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Author Topic: Economics 101, a Novel
Joel Matthew Rees
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(new version 1st 13)
"Your thesis plan looks good, but you'll need to do some on-location research." Professor MacVittie was helping Karel review his plans.

Karel Pratt nodded his agreement. "I guess I should say so in my proposal? Should I revise the plan to say something about needing the fieldwork, but not yet knowing when and where?"

Professor MacVittie nodded slowly, in half agreement. "Well, you could, but I think you know enough to be somewhat specific already. You should be able to name several islands as possibilities."

Karel scratched behind his ear. "I guess I can say I'm looking at a few locations, but don't know which, yet?"

"Sounds reasonable." The professor paused. "Changing the subject a little, but do you know Roberta Whitmer?"
(end new version 1st 13)


(old version 1st 13)
When trying to decipher the physical laws of the universe, we find it easier to start with simplifications. For example, when describing the flight of a cannonball, we start by ignoring air friction and the wind. That makes the math simple enough for one person to handle without a computer in many cases.

Economics is not as easily simplified as physics. In physics, we can see the interactions, even if we don't directly see many of the interactants, like the wind or electricity.

Continuing with the cannonball example, gunpowder is not very simple, but we might use a catapult or trebuchet to launch the cannonball. We can see what happens, we can measure and time the acceleration paths, etc. And we can compare our results with the path and timing of a dropped cannonball or a cannonball rolling on a slope.
(end old version 1st 13)

(I'm not exactly following the rules on this, but I won't mention how and why just yet.)

This is somewhere between light escapist young adult fantasy and faux philosophy. First draft would be complete if I were satisfied by the ending and the setting. Estimating two to four hundred pages.

[ July 21, 2017, 08:46 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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Two individuals discuss a thesis proposal. ostensibly about an economics topic.

The economics topic is a standout feature -- if the novel's design is a financial thriller (Wikipedia). The type is uncommon, possible appeal if that topic strikes readers in the wallet as much as the viscera and mind, a la Upton Sinclair's The Jungle's off yet on the mark socialist design. Missed the public mind and struck the public stomach instead.

No clue given in the fragment about the intent is a financial thriller, though, nor either any fantastic or "faux philosophy" feature. The fragment gives the barest of event, setting, and character introductions and they are inert, static, routine, and dull pleasantries. Short prose might manage little if any dramatic movement at a start, if an anecdote, vignette, or sketch, though, contrarily, want much for abrupt, immediate, and potent reader engagement more so than long prose.

A novel's start thirteen lines might be quiet, might be fast, never slow nor no dramatic movement. Screeners allow up to four or six hundred words, more than general readers do, to decide if they would read on. If first page content, though, offers no incentive to read on, or, Providence forbid, a first few words or even a title does not embroil readers or puts them out at the start, especially of a first narrative offered for publication, the work suffers from fatal flaws.

A novel about two individuals stranded on a deserted or desert island that's designed to explore an economics topic warrants the topic's focused, immediate introduction and as an explicit dramatic complication that profoundly reaches into readers lives. Economics usually is an eye-roller topic for all but economists -- why so few financial thrillers succeed. Thrillers are by definition psychological horror narratives that matter to public and private lives.

If amatory romance is also part of the design, romance, too, has a basic convention of will they or won't they romantically engage and eventually do though all the cosmos opposes and keeps them apart, the selfs contend, too. The contest outcome hangs in doubt throughout until a bittersweet end.

The economics topic, though, to avoid the dullness of an abstract economics concept, best practice entails an Edges of Ideas development. See "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" for "The Edges of Ideas" detail, by David Smith of Clarion Workshops. The idea is less a matter to readers than how peoples' lives are affected by the idea.

And what is the idea given? The title contains the whole development detail, such little as it is. A course label only, Economics 101. 101 courses are introductory survey courses, sweep a broad and general sample of the entire gamut of a study discipline, as like a forest viewed from afar, from no particular focal point or focus. Another word or two for the title is wanted so as to focus on a relateable and relevant to readers topic. Wanted to speak volumes what the novel is about, though not telegraph the plot nor the attitude or focal position as regards, say, economics.

What? Say, some word or phrase plucked from pop culture or current events. Supply-side Economics comes to mind, or of stronger appeal its dysphemisms, Trickle-down Economy and Voodoo Economics. Or similar though different, something perhaps with an implication of both the fantastic and "faux philosophy." Like, perhaps, from contemporary fantasy topos: vampires, werewolves, zonbis, witches, and sorcerers, or on the other pop culture science fantasy mien, of youths pitted against each other in gladiatorial contests by leadership adults.

Philosophy, by the way, implies a philosophical narrative type. The type asserts a focal moral law. Contrarily, an energetic narrative discovers a focal moral truth. Asserted moral law narratives preach, lecture, proselytize a focal moral belief. Readers anymore will not be preached at. Discovered moral truth narratives persuade moral transformation through portrayals of individuals' moral contests between good and evil -- of the self and with another or others. In any case, satire's arts.

Economics 101 wants for satire's sarcasms. Which attitude? Pro or con some focal economics topic? From Wikipedia, about supply-side economics: "The economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, 'Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.'" Also, the Voodoo or Reaganomics article, supply-side anti-Keynesian demand-stimulus economics. Hunters nowadays know the horse and sparrow economics model as the cows and corn method to bait a field for to attract wildfowl for the slaughter.

For me, frankly, several of the above are played out topics; a new, lively economics topic would appeal more, except if a fresh approach to one of the above were portrayed. A narrative's attitude toward a topic is crucial anyway, its "tone," in the writing vocabulary, which is largely private emotional effect and attitude at the Edges of an Idea's public proponent and opponent contest. Private and public motivations and stakes are wanted: motivations, want-problem antagonisms, or complication; stakes, forces in polar opposite contention, or conflict. The three are essential at every moment of a narrative: complication, conflict, and tone, as well as event, setting, and character development.

The possible financial thriller intent is the standout bright feature of the fragment.

At this time, I cannot read on as an engaged reader, due to too little content appeal to engage through. Yet, what, it's only thirteen lines to work that engagement mischief? Give it more latitude? If a title and thirteens lines, a first page offers little incentive to read on, no point continuing forward -- anticipateable the remainder is little, if any, more appealing.

postscript: by the way, your profile page Homepage url contains two domain protocols, both an http and an https. Hatrack code automatically appends an http protocol to profile Homepage urls. If the Homepage link is clicked, an error page results.

[ July 22, 2017, 01:14 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Joel Matthew Rees
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Odd that i missed that on the profile. I'm usually a little more careful when I set up profiles. Don't know why I used that link instead of my blog, either.

Nice critique. I assume you found and at least started reading the first draft, then?

(Note to the moderator(s), am I breaking too many forum rules, here, since the first draft and much of the second is out there in my blogs?)

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Joel Matthew Rees

Nice critique. I assume you found and at least started reading the first draft, then?

Sampled outlines and a few early chapters in search of the essential dramatic movement from complication, conflict, and tone introductions, implications thereof at least, or actually more artful if implied rather than direct declarations, for greatest appeal potentials, and to no avail. Still no idea what the novel is really about. I expect some clue of what any narrative is really about should be cued up, implied at least, within a first page's title and thirteen lines.
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Joel Matthew Rees
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Matthew Rees

Nice critique. I assume you found and at least started reading the first draft, then?

Sampled outlines and a few early chapters in search of the essential dramatic movement from complication, conflict, and tone introductions, implications thereof at least, or actually more artful if implied rather than direct declarations, for greatest appeal potentials, and to no avail. Still no idea what the novel is really about. I expect some clue of what any narrative is really about should be cued up, implied at least, within a first page's title and thirteen lines.
I should say here that I wasn't speaking ironically when I said nice critique. If I read you right, you touch on many of my own points of concern.

Writing the first draft, I knew I needed not to worry about what people would think, so I just wrote. Only discussed it with my sisters, who basically gave me the encouragement I needed to just write.

Now I need to decide what to do next. If the moderator(s) don't tell me I'm breaking too many rules the way I've done this, I'm thinking about discussing parts of the rewrite here.

The story, as it was written originally, didn't mesh with history. So I needed some alternate time lines kind of stuff. Now I find that the ending requires me to construct a proxy for the church as well as for the school, so I'm moving the story to another planet.

But of course I have no money left, so I'm looking for a regular job that will allow me time to write. And I'm finding myself stuck on features of the proxy planet that feel contrived.

Those first thirteen lines bug me. When I pick up a book, I always start in the middle, if I make it past the title and cover.

I'm not sure I can construct a first thirteen lines that will make an interesting hook without making it even harder for the reader to understand the course of the story.

But, let me see:

----- 1st page -----

Studying economics is not like studying physics.

In physics, we can start with things we see and work directly with -- the angle of a shadow on sand, water pulling on an oar, a rubber dinghy floating in the sea, an airplane gliding through the air.

Even the moderately complex chemical reactions of the controlled explosion of fuel in an airplane engine is quite repeatable. (And so are the effects of running out of fuel.)

With economics, nothing is static.

Sure, we have money. But money is a contrived proxy for value, and is not constant over time, or even from person to person. So we need to simplify.

I don't know about you, but the simplest economic system I can think of is one person on a desert island. Except, of course, one person alone is only interesting for a little while.


NOTE FROM MODERATOR:

We don't do second pages on this forum. It is entirely up to you whether you post only 13 lines or whole manuscripts of your work on your own webpages/blogs/etc. But the rule here is only the first 13 lines.

You may post alternate 13 lines, but not the NEXT 13 lines or the next page and so on.

Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

[ July 24, 2017, 02:11 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
"Your thesis plan looks good, but you'll need to do some on-location research." Professor MacVittie was helping Karel review his plans.
This line pretty well encapsulates the most pressing problems I see.

First, given that the reader doesn’t yet know where we are, what’s going on, or whose skin we’re wearing, we have data, but not story. You’re also forgetting that the term “thesis plan” may have no meaning to those who have never had to write one.

The following words of the excerpt change that situation not at all. Think of the difference in feel, and reader perception and expectation, for story progression between knowing that the subject is interstellar exploration or being on sexology. So setting the scene matters a great deal.

The explanation provided in the tag is purely an authorial interjection, which tells the reader that this story isn’t happening, it’s being explained by an external voice that is devoid of all emotional content because we can neither see the performance of the storyteller, nor hear their voice.

So at the moment, the prose is 100% fact-based and author-centric. It informs clearly and precisely. But does it entertain? It must, because the reader isn’t with you to learn what happened. That would be history, not story. And history books are not a big seller to those reading for entertainment. Your reader wants to be made to live an emotional experience, in real-time, moment-by-moment, as the protagonist.

In short, you’re using the writing skills we’re all given in school, where they’re providing skills employers require, to aid us in our work careers. They are no more training us to write fiction than to write plays, film and Tv, or to write as journalists. Those fields, like fiction, are learned in addition to our school-day skills, as is any other profession.

Of course we all graduate not knowing that, because we’re given the impression that writing is writing. And who’s to tell us differently? Not our schoolmates. Nor could our teachers, because they learned their writing skills in the same classrooms. So while you have a problem to solve, it’s one we all share. It’s annoying and unexpected, true, but not a failing of talent or potential. And it is fixable, albeit not overnight, via a few hints given here.

At the moment you’re thinking visually, and providing what might happen in the opening shots of a film. But film is a parallel medium. As we listen to the two characters talk we learn their ages, their bearing and social status by observation. We learn setting, era, and more. We also factor in body-language, facial expression, and all the tricks actors spend years perfecting, to tell the viewer about their mind-state and reaction to what’s going on.

But how much of that did you provide? Since no one told you it’s necessary, why, or how, none. But it’s fixable, so while you won’t be a famous writer by Christmas, it’s not all that bad.

You also need to take into account that as a serial medium, everything must be spelled out in its turn, which, if not done right, dramatically slows the narrative.

And then there’s the problem that should you tell the reader about the character crossing the room it would take longer to read than to do, which slows the narrative, too. There are ways around the problem, but none of that was covered in our school days.

Reporting a mundane conversation, as you do here, takes far longer to read than to speak. Add to that the fact that the reader, knowing nothing about the situation as they read, is going to wonder why what they’re saying matters enough that they must remember it till it becomes meaningful to the action.

I know something like this, especially when you were hoping for a few suggestions, and an over all, “nice job.” I’ve been there, myself. But nothing I’ve said reflects on your potential as a writer, only the things you need to add as you come up to speed as one.

There’s a lot that’s not obvious to writing fiction for the page. Much of it is of the kind that makes you say, “Why didn’t I see that for myself?” And in the end, if we want to write like a pro, don’t we need to know what the pro knows? So spending a bit of time acquiring a writers education makes sense. Right?

And the good news is that it’s there for the taking. In your local library system’s fiction writing section you’ll find the views of agents, publishing pros, teachers, and successful writers. Devouring a few of them, to get a variety of views. Like chicken soup for a cold, it certainly can’t hurt. My own suggestion, as it so often is, is to seek the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon as a starting point because they focus on the nuts and bolts issues of constructing scenes that sing to a reader.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

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Joel Matthew Rees
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Thanks, Jay.

I dropped the word "doctoral" before thesis in the process of tightening it up a bit. Tightened up a few too many things, perhaps.

----
"Your thesis plan looks good, but you'll need to do some on-location research." Professor MacVittie was helping Karel review his plans for his PhD.
----

But that doesn't really feel right. I'll put it on the back burner and come back to it.

The rest of the details you are asking for come up pretty quickly in the remainder of the first chapter. Well, most of them do. It's hard to pack them all in without hitting people over the head with them. And I was limiting myself here to the first 13 lines of the second page, trying to sort-of keep to the 13 lines rule.

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extrinsic
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A general summary of Hatrack rules notes that first and foremost respect for writing matters, in that all discussion must be about writing, even the more lenient application for social network-like posts to "Grist for the Mill"; that comments about topics, original posts and responses to those, address the writing topic or the writing itself for fragment posts, and not address the writer or writers. Exceptions, except when giving credit where credit is due; for example, attribution credit given for another poster's comment or insight or resource location as part of the commentor's own writing insights or resource observations. And in no case are personal attacks tolerated.

Hatrack's Thirteen Lines principle as well is sacred, the main function of which is practice engaging readers from a first page's content, the general maximum screeners will read and decide from whether to read further. So fragment line count posted for comment for that design serves that purpose and not much else, really. An added purpose is that then a fragment of any narrative entire has not compromised first publication placement potentials, only a working title, perhaps, and a working draft first thirteen lines have been published, subject at any time to substantive revisions. Hence, protecting possible publication potentials and rights.

The first thirteen lines of chapters may be posted sequentially, though best not post multiple excerpts per chapter or short work.

In that same content posted limitation vein, likewise, the content of other longer-ish written-word publications from any other sources still under copyright are limited to thirteen lines maximum, solely related to writing topics and Fair Use Doctrine principles that allow use for writing-related educational, critical analyses, and commentary purposes, except for poetry and song lyrics, which are by nature brief, and any length excerpt of which comprises a significant fraction of a work, thus no poetry or song lyric content under copyright allowed at Hatrack, except for titles.

All content posted on Hatrack is reserved to Hatrack and its respective creators' copyrights.

Last of substance are, that all Hatrack content be suitable for young persons, sort of about TV and films' PG-13 as far as mature language, content, and situations, especially no gratuitous "on-stage" foul words, sex, or violence; and no work posted from another writer's intellectual property milieu, nor plagiarism of any kind, and if a post offends -- let it be, do not engage in tit-for-tat ad nauseam refutation attacks back. Best practice is to leave be altogether or, if it will not stand, inform moderator Ms. Dalton Woodbury privately.

That out of the way, to the latest fragment and the novel overall. I feel the writing seeks a start place; who, when, and where to begin? As well, what, why, and how? Begin with a high magnitude emotional crisis for an individual who's problematized by an event of a want-problem complication in a setting's time, place, and situation and by another persona's antagonisms, who is as well problematized by a congruent want-problem complication.

What? And nonetheless about an economics topic? Pick a focused economics topic. Do not name, explain, summarize, or detail its parameters, instead, portray its real-world effects on the main antagonists, what the focal agonist discovers about it for a start, and how the agonist strives to satisfy it for the middle, and how the agonist comes to an accommodation with it at the end. Not a resolution outcome, per se; at best, a private and public satisfaction from it.

What, again? Robert Malthus' "Political economics" theory for, example. An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1789, asserts "That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence[;] That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and[;] That the superior power of population is repressed by moral restraint, vice and misery."

Contemporary political geographers observe that the "Malthusian model" shows that subsistence resources expand linearly from technology enhancements and population expands exponentially as an effect. Likewise, Darwin noted that a species fit to its habit expands to the limits of its habit's carrying capacity, before dying back to less population, and continues thereafter in a metastable equilibrium of episodic population expansion and contraction oscillations. Therefore, might the novel take place, not at a deserted location, rather at an overpopulated place at the threshold of population collapse? Worth note that present-day zonbi genre creatively slants a representation of an overpopulated world's complications and ineffectual responses to those.

How might that Malthusian economics phenomenon suit a novel's dramatic movement? Not by summarization or explanation or detail of the sorted social sciences involved. Through an unaware viewpoint agonist's direct, immediate experience of it from a moment of want-problem emotional incitement to a new-normal emotional equilibrium outcome. In other words, through fresh discovery of the economics theory that has a personal effect and affect on the agonist's life.

And how to nonetheless introduce the focal economics theory in a dramatic-start's thirteen lines? That's the challenge, right? Implication is part of the satisfaction, irony is the other, or satire, actually. Maybe not Maria Edgeworth or Jonathan Swift's Mennipean satire natures; maybe, though, Connop Thirlwall's practical irony principle, which is wise and sagacious guidance withheld so that an unaware individual really and truly learns wisdom through trial and error from the individual's own initiatives and then enjoys the reward satisfactions of self-reliant self-governance or suffers the ramifications of unwise error and folly, or both and matures at great personal cost.

Though not a zero-sum scenario -- greater personal growth satisfaction at the expense of less personal cost expended. Life and death stakes (conflict), say, in doubt until a bittersweet end, and by luck, by divine influence, as much as by self-initiative, lives on at the end maturer and wiser -- having left some childish things behind: 1 Corinthians 13:11, paraphrased, When I was a child, I spoke, thought, behaved, felt, reacted as child. When I became an adult, I became an adult; I put behind the ways of the child.

[ July 24, 2017, 01:00 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Joel Matthew Rees
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(Warning! Introverted rant ahead.)

Well, extrinsic, you're still pushing me to put more of reasoning and other stuff I wanted to avoid talking about up front. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I am not looking to produce in these drafts the novels you and Jay are trying to get me to write. I'm not trying to write the next instant bestseller. Not yet, anyway.

I would be happy if this novel were to turn into a sleeper hit down the road. But I needed to lay some foundations for some novels I plan to write in the future. Basically, this story sets up a window into a universe for a series of other novels, two or more of which of which might fit the formulas you and Jay are explaining to me.

The reason I didn't start posting here about this novel when I registered about a year ago is that I knew the novel would not fit these sorts of formulae. The reason I am here now is partly because I need people to talk with while I clean it up (or decide not to). Just talking about things with you and Jay (and anyone else who cares to join in) would and does help me focus.

Actually, the first draft, as it is, with the bits and pieces of other novels mixed in, could be sufficient for the foundation that I needed to set up, plus and minus some details that are still in my head.

So I'm faced with the question of whether to clean it up enough to consider self-publishing it or just set it aside. If I set it aside, I could pick it back up later, after some of the other novels are selling.

As I say, I recognize that this novel will not be the sort of novel that an editor at a large publishing company would pick up by the usual procedures. It can't be, because of what it is (noting that I still haven't explained what it is). Even though my financial situation is such that it would be wonderful if this novel turned into a hit bestseller tomorrow, that's impossible. I had to resign myself to that about a year ago.

If I do decide to try to self-publish this story now, I probably don't want to subject the (probably too rare) reader to all of my editing notes and conversations with myself. Even leaving it there in my blog is a bit unsatisfactory (in no small part because all the posts with my editing notes combined with all the dynamic junk google puts in their webpages make that blog almost unusable for its original purpose).

One of the reasons for rewriting it now would be to get those details out of my head and get the foundation stable. (And one of the reasons for setting it aside would be to allow me some room to play with those details while I write those other novels, but the way it will be structured I'll have all the room I need anyway.)

So, one of my hidden motivations is to get some input to help me decide whether to set it aside for now.

One way to set up a novel that starts dramatically would be to tell the story of the friend of the pilot who dies. Start with Kevin hanging upside down by his seat harness in his truck on a stretch of lonely highway in the outback, with his load of fruit strewn all over the road, worrying about his baby daughter who will now have lost both of her parents. And tell in flashbacks how he knows Wycliffe and how he met Tessa. Maybe end it with the meeting with Wycliffe and then Tessa in the afterworld, told from Kevin's point of view. But that would not be focused on economics. Different story.

And, even though I'm moving the stories completely to another planet, I still want to research Australia more before I write that one.

Wycliffe's and Zedidiah's stories would be interesting. There's a lot of drama there, too. And adventure flying around the islands.

But the drama in this story can't be explained in thirteen lines, especially not the first thirteen lines of the story. I'd have to back up too far. I tried that in the second draft, and it did not work. Way too much story to tell, to make what happens on the desert island meaningful. Maybe. And I'm pretty sure the university episodes are for a separate novel, anyway.

But then I have to sell the idea of a stand-offish romance between two random thirty-somethings in a nineteen-fifties sort of setting at a university called Orson Hyde University on a world called Xhilr.

I could focus on some of the friends, instead. There's an industrial thriller in there, in which Karel plays no small part. But there's quite a bit of background work I need to do to start that one.

Maybe not. Just yesterday, I figured out most of my way around the software in the background, so I could get started on that now with about two-to-four more weeks of work on the software. But I have only the second or third chapter from the end, and it is only partially written.

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extrinsic
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A mythopoeia then, a la J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. A literary form with attendant conventions and challenges, and problematic. No much more can I say, either.
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Joel Matthew Rees
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
A mythopoeia then, a la J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. A literary form with attendant conventions and challenges, and problematic. No much more can I say, either.

It would be nice to be able to get that far, but, for now I have to concentrate on bootstraping the series somehow.

I've spent my spare moments of the morning working out a combined story of Wycliffe and Kevin in Para-Australia. Maybe I'll be able to try a first thirteen lines extract in a few days.

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Grumpy old guy
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If Kevin is hauling fruit, he isn't in the outback. Mildura, maybe, or the Riverland , perhaps even Margaret River in WA.

Courtesy of your resident Australian, unless Jack comes back.

Now, I have a question and an observation to make. What are you trying to write? It certainly makes no sense to me at the moment. Second, you talk about being published as if this is some sort of foregone inevitability; it isn't. A novice writer has less than a 0.01% chance of getting to an Editor's desk let alone getting on the shelf.

Phil.

[ July 25, 2017, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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H Reinhold
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Hi Joel. Hatrack is probably full of introverts. I've been thinking about your 13-line fragments for a while, trying to work out a good response, but I didn't want to post before I'd been able to put my thoughts in some order.

I've had a quick look through the outlines/chapters on your website and, as you mentioned yourself, it doesn't look like this novel falls easily into a pre-existing formula. Now, on one level, that's fine. You have to write your book, not someone else's. Combining fresh plot elements is a great idea. I'd personally love to read a novel that tries to explore some basic principles of economics through the challenges of survival in a hostile place--especially if the characters are interesting and smart, and struggle with relationships and faith. Hard to market? Maybe. But if it was done well, I'd read it anyway. But even then, even if you ignore the 'formula' on the broad level of genre/plot, you will probably still have to deal with the question of how to hook your reader, because unless you're going to try to market this as non-fiction, history, or philosophy, it's fiction, and as Jay said, people read fiction to be entertained. You can entertain people while conducting a thought experiment with them--in fact, that's one of my favourite kind of novels--but no matter how clever the thought experiment and set up, if your scenes come across as boring, people will stop reading your book. And for me, this is where your novel doesn't quite work.

As I said, on paper the premise of your book sounds like it might be interesting to me. I've been a PhD student myself, and I'd love to see how the challenges of that kind of lifestyle, and issues relating to relationships and a potentially unusual faith, combine with the 'what if' scenario of being stranded on a desert island or strange planet. Add to that the possibility of discussing basic economics along the way? Great.

However, I wasn't able to see much of that interesting stuff in your two openings, or in any of the first few chapters on your website (the 'getting to know the characters' section). What I read seemed to be about a group of people gradually meeting and becoming friends, discussing their research, and figuring out their way around campus. I was skimming to try to find out when they would go to the desert island. I've been a grad student, and, unless something seriously unexpected is going to happen, I tend not to find it particularly exciting to read about meetings with thesis advisors, or about new students making friends with each other. In fact, I quickly discovered that it's only in chapter 10, two whole years after the beginning of the story, that your characters actually go to this island. For me, the opening chapters were a problem for two reasons, related to my expections about fiction.

First, the tagline you use to describe the novel ('What would you do if you and your study partner, with whom you had been seriously discussing marriage, suddenly found yourselves all alone together on a desert island?') advertises the story as centred around the desert island. And yet I've had to read ten whole chapters, and followed the characters around for two years, before I get there? I imagine that people who pick up your book hoping to find adventure will stop reading long before they reach chapter 10, and while the people who might have liked the grad students/romance/faith setting, put off by the desert island survival description, might never start reading the book in the first place. Imagine how the first Harry Potter book, for example, would read entirely differently if the first third of the story simply followed Harry around his regular, muggle school for two years, without any magical elements. I'm not sure it would work. Anyway, back to your story: in short, I guess I'm saying that if your first few chapters are set entirely in the university, in 'normal life', and later chapters all take place in an entirely different setting with different priorities, you might have trouble with reader expectations. My own expectation will certainly vary depending on clues given in the opening. I expect a story that opens with grad student thesis problems to come to a climax with the student(s) overcoming these problems, submitting their dissertation(s), and graduating. Very different to my expectations for a story opening with two people being stranded on a desert island. In this case, I'm hoping to follow the characters on their journey of reconciling themselves to their new habitat and possibly also figuring out a way home.

Second, I didn't get a sense of much conflict in the opening chapters. They read like the recounting of a story: this happens, then this, then this. Everything seems to go well, there aren't any major conflicts to work through and overcome, and there's no sense of struggle. Maybe it's realistic. Maybe conflict at this early stage in the story isn't really the point. But in fiction, characters are usually much more sympathetic if they struggle, if we as readers can cheer them on in their trials, if we can cry with them when they fail and rejoice when they succeed. This is why I find the desert island setting attractive--it almost guarantees that your characters will have to really struggle for survival, and probably also wrestle with a new sense of loneliness, and the strain on their relationship of being the only two people on the whole island. It promises a good story. But the opening chapters set in the university don't seem to contain any real struggles, and this makes it difficult for me to care about the plot. To take your opening chapter as an example: your main character walks into a university building, is immediately granted a meeting with a professor, easily convinces him that she's got the skills to be a grad student, and then goes home and fills in the application forms. While you don't necessarily need to introduce the main conflict of the entire story, it doesn't, to me, feel like there's any conflict at all. Nothing seems to be at stake for this character. I don't get to experience her reasons, or her burning desire for the PhD (it might be considered unusual for Mormon women to study for PhDs--does she feel at all conflicted about that?), her fear at being rejected by the professor, her anxiety about switching careers, her remorse or even excitement at leaving her old job, her attraction to Karel, or anything at all. Not even stress over the complicated application forms. Everything happens smoothly, with no resistance. Now of course, if you don't want to write a Dan Brown-type pageturning thriller, you don't need to stuff every scene with melodramatic conflict and suspense. But most scenes need at least some kind of conflict, some messy, unresolved element, some anxiety, hope, or promise that makes the reader want to read on. At least, that's my understanding.

This kind of thing, which entertains as well as informs, is what people unconsciously read for, unless they're reading a textbook. When extrinsic speaks of the 'essential dramatic movement from complication, conflict, and tone introductions, implications thereof at least', I don't think he's asking for your work to align with some arbitrary formula, he's just expressing the need for the plot, right from the first page, to be moved by conflict or tension of some kind, and for the opening to set correct expectations about the story to come.

One of the things I learned from writing my thesis (ha) is that you can't attempt too much at once. Every chapter, every paragraph, even every sentence, has to contribute to your overall argument, which can be summed up in a single sentence. This means you really have to figure out what that sentence is. I often think it's not too far off from how a good novel is constructed. Really great books often have one main theme, around which the whole story dances. As Phil has just said: What are you trying to write? Do you want to write the story of your characters on the desert island? Could you start there, weave in any necessary backstory, and cut the rest? You may find that narrowing your focus a bit helps you to work out what's essential to the plot, and what's irrelevant. As I think you mentioned, there's always the possibility of exploring other themes, characters, and settings in other books.

This forum is used for discussing up to 13 lines of the opening of each chapter of your actual, written story. But I believe it can also be used to discuss summaries of chapters or whole stories, as long as you don't post the actual text of your story and thus harm your chances of publication. So I think it's perfectly acceptable to ask for advice on rewriting, as long as you focus on broader plot, rather than the exact text. (Is that right?)

Hannah

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by H Reinhold:
This forum is used for discussing up to 13 lines of the opening of each chapter of your actual, written story. But I believe it can also be used to discuss summaries of chapters or whole stories, as long as you don't post the actual text of your story and thus harm your chances of publication. So I think it's perfectly acceptable to ask for advice on rewriting, as long as you focus on broader plot, rather than the exact text. (Is that right?)

Hannah

Right. Synopses, summaries, outlines, sketches, explanations of novels, etc., and discussions thereof, are not limited to thirteen lines. Mind, though, that overlong posts tend to attract less attention than concise posts.
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Joel Matthew Rees
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quote:
Originally posted by Joel Matthew Rees:


NOTE FROM MODERATOR:

We don't do second pages on this forum. It is entirely up to you whether you post only 13 lines or whole manuscripts of your work on your own webpages/blogs/etc. But the rule here is only the first 13 lines.

You may post alternate 13 lines, but not the NEXT 13 lines or the next page and so on.

Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Okay, and thanks.

I was thinking in terms of first 13 line from chapters, but I guess I have to decide to make the first page its own chapter before I can do that. Which would essentially move the (faux?) arguing for using a novel as a proxy for discussing economics back to the preface.

I'd initially put those arguments in the preface, but didn't like how that worked out.

(At the time, I was intending to be able to back up the blog, put it through docbook or something, and take the result directly to one of the self-publishing companies, and the preface got in the way of that. I could go back to that.)

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Joel Matthew Rees
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
If Kevin is hauling fruit, he isn't in the outback. Mildura, maybe, or the Riverland , perhaps even Margaret River in WA.

Courtesy of your resident Australian, unless Jack comes back.

Thanks, Phil. I can see why, now that you point it out.

Even on another planet, the parallel-Oz is going to have to have some odd features to make it reasonable to haul fruit across the continent, I suppose. Or could the accident occur on a lonely stretch near the coast in a world roughly comparable to 1950s Australia?

quote:
Now, I have a question and an observation to make. What are you trying to write? It certainly makes no sense to me at the moment. Second, you talk about being published as if this is some sort of foregone inevitability; it isn't. A novice writer has less than a 0.01% chance of getting to an Editor's desk let alone getting on the shelf.

Phil.

Heh. One of my sisters thought it made as much sense as some of the well-selling novels she's read.

But she is the only one. (heh.)

Publishing -- yeah. I am quite aware that this novel is not going to get past an editor's desk, even when I clean it up. That's why I'm looking at self-publishing it. Some of the sequels might have a chance, if I can make my writing accessible enough.

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Joel Matthew Rees
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Thanks, Hannah, for wading through all that, if for nothing else.

I've refrained from posting a link in the forum because of my interpretation of the rules, but what you found is actually my second draft, where I tried to do two things at once --

One was to give myself enough background to work through some problems I was having with writing the story on the island.

The other was to explore the prequel.

Actually, make that three things at once. I was also trying to figure out if I could put the university stuff in an extended flashback inserted somewhere between Wycliffe's death and, ...

But I didn't find a good place for the flashback, so I abandoned that and dropped the second draft partway through. Realizing that most of what I was doing at that point was mechanically copying the first draft in with minimal fixup convinced me I didn't like that.

I don't intend to completely abandon the university scenes. Part of the problem is that many of those scenes end up being drafts of another novel I could write, and I will have to tighten the focus when I use them. I'll need to extract one novel at a time out of that, and then it will be easier to focus on conflict and resolution.

I guess I need to be more explicit in my page full of links to stuff I'm writing that the first draft is going to make more sense than the second, or otherwise point more obviously towards the first.

(But I was recording my edits directly in the first draft instead of leaving the draft clean to read and keeping the edits in backup, which is also confusing.)

I've started on a new draft in a new blog (too many blogs!), which I plan to keep free of the edit record. But the links to that are kind of hidden for now.

If I'm going to talk about the drafts here, I think I should make that available off-forum to anyone who is interested?

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Grumpy old guy
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Joel, most long-haul transport of goods would be by rail; much as it was in USA.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I can understand the impetus to self-publish due to the competitive extremes of publication culture; I cannot understand self-publication focused on an improvised and unconventional creative production.

To be blunt, Tolkien's The Silmarillion is as unreadable and plotless as James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman, G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, Kurt Vonnegut's The Breakfast of Champions, Thomas Pynchon's V, among a plentitude, and all of which I've read.

Why, though, do those narratives appeal to an audience of some niche sufficient to warrant conventional publication costs and risks and consequent consumer acquisition? Labelled as well experimental, metafictional, even philosophical narratives, those each assert some variant of a focused moral law, if ironic moral satire. Some are also lyric prose, poetic-lyrical diction and syntax, the third of forms and types which include the philosophical and energetic's moral truth discovery (energeic, per Aristotle) narratives.

Those three form-types are not, per se, mutually exclusive, can be some of each melded or one emphasized for a glorious symphony of synthesis. However, more often than not, one form-type stands out, most often the energetic type, since the time publication technology put literature possession into the hands of the masses circa late nineteenth century. Likewise, the same time span saw an emergence and evolution of Realism's main forte of reality imitation.

Modernism and Postmodernism retain the reality imitation convention, though their aesthetics depart from Realism's self-consciousness to Modernism's self-enlightenment and Postmodernism's self-awareness, and greater and stronger emphasis over time for reality imitation, or, mimesis per Aristotle. Mimesis, show, as opposed to diegesis (summarization, tell) and exigesis (explanation, tell), though distinguishable, curiously, are indivisible when varied by degree of each's persuasive emphasis.

Mythopoeia generally remain in writer's trunked collections. They are event, setting, and character sketches and outlines used to develop the fictive milieus and features and circumstances' criteria for works derived from their explorations and experiments. Maybe some time after a successful writer's demise, the writer's estate might then offer mythomemoria reorganized for publication and potential revenue gains. Readers eagerly await, with bated breath, such a release of Kurt Vonnegut and J.D. Salinger's purported mythomemoria, among many others. Mythomemoria: a writer's trunked narrative composition preparation exercises inventory (coined per moi this instant).

The choice to write for self-publication is as fraught with heartache as conventional publication is. Yet, anymore, it is a common resort with attendant risks and rewards. The most noteworthy reward, after the thrill of being in print, is the satisfactions of writing craft skill, voice, and appeal advancements. All writing is good writing, in that dedicated practice advances skills. Every few years, a self-published work enjoys blockbuster breakaway debut success. Those are legend in the public conversation and far rarer than conventional publication success legends.

One of particular recent note Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, 2011. The saga began as Twilight fan fiction, saw later release as an independent publisher publication, at most one step removed from self-publication and all its screener-less warts, eventual Vintage Books acquisition, and since, Universal Pictures motion picture adaptation. Aside from its erotica appeal, the saga's appeal is the energetic form type.

Self-publication is altogether independent of screener review, usually fraught with excess grammar errors and more, such as lack or shortfalls of composition craft, voice, and appeal, fraught with clichés and worn-out, diluted to dreck topos and dead metaphors. Yet the abundance and easy access for self-published works drives some sales: Five hundred or so self-publication product impressions, sales or views anyway, is considered a breakaway success. A rare few in the Digital Age's thirty years have managed a few million copies distributed; mostly successful self-publications have placed a few hundred copies. The greater quantity of self-publications, though, have amounted to a few dozen copies, largely family and acquaintance mementos. Yet it is all practice, even self-publication, kind of a dress rehearsal.

Publication culture apocrypha suggests that one million dramatic words will be attempted before publication success, three novels, too, likewise, and ten years after a full, dedicated commitment to creative writing, like after a creative writing MFA completion; all are apprenticeships to the art. Even then, no revenue success guarantees. Except, anymore, the one; that is, publication guaranteed through Digital culture self-publication.

[ July 26, 2017, 05:33 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jay Greenstein
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quote:
I am not looking to produce in these drafts the novels you and Jay are trying to get me to write.
Neither of us are trying to make you do anything. But if you want people to actually read those stories you must know what the limitations and strengths of the medium are and work within that. At the moment you’re following the characters with a camera and recording the scene, then providing a report of what happened. The reader is informed, yes. But they come to you for entertainment. The conversation you report is mundane. One can hear its like on the bus on any day, or from the next table at a restaurant. Perhaps, were the reader to have context for who the people are, where they are, or why the conversation matters, that might change. But as Alfred Hitchcock observed, "Drama is life without the dull bits." At the moment you're including the dull bits because you're thinking cinematically and including everything.

You can, of course, write in any way you care to. But if you want an acquiring editor to say yes you had better provide what they view as acceptable writing. As it stands, the rejection would come on line one for two reasons: First, because the line has no context, from a reader’s viewpoint. And second for the authorial intrusion.

Were you to spend a bit of time digging into the techniques the pros feel necessary, you would know how, and why, to address the three questions a reader wants resolved on entering any scene, so as to provide context and a sense of immediacy.

Here’s the deal: In our school days we learn only nonfiction techniques because that’s what our future employers want. And those techniques are author-centric and fact-based, which this opening is. But the goal is to inform. Great for reports and history, but lousy for fiction, which is character-centric, emotion-based, and designed to entertain.

In practical terms that means you need to learn both the writing and the business end of the profession if you want to entertain your reader. And as nice as it might be if it did, reading does not teach us to write because we see only the finished product, polished to perfection. To create the product we need the process.

And in the end, doesn’t it make sense that if we want our reader to view the writing as being as interesting as the work of the pros we need to know what a pro knows? Self-publishing changes that not at all. Because at the end of the first page the reader is a volunteer, not a conscript. Only if you make that reader want to turn to page two will they. And if they don’t, you wasted the time to write anything more. The writing sells the story, not the plot. In the words of Sol Stein: “A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.” But if you don’t know what a short-term scene-goal is and what it does will you include one? If you don’t know how a scene on the page differs from one on stage and screen can you write one? And if you don’t know why scenes usually end in disaster for a protagonist, and why they should, will yours?

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Joel Matthew Rees
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Joel, most long-haul transport of goods would be by rail; much as it was in USA.

Phil.

Now that's where I'm caught out, because the 1950s and '60s were basically the tail end of rail transport in the USA, and a time for experimenting with two- and three-trailer trucking.

Now I'm interpreting what you are saying as that most of the roads in the outback were unpaved in the 1950s. In the USA, we still had a lot of unpaved roads not capable of carrying trucks, but the war had taught us that we needed the highway system. There was a huge buildup of highways.

It looks like the jeep/dune-buggy wreck that took Tessa's life is also going to be somewhat missing the context.

Would a horse riding accident work for Tessa? Maybe a mining accident for Kevin?

Or maybe I should just slack back a bit on trying to making the southern-hemisphere mid-sized continent for their planet look like Australia?

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extrinsic
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Where, when, and why railway and other transport infrastructure are located establish which transport mode determines access. Initially, railways located between where industrial raw resource freight and export ports dictated. Later, military materiel freight railways located between extant bases and import ports and forward operations bases co-located for resources and ports defenses.

Dependent on the state of technology, a colonized country's acceptance of subjugation, and a colonizer country's financial incentives, in general, colonial railways followed industrial economics incentives. Nineteenth century colonial railways invariably started from port hubs and penetrated to interior raw resource concentrations, were solely trunk lines like piecemeal wheel spokes. Few, if any colonial countries developed transport networks into spider web-like comprehensive networks.

Developed countries did develop comprehensive railway webs, through to the mid twentieth century, when innovative transportation technology emerged which diminished railway dominance. Less developed countries were left with depleted resources, older technology and incomplete overall transportation networks, and unable to afford "catch-up" developments, like stable, paved roadway web networks. Undeveloped countries were left with exhausted raw resources and abandoned railway lines, plus no paved roadway networks or effectual airports -- only antiquated export seaports with few or no products to export or import. These are imperialist colonialism legacies.

Post colonialism, globalism in particular, addresses these trade shortfalls through long-tail marketing enterprise exploits. Among which are import and export substitution, less-than-full load commerce, and smaller, more economical for short load transport technologies and transports. The Connex containerized system is the latest of the innovations, which, curiously, uses waterborne, railway, roadway, and air transports.

A previous long-tail marketing technology used Lighter-Aboard-SHip, LASH, cargo container transports that served and today serves ports without cargo handling facilities. A LASH ship loads and unloads "barge" containers that can be offloaded and floated ashore at high tide; at low tide, unloaded by mechanical or manual labor, reloaded as well, and float off from shore at high tide for pick up by the LASH ship. Most of the world's small arms ammunition ships to "third world" countries via LASH. The technology is mid-twentieth century and adapted from colonial and pre-eras' lighter and ship shipping technology for wherever a port facility had no or limited access for deep draft vessels.

Anyway, when, where, and why whatever a transportation route is, is a matter of economics and geophysical and geopolitical influences. British colonials had no need for Australian transcontinental railways, due to export-import ports served interior resource concentrations up to overseas commerce, though Australians did, for internal commerce and social motility. Australia joined the developed country roster when its transportation and industrial development networks reached comparative countrywide saturation.

"Second" and "third world" countries had disastrous industrial and transportation network development. The seconds attempt, at least, network adjustments. The thirds have little to no economic incentives, internal or external, for transport network adjustments. Equatorial South America and sub-Saharan Africa unpaved roadways are clear examples of transportation network shortfalls.

Yet, also curiously, cell phone technology has obviated the need for communication landline infrastructure and attendant railway-roadway infrastructure in those regions. Broadcast entertainments and digital Internet technology accesses, too!? Some as yet unrecognized socially responsible exploits entailed therein, perhaps potential for unanticipated catch-ups related to long-tail marketing advantages, like Digital Age cottage industries (hah! yeah, like, you know, e-commerce, such as plagiarism mills and offshore extortion and confidence game scams do).

Which, by the way, developed country economies drive out cottage industries and home hobby business activities. Why should big business let cottage competition produce revenue confrontations when immediate, effortless self-gratification -- foster lazy habits -- is a big industrial selling point? Artisanal products nonetheless exploit Digital Age long-tail marketing advantages -- like self-publication does.

[ July 29, 2017, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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