Archive for February, 2009

“$13.99 + (head) tax” by Janet Reid, literary agent

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 26th, 2009
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For you writers who don’t get David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants, he just pointed to this must read blog entry by Janet Reid, literary agent. It relates what exactly it might mean when you get an agent rejection.



More 10-to-20’s

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 25th, 2009
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I just posted this in one of the comments sections and realized it would be useful to everyone.

There’s another part to this that has to do with text. There will be more 10-to-20’s that go along with it. But I think I’ll be trying to create that presentation as a video for the site. We’ll see. Right now I’ve got to finish CODG. But when you finish the ones I assigned, I suggest you add these.

1. BEGINNINGS. Go to the bookstore or library and pick up 10 to 20 random fiction books off the shelves and then sit down with them. Pick up each and read the first two pages. Note which ones pull you in and which resist you. Identify the cause. Then see what patterns you can find.

2. 3 GRUNTS. Find 10 to 20 short stories or chapters from different books. Read them over three or four days. Do NOT read them looking for problems, but just as you would any book you’d picked up for enjoyment. While reading make a note of any section where your interest flags, the writing or story is unclear, or you just don’t believe it. These bumps are what Orson Card calls the three reader grunts. They occur when a story is unclear, unbelievable, or boring (i.e. you grunt huh? come on? or who cares?). When you’ve finished, look for the patterns that caused this response in you. ***This is one of the key things we did in Card’s boot camp that made me feel like the mists were being parted*** 

3. ENDS. Look at the endings to 10 to 20 novels or short stories that you’ve read. Identify which you enjoyed the most and which you did not. Look for causes. See what patterns emerge.

4. SMALL BEGINNINGS AND ENDS. Do the beginnings and ends analysis 10 to 20 chapters and then 10 to 20 scenes.

Of course, you can look at anything this way–plot turns, magic systems, aliens, settings, dialogue exchanges. Get 10 to 20 of them. Identify which are interesting to you and which aren’t. And then try to see the patterns. But I’d recommend you start with those above.


John Brown will keynote at American Fork Arts Council writers conference

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc., On Writing  by John Brown on February 24th, 2009

The city of American Fork is putting on what looks to be a great writer’s conference. I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve been asked to present the keynote speech.

Keynote: The 3 Things You Must Learn to Write Killer Stories
When: Saturday, April 25, 2009, 9:00 AM
American Fork City Arts Council
31 N. Church Street
American Fork, UT 84003

This looks like a great opportunity if you’re a writer. Here’s what the organizers envision.

We have editors from Desert Book, Covenant and Cedar Fort coming to speak as well as National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr, Kristen Langdon, Ginger Churchill, Linda Bethers, Anita Stansfield and others. The goal is to provide a space for local writers to interact with local editors and local authors for inspiration, motivation and guidance in the tricky world of writing and publishing. To that end, the editors will be holding a query letter clinic using query letters from participants, which I think will be super useful. The editors are also speaking on what they want and don’t want as far as submissions, and the state of regional publishing in 2009 given the world upheaval. The authors will all be speaking on how they got an agent, how they got a book deal, what they have learned about writing.

More info: American Fork Arts Council


For the attendees of my killer workshop

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 20th, 2009

I think the workshop version 2.0 went very well. I had a wonderful time.  Click on the “Writing” menu above AND the category link on the sidebar to see the many blog entries I’ve made about writing principles.

  1. The 3 Things You Must Learn to Write Killer Stories Handout
  2. The Story Cycle Handout
  3. Lesson from writer’s area: Step 1 of The Creative Process: Capture the Zing
  4. Resource: Zing Hunting Methods

Remember the 10 to 20’s. I would love to hear your experience with them.

  1. STORY EFFECTS. List 10 to 20 Stories you love. Then next to each write what you loved about it and what emotions it triggered in you. Finally, look at your answers to see the patterns. These are the effects you love, the ones YOU will probably find the most joy trying to create for others.
  2. PROBLEMS. List the main problems (threat, lack, mystery) for each of those stories. These are YOUR problem types, the one’s you’ll probably find the most joy writing about.
  3. INTERESTING CHARACTERS. List 10 to 20 characters or people you find interesting. Next to each identify what it is that makes them so interesting to you. Finally, look at your answers and identify the patterns. These are YOUR  draws. Use these when developing characters.  
  4. ROOTING FACTORS. List 10 to 20 characters your root for or against. Next to each identify what it is that makes you root for or against them. Finally, look at your answers and identify the patterns. Again, these are YOUR equity factors. Use them when developing your story.
  5. STORY PATTERNS. For the stories you identified, map out their story cycle (problem, reaction/decision, action, disaster). Your goal here is to see patterns of how the types of problems you love develop.
  6. ZING. For one week gather 10 to 20 zing each day. Try to get zing in all four areas (problem, plot, character, setting) during the week. Look at the lesson on capturing the zing and the zing hunting methods resource in the writer’s section.
  7. POWER QUESTIONS. Start a list of creative questions that are productive for you. You will want to identify power questions for all 5 parts of story. Look at the handout for some of mine. Ultimately, you’ll ask yourself hundreds of questions, but there will be 10 to 20 that you keep coming back to.  
  8. TIME. Identify how you will get 10 to 20 hours to write each week. If you can’t do 10, try to get close.
  9. WRITE. Develop and write a story. Identify the day you will start and do it.
  10. CONTACT ME. I want to hear about your progress.  Please post your findings in the comments of this blog entry :)


If you liked “From the Clay of His Heart” you can nominate for Hugo

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on February 17th, 2009
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You may nominate works for the 2009 Hugo award if you either:

  • were an attending or supporting member of Denvention 3 (the 2008 World Science Fiction Convention); OR
  • are an attending or supporting member of Anticipation (the 2009 World Science Fiction Convention) before January 31, 2009

If you liked “From the Clay of His Heart” and want to nominate it in the novelette category, all you need to do is go here and fill out this form before Saturday, February 28, 2009. You can nominate up to 5 stories in each category.

If you want to read it, you can do so online if you have an IGMS vol 8 subscription ($2.50). If you don’t plan on subscribing to that issue, post a comment, and I’ll make sure you get a copy.

Here are nomination numbers for last year’s awards. What this shows is that 40 nominations puts a novel on the final ballot. 17 nominations put a short story there.

Best Novel (382 nominating ballots cast):
65 – Brasyl by Ian McDonald
58 – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
58 – Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
41 – The Last Colony by John Scalzi
40 – Halting State by Charles Stross

Best Novella (220 nominating ballots cast):
52 – “Memorare” by Gene Wolfe
50 – “Recovering Apollo 8″ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
49 – “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis
39 – “The Fountain of Age” by Nancy Kress
34 – “Stars Seen Through Stone” by Lucius Shepard

Best Novelette (243 nominating ballots cast):
69 – “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang
45 – “Dark Integers” by Greg Egan
24 – “Finisterra” by David Moles
22 – “The Cambist and Lord Iron” Daniel Abraham

Best Short Story (270 nominating ballots cast):
46 – “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear
29 – “Last Contact” by Stephen Baster
28 – “Distant Replay” by Mike Resnick
25 – “A Small Room in Koboldtown” by Michael Swanwick
17 – “Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?” by Ken MacLeod

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Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin + Interview

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever, Zing  by John Brown on February 16th, 2009
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I have read few books more interesting than Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.

In it she describes her world of autism and how it helped her a perspective into animals unlike any other expert in the field. She can literally see what we block out. It’s part of what helped her make a huge impact on the meat packing industry.

And it’s had an impact on her. When she was visiting her grandparents once in Arizona, she saw a squeeze chute in operation on a ranch. She saw the cattle calm, for the most part, in the chute. “Watching those cattle calm down,” she says, “I knew I needed a squeeze chute of my own.” So when she got back home she built a human-sized one with the help of her teacher. “I got through my teenage years thanks to my squeeze machine and my horses.”

Grandin is not a vegetarian activitst (she eats meat herself) or a brutal slayer. She has taken the middle ground between the fantatics that want to prevent the consumption of all meat, on one hand, or totally disregard the life of animals on the other. She writes, she says, “because I wish animals could have more than just a low-stress life and a quick, painless death. I wish animals could have a good life, too, with something useful to do. I think we owe them that.”

Temple has dozens and dozens of insights into animals, which she shares here. You’ll learn about rapist roosters and the problem of one-trait breeding, whether prediators find it “fun to kill a groundhog” (yes, she says, they do), whether animals have true cognition, and so many other things it’s impossible to list them here. I was fascinated on every page. If you have anything to do with animals, you’re going to LOVE this book.

Get the book. Read it. In the meantime, watch a 27 minute interview of Temple by Doug Fabrizio on Utah NOW. I caught this on TV flipping through the channels and couldn’t look away. This is a fascinating interview of a fascinating woman.

Source:Temple Grandin on Utah NOW

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