General Questions for Kevin

Interviews with Contest judges, past winners, current winners, and entrants
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General Questions for Kevin

Postby administrator » Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:35 pm

This is to kick off the general question thread, where you can talk about anything that doesn't fit into any of the other topics.

Peter

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Brennan Harvey asks...

Postby administrator » Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:37 pm

BrennanHarvey wrote:What is in your library? I'm interested in what you read, but I'm more interested in what "writing how-to" books you have. Do you reccommend anything specific?

Kang

Postby Kang » Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:31 pm

What author(s) were your biggest influences when you started writing? What are some of your favorite authors today?

AWSullivan
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A. W. Sullivan asks...

Postby AWSullivan » Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:35 pm

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Mr. Anderson.

I'm a fairly new writer. I had dabbled since high school, but only now that I'm 30 am I really trying to produce completed works.

There are two areas that I feel I struggle most, preparation/outlining and characterization. I've gotten lots of positive feedback on my writing but I also know that there is always room for improvement.

What advice can you give me on these subjects and if you know of any, what workshops do you think would be best suited to to help me out in these areas.

Thanks again for your time.

Anthony
My Blog - http://www.anthonysullivan.net
Also check out - http://www.diabolicalplots.com

08Q3 - Rejected
08Q4 - HM (with a note from KDW!)
09Q1 - HM
09Q2 - HM
09Q3 - HM
09Q4 - HM
12Q4 - Rejected
13Q1 - ???

Zaragon
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Postby Zaragon » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:08 am

Great to have this opportunity, thanks, Kevin.

I don't have many unanswered questions right now (at least not ones I know to ask) but I'll pose one of my largest problems as one.

I seem to have a strong tendency to try to imply too much of my stories, be it information, emotion, motivation, opposition or setting. When I get it right, that’s fine for those who get it--by implying, I don’t mean simply omitting--but it hardly produces commercially viable work. Any suggestions on how to improve clarity without resorting to lumps of exposition added in revision? My language is always painstaking since I write very slowly, which doesn’t help in this sense.
Simon Johansson

JRTomlin
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Postby JRTomlin » Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:06 am

What do you look for in general in the story arc? Do you have any advice for writing a satisfying story arc?
J. R. Tomlin

www.jeannetomlin.com

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Available at Amazon.com

CJ
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Postby CJ » Tue Jun 24, 2008 1:58 pm

Kevin,

How much reading for pleasure do you get to do while you are working on a novel?

CJ

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Postby administrator » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:06 pm

So, Kevin is ready for tonight. I just talked to him and he'll be here right around 6.30 pm PST tonight. He is very much looking forward to be here with us tonight. Let's have an extremely productive and fun time!

Peter

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Postby G. Oram, Jr. » Tue Jun 24, 2008 6:02 pm

Mr. Anderson.

How many Star Wars novels did you have to read to get the facts straight?
Another world is here, we are inside it and it is all around us. --G. Oram, Jr.

KJA
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signing in

Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:31 pm

Hi guys -- I'm here and will start typing away frantically to get as many answers done as possible in an hour.

KJA

KJA
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Re: Brennan Harvey asks...

Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:32 pm

administrator wrote:
BrennanHarvey wrote:What is in your library? I'm interested in what you read, but I'm more interested in what "writing how-to" books you have. Do you reccommend anything specific?


Because I spend all my time writing, it seems, I don't have as much time to read as I'd like. For HOW TO writing books, I think the very best one is WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL by Al Zuckerman, and another good one is WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Don Maass.

J. Cheney
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Re: signing in

Postby J. Cheney » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:32 pm

KJA wrote:Hi guys -- I'm here and will start typing away frantically to get as many answers done as possible in an hour.

KJA


Thank you for doing this. ;o)

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:34 pm

Kang wrote:What author(s) were your biggest influences when you started writing? What are some of your favorite authors today?


I loved reading Ray Bradbury when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed Frank Herbert's books -- ALL of them -- so it's quite an honor for me to be working with his son and his notes to do more Dune novels.

today, some of my favorite authors are Larry McMurtry, Martin Cruz Smith, Mario Puzo [*everybody* should read LONESOME DOVE, GORKY PARK, and THE GODFATHER], and in the SF field I like Dan Simmons, Peter Hamilton, alastair Reynolds, Orson Scott Card.

Carl Frederick.
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Hi, Kevin

Postby Carl Frederick. » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:36 pm

Hi, Kevin,

It's great to e-see you here. Yet again, thanks for all you've done for me (e.g. teaching the WotF workshop, giving helpful advice, etc.)
-Carl Frederick

KJA
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Re: A. W. Sullivan asks...

Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:40 pm

AWSullivan wrote:There are two areas that I feel I struggle most, preparation/outlining and characterization. I've gotten lots of positive feedback on my writing but I also know that there is always room for improvement.

What advice can you give me on these subjects and if you know of any, what workshops do you think would be best suited to to help me out in these areas.


wow, preparation/outlining and characterization -- that's some pretty major stuff. As for characterization, I think you should spend time "getting to know" your characters, stuff that doesn't necessarily appear in the finished work. Who are they, how old are they, families, brothers, sisters, parents; what are their jobs, hobbies.

In preparation/outlining -- bear in mind that a lot of writers just "wing it" and let the story develop as they write. I let the story breathe and grow and develop, but I do all of that BEFOREHAND, and then I carefully choreograph all of the plotlines, the different characters and scenes. Of course, that's vital when you're collaborating on a huge Dune novel with Brian Herbert -- we both have to have the same roadmap. Even on my solo "Seven Suns" novels, the number of storylines and characters necessitates planning ahead. I like to use colored index cards to rearrange scenes and look at the story structure.

As for workshops, I feel they are very hit and miss -- if you get a good one, with good instructors and good participants, it's great. If you get an instructor who's full of him/herself and attendees who write only rhyming poetry about their tulips, well then you're in trouble.

hope that helps

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:43 pm

Zaragon wrote:Great to have this opportunity, thanks, Kevin.

I don't have many unanswered questions right now (at least not ones I know to ask) but I'll pose one of my largest problems as one.

I seem to have a strong tendency to try to imply too much of my stories, be it information, emotion, motivation, opposition or setting. When I get it right, that’s fine for those who get it--by implying, I don’t mean simply omitting--but it hardly produces commercially viable work. Any suggestions on how to improve clarity without resorting to lumps of exposition added in revision? My language is always painstaking since I write very slowly, which doesn’t help in this sense.


I might not be the best person to answer this, because as I writer I strive for CLARITY, rather than very subtle things. (Sometimes I can be dense myself, because I miss a clue that my wife claims was perfectly obvious!) Other writers might try to be overly lyrical or metaphorical...my personal goal when I'm writing is to make a reader completely FORGET he or she is reading. I want them to disappear into the story, the characters, the setting, and not even realize they are being transported there by words on the page. So, I opt for plain speaking -- say what you mean!

LaurieG
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Postby LaurieG » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:43 pm

Hi Kevin, Thanks for joining us. Your previous answer was about outlining and characterization of big novels. For you, how does that change when writing short stories or novelettes?

CJ
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Postby CJ » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:43 pm

How does collaborating between authors work?

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:45 pm

JRTomlin wrote:What do you look for in general in the story arc? Do you have any advice for writing a satisfying story arc?


It's important to remember that it IS an "arc" -- you launch at the beginning and shoot up into the sky (i.e., make something happen), build it and build it, make the plot thicken, get the character into worse trouble, then at the apex there's a turning point, and then the story begins to accelerate toward its end.

sometimes this may take a very large canvas. the last volume in my "Saga of Seven Suns" was just published -- seven huge volumes that took me nearly eight years to write, but I always had the end in sight.

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:47 pm

CJ wrote:Kevin,

How much reading for pleasure do you get to do while you are working on a novel?

CJ


Alas, and this is no joke, I can *write* a novel faster than I can read one. I get about half an hour of relaxation reading in the evenings before I go to bed, and I'm a fairly slow reader. But even that gets swallowed up sometimes: just today I received the 514-page typeset galleys for PAUL OF DUNE to be proofread by the weekend...so guess what I'm going to be doing every waking moment until then.

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:48 pm

G. Oram, Jr. wrote:Mr. Anderson.

How many Star Wars novels did you have to read to get the facts straight?


I had an easier job than the current crop of SW writers, because I was one of the first to do books in the Expanded Universe. I did read all of Tim Zahn's (the last two in manuscript, because they hadn't been published yet), and Kathy Tyers' TRUCE AT BAKURA and Dave Wolverton's COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA. Other than that, I had a big stack of West End Games technical manuals, which were very valuable.

CJ
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Postby CJ » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:50 pm

What process do you use when outlining a short story?

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:53 pm

CJ wrote:How does collaborating between authors work?


Well, that's kind of like asking "How does a marriage work?" Different people do it different ways. And you really do have to get along with your collaborator because it's VERY tough on the ego. But I've done 29 novels with my wife Rebecca, and we've been married almost 17 years. Brian Herbert and I have done a million and a half words together, and we've gotten in one five-minute fight.

Typically, we brainstorm the novel in detail, talk it through with the story and characters, the pacing, the setting. Then we write an outline, chapter by chapter, describing each chapter in a paragraph or two (Brian and I are in that stage right now with JESSICA OF DUNE, which we'll start writing next month). When we've sent the outline back and forth enough times until we're happy with it, then we pick our chapters, 50/50, and go off to write our individual drafts. We edit them, then exchange computer files and edit each other's files. The book goes back and forth maybe 12 times before it's totally polished.

It's a lot of hard work but the end result is something neither of us could have done by ourselves.

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:55 pm

CJ wrote:What process do you use when outlining a short story?


And this also answers Laurie's question. I can usually hold a whole short story in my head so I don't have to do a lot of outlining. I usually write a story in only one or two bursts, so it's not so much of an issue.

Even though I've published over a hundred stories, though, my heart is in the novel arena, and that's where I spend most of my time.

CJ
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Postby CJ » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:59 pm

What gets your attention and draws you in when you’re judging a short story?

Jherara

Postby Jherara » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:02 pm

Hi Kevin,

These are curiosity questions:

How much time do you typically spend fleshing out characters or stories in your head before setting them to paper (day, weeks, months, years...)?

Do you have characters and plots that have never been set to paper, but are still in that "in my brain and still exploring" stage?

Thank you.

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:05 pm

CJ wrote:What gets your attention and draws you in when you’re judging a short story?


I want a grabber of an opening, something (action, setting, character) that is instantly intriguing AND NOT CONFUSING. When I'm looking at a big stack of stories to read and I have to wade through five pages where I can't figure out what the author is talking about, I lose patience.

And -- this isn't true in every case, of course -- it seems to me that the *longer* a story is, the less professional it tends to be. Inexperienced writers haven't learned how NOT to be long-winded! :D

CJ
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Postby CJ » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:06 pm

Kevin,

Thanks for all the great info. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Hope to get to meet you some day.

Best of luck on your future projects,
CJ

KJA
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Postby KJA » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:07 pm

Jherara wrote:Hi Kevin,

These are curiosity questions:

How much time do you typically spend fleshing out characters or stories in your head before setting them to paper (day, weeks, months, years...)?

Do you have characters and plots that have never been set to paper, but are still in that "in my brain and still exploring" stage?

Thank you.


It's hard to give a specific answer because I have several projects kicking around at a time. Some characters or stories are more difficult or require a lot of research, while others seem to burst out and write themselves. I have a very large audience in my head of people who want to be cast into some story or other. And often the characters will grow and change as I am writing a book.

Carl Frederick.
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Postby Carl Frederick. » Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:09 pm

Again, Kevin, nice to see you here.
Unfortunately, since I get up at 5am, I can't stay much longer.
Best.
Carl


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