to I was trying to say that you are not alone in your (Shoulder shrug) "obsession" with grammar and such.


I have heard the need for this for a few years. I still have problems with commas, even though I have worked on them for fives year, or so. I have read, read and reread books on the subject. I seem to improve and a couple of people come along and say I put in too many and I'm off again on another swing of the pendulum.

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extrinsic
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Commas plagued me for years too, and colons and semicolons and dashes. Discretionary or prescriptive is how a grammar handbook approaches punctuation. Style manuals are close to grammar handbook principles, though only Chicago Manual of Style is as thorough as grammar handbooks.

Different style manuals for different media and discipline further confuse punctuation use. U.S. journalism uses the Associated Press style manual. Physical science publications use the Council of Science Editors style manual. Humanities uses MLA, Online style, not settled yet, though Wikipedia's style manual is based upon an as-yet-emergent standardized International English style: ad nauseam.

Consequently, what style any given publisher uses as a basis for their house style comes from how their editors learned and devil may care a wit about any other style option.

How a house manages the serial comma is a benchmark for a house style: A, B, and C for all but journalism and magazines and such that follow that style though they publish prose or other than journalism writing. Also consequently, lax punctuation habits may follow journalism's minimalized, space conscious punctuation. For example: Sentence adverb, comma, main clause. Consequently, comma use varies by little rhyme or reason nor consistently. Likewise, journalism interjections are often unseparated by punctuation. Well[,] no[,] she said.

Journalism also has a "principle" that a dependent phrase or clause of five words or less normally comma separated not be comma separated. In the year 2010[,] the 2008 fiasco came to light. The 2008 fiasco[,] in the year 2010[,] came to light. Though no comma separation in any case for a dependent, restrictive phrase or clause that follows a main clause. The 2008 fiasco came to light in the year 2010.

Besides grammar handbooks and style manuals, a very few helpful texts detail discretionary punctuation flair. Noah Lukeman's A Dash of Style has no rivals in that regard, illustrates comma, period, question mark, dash, colon, semicolon, exclamation point, ellipsis points, parentheses, and brackets' artful, discretionary uses and explains and illustrates the whys and wherefors.

Used in tandem, a grammar handbook, a style manual, and A Dash of Style saw me through any lingered difficulties with unshakeable confidence. Disagreeable writers notwithstood--Armed with strong, clear, concise guides, my punctuation no longer draws misapprenhended claims this or that is "wrong."

[ October 18, 2014, 12:54 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MJNL
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I apologize for the slight de-rail, but in direct answer to What Next? and in response to those who are concerned with the insular nature of the board, might I suggest widening our horizons?

In particular, I've found Codex to be a great 'next level' group. The discussions I've participated in there have been lively, insightful, and invaluable in terms of my development as a writer. A couple hundred or so people participate there on a regular basis, which means there are wide varieties of experiences and opinions to draw from (but it's also not the thousands-of-people feeding frenzy you find in places like Absolute Write).

If anyone is interested in joining, see this link for details: http://www.codexwriters.com/

And, if you don't happen to qualify for Codex yet, I suggest taking a look at the Writers of the Future forum. I don't frequent it myself anymore, but if it's anything like it was in 2012, then it's a great place to get both constructive feedback and moral support (there's a critique portion there that focuses on the first 450 words of a manuscript versus the first thirteen lines, if anyone wants to compare).

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extrinsic
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Codex membership requirements are similar to SFWA's --- restrictive. W&IotF forum discussions are similar to Hatrack's, though, at times, more roughhouse than Hatrack's roughest.

Four-hundred-fifty-word excerpts stretches first rights consumption to a problematic proportion. A ten percent most-common denominator is a reasonable proportion. Four hundred fifty words is at least a quarter of a two-thousand-word short story. Thirteen lines is about a tenth.

In any event, opinion positions about thirteen lines' purposes, functions, and comments widely vary. Writers are ahead or behind any given other writer in one or more areas. The skill variance is because of that difference in individual writers' stages along The Poet's Journey.

In my fifteen years of workshops, four criteria are open for commentary: grammar and rhetorical style, craft, voice, and appeal. Every workshop I've participated in online or in person, those are the commentary criteria, including title. The average workshop narrative length runs to around two thousand words.

One workshop I abandoned fifteen minutes in because the moderator violated the most sacred of writing workshop rules: Address the writing, not the writer, one of Hatrack's rules expressed in other words, by the way. The moderator opened the workshop with personal attacks on writers present. No thank you. I was out of there.

So then what are the desired purposes and functions of Hatrack's fragment workshop forums? What are the desired outcomes? What are explicit commentary that makes the most of the state of writers' current skills and growth as writers here? What new or revitalized commentary strategies most benefit any given writer? The basic truth that a commenter benefits more from the process than a writer nonetheless. See, that latter is why I participate to the extent I do in fragment commentary.

[ October 18, 2014, 05:14 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MJNL
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:


Four-hundred-fifty-word excerpts stretches first rights consumption to a problematic proportion. A ten percent most-common denominator is a reasonable proportion. Four hundred fifty words is at least a quarter of a two-thousand-word short story. Thirteen lines is about a tenth.
.

Just to clarify, the 450 crit is done through private swap, not posted on the forum. As a large part of the WotF boards are focused on winning the contest (for obvious reasons), posting any portion of a story directly to the forums is discouraged (since the contest is judged blind, anything that ties the work publicly to the author could potentially lead to disqualification).

And Codex does require a sale to a qualifying venue or an acceptance to a qualifiying workshop (thus my characterization of it as a 'next level' group), but it is considerably easier to qualify for than SFWA. The application requirements are what keeps the group manageable and focused.

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extrinsic
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I knew the differences between Codex, WotF, and SFWA criteria. Their contrasts and comparisons are my point. Four hundred fifty words posted publicly for comment is problematic; thirteen lines, less problematic.

Part of Hatrack's appeal is that all content is public and nonexclusive membership, aside from excess roughhousers and writers under eighteen years age.

I don't engage in private swaps at any workshop. I might develop a workable private relationship separate and apart from a workshop, though. I believe that all of a workshop's complement should have equal and full access to all fragments, whole manuscripts in the case of private workshops, and all commentary for the shared benefits of the whole. I believe that because I also believe workshops are focus groups for audience testing as well as their other functions. One responder's commentary may not benefit a writer; others' commentary may benefit other commenter's writing growth. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts --- Aristotle. Synergy!

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MJNL
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And that's all fine. To each their own. I was simply providing insight for those who might be interested. Someone here might find membership in one or the other valuable--that is all.
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Denevius
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quote:
I knew the differences between Codex, WotF, and SFWA criteria. Their contrasts and comparisons are my point. Four hundred fifty words posted publicly for comment is problematic; thirteen lines, less problematic.
Well, I don't know if Kathleen is taking the request seriously. Obviously, though, there is interest in the ability to post the first page of fiction.

Look, for anyone who doesn't see the value in it, don't critique it. I think it would be a nice change of pace for a website that has a very small community with only a handful of dominant voices. Again, if you don't want to critique a page of writing, don't. As an experiment, however, we can see how it goes.

On another note, I used to play a lot of White Wolf role playing games. One of the interesting aspects of the world they weaved into the game narrative is that humans sometimes see the supernatural, but their minds can't process it and they make themselves believe it's actually something normal. There's a term White Wolfe used for it that I can't remember now.

I feel like that's similar to the reaction from my comment about Extrinsic being all for the 13 lines opening, yet he's never posted one; and then no one else commenting upon this discrepancy. A 'do as I say, not as I do' approach to fiction workshops.

You can have a healthy respect for someone's abilities without drinking the kool-aid.

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TaleSpinner
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As a lurker who once contributed regularly both to "Fragments and Feedback for Short Works" and these open discussions, perhaps my observations might help?

I contributed a lot some years ago when I took it into my mind to learn to write science fiction. Hatrack was pivotal in helping me to get my first 1000 words published at Flash Fiction Online (a piece called "AI Robot").

I found Hatrack's crits enormously helpful because, at that time, there was what I regarded as a vibrant community learning together by sharing stories (online 13 lines, offline whole stories). There were competitions I found hugely beneficial; one provoked me into a short story that, some time next year, will probably become my first novel.

I became a lurker for several reasons but those relevant to this discussion were

- Over time I found the fragments less engaging because I felt I had seen all the mistakes I could learn from and found myself repeating myself. While I don't mind helping others by paying forward, it became irksome, especially when ...

- I tired of people waking up mystified, of joining battles between forces with grand names, of pompous prologues, of elementary spelling and grammar errors, etc., etc.

I learned that a forum like Hatrack is wonderful for getting one's writing off the ground, but then one must move on. Changing the format from 13 lines would, I think, be a big mistake; that constraint, whilst arguably arbitrary, helped me to learn to engage the reader - not just with the first 13, but with the next, and the next.

I think the fragments critique process here might benefit from:

- "family hold back" - Regular contributors might consider holding back until others have had their say. By contributing too early, they may inhibit others, intimidated by erudite wisdom. New people may wonder, "What's the point of repeating what someone else said, but poorly?" - and completely lose the benefit to their own writing of thinking their crit through for themselves.

- "what are my top two or three points?" - Having written a crit, review it, make it short, and limit it to the most valuable two or three points. While writing more might help contributor's learning - and that's fine - consider the person whose work is the subject of the crit and edit it down. Where are they on their learning curve? What would help them most, now? Is it grammar, POV, character, suspension of disbelief, what? I do not believe it's helpful to point out each and every flaw in the 13 lines, for that can be intimidating, depressing and provoke disengagement.

- "put yourself on the line" - When I was active at Hatrack I don't recall any contributors who never put their own work up for crits, aside from one or two published authors who made no secret of their true identity. (FWIW neither do I.) It felt like we were all in it together, and that was fun - and, I thought, well, if this theory stuff works for them, maybe it'll help me too. If I had not been able to find their writing, I'd have had little respect for their crits, for I have met too many people who want to talk about writing, or art, or music, but lack the experience to balance theory and practice.

A final question: what does the thread title, "What next!?" mean?

Pat

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Denevius
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Well, again, I feel like this goes to my point. I've never seen this person before, but according to their registration status, they've been around since 2007. And I *think* there are more people lurking around like that.

quote:
I learned that a forum like Hatrack is wonderful for getting one's writing off the ground, but then one must move on. Changing the format from 13 lines would, I think, be a big mistake; that constraint, whilst arguably arbitrary, helped me to learn to engage the reader - not just with the first 13, but with the next, and the next.
I've never seen your name before, but if you said you've posted openings before, groovy. But considering the fact that many new members of Hatrack don't hang around for very long, and considering that there really are only a handful of voices that have come to dominate Hatrack, my question is, "Do we continue with the status quo?"

quote:
- "put yourself on the line" - When I was active at Hatrack I don't recall any contributors who never put their own work up for crits, aside from one or two published authors who made no secret of their true identity. (FWIW neither do I.) It felt like we were all in it together, and that was fun - and, I thought, well, if this theory stuff works for them, maybe it'll help me too. If I had not been able to find their writing, I'd have had little respect for their crits, for I have met too many people who want to talk about writing, or art, or music, but lack the experience to balance theory and practice.
Workshopping your fiction, whether 13 lines, one page, or the entire story, among peers is vital in the workshop environment. Unless you're the teacher of the workshop, not taking the risk and putting your own writing out for critical analysis says a *lot* about what you think of the group in question.
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TaleSpinner
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Since 2007 was it?

I think the question is, which status quo to change? Hatrack has been around since, well, before the ansible was invented, surely.

I left the previous forum and came to Hatrack because, at the said previous forum, a few voices not only dominated, but were intimidating. If that's the case here too, and the reason why newcomers leave, then changing the format from 13 lines won't help.

One way to change things might be for someone to arrange a challenge involving writing a story of one or two thousand words based upon a trigger. There hasn't been one like that for a long while.

These events developed my writing significantly because I learned something each time about hook, beginning, middle and end, character, POV - the whole craft. They brought a sense of fun to the table and furthered mutual understanding and community through working together. Nobody much cared who won; the game and the learning was the thing. They were short stories so that as many as possible could squeeze the writing in alongside their main projects.

Snapper organized the last such, although I would suggest skipping the WOTF connection because not everyone wants to go there for various reasons. I organized a couple myself, which also might serve as models.

Hope this helps
Pat

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wirelesslibrarian
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I see a great deal of merit in TaleSpinner's suggestions.

One thing that's driven me to the netherworld of nonparticipation is the dearth of writing challenges.

Isn't the reason for the 13 line limitation so that we can market our work as previously unpublished?

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wetwilly
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Allow me to weigh in, if I might.

I've been a member of Hatrack for a LONG time. (with some long periods of inactivity, while I pursued other things in life). A couple observations:

I do think that, lately, a few voices have come to dominate the forum. If I post a fragment for feedback now, I know I'm going to get a critique from extrinsic and denevius. I may get feedback from one or two more people, but maybe not. I'm not saying I don't appreciate denevius and extrinsic offering their critiques, because I do, just that the community becomes less less thriving, less vibrant, less interesting, and less useful when a few voices dominate.

I will also say that I agree with denevius on one point. Whether right or wrong, I pay more attention to a critique from a writer whose work I have read and found to be good quality, especially if that writer is good at things I'm not. I pay far less attention to a writer whose work I have read and found to be, well, for lack of a better term, bad. We're all on different learning curves, and I'm ahead of some people and behind others, and that's fine, and hopefully we can all pull/push each other up and make all of us better writers, but if I read a story that I'm completely unimpressed by, I'm less likely to take the author's critique of my work seriously. If I haven't read anything at all by a critiquer, then I just don't know how to take their critique. Not all advice is good advice, and if I haven't read your stories, then you're an unknown factor.

I believe some sort of policy regulating a balance between critiquing and offering work for critique would be useful.

I also second Talespinner's suggestion that old blood maybe give new blood a chance to offer critiques before chiming in.

I encourage any new blood who may be lurking to jump on in and get involved. I think the forum is stagnating a bit, and we need some fresh air.

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extrinsic
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Hatrack stagnant compared to what? Phases come and go. Other forums' participants claim their boards are stagnant, stuffy, spammy from time to time. Several where I participate have slumped for various reasons recently.

An overall reason I suspect is no film media property currently is wildly successful, nor novel writer. I also believe the season of year drives participation: Summers are slow; solstices and equinoxes season transitions are slow; after the year-end holidays into deep winter are busier seasons.

Does no one see a contradiction between claims a few members who participate regularly should be stifled and new policy proposals that restrict participation?

I often wait a day or more to respond to fragments. Time to meditate and reread fragments--give them time to filter through my thoughts, time to develop impressions and discover strengths, time to consider overlooked or absent content, organization: craft. Shortcomings alerts are easy and instant.

Several probable reasons why few members participate on a limited, if at all, basis are writer responses to fragment comments are either nonexistent or unsatisfying. The minimum standard writer response to a comment is an acknowledgment. A personal thank you is more satisfying than a blanket and impersonal acknowledgment to all commenters.

A personal writer comment or two addressed to each commenter signals sincerity. Also, few writers ask clarification or elaboration questions. Those too are signals of sincerity and are satisfying for commenters. Participation is a two-way street.

Also, hostile or passive-aggressive contributions to any forum thread have a chilling effect. Negative responses are defensive and confrontational. Calculated personal attacks that are directed at no one in particular though use wounding emotional terms to negatively describe a class of persons that another contributor may be part of also have a chilling effect. Direct personal attacks, no matter how courtesously couched and well-intended, also have a chilling effect.

Likewise, any post left unresponded to has a chilling effect. Few, if any, requests for clarification or elaboration; few, if any, positive contributions that build upon a writing concept, develop the fullness of a concept, are more the norm than robust, dynamic, shared experiences. A number of topic responses lean toward expressed annoyance at the gumption of a member for sharing.

When a member asks a writing question, derails and contentions clash, rather than proactively answer the query. Confusions arise. Why request clarification or elaboration or even ask questions in the first place if few or no straightforward answers come forth. Another chilling effect.

Many individual beliefs, some writing superstitions, clash, though their synthesis development is more dynamic for a group's well-being. If a group, a folk group, favors centrifugal forces, forces that force members outwardly, the group is fractious, disintergrated. If a group favors centripetal forces, forces that force inward, the group is closer bonded, integrated. A merry-go-round revolves. Centrifugal rotation forces throw riders off. Centripetal forces hold riders on or, actually, riders hold onto handholds, hold onto each other.

Masculine sensibilities strive for competitive contention (centrifugal); feminine sensibilities strive for community bonds (centripetal), not per se male or female polarity though. But hey, c'est la vie: that's life.

Social groups generally believe grammar correction, any correction of any kind, in social situations publicly is impolite. Do not interrupt a speaker who has the attention of the group, has the floor, so to speak, to correct use of the word irregardless! No one's life, limb, or property is jeopardized by that language faux pas. Besides, the word is a dictionary word, right? Same with "ain't," which is the contraction for first-person singular "I am not;" not for "we am not," "they am not," "you am not," or "it am not," unless you're Popeye, and also a dictionary word.

However, a writing workshop, for all its centrifugal and centripetal forces of contention and community bonds, though social, is about writing. Creative prose writing, any composition, includes grammar and rhetorical style, craft's numerous principles, discourse methods, also known as voice, and the all-important audience appeal. Workshop principles rely upon guidances provided of those four areas, correction if merited, and upon the human condition that finding fault in others is easier than finding fault of the self. Also, finding approvable qualities of others is harder and easy for the self.

The so-called sandwich critique principle insists that a critique contain positive and negative comments about what works and doesn't work for the commenter, strengths and shortcomings of grammar and style, craft, voice, and appeal, as it were. Be they adamant corrections, or kindly principle guidances, or sense, sensibility, and sentiment observations. They are nonetheless adversarial centrifugal forces--public corrections. Contrarily though, if motivated by noble intents, like for writing growth of writer and commenter, those adversarial forces are centripetal.

Restriction of a commenter's contributions to a time, a quantity, or area of writing further than for matters of respect and courtesy overlooks that commenter benefits more from the process than writer, for the commenter's writing growth. Maybe all a fragment writer derives from fragment responses is a degree of focus group audience testing, if that. Perhaps the writer only wants audience approval.

As to whether or not I have posted any writing for consideration, comment, etc., my posts speak for themselves: Res ipsa loquitor. Also, I posted two thirteen lines fragments in the past year and others in previous years. Never mind that my writing aesthetics are what they are and growing, I understand that I read differently to a degree than others generally and my writing may not be for these audiences here. My writing has an audience nonetheless. Those are valid and true claims for all readers and writers.

As to "What Next?" I mean after grammar and rhetorical style commentary, what's next on the hit parade? Back to craft basics? Plot? As structure pertains to fragments? Other craft basics? Discourse, or voice, basics? How about audience appeal? Maybe new topics, stream of consciousness methods and conventions, for example, that enhance distance appeals.

Or, as seems to be an unspoken wish, maybe I should pack my books and bags and move on to what's next for me? So I may continue my writing, professional, and personal life growth with a more welcoming community. Hardly. Editors' lives are lonelier than writers', because we are adversaries by our chosen profession and of our clients and passions.

[ October 19, 2014, 08:39 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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TaleSpinner
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"As to "What Next?" I mean after grammar and rhetorical style commentary, what's next on the hit parade?"

What hit parade? I don't think that learning about writing is, for everyone, sequential.

"Editors' lives are lonelier than writers', because we are adversaries by our chosen profession and of our clients and passions."

What, exactly, have you edited? What can we read? Useful adversity comes from mutual respect which one establishes by putting oneself out there.

"maybe I should pack my books and bags" So is this thread really about you?

Pat

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extrinsic
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A desired balance between self-advertisement and privacy concerns prevents me from pointing to my published works as editor or writer. Why is whether I've put myself "out there" for Hatrackers' benefit a greater matter than my privacy concerns? If a workshop is hostile--demands that I or anyone reveal private information are hostile--then that workshop is a battlefield and not a friendly workshop.

Once before, when I was less conscientious about privacy matters, a Hatrack member "outed" me and berated me for requesting a takedown of my private information and for pointing out the hazard to personal property the member had proposed. Misguided individuals have berated me by e-mail, offensive e-mail with every foul word available to their vocabulary repertoire. Folk have banged on my door, threatened bodily harm, for daring to enumerate what about their writing didn't work for me, because I didn't overwhelming praise their literary progeny. Yes, my privacy concerns or anyone's outweigh demands for revelations that will impact those concerns.

Besides, adequate samples of my writing and editing are here at Hatrack, including thirteen-line fragments, for anyone who missed that revelation earlier in the thread. Editing is not, as many writers may believe, an imperative. Editing is suggestion and guidance. A writer is by right and responsibility the ultimate and final decision-maker about editorial input.

Accusations that a discussion is about any given poster, her or his ego or id, etc., are unwarranted and personal attack. Address the writing, not the writer: Law One of writing workshop etiquette and a Hatrack term of use worded differently in the "You agreed to this" thread "Please Read Here First" forum.

I will not be goaded or prodded by personal attacks into either improper conduct nor revelation of private information.

[ October 19, 2014, 07:20 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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wetwilly
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To be clear, I did not mean my post as an attack. I have received helpful critiques from extrinsic, and didn't mean to imply the contrary. (Although I stand behind my statement that I wish we could see some more of your work around here. It could only serve to enrich the workshop). I apologize if I came across as offensive. I have just noticed that lately things do seem less lively around here than they have in times past. I was ruminating on why that might be, and some possible solutions is all.

I certainly didn't mean to imply any kind of invitation for anyone to leave. Sorry if my words implied such a thing. If so, they were ill chosen; I certainly don't feel that way.

Extrinsic, I am likely guilty of not making personal responses to critiques, as you mentioned. That's something I can work on to increase the positivity of Hatrack's environment.

Let's be friends and keep growing as artists together.

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extrinsic
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wetwilly, your posts are kind, pleasant, and respectful. I appreciate your considerate courtesies. Responding to your fragments has helped my writer growth as much as I hope you may benefit from them and others'. Sincerely, thank you.
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wetwilly
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Aw, garsh.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by TaleSpinner:

"maybe I should pack my books and bags" So is this thread really about you?

In my experience, people's participation in anything is always on some level about them. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone needs respect for who they are and appreciation for what they do.

A smaller number of people need something more than this: they need to make a difference. I have this tendency myself, and I have found it can be tricky to manage constructively. In my experience, a healthy group values its change-agent members without being dominated by them. Critique is an area where it's particularly easy to be overbearing, so there I focus on the author's agenda, and try to qualify everything that smacks of my personal issues and pet peeves, even at the risk of sounding a bit stilted. Instead I push my agenda elsewhere, on more receptive ground.

The change I'd like to see is a more emprical, Baconian approach to what works and what doesn't in writing. There's too many rules of thumb whose limits and corner cases haven't been well-qualified, (e.g., "show not tell", "hook the reader on the first page") -- they're cruder than they ought to be. This approach is embodied my "writer's book report" posts. I've been delighted by the thoughtful response I've got to them, my only disappointment is that others haven't picked up the ball and reported on books they're reading from a craft perspective.

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Reziac
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Seems to me that an empirical approach is akin to dissecting a cat to learn why it purrs.
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TaleSpinner
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I hope Hatrack finds a way to flourish once more. I'll close my contribution to this thread with some quotes I think are apposite:

"Vigorous writing is concise."
William Strunk Jr., "The Elements of Style", 1919

"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think."
Edwin Schlossberg

"Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more."
Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Pat

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extrinsic
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"I am the one who talks to the elephant in the room." --- anonymous, overheard at a book release reception
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
The change I'd like to see is a more emprical, Baconian approach to what works and what doesn't in writing. There's too many rules of thumb whose limits and corner cases haven't been well-qualified, (e.g., "show not tell", "hook the reader on the first page") -- they're cruder than they ought to be. This approach is embodied my "writer's book report" posts. I've been delighted by the thoughtful response I've got to them, my only disappointment is that others haven't picked up the ball and reported on books they're reading from a craft perspective.

Baconian philosophy alongside Aristolean, Virgilian, Galilean, Cartesian, Newtonian, Mendeleevian, Gricean, various Teutonic Existentialists, etc., each varied degrees of deductive, inductive, reductive emphasis, reach individual apexes, though exclude a synthesis of reasoned and logical, complete processes apropos of literary method analyses.

Textualism, for example, practices that a narrative must be examined inductively in its isolation from external influences. That process defies completeness, because individuals invariably bring personal experience to their analyses, though an experience be widely shared, hence axiomatic.

Francis Bacon brought preconceived notions to his analyses: two common to male White, European, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic native nation--WEIRD--philosophers are a belief in natural division of labors' social stratification and predetermination. Bacon included. Neither of which are first principles in any event except in terms of civilization's foundational timeline. Natural division of labors precivilization was a survival strategy that evolved with civilization into a mixed social management practice and corrupt power abuses.

I incline toward social and language philosopher Herbert Paul Grice's "Cooperation Principle" as a means to analyze for shared purposes, though often fail at the four corners of the Gricean Maxims: Maxim of Quality, Maxim of Quantity, Maxim of Relation, and Maxim of Manner; the fundamental first principle Grice espouses, social beings' common good is best pratice served by cooperation. His first principle of cooperation, "Make your _contribution_ such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged."

I believe in thoroughness, perhaps to the point of overtreatment, excess of Grice's Maxim of Quantity. Hence why I analyze from a cornucopia of analytical approaches. This is me: analyze to the limits of perceivable meaning, a consequence of my basic nature and behavior personality conditions, driven by survival instincts and coping strategies developed from a series of traumatic events.

Grice also allows any given individual's contribution may stretch limits of a social group's expectations, though the cooperation principle insists a degree of tolerance for excess is warranted, as is tolerance for a degree of nonparticipation, and other cooperation principles of quality, relation, and manner over- or under-treated. C'est la vie.

However, for me, an admirable and as well writing-related Gricean philosophy is "Implicature." Implicature is the senses, tangible and intangible, an expression intends and communicates. Interpretable literal and figurative intent and meaning, what is implied and what is inferred, signal and signaler and signaled and signal received--semiotics--implicature presents the portion of a narrative that engages readers intellectually such that their imaginations and emotions are stimulated, such that they become invested in and engaged by a narrative's participation mystique reality imitation, also related to distance.

An opening sentence like Kale saw Jeremy look at Heather watch Kale may be full of pregnant looks; however, without any attitude or emotional commentary--context and texture--the sentence is meaningless, not open to interpretation, too direct, and lacks implicature. Perhaps the implication is the group watches each other in a regular order, though not when, where; why--all-important why--or how. Kale watches Jeremy. Jeremy watches Heather. Heather watches Kale.

When? When they are together? Where? Wherever they are? Why? Who knows why? How? Inferrably, with their eyes? Who is given. Although, who is the narrator? What is the situation, the event of substance?

Who, when, where context; what, why, and how texture are a first-principle for narrative. Many narratives I evaluate leave out several of the W questions' artful answers implicature-wise, or state them too directly for implicature to develop. Event implicature is often adequately developed for conventionally published works, though oftentimes too direct or lackluster. Setting implicature is often problematic: little or none, untimely and injudicious, too direct, or lackluster. Character implicature is also often problematic: little or none, untimely and injudicious, too direct, or lackluster, first person narratives more so under-developed characterization than third person. And too often over-distanced in any person through excess external narrator mediation, the underlayed concern of import I have about the Kale, Jeremy, Heather sentence above.

Gricean Maxims applied to Implicature; quality, quantity, relation, and manner; borrows from ancient and first principle rhetorics: decorum, suit words and subject matter to each other, to the occasion, and the audience; suit message to method and vice versa. Prose's social function is to persuade emotional responses to narratives, a first principle, through a dramatic method so that a message is at least given due consideration, if not persuade a transformative change in readers' lives, beliefs, and behaviors for a common end. If a common good, good; if not a common good, not per se "bad," perhaps beneficial nonetheless. Heady stuff, a writer's cooperative social functions are, and subversive.

What does Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 say, through implicature, for example? Censorship is wicked is a low-hung fruit. Technology destroys culture--television then, YouTube, etc., now--is a mid level fruit. Corrupt democracy majority-rules-all abuses politically powerless minorities and dissenters, a high-hung fruit. The messages wrapped in an entertaining, stimulating dramatic package that persuades transformative change. Subversive!

[ October 21, 2014, 05:11 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Lamberguesa
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As a new member of Hatrack, perhaps my input could be helpful.

I don't think covering grammar is a waste of time by any means. It is something many new (and old) writers struggle with. I think it's important to address grammar issues in a submission, provided it's not the only thing that is addressed. As was mentioned before, people make a lot of the same mistakes so it's expected that one will have to make the same comments in critiques.

extrinsic- To be honest your responses can be...overwhelming. It's a lot to take in. But, that's not necessarily bad. After submitting my first fragment, reading through what you and others had to say and contemplating what I'd learned and how to go about revising, I was pleased. I got exactly what I wanted, more in fact. Looking back, I consider it an honor that you would spend so much time and give such a thorough analysis of other's work, mine especially. Knowing you are a working professional makes it all the more significant. That means a lot to a new writer such as myself. I have a lot of respect for you, for how much you know and for your willingness to share that with others. Never have you come across as attacking or offensive. I think you do well at stating your views objectively.

As far as Hatrack goes, I wouldn't say the place is thriving. Nor would I say it is dead. But then, I've only been here a short time. More interaction would be great. As far as submitting fragments goes, it seems to me as if the writer is only able to respond to comments in two ways: thank you or I don't understand. A bit more discussion between the parties might be preferred, though perhaps this is difficult to do without the writer slipping into defensive/explanation mode and veering off course.

I think some great ideas have been offered already as far as ways to liven things up, I'd love to see them implemented. I do enjoy the place though, it seems people are generally respectful, knowledgeable, and have a desire to share with and help others along in the writing process. Great things in my book!

-A.L.

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extrinsic
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Hi, Lamberguesa,

Your posts are also kind, pleasant, and respectful. The response efforts you make are noteworthy for their relevance to topics--Grice's Maxim of Relation--and insightful: Maxims of Quality, Quantity, and Manner.

Another way to build dialogue and rapport between fragment writer and commenter is writer to note specific helpful, insightful, and worth-consideration comments. Though addressed direct to a commenter, they address the writing.

Also, specific fragment writer requests for commenter focus within a posted fragment's preamble or after the fragment--language, craft, voice, appeal focus request, or whatever, for examples--perhaps marketplace focus for where a narrative submission might find a welcome foster home, maybe marketplace category focus: Is this young adult "urban" fantasy romance? Or mainstream magical realism? Though limiting, focus requests help writer and commenter focus, perhaps benefits Maxims of Quality, Quantity, Relation, and Manner.

For writing discussion topics, didactic lectures may alienate members who have little interest in a given topic. Such lectures, though, may initiate lively--livelier discussion. To my mind, such posts are valuable no matter the state of a writers' craft. Sharing the Poet's Journey builds a writer's grasp of any given skill from the act of composing thoughts into writing for sharing purposes. Just as there are no "stupid" writing questions, there are no "stupid" personal or otherwise writing observations.

A topic of interest to me, for instance, that I am unable to host at this time, is how new members approach writing study, beginning study, writers at an earlier leg than mine or other writers further along the Poet's Journey, too. I'm also curious about writers' reading habits and, specifically, what they learn about reading. Our reading journeys are distinguishable growth legs too.

Another area of interest to me I cannot host at this time, does a singular writing craft topic approach most benefit newly ambitious prose writers? Say, plot as an area of interest. Orson Scott Card's Milieu, Idea, Character, Event emphasis, the MICE quotient, emphases orient to degrees around plot as an event feature. Milieu--a setting's cultural influences, its agency, thus event. Idea as event and agency. Character agency and consequent transformation as event. Event itself related closely to plot. Plot and event are to a degree indivisible.

In other words, new members, any member has a place in a writing forum that may benefit other members, no matter where a member is along the Poet's Journey

Participation fosters lively participation, as it were. Boards slump when life away from the boards takes priority. Maybe writing!?

[ October 21, 2014, 01:57 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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It isn't necessary for someone to offer their work for feedback in order for them to participate in this forum. This isn't a tit-for-tat arrangement, after all.

The old saying about "those who can, do and those who can't, teach" has always bugged me, because the doing may actually require a very different skill set from the teaching.

Those who can should do, but they may not be able to teach, partly because they don't know how they do what they do.

Those who are able to figure out how those who can do what they do, and then are able to teach it, are not necessarily able to do as well. But if they can teach, they are every bit as useful and worthy as those who can do. They just have a different contribution.

In the writing world, I consider those who can to be the writers. And many writers don't know how they do their writing. They just do it.

I consider those who can teach to be more on the editorial side of things, although editors are not necessarily teachers and vice versa.

And then there are the readers (especially the "wise readers" who don't know how the writers do their writing or how the editors/teachers do their editing/teaching, but they do know when it works and they do know what they like).

Learn what you can from whomever you can. Then be generous and share what you've learned as well as you are able. Sharing what you learn is an even better way to understand what you've learned, which is why I try to encourage that here.

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Denevius
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Writing workshops are intimate places. Professors don't submit, but students are encouraged to read their published works. Every workshop I've participated in, each individual in the group takes turns "standing naked" to be judged. It's uncomfortable, it's scary, it's risky, but you do it because you want to improve, and you do it because you're part of a writing workshop. Them's the rules.

If you don't want to put your A material up for debate, don't. But offering critiques while not allow yourself to be critiqued creates a sense of inequality. Many contributors here have "revealed" themselves when they talk about fiction they've published, whether traditionally or own their own. Everyone here is taking a "risk". Personally, I'm less worried about people who have named themselves than those who insist on remaining anonymous year after year.

At a minimum of every two years since I've been teaching in Korea, English textbooks change. The English language doesn't change, but the way it's presented changes because human minds tend to grow disinterested when information is presented to them in the exact same manner every time. I think most dynamic schools across the world change curriculum in a similar way.

The 13 line rule for Hatrack has remained the same since I signed up. Information presented the same way discourages a variety of answers and a variety of ways to think about prose and writing. New members may get something from this, but older members grow fatigue and end up lurkers. That leaves only a revolving door and a handful of consistent voices, most of whom have an aesthetic that they'll repeat ad infinitum. That creates a stagnant environment.

When you notice that one individual is responsible for 90% of all content on a website that isn't their personal blog, you know you have a problem. To say that it's up to other members on the site to respond to that 90% of content is absurd because then you're allowing that individual to define the parameters of the general conversation.

Ultimately, though, the bottom line is if the moderator of this site (Kathleen) is satisfied with the level of activity on Hatrack. If that's the case, then so be it, as online sites aren't democracies.

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Pyre Dynasty
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At the risk of chiming in as one of the old timers who merely lurk, who also has rarely ever used frag & feed:

You speak as if changing the limit will somehow magically make this place what it was. Except this place was what it was with the 13 line rule. I'm not convinced of how it will make people show up suddenly. What if we started allowing "words you can't say on television?" I'm sure that would make it sexyer for new people. Or allowed political discussion. I'm sure we'd get tons of people here to argue about the cause of the day.

Message boards are old tech. Kids these days have tumblr and facebook and hundred other things I can't even fathom that gives them what this place gave us when we were them. Unfortunately those places are less concerned with the rights of those kids. They don't come with warnings and rules to protect them from using up first publication rights. And that is what the 13 rule was always about. If you want to build an argument against it you can't ignore the fundamental reason it exists.

You are expecting a message board to surrogate for in person writing groups and it's just not the same thing.

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Robert Nowall
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To add my two cents to the thought:

I came to these boards relatively late and relatively older...I've gotten a lot out of it over the years, but the conversation of late seems too arcane and too technical---and therefore too confusing---to help me much with my writing. (I may be beyond help, but that's another subject.)

The subject of this thread seems to be (1) grammar, (2) a debate on how much should be posted, and (3) the nature and purpose of these boards. Seems all three are worthy subjects, but the presentation is confusing.

I seem to have sunk to semi-lurker. I never have anything to contribute to fragments and feedback, and try to avoid the groups that form; my reading of late is almost exclusively non-fiction, and I'm more likely to pick up a fondly-remembered old work of fiction than something new. I prefer posting (mostly) short and pithy comments to lengthy literary rants. I do wonder if I serve any purpose here, but continue to lurk and hang out and (occasionally) comment.

I've gotta say, a lot of what's been posted of late in this particular forum has been long, lengthy, and confusing. I don't consider myself lightweight in the intelligence department, but a lot of these posts are very hard to figure out---and, in all probability, intimidating and discouraging to a lot of newcomers.

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Denevius
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quote:
You speak as if changing the limit will somehow magically make this place what it was.
I'm a member making a suggestion that has some people interested, others opposed, and the rest indifferent.

If the 13 line limit was modified so that you could do an opening, *or* a first page (say 40 lines), I think a change not only in the types of critiques, but also the types of conversations on writing, would develop.

quote:
I've gotten a lot out of it over the years, but the conversation of late seems too arcane and too technical---and therefore too confusing
I have no problem with that, except when it becomes the dominant voice drowning out almost all other voices, intentionally or not. Because then, an environment is created where people are trying to sound smarter than the other guy, so the responses become more dense and more, in my opinion, not worthwhile to even bother trying to decipher.

The format on this site would be fine if there were more voices, but they aren't. Since they aren't, why not shake things up for the small number of people who actually participate?

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besimirch
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Interesting discussion.

Speaking as one of those who stopped here briefly before moving on, I don't think the 13 line limit is the problem.

Anyone only has to look at the stories forum from a few years ago to see how alive and buzzing it was then. People would post openings and there would be a multitude of different voices critting the 13 and offering to read the whole thing. Even bad openings, people would still offer to read the MS for the writer.

New writers would come on to the forum and there would be people queuing up to read their work. The 13 served as a gateway to establishing new connections and crits for finished MS. Now it seems the 13 is the be all and end all. There's only so many ways people can crit an opening 13 before all the crits are the same and authors won't bother posting because they know exactly what crits will come back and that leads to dullness and boredom and a search for a more active site. As an example, Tigerlilly, I notice just came and asked for crits for a 137 or something word story and got one offer.

If the main critter here doesn't post work and only crits 13 lines, and the rest are lurkers, I think it's only natural that writers don't stay if they are only going to get crits on the opening couple of lines. To get Hatrack going again like it did in the old days, I think writers have to make the effort, offer to read each other's work, especially the new members, and then they might stay and bring more with them. Get out of this mentality where the 13 is the be all and end all.

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Denevius
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quote:
Speaking as one of those who stopped here briefly before moving on
For someone who has moved on, it's curious you're responding to this thread.

Which continues to be my point. The fact that Hatrack is linked to a well known author gives it an allure that other critiquing/workshop websites have to create organically. I have to imagine that's a large reason why it is that people who almost never post will only respond to more controversial/contentious chat threads. I did predict earlier that names you never see will probably respond to this thread:

In the fifth response:
quote:
But there are lurkers. Sometimes a controversial topic comes up, and all of a sudden you have names you never see in the workshop portion offering an opinion.
Having submissions go from 13 lines to a full page won't solve the problems of lurkers. To be honest, if it wasn't for Bret sending out a notification for an awesome submission's venue (thanks again!), I probably would have gone the way of lurker too. This site simply doesn't change, and it's the same thing over and over again. But then, being a part of an online writing community like this does have its benefits, and some of the full range of those benefits probably are lost to lurkers.

As I stated above, I was reluctant to request a change because, let's be honest, change of format is not something that happens on Hatrack. It has remained the same for all the years I've used the site. And Kathleen has been pretty straightforward in her inclination to stick to the format as is.

And you know, groovy.

But when Extrinsic made a post that seemed to indicate that even he realized that perhaps his aesthetic fixation has worn thin and it's time to change, I figured why not throw in my two cents too. It's time for a change. As my high school algebra teacher was fond of saying, there's no point beating a dead horse. If the d@*n thing's dead, leave it alone.

So in the spirit of 'What Next!!?', I figured I'd throw in a suggestion (fully expecting it to be rejected). But at least we can get a conversation going on a website that probably has more consistent lurkers than active participants.

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