1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Question on Paragraphing

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MilesTro, Sep 11, 2007.

    How do you keep your sentences organize so they wouldn't get mix up. Here is a paragraph, whic I seem to have a problem with.

    Far away in space, an alien race, known as the Elderons, is expanding their empire across three star systems. They wanted their empire to grow for great power. In their conquest for power, they encounter another race, called the Infinians, who resisted against the Elderons' power. On the Elderons’ home planet, a subterranean race, called Miarks, turned against the Elderon Empire, because they wanted to be free from slavery. And so a war between the Elderons, Infinions, and Miarks had begun.

    I'm trying to figure out how to add supporting details to each of my sentences. They just skip from one thing to another. I want to know an easy method to keep my paragraphs polish. :confused:
     
  2. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Various writers use different ways.

    Personally I keep chanting the Hemingway mantra to myself: Use short words. Use short sentences.

    I think the paragraph is the shortest meaningful unit of writing. Each paragraph is one idea. It begins with a sentence that introduces the idea, then there are usually one, two or three further sentences that elaborate on the first.

    So I think the problem is that you've got three paragraphs there that you're trying to stitch together into one, and I'd develop each area more.

    Far away in space, an alien race called the Elderons is expanding their empire across three star systems. Then name the star systems and give one or two telling details about each.

    In their conquest for power, the Elderings meet another race, the Infinians...--then more details.

    And so on.

    This is for a synopsis of some kind?
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    is this intended as the opening to a synopsis?... or as the opening to the novel itself?... without knowing that, i can't really advise you on what to add or whatever... and there's no 'easy method' to 'polishing' a paragraph... no 'method' of any kind, really, other than knowing/learning how to write well from reading good writing...

    aside from paragraph structure, you have some major problems here with the writing itself... such as odd sentence structure ['...to grow for great power'], overuse of 'power' and confusion of tenses [i.e., encounter/resisted]...

    plus conceptual things like 'far away' from what?... and 'alien' compared to whom?... unless there's some connection to earth in your story/plot, the place wouldn't be 'far away' but just where it is... and the race wouldn't be 'alien' but just who/what they are...

    hope that helps a bit... love and hugs, maia
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In terms of paragraphs, each paragraph should cover one concept, something more concise than "this is the state of the Universe". A sentence should express a single idea or action. A paragraph should generally expand upon the idea in the introductory sentence of the paragraph, but still focus on one idea.

    Your paragraph seems rushed, and it is. You are trying to cover way too much in one paragraph, and so you end up covering nothing well.

    Yet you have a lot of words that are not doing anything apart from tripping up the reader:
    That provides more information in fewer words; In your entire paragraph, we never learned the names of the three star systems.

    "Far away in space" is implied by the three star systems. If we had any doubts that they are an "alien race", that will become clear very soon anyway. An invading empire is enough to infer a thirst for power.

    You now have a core around which to build your first paragraph. If you want, you could give an insight into how alien they are, or where they swept in from, but restrict it to the Elderons.

    Introduce the Infinians in the second paragraph. What kind of beings are they? Are they native to their star system, or did they migrate there, and if so, how long have they been there?

    No sooner than the third paragraph, let them encounter one another. Frankly, I would probably develop a complete chapter about each race separately before letting them encounter one another.

    One sentence, one action or concept. A paragraph wraps and enriches the idea in the sentence the paragraph is built around. A chapter collects individual paragraphs into a scene or a closely related sequence of scenes.

    I hope this helps as well.
     
  5. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    It's a synopsis for a story idea.
     
  6. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I think my problem is that I want to rush through this synopsis so I would get it done quickly. Then when I check it, I only spell and grammar a bit. I'm not very good at detailing.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well, you'll have to get better at 'detailing' if you want to impress anyone with your synopsis... and that's your best sales tool, so...........

    on the other hand, if this is just for you to follow as you develop the story, it won't matter much how it's written... but if it's to be read by anyone else, the flaws i noted need to be dealt with...
     
  8. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    A synopsis is an executive summary for a publisher who may be looking for work. You need to have the entire novel, or story already written before contacting an editor. Some may be further edited, but you have to actually walk in with something concrete and finished. I would do a synopsis as though it were the "coming attractions" of a movie. I would start with some sort of exciting "eye popping" moment and then talk about the plot a bit. I do not think I would simply send an "idea."

    The work you envision sounds pretty large, like "Dune." That is a massive book set of books. (A kind of odd David Lynch movie if you want to see Sting milk a cat). Galactic war books are usually very large scale.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but i must disagree... that is not the way a synopsis should read, since you're not trying to entice moviegoers to buy a ten buck ticket, but get a publisher to pony up many thousands to publish it... your idea of the 'tease' approach would turn off prospective agents and publishers, since it would show you haven't done your homework and are an amateur on the business side of writing... they need to know all the main elements of the plot, including how it ends, before they can decide if it's marketable enough for them to request the ms...
     
  10. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    Okay, well I am looking at the press releases I see. They must be different.
    So you are telling me that an editor will not react in the slightest to a conventional writing "lead" in a piece of business writing? I have been to college and studied how to send story ideas to magazines, but not to book publishers. I guess they are different too.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a press release or a jacket blurb type thing is not at all what agents and publishers need/want to see in a query or the synopsis they may call for in their guidelines or request as a result of a successful query letter... the synopsis must cover all the main plot elements and introduce all the main characters and important secondary ones, as well as disclose the ending...

    for a query letter, the single paragraph 'mini-synopsis' or 'summary' section of the single page letter should do the same, but in much fewer words...
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The way one approaches editors of magazines (especially nonfiction type where an idea can be pitched to the magazine for a story or topic before it is written--especially if the writer is experienced with quite a number of clips to demonstrate the quality of job the magazine editor can expect) is different from how an author would approach an editor who works for a publishing house that focuses on novels. And, as was noted above, unless the author is an established one (or in someway noteable or famous), a complete mansucript (as opposed to a proposal) is necessary before approaching an agent or editor.

    In the query or cover letter, a bit of a "blurb-like" paragraph to hook the editor may be appropriate (depending on the market targeted), but a synopsis is pretty much as Mammamaia described. There are legitimate debates as to how long a synopsis should be (even editors cannot all agree) but the shorter a writer can make it, the better.

    Many writers find a synopsis more difficult to write and refine than the opening three chapters of their novel--and that may even be an understatement.

    Just two more cents added in.

    Terry
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Writing concisely while retaining the essence is difficult, especially when you're talking a 500:1 (or higher) compression factor.
     
  14. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Detailing

    Okay, I'll get better at detailing. How can you learn how to detail your work better?
     
  15. bluejt2000
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    bluejt2000 Member

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    One tip is not to worry too much about length for the first draft. If you need, say, 100 words, don't worry if it goes to 200 or nearly 300. You can begin to condense on next draft. It's always easier to start with too many words rather than with too few. That goes for novels as well as synopses.

    John
     
  16. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    Of course anyone should get the submission guidelines before proceeding. I have never been sure where an agent works in here. They seem to do nothing for their pay these days.
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Sorry? I don't understand what you mean :confused: An agent is almost essential to getting anything more than a short story published, as most publishers won't even look at something unless it's submitted through one.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good agents have always earned their 'pay'... and then some... you don't seem to understand the role agents play in the publishing industry... and others where agents are key ingredients to artists' success... you should learn more about the subject before making such a sweeping [and erroneous] statement... check out the info on agents here, for a true picture of what goes on and why/when you need one [or would be wise to get one, if you can]:

    http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/pubagent.htm
     
  19. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    How did this get onto a discussion of agents?

    Bookshop shelves are full of people who've sold full-length books to publishers without the help of an agent, by the way. I did, with my first work.

    Frankly, I've found the various agents with whom I've interacted very unsatisfactory. They've been unable to do much except point out the blindingly obvious and I do rather begrudge paying them ten to fifteen percent of the small amount I get paid.

    Maybe with fiction--or the "right" agent--things would be different.

    Agents are helpful to the publishing houses because they act as an extra slush-filter, which is fine, but if they publishing houses want to insist on agents, I do think the publishing houses should pay for them.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no offense intended, but that's probably the silliest thing i've ever heard in a complaint about agents, since it's the agent who gets you a better deal [= more $] from the publisher, which is certainly not anything the publisher is gonna PAY them for doing!...
     
  21. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Perhaps this was your experience--it certainly wasn't mine. :)

    I sold the manuscript, I contacted an agent, they advised me to accept the contract I was offered, and they've been pocketing 15% ever since. Nice work if you can get it.
     
  22. TheUnasphyxiated
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    TheUnasphyxiated New Member

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    Of course they are different. You don't want to hand them a synopsis and it just spill the story into their laps. It'd be like, "Alright, this is the basic review of my story.", and it starts in the middle of an epic battle scene. It's kind of like cheating, in a way. And, like someone said before, it does make you look a bit like a ametuer.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so, you signed a contract with an agent after you sold your book to a publisher?... why on earth would you, unless you had other books you wanted them to rep?... did you?... in any case, no one held a gun to your head, so the agent was just being a good businessperson to accept you as a client, at your request... and how could they have gotten you a better deal, after you'd agreed to one with the publisher already?...

    you don't seem to understand the role of an agent, nor the way a writer should deal with one, so shouldn't be blaming all agents for your lack of knowledge and poor judgement...
     
  24. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How did you find this agent? Was he/she referred to you by another author?

    One author I've run across and communicate with on occasion sold a book but wanted to make sure the contract they were signing was okay, so he sought out a reputable agent to simply review the contract and advised the him (the writer). It was a smallish publisher and the contract was pretty straighforward. Paid a fee (I don't really know the exact amount, but it wasn't tons from my understanding) to the agent for his time and advice.

    I realize that there are many publishers out there, even if they accepted your novel from a slush pile or the like, strongly advise you go have an agent represent you, even before the contract negotiations begin.

    It is apparent the experience with your agent has left you frustrated and feeling cheated. Hopefully the contract you signed with the agent in question isn't binding other than with respect to the sale of the one novel (discussed) and only for the duration it's in print with that particular publisher.

    Terry
     
  25. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Heh, it's complicated.

    I sold my first (non-fiction) work in 2005 to a relatively small publisher on the basis of a proposal, a writing sample and my credentials in the field. Now, I'm in the UK, but the only reasonable-sized market for my work was in the US. At the time I was even more deeply ignorant of the marketplace than I am at the moment, so I sent the work to a selection of US publishers rather than agencies. One of them bit my arm off.

    The publisher sent me a contract that offered what seemed like an acceptable sum. The contract said it was governed by the laws of Wisconsin--which in normal circumstances are about as relevant to me as the laws of Botswana or Madagascar--so I took it to an author friend of mine and asked his advice. He suggested that I should have an agent to represent me on the grounds that this would make it easier to sell subsequent works, but his own agency didn't handle this particular field, so they shouldn't represent me.

    So I made a short list of UK literary agencies who had both some knowledge of the relatively obscure field and some connections in the US. I came up with two agencies in total--so I contacted them and asked them for their advice, and I selected the one offering the lowest fee. They sent me a formal instruction document, similar to the one I'm accustomed to receiving from firms of solicitors or accountants, so I signed it and returned it to them.

    They advised me to sign the contract and take the money, then pocketed their slice.

    The editor of that publishing house contacted me shortly after purchasing the work, and asked me if I could write another. I agreed, wrote it, and emailed it back to him, upon which he paid me directly. I've repeated the exercise at periodic intervals since, without involving the agent at all, since I don't fancy paying them their percentage. On occasion I've renegotiated my rate of pay directly with the editor, with whom I've now built up a reasonable relationship.

    I can see nothing in the instruction document I signed which commits me to sell future works through this or indeed any agency and I'm rather disillusioned with agencies in general, as you can perhaps tell.
     

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