Thursday, March 31, 2022

SF Versus Fantasy

At this year's ICFA (which I wrote about last week), one of the free goodies distributed at meals was a copy of the March/April 2020 ASIMOV'S magazine. It happened to include a provocative article by David D. Levine called "Thoughts on a Definition of Science Fiction." The author takes an approach to distinguishing science fiction from fantasy that never occurred to me before.

Of course, this perennial and never-settled question has many proposed answers. And many works cross genre boundaries; SF is a "fuzzy set." Anne McCaffrey's Pern and Marion Zimmer Bradley's pre-rediscovery Darkover, although science fiction, have a fantasy "feel." S. M. Stirling's Emberverse series, beginning with DIES THE FIRE, clearly near-future or alternate-history SF, also includes something like magic. Diane Duane's Young Wizards series focuses on the protagonists' learning and using magic—which they prefer to label "wizardry" to avoid the implication that it can do anything, unbounded by rules—yet they visit distant planets and make friends with extraterrestrials. Cases like these are part of why the term "speculative fiction" is so useful.

Levine suggests that the distinction between fantasy and science fiction rests on a fundamental difference between worldviews. Science fiction arises from an Enlightenment worldview and fantasy from a pre-Enlightenment worldview. In SF, "the universe is logical, predictable, and understandable, governed by rules that are impersonal and have no moral dimension." Fantasy, on the other hand, inhabits a universe that "has a moral compass, and is governed by rules that, though they may be understandable, are not necessarily always consistent, logical, or predictable in their application." For example, fantasy contains swords that can be drawn only by the "pure in heart" (a moral dimension). As an extension of this definition, Levine focuses on the central importance of "the means by which characters affect the world," whether by technology or by magic. Using this principle, he maintains that the later Star Wars films, after the original movie, slip further and further into fantasy territory because of the way the Force becomes more powerful and less scientifically plausible (e.g., action at a distance).

While I admire his theory, it doesn't align completely with my own concept of the SF-fantasy divide. I've always seen the distinction as—perhaps too simplistically—primarily a matter of authorial intent as it appears on the surface of the text. If the text claims a scientific rationale for its phenomena, it's science fiction. If not, it's fantasy. Edgar Rice Burroughs's interplanetary adventures count as science fiction, even if most of the science is obsolete. Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy mysteries, set in an alternate-history England in a world where magic plays a commonplace role in society, are fantasy even though the rules of magic are systematic and predictable. What about works such as Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME and its sequels and spinoffs, invoking scientific principles, featuring visits to other worlds, and marketed as SF, but containing some elements of apparent magic as well as a religious worldview? Or C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, wherein the superhuman intelligences ruling the other planets are also identified as angels? The Wild Sorceress trilogy, co-written by my husband and me, starts as apparent fantasy, to be revealed as SF at the end of the third book. Well, that's where the flexible terms "science fantasy" and "speculative fiction" come in handy.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Tail End of Women

That is, "Tail End of Women's History Month", which is much too long a title.

With only five days remaining of  March, there are still things to do and see. The United States Patent and Trademark office has quite a calendar of events, most of which are free to attend virtually. 

On March 30th, the USPTO's Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium event shares the secrets of success of a few remarkable women who turned their passions and ideas into profitable ventures. It's free.

Men seem to get one day: and the entire month of June to think about their health: but their history is not celebrated.

Not just for women: Members of SFWA may be able to purchase health insurance outside the regular enrolment period with LIG Solutions. Authors Guild members can also use LIG.

And now for something legal. Crystal Broughan of the Marks Gray Intellectual Property Blog, discusses a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Heavy Young Heathens (musicians) against two figure skaters for playing the Heavy Young Heathens' recording of  "The House of the Rising Sun" during a performance at the winter Olympics.

Lastly, just -metaphorically- to tie the bow on the tail, do you know what a "baculum" is? 

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday

Friday, March 25, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Advance Your Career: Writing in Stages, Part 4

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Advance Your Career:

Writing in Stages, Part 4 

Based on CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships} 

This is the final of four articles with techniques to advance your writing career. 

In the previous part of this article, we talked about the steps 4-7 in writing in stages. Let's continue. 

Stage 8: Setting aside 

This latter setting aside, though, is slightly different in that this is usually a good stage to get critique partners and beta readers involved. Everyone knows writers can get too close to their own work. It’s an occupational hazard. While you're hopefully feeling you’ve got a story beyond compare, it may need a little more work and you simply can’t see it (or vice versa--you think it's manure, but it's actually really good, and you're too close to be able to see that). That’s why it’s so important to turn your beloved opus over to a trusted spouse, friend, or, preferably, a critique partner (or three) for a critical read. The opinion of others is very important. You’re probably not ready to send that book out to a publisher or agent until you’ve had enough reader reactions to judge the strength of your accomplishment.

During this project downtime, you might be sick of your book and/or stinging from some of the glaring holes others saw that you somehow managed to miss. I highly recommend that you give yourself this shelf-time time to digest the comments made about your beloved baby. When you return for the final editing and polishing, perhaps for the last time before you submit it, you might even agree with your friend on several points…but you may also disagree. Ultimately, what you decide is best for your book is up to you. You'll hopefully feel confident enough to evaluate, unbiased, what needs to be done to shine it up.

In Steps 4 and 6 mentioned in Part 2 of this article is pertinent here as well.

Stage 9: Editing and polishing 

What most writers call revising is actually just editing and polishing. Writers get excited about their stories at nearly every stage, since they have a picture in their mind’s eye of what will emerge. The "editing" portion of this task is called copyediting in publishing circles and entails the correction and enhancement of grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation details. Editing and polishing are a lot like turning a rough gemstone into a finished one. You’re cutting the bad, replacing it with the good, and polishing up what remains until it shines. A writer unquestionably does also need to remove clutter to make a story understandable, to prevent a reader from tripping over clumsy prose, and to infuse a story with vivid, interesting narration that speaks succinctly to the reader, concurrently bringing the whole story to life. Editing and polishing add a very definite extra layer to your story. Without it, your story probably won’t read smoothly, nor will it shine. The process of editing and polishing can also involve any or all of the following: 

·         Ensuring a completeness of three-dimensionality in character, plot, and relationship

·         Rearranging sentences or paragraphs

·         Showing (more frequently) and telling (at times), where these are most needed

·         Tightening sentences and individual words (such as changing passive to active and dull to impacting; cleaning up repetitiveness)

·         Smoothing out roughness and making your writing more natural or interesting

·         Punching up tension and suspense

·         Ensuring variation in sentence construction and length

·         Diversifying and enriching words 

Editing and polishing should be almost as simple as reading through the manuscript and making minor adjustments that allow the words to flow like music to the ear. A solid outline followed by a rich first draft virtually ensures that. The difference between revising and editing and polishing is generally in the amount of work you'll do for each. 

Stage 10: Setting aside (optional) 

While I’ll get into the in-depth reasons for continuing past Stage 9 in Stage 11, the basic reason for this shelf time for the project is obvious. You just finished editing and polishing. You’d have to be insane to want to read the book again right after you finished going over it from start to finish. You’ll have gained no distance from it if you jump directly into Stage 11 at this point. So give yourself another few weeks or more, if your deadlines allow, before moving on to Stage 11. See Stages 4, 6, and 8 for more details.

One other thing I alluded to earlier is that writers don’t want to get burned out when it comes to any specific project. When writers say they’re burned out, they mean they’ve been working too much and not taking the time off to refresh themselves and keep their creative energy flowing. (This is completely different from writer’s block, which can stem from situations like a story not ready to be worked on, not enough brainstorming or inspiration, or sheer laziness usually attributed to a fickle muse.) This is especially true if you're working on one project, doing all these stages back-to-back, without taking a break from the project or from work in general. You bring back your own love for a project each time you set it aside and then come back to it fresh. Don't underestimate the importance of doing that. You and your stories will suffer for it eventually if you skip over the setting-aside stages.

There's another reason for avoiding burnout whenever you can. The soil in your brain is like the soil farmers sow crops in. It needs rest and rotation (writing in stages, for the author) in order to become fertile and nutrient rich again. When you work up your yearly goals, you're not only deciding what you’re going to be working on during that year, but you're also planning your breaks from writing. If taking weekends off doesn’t refresh you, take a week, weeks, or even a month off during the year. Read, watch movies, relax, and reenergize your creativity. (This doesn't mean you can't be brainstorming or researching for upcoming projects during this time.) By the time your vacation is up, you’ll be raring to go on your next writing project. Take your scheduled vacations when you’ve planned them, unless something wonderful happens (an editor contracts a series from you, you're asked to write a screenplay of your book…fill in the blank for your own idea of wonderful) in your career or life, and you can’t let the opportunity pass you by. As soon as that thing is finished, take the vacation you planned. Reward yourself by allowing your creative soil to become fertile again. 

Stage 11: The final read-through (optional)

Following Stage 9, some authors may be ready to get the book out where readers can buy and fall in love with it. A couple situations prompted me to add two steps to my original nine-stage process, though, that I think even savvy, confident authors might want to evaluate before letting the book be released. First, we live in a digital world. Everything is started, managed, and completed on the computer. But the very real and inescapable fact is that human eyes are fallible. They aren't capable of seeing everything on a computer (or something similar to this) screen and frequently what you see on the screen isn't necessary what's in the hard copy--spacing, formatting, and other issues may crop up from one medium to the other. We need the hardcopy to truly catch everything that demands our attention (like typos and "Track Changes" errors) in the final draft of a manuscript. Our eyes may only see some of these things on the printed version of the book. This is essential, and I guarantee if you're not getting this hardcopy (from your own printer of the final proof after edits, directly from your publisher, or from another means like the one I'll describe in a second), you're missing a (possibly) tremendous number of issues that readers are going to catch. Do yourself a favor: Get a hardcopy to do your final read-through from.

Second, the current state of the industry--exploding with indie publishers and authors--requires another stage in which to find the errors that seem to creep into our stories like lice. The fact is, there are very few legitimately professional editors and/or copyeditors working at publishing houses these days--especially at smaller publishers--and authors who are self-publishing their own works may even skip the professional-editor-input altogether. For that reason, it’s even more crucial to have a stage where the writer sees his book in this final form (and this is true even if the book is only released as an ebook without a paper companion), where he can catch (probably not all but most) typos. We'll talk more about the current and future state of the industry in the conclusion chapter.

As soon as I'm done with the editing and polishing, and the story is as clean as I think it can get "digitally", I'll put the book into a value-priced trade paperback format (what I call my print test paperback) and order a copy. When I'm ready for this final read-through, I like to put myself in the position of being the first reader for this book. As much as possible, I try to ignore the fact that I have a very personal affiliation with the book and I simply read it--in both a critical and savoring mind frame This isn’t easy, but I consider this my very last chance to make changes before my editor sees it; I want her to find the finished product almost perfect. I take my time reading, as well, sometimes lingering for weeks if the deadline I have to submit it to my editor is way out there, to evaluate how the story goes over in this unhurried mode.

When I get to this stage in the process, I usually find very few changes are required. The story is brimming with life, and there’s almost nothing left to stumble over or smooth out. Most important, though, in nearly every case I come out loving the story more than I ever have before. It exceeds the expectations I had for it when it was little more than a spark that incited me to write. Truthfully, I don't consider that conceit. I'd worry if I didn't have that reaction. If you don't love your own work, don't become immersed in the worlds, characters, conflicts, and relationships contained in your stories, how can you expect readers to?

Each of these stages is a layer of your story--nine to eleven strong layers that, for career authors, should be the first step in ensuring multidimensional writing that has strong CPR development. Each time you add something new during these stages, you're creating another vital layer that makes the whole story stronger, richer, with almost guaranteed strong, three-dimensional CPR elements.

All of my projects are done in these eleven stages. I love that I’m never doing the same thing in terms of outlining, writing, revising, or editing and polishing a project. I move from outlining one book, to revising a different one, to writing something else altogether, layering and building and developing each project into something wonderfully three-dimensional.

I also love that I rarely have to start from scratch on any project. While I do set the book aside multiple times, the rest of the steps are done once. I can't remember the last time I had to outline, write a draft, revise, and edit and polish more than once for each project. I’m always fresh, always enthusiastic, always eager to complete a book a little more at each stage, knowing my work will be solid, lifelike, and ready to send to editors when I'm at last ready to let go.

One other thing I want to point out is that I generally spend each year (though the year isn't necessarily January through December) working on five novels--in some years I also write at least five novellas--all in various stages in this process. To give you a point of reference, visit my WIP page at, which includes not only my accomplishments every year but also several past years' and the current year's works-in-progress. You'll see, broken down month by month, how I juggled each project through the various stages, to complete everything.  Note that my vacations aren't included on the monthly breakdown but, rest assured, I am taking long and short ones in between projects to prevent me from becoming overwhelmed and burned out on writing. I recommend studying my WIP page to see how I did this with individual projects. You can see the juggling act there of all my books over the course of a year or more, allowing every single project all the stages needed to get solid, three-dimensional stories with all the proper layering for CPR development every single time.

There's a quote by Orison Marden that says, "The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling." Obviously there's a lot I accomplish during the course of a year and all of that includes breaks and long vacations. People tend to assume I must work 24 hours a day based on my high level of production, but--if you've looked at my WIP page and read through all this--you know differently now, don't you? Writing in stages is more of a science than a phenomenon once you see how it works. I don't believe in trying to do too much. I've found a way to do all I can without becoming harried, overworked, or overwhelmed. Individual authors need to find ways to get maximum output without turning their creative soil into ash because they're so burned out.

An author who uses full-proof methods to create layered stories with strong CPR development and utilizes an outlines, allows for sufficient shelf time, and sets goals will never have to suffer from missed opportunities or deadlines let alone low-quality work. In fact, each book may get better than the last, and you may get far enough ahead that you can fit just-for-fun projects into your schedule or take longer breaks.

Finally, what I do and what you ultimately do will be completely different, and you want to find what works best for you. The point is to make progress. If you want to write quality stories for the long haul that are undeniably memorable to readers, there is no better way to get started.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}

Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, March 24, 2022

2022 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

This year's ICFA, our first live conference since 2019, had lower attendance than usual (down from the 500s to around 300), but the difference didn't appear obvious at a glance in most of the gatherings. The opening panel on Wednesday afternoon did look more sparsely attended than in previous years. On the other hand, there were, surprisingly, a lot of people attending the con for the first time. It was encouraging to see so many newcomers, especially considering the current situation.

The theme was "Fantastic Communities." The phrase could refer either to communities of creators, fans, and critics involved with the fantastic in all its media and genres or to the imaginary communities writers and filmmakers create in their works. Panels and papers enthusiastically embraced both approaches. The author guest of honor, Nisi Shawl (who uses "they" pronouns), delivered an engaging speech at the Thursday luncheon, "The Bird in the Bush: Semipermeable Selfhood," structured around the phases of their own life with focus on their various identities and the communities they identify with. Why is a bird in the hand worth more than two in the bush? Aren't two birds better than one, especially with a bush thrown in? Or does an object have value only if possessed and controlled? And how do we define the boundaries of the self? For instance, implanted artificial lenses become part of the subject's body. Are glasses a part of the self, too? Shawl entertained us by singing a risque folk song called "The Bird in the Bush." They concluded their talk by leading the audience in the song "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love."

Scholar Guest of Honor Farah Mendlesohn, author of the groundbreaking RHETORICS OF FANTASY as well as many other important works of criticism including a book on the career and works of Robert Heinlein, spoke at the Friday luncheon about "Science Fiction Communities in the Rainbow Age." She surveyed the changes in the demographics of the speculative fiction field over recent decades in areas such as awards, contents of anthologies, etc., supplying lots of substantive data that I found fascinating. Diversity of representation in gender and ethnicity has evolved, of course, but it's still nowhere near equitable.

I participated in two events, a panel on vampire communities in fiction and a "Words and Worlds" session in which several writers read short excerpts from our works. There was lots of time for discussion in the latter. I read from my dark paranormal romance AGAINST THE DARK DEVOURER, which I think went well, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the other panelists, two poets and a prose fiction author.

Afrofuturist fiction, BIPOC representation, and gender issues held a prominent place in this year's programming. I especially enjoyed a paper session on animation; shows discussed included one anime series, TERROR IN RESONANCE, with a focus on mental illness, and four Western cartoons, OWL HOUSE, STEVEN UNIVERSE, SHE-RA, and ADVENTURE TIME, analyzing nonbinary characters in those works. I attended several lively, informative discussion panels about the business of marketing fiction. At the Saturday banquet, the president of our vampire and revenant division, the Lord Ruthven Assembly, announced this year's awards: Fiction, THE NIGHT LIBRARY OF STERNENDACH: A VAMPIRE OPERA IN VERSE, by Jessica Levai. Nonfiction (tie), THE TRANSMEDIA VAMPIRE, by Simon Bacon, and THE VAMPIRE IN POPULAR CULTURE: LOVE AT FIRST BITE, by Violet Fenn. Other media, MIDNIGHT MASS (Netflix).

Food at the two lunches and the banquet was excellent, as usual, although the hotel (under new management) miscalculated and ran out of some items on Thursday. Meals in the hotel restaurant were good but astonishingly high-priced. Except that my return flight took off half an hour late, the plane trips went pretty smoothly. When I got home, daffodils had suddenly started blooming.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Here Be ... Trolls: No Folderol

As with many terms of opprobium, "troll" is rather over-used. Some so-called trolls are mere nusiances who lurk on comment sections, and repeatedly make the same arguments or pitches. Others belong in paranormal romances (or other fantasy tales, or nursery rhymes). Still others set very elaborate and expensive traps for internet users.

The latter are not at all funny No folerdol at all.

"Here Be... Trolls" is a wordplay on "Here Be Dragons", as written in warning on medieval nautical maps.

Legal blogger Darin M. Klemchuk of the law firm Klemchuk writes an amusing "How To" guide for those would-be trolls who plan to set up internet users to be the defendants in copyright infringement proceedings.  Early in the article, he states that his article is a parody.

Parody, of course, is an allowed exception to copyright infringement in most parts of the English-speaking world. 

Original link:

Darin M. Klemchuk appears to suggest how trolls make cynical use (my inference) of search engines, SEO tools, search engine optimizing services, indexing and more. 

Knowing how these trap-settingg trolls think and operate is very important for authors who plan to decorate their websites or their works with images that they found on the internet but did not license from the copyright owner.

There is no such thing as a free lunch on the internet.  Nothing is really free, but some things are truly less free than others... like the barnyard residents in George Orwell's "Animal Farm".

On the other hand, Fan Fiction has been accorded the legal status of "pastiche", which is a French way of saying that is could be some kind of transformative use or fair use, depending on the amount of originality in the unauthorized spin-off work.

Legal blogger Anna Kellner for the law firm SKW Schwarz Rechtsรคnwalte explains the niceties of fan fiction.
Original link:
Although the title link in in German, the article is in excellent English.

Lexology Link:

Quoting very small excerpts is fair use, another copyright exception, especially when for reportage or didactic purposes, so I quote Anna Kellner.
"As part of the copyright reform, Section 51a UrhG was introduced as a new legal regulation that now expressly declares so-called pastiches (French for "imitations") to be permissible. Fan fiction is also included under the term pastiche. Thus, it is generally permissible to use copyright-protected works of third parties as the basis for one's own creation."
By the way, for any author wishing to type umlauts, this site is a great resource.

Another nice resource for authors who might be struggling with attractive villains:

Word association brings me back to copyright pirates. Ever since the DMCA, artists and creators have in theory had the power to protect their copyrights through the process of "Take Down Notices". It has never been satisfactory. Some sites will not accept a Notice unless the copyright owner joins their "club". Other sites give one quite the run around., other sites will take down one offending link, but allow the pirate to "re-up" the same copyrighted work using a new link.  If finding piracy and sending takedown notices was bad enough whack-a-mole, now the mole is a hydra with the arrival of NFTs. (That is, non fungible tokens.)

NFT piracy may force change, as legal bloggers P. Cramer and D. Munkittrick discuss on the Blockchain Law blog owned by Proskauer Rose LLP.

Original link:

Lexology link:

To quote in brief:
"Pirates can mint knockoff NFTs with nothing more than a digital file and some cryptocurrency, then sell those knockoffs to unsuspecting collectors...."
"Amidst the resulting piracy boom, it falls to creators to protect both their fans and their IP by scanning platforms for infringing NFT sale listings and issue takedown requests. But even when they succeed in getting a sale listing removed, the knockoff NFT itself remains immutably on its blockchain and the infringing content usually remains elsewhere on the web."
If the copyright cavalry might be coming, it might pay creators to wait before dipping toes into the NFT waters.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday   

Friday, March 18, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Advance Your Career: Writing in Stages, Part 3

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Advance Your Career:

Writing in Stages, Part 3

Based on CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}

This is the third of four articles with techniques to advance your writing career. 

In the previous part of this article, we talked about the first three steps in writing in stages. Let's continue. 

Stage 4: Setting aside the project 

You’ve probably noticed that three of the nine (four if you use all eleven) stages are setting the project aside. Letting your project sit, out of sight and out of mind, for a couple weeks--or even months--in between stages will provide you with a completely fresh perspective. Distance gives you objectivity and the ability to read your own work so you can progress further with it, adding more layers and dimensions to your characters, plots, and relationships. Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers may reach a point where their motivation lags, and they want to abandon the story. Sometimes the author may not feel inspired to write a book he's just spent weeks or even months outlining (note that I've never spent more than 1-3 weeks outlining but other authors might not have the same experience I have), just as he may not want to revise something he's spent weeks or months writing.

Setting a project aside between the various stages it goes through also allows your creativity to be at its peak. The process becomes easier, too, and your writing will be the best it can be. Putting a work-in-progress on a back burner for an extended period of time will allow you to see more of the connections that make a story multidimensional.

To set your project aside between stages, return everything to your story folder. Keep this book on a shelf and on the back burner in your mind for as long as you possibly can. Get to work on something else so you won’t concentrate too much on this project, making it the center of your attention again.

As a general rule, every book I write gets a few months between stages, a break I really need from each project. I can't imagine going through all the steps in finishing a book back-to-back. I get so sick of a story when one stage carries into the next without pause that I can no longer see whether anything I'm doing is improving or ruining it. When one stage of a work-in-progress is complete, I'm eager to get away from it. Many times I leave a stage certain the whole thing is fit only for burning in the nearest fireplace, but, when I come back to it months later, I discover that all my previous hard work was well worth the effort.

Stage 5: Writing the first draft

Once you take the project out to begin writing the true first draft of the story, you’ll notice that you have everything you need to begin. The outline you created for yourself should contain everything your book will, only on a much smaller scale, and will include a scene-by-scene breakdown of the entire story, hopefully rich with dimensions and CPR development.

If your outline was solid when you finished it, that should translate into a book that needs only minor revision and editing to add a few more crucial layers once you write the draft. This isn’t to say that the book won't come to life, growing and fleshing out more deeply and vividly as you write the first draft. It does or should immeasurably. So there goes the argument that writing an outline will kill your enthusiasm for the book. If anything, it becomes even more exciting because you're taking the framework and foundation you set down in an outline and made it powerful, multidimensional, and cohesive with prose. I want to challenge those who say an outline kills your enthusiasm for writing the book to try this method anyway--a couple of times, if you’re willing. You really do have to experience this to understand it, but, when I write a book based on a “first draft” outline, magic happens because I watch the outline-skeleton taking on flesh and blood and becoming a walking, talking, breathing story right before my very eyes. If anything, it’s more exciting this way--and a whole lot easier. Life and soul are infused into the story and I'm free to explore possibilities that I may have only just touched on in the outline. It’s organic.

One thing I want to note is that at no time during my first draft do I ever, ever, ever go backward and start revising. Writing and revising are two very different processes and a simple need for revising can so easily become an outright overhaul. Not only does this stop your progress in its tracks, but you may not be doing your story a favor by trying to be in two separate mind-sets at the same time. But more about revising later.

Stage 6: Setting aside

Stephen King calls this “recuperation time”, and it really is that, considering the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve expended thus far (half done in the writing in stages process!). When you take the manuscript down again to begin revisions, followed by editing and polishing, “you’ll find reading your book over after a…layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours…and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else. …This is the way it should be, the reason you waited.” See Stage 4 for more details about setting a project aside.

Stage 7: Revising

Ray Bradbury described this stage as the time, after letting the story cool off, of "reliving" rather than "rewriting". Revision is, ideally, the process of reworking material in an effort to make what’s already there better and stronger. If an author jumps directly into writing a story without brainstorming, researching, outlining, setting aside before and after the first draft, this revision will be a mere second layer of the story and, inevitably, the author has left himself with the torturous work of untangling, organizing, reshaping, revising, and searching for three-dimensionality in three hundred or more disjointed pages. Many an author who employs this method of working may need to do multiple drafts or revisions to develop an editor-quality manuscript that is consistent, well layered, and mostly coherent. Whether or not it’s three-dimensional and the CPR elements are properly developed is up for debate.

In a midway version of best- and worst-case scenarios, revision may mean making significant changes to a draft, such as adding or deleting plot threads, completely rewriting certain sections, or fleshing out characters and relationships to make them three-dimensional. In a milder form (usually after the author starts with a solid outline he used to write the first draft), revision could translate into tweaking the three-dimensionality of characters, plots, and relationships to reinforce them, maybe incorporating last-minute research.

As I said previously, writing and revision are two completely separate processes that require different mind-sets, and therefore shouldn’t be done at the same time. While writing a book, a simple need to polish words, sentences, or paragraphs can become a complete rewrite. This isn’t a productive way to work when you’re attempting to finish the first draft of the book.

An unfortunate side effect of revising, editing, and polishing while you’re still writing (and, yes, so many writers attempt to do all four of these at the same time instead of separately, in their own distinct stages) is that you don’t get the necessary distance from the project in order to be able to revise effectively. You need to enter the revision phase with fresh, objective eyes once the first draft of the book is finished. In some ways, you need to view that first draft as if it's not your own work so you can perform the hard work that may be necessary. Only then can you see the story without rose-colored glasses, as it really is.

Let’s first talk about the difference between the revision process and the editing and polishing process, because these, too, are separate jobs that can--but ideally shouldn’t--take place at the same time. On the road to writing a book, you want to minimize major changes like rewriting an entire story thread; adding, deleting, or revising multiple chapters; and infusing three-dimensionality of characters, plots, and relationships. These kinds of major fixes will cost you a lot of time and effort (hence the need for an outline first). If you've utilized your outlined scenes while writing the first draft to make sure your story is progressing, the chance of detecting problems early will allow you to take corrective action in a way that isn't overwhelming. This prevents major revisions at the end of a project, when you’ve already committed hundreds of pages to a solid structure.

That said, yes, during this time you’ll be working on fixing more serious problems, but you probably will be doing some editing and polishing during this stage as well. You’re there; it wouldn’t make sense not to clean up some minor issue that isn't quite right, yet clearly needs a little elbow grease. However, what you’re really looking for during the revision is fixing anything in your story that doesn’t work or make sense. When you revise, you evaluate (and fix) any of the following: 

·         Three-dimensionality of characters, settings, plots, and relationships

·         Structure

·         Character, plot, and setting credibility, and the cohesion of these elements

·         Scene worthiness

·         Pacing

·         Effectiveness of hints, tension and suspense, and resolutions

·         Transitions

·         Emotion

·         Hooks and cliff-hangers

·         Character voice

·         Consistency

·         Adequacy of research

·         Properly unfurled, developed, and concluded story threads

·         Deepening of character enhancements/contrasts and their relevant symbols

Revision is a necessary, natural part of writing. Every first draft needs it. Revision will help you smooth out any rough edges in your first draft. Information dumps or illogical leaps (or critique partners that point out such things) will alert you to the sections that need to be reworked. You could put the information overload elsewhere in the book, break it up and scatter it throughout several scenes, or cut, condense, and polish it so it flows better and makes more sense. As for illogical leaps, you can fill in, tweak, or modify throughout a story to shore up weak areas and provide the justification for a specific element. You’ll also add layers as you do this, building on the three-dimensional qualities of your CPR elements.

I strongly believe that once an author begins this stage revision should be done as quickly as possible, with as little interruption from the material as possible. This won’t compromise the quality of your revision, I promise--just the opposite, in fact. Ideally, if you can set aside a block of time of about a week to work exclusively on revision, you’ll find that your story will be more consistent, and you’ll remember details much better. In my case, during revision days, I may be woken from sound sleep because a glaring error in some portion of the book will emerge from my subconscious. The whole book is quite literally laid out in my mind, ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice during this short revision period. If revision on a project is broken up by a period of weeks or months, especially if you’re working on other projects during this time, the book may suffer from consistency issues and possibly even structural and cohesion problems. If you can set aside a crucial, uninterrupted block of time (preferably one week) to focus on revision, your story will benefit from it immeasurably.

The revision stage is almost always the point where I can see the finish line--essentially when I'm ready to let it go. I think that's an important part of the writing in stages process. Unless and until you feel you're ready to let the book go because it's as flawless as you can make it, don't let it go. You'll probably feel the same way as I do at the revision step if you follow the writing-in-stages method in the order I've laid out. Getting to the letting-go point might be much harder if you're not using this process.

In the next part, we'll talk about stages 8-11.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}

Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, March 17, 2022

ICFA 2022

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts is happening this week -- the first live con we've had since 2019! You can read about the organization here, with a link to the program schedule (scroll down a bit) in case you're curious about what goes on at this combination academic and author/fan gathering:

International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts

I'll report next week on how it goes.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, March 13, 2022

How the Mouse Moves/ How the Toilet Rolls

I like sex, science, copyright law and order, privacy, and words. Not necessarily in that order.  I read a lot of legal blogs each week, and summarize what interests me as it/they relate to copyright and safe fiction-writing.

Privacy is a problem. 

Quoting Andrew Grove, co-founder, and former CEO of Intel Corporation:

Privacy is one of the biggest problems in this new electronic age. At the heart of the internet culture, is a force that wants to find out everything about you. And once it has found out everything about you and two hundred million others, that’s a very valuable asset, and people will be tempted to trade and do commerce with that asset. This wasn’t’ the information that people were thinking of when they called this the information age.

Active authors are more exposed because of biographies, the need to network, the necessity of online research. To digress about research, last night, I watched "Irresistible" (HBO is having a free showcase weekend, presumably in honor of St. Patrick. I enjoyed Irresistible very much. One scene that caught my attention was when an arrogant Washington DC power broker chose to demonstrate the thoroughness of political research by telling a farmer's daughter that they knew that she owns three cats and spends a lot of time online looking up a certain STD.

I also finished listening to a John Grisham audiobook, "Camino Winds", which also had a strong thread about lack of privacy.

Legal blogger Theodore F. Claypoole of Womble Bond Dickinson LLP discussed a recent move by the state of Illinois to prohibit the police from using citizens household electronic data without a warrant.

I assume that lawmakers don't prospectively prohibit behavior that no one has considered, so seems probable to me that some police forces may be using household data without a warrant.  How far could one go? The interesting site Hackaday reveals that obsessive people can keep track of their own (or of a family member's) toilet paper usage through a smart and connected bog roll holder that counts the spins.

Imagine if that data got into the wrong hands!

For the lawfirm Steptoe, legal bloggers Stephanie A. Sheridan, Meegan Brooks, and Surya Kundu discuss privacy in the age of big data, with insights about retailers keeping tracking data on which customers return items (presumably that they purchased online.)

Quoting Steptoe:

"As technological innovations in e-commerce continue to explode, retailers are increasingly utilizing customer data to personalize customer experiences, prevent fraud, improve their services, and make money through third-party sales. New data analytics tools allow retailers to study a vast array of information—ranging from users' order history to their exact mouse movements—to better understand their customer base."

One would assume that fraud-prevention is reasonable, but from personalized customer data, one could also infer whether or not a customer has a shopping addiction, and a company could discourage online shoppers from making legitimate returns.  The Steptoe lawyers discuss all aspects at length, and make a very valid point about right of publicity laws (which are a form of copyright laws).

Quoting Steptoe again:

"Right of publicity laws, which exist in similar forms in many states (both in statutory and common law form), prohibit the unauthorized use of a person’s identifying information for commercial gain. These statutes have traditionally been invoked by celebrities and other public figures whose names have been appropriated to falsely suggest that they endorse a product or brand. In these recent lawsuits, however, plaintiffs are alleging that retailers, publishers, and credit card companies violate their “right of publicity” merely by including their names or other identifying information on mailing lists that were privately sold or rented to third parties."

One of the assumptions about making an online purchase is that it is private, but what if it turns out to be less "private" than going into a bricks and mortar shop?

Legal bloggers Tim Gole,  Jen Bradley,  Clare Arthur, and Rishabh Khanna for the Australian law firm Gilbert Tobin take an entertaining and informative look at behavioural advertising and targeting.

Quoting a fractional example of their writing:

"You’re browsing online, looking for those new running shoes that are going to make you fitter in 2022. You close the browser and open a social media webpage and soon notice ads for those very joggers and similar products. Congratulations, you’re a subject of algorithmic profiling and online behavioural advertising.

You’ve probably already had similar experiences many times over. You’re likely aware that your online behaviour is tracked, and that there is a lucrative market in the advertising space for the purchase and sale of internet users’ profiles that are based on users’ online behaviour. What you may not understand is how your information is collected and behaviour is tracked, and the algorithmic profiling that occurs to serve you with this advertising."

Having ranted about this very phenomenon, I really liked their observations!

For the last word in global privacy, there is a study by TMT Law

Global  Privacy 2021

All the best,
Rowena Cherry