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Kyleran
September 5th, 2001, 09:33 PM
Hello everyone, I was just wondering what it actually takes to get published? What is some good advice for sci-fi/fantasy writers starting out? I'd like to know what some of the common mistakes that new writers make? What are the copyright laws and plagiary rules of writing? All suggestions in this area will be appreciated.

Kyleran

Bardos
September 5th, 2001, 11:02 PM
Some short advice...

Advice 1: The characters should be one with the plot, NOT dragged by the plot. It's very important, and it's a common mistake writer make, when they want to take the story somewhere it doesn't want to go.

Advice 2: Explore the characters. They are not tools; they are people.

Advice 3: Keep notes about everything you think you might forget. E.g., character hair color, eye color, etc; the city's houses are all made of stone; the war X happened before 167 years...

Advice 4: Make the diffrence. Each character, each town, eact kingdom, etc, in your fantasy world must have at least a slight diffrence from the others, to be more alive. E.g., this town has narrow streets; this kingdoms people don't wash too often; that character hates the guts of all nobles, because....

Advice 5: Put real danger in your books. Some of the characters might die. No one must appear undying...

Erebus
September 5th, 2001, 11:36 PM
There's some other good topics here that raise many of the issues you queried, Kyleran, in particular this one HERE (http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000136.html). There's some copyright discussions both in this board and in the General section as well, I think.

As far as actually getting published goes, it depends on many things, as those who've submitted to mainstream publishers will attest to. There's e-publishing, which is okay if you want to get a start. It can somethimes lead to bigger things, or there's Print-on-Demand, a great way of publishing that's really starting to take off now. But beware the so-called Vanity Publishers - they're just after your money!

Submit as many short stories as you can to as many publishers as you can. Sooner or later, if you're lucky, one may get picked up and purchased. This is a great way to get some recognition.

The Del Rey writing workshop is another good sourse of feedback and useful information.

But above all, keep writing, re-reading and editing!

[This message has been edited by erebus (edited September 06, 2001).]

KATS
September 6th, 2001, 01:21 AM
First of all, Hello.

"I was just wondering what it actually takes to get published?"

There is a lot that goes into getting published. Remember that publishing a book is a business just like any other and should be approached the same way.

"What is some good advice for sci-fi/fantasy writers starting out?"

Depends on your primary goal. If you write to tell a story or if you want to quit your day job and write at home. Only a hand full of writers can actually make a living off of their books.

"I'd like to know what some of the common mistakes that new writers make?"

Knowing when a story is as good as it's going to get and is ready for others to read. It is easy to let a story go before it's ready or to hold on to it revising it to death. It is difficult to be objective about your own work and to look at your own weaknesses then try to improve yourself. We all have weaknesses though.

"What are the copyright laws and plagiary rules of writing?"

Well, if you look at some books you will see striking similarities. An idea can not be copyrighted. It is the actual story, the sentences, the words that are copyrighted. As a want-to-be author I really don't worry too much about copyrighting my own work. If I get published, the magazine / publisher will take care of that.

By the way, have you actually written any stories? or are you just considering writing a story?

Stick around, maybe even contribute to our next "round-robin" story. The imp story was rather fun and educational. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

Steven Savile
September 6th, 2001, 03:31 AM
What are the copyright laws and plagiary rules of writing?"

Quote:
____________________________________________
Well, if you look at some books you will see striking similarities. An idea can not be copyrighted. It is the actual story, the sentences, the words that are copyrighted. As a want-to-be author I really don't worry too much about copyrighting my own work. If I get published, the magazine / publisher will take care of that.
_____________________________________________


Just thought I'd leap in here. Copyright is a very interesting issue for writers. Essentially your words are copyrighted automatically, there is no need for the individual writer to lodge them with any officialdom - one practice is to snailmail a copy of a manuscript to yourself and not open the envelope so that the postmark stands as proof of when this was completed. Equally there is no need to use the copyright symbol on the mss, or write the words copyright of... it looks unprofessional when the sub goes out to publishers. The publishing house themselves lodge the copyright and your right to be identified as author of the works for you.

Plaguerism is another issue. What is fair copying? Well, if you want to use musical quotes to open your story or within it, you'll need to approach the bands in question/copyright holders such as ASCAP and they will charge you money (50 bucks is the lowest) based on the number of copies expected to sell. Poems again, seek permission to quote. Some may be given freely, others may cost money - so do this when the book has sold, you have to pay, not the publisher. It does depend if the work is out of copyright - the laws just changed recently so my numbers may be off, but I think it is 75 years after the author's death. There are, for example a number of Lovecraft stories that are uncopyrighted because Arkham House screwed up the copyrighting years ago and he's past 75 years dead now...

You can't copyright titles - so you could release: The Knight's Gambit, Book 1 of The Belgariad if you so wished, but you'd look like a fool. (note, the above also maintains faithfully to the chess titles of the original series so it could get you into tricky waters).

There is also a fair usage idea - no copying great chunks of material for your own work, but a line or two is probably okay - not so relevant in fantasy...

Names, can't be copyrighted. Hence in Hugh Cook's Wizards & Warlords series we see Barak, but he's definately not a Cherek.

Ideas, correctly stated, cannot be copyrighted. As one children's author who wrote a wonderful story of a trainride through a dinosaur themepark (where the TRex attacks the train after escaping the compound) discovered when she tried to sue Michael Crichton. The court decided that in childrens books the characters and plot are not sufficiently developed to be covered by the copyright law. This precedent will most likely protect JK Rowling over claims that she stole the Mugwumps...

Good advice to get published?

Write.
Read.
Write.
Write more.

I don't know how old you are Kyleran, but the sad fact is that there are around 1million unpublished novels for every published one out there. Know the field you want to write in. Don't expect to be perfect first time out. Don't believe mom/dad/bestfriend when they say your writing is brilliant - they are biased, whether we like it or not, you need to write and submit and listen to what editors say. Develop your ideas, rationalise stuff... why would a bad guy live at the top of a tower with bucket loads of bad guys populating the tower so that he couldn't leave to go shopping... think detail - you have to know how EVERYTHING works in your world. You need to read the histories. Read about Charlemagne. Read about Elinor of Aquitaine. Read about Saladin. Don't believe everything you read on the web.

Most of all, persevere. It's tough but it is rewarding.

Rob B
September 6th, 2001, 03:53 AM
It also helps to make connections with people in the genre and or business of publishing. This could be authors or names you see on some of the more prominent publications and Web sites (who in turn may know authors/editors people in the business).

Timing is also an important thing, too.

Read and Write and Read and Write and Write and Read and write and read.

Oh yeah, read and write. A lot.

[This message has been edited by FitzFlagg (edited September 06, 2001).]

Steven Savile
September 6th, 2001, 04:23 AM
contacts works both ways... in the beginning I'd definitley advocate getting to know people who can help you - just remember that in many cases they are looking at you to see if YOU can help them... visit a friendly convention - don't start out with something daunting like Worldcon. If you like a writer, email him - I know Janny Wurtz, Christopher Golden (READ STRANGEWOOD), Raymond Fiest, Steven Eriksson, Lynn Flewelling, Mark Anthony, Michael Stackpole, Sir Arthur C Clarke, Stan Nicholls, Robin Hobb, Kevin Anderson and loads of guys I can't remember right now ALL respond regularly to their emails. The thing to avoid is becoming part of a clique. If you look at all of the big guns like GRRM, Eddings, Donaldson etc, they don't and never have really worried about fostering links, they've simply written and let the words talk for them. It depends on what you want out of things.

nicba
September 6th, 2001, 06:05 AM
An interesting topic, Kyleran. I'm just starting out myself and appreciate all the advice I can get.

But I do not care about publishing at the present point. Writing is nothing more than an interesting hobby, besides my study. I just do it for the fun of it. Sure, if I keep at it long enough, and develope a real talent along the way, then publishing would be a great bonus. But that's hardly realistic.

In the meantime, however, I'm still interested in getting better. And curious to find out if what I have already writen is actually readable!

So if anyone have anymore advice like Bardos's, or like the thread on chapters, please share it...

KATS
September 6th, 2001, 10:29 AM
". . . one practice is to snailmail a copy of a manuscript to yourself and not open the envelope so that the postmark stands as proof of when this was completed."

My dad called this the poor man's copyright. A hint though, make sure you mark what you put in the package. I made the mistake of doing this with about 10 poems with no way of knowing what poems where in there. Talk about hitting myself over the head for that one. Oh well, Live and learn!!

Alucard
September 6th, 2001, 12:10 PM
Some advice I was given(because once I finish my editing I'm going to be shopping around my novel) is to have a beginning that really catches a readers interest. Being a new author, you don't have the luxury to have a slow and gradual beginning, you need to start with a bang and turn some heads. Many publishing houses will only accept your first three chapters, if that, so it needs to have a very catchy start that perks a lot of interest. Because with publishing, it seems to be a catch 22. No one wants to publish you unless you have already been published. Makes things a little difficult for the people starting out. But with a quick and catchy start, you have a much better chance of attracting attention.