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heron
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
onnamusha wrote:
I read the synopsis of this book, and it sounds quite interesting; I am not a long-distance runner, but I have engaged in the solitary sport in a noncompetitive capacity (many years ago though), and there is nothing like being there "in the zone" of pure action without reflection. If anything is Zen, it is running. In my later years, I've replaced running with swimming, as it is much easier on the joints, but it still has an unnameable quality of being and thoughtless thought. I am intrigued!


I walk for miles while plotting and also go kayaking a lot - both have the same effect of putting your mind into neutral, and problems miraculously solve themselves Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:45 pm    Post subject: Ghostmind of Tomoe Reply with quote
I read the first line of Kitsuno's critique and stopped there. I've decided to do the same thing and not read any of the other posts before I comment on Ghostmind of Tomoe.

I like the concept and since Kwaidan is one of my all time favourite movies, I am comfortable with the supernatural theme. During my first read, my focus was derailed by errors in conventions. On my second reading, I ignored these and focused on language, style, and story. This time, I felt drawn in by the story. By the end, I realized that I needed to know sooner that Tomoe's problem is that her spirit is still attached to the earth and it is seeking release. If I understood this sooner, I could follow this arc until the end. One of the most difficult things about writing is having a clear sense of the story fully imagined in the mind and then trying to share that vision with other readers. I can claim no expertise in this area, but I do understand the challenge.

Regarding the more technical points, I've decided to PM them to you instead of posting them here. Having a thick skin is vital when trying to improve one's writing. It's great to solicit feedback, then keep what makes sense to you.
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:32 am    Post subject: Shisendo's story Reply with quote
Shisendo, let me start out by saying that I really liked this book, and would definitely buy it. Yes, I'm a sucker for any novel set in Japan, but I liked the feel of this one. However, you have asked for comments, so I'll do my best.
First of all, no matter what anyone says, a lot of it comes down to personal taste. Since your writing is technically competent, any suggestions about your book really do boil down to what we wish to read. I have my own taste. For example, the use of Japanese words - most people say why use a Japanese one when there is a perfectly good english one that the readers can recognise? To a large extent, I agree with that, but there are some words that just don't have a good english word, not one that will allow the readers to visualise what you are talking about. Those are the words that really jar for me (and it is entirely my taste, not correct or incorrect.) The use of the word "clogs" for geta, to me, is wrong. They look nothing alike. My taste is that, if a book is about Japan, I damn well want Japanese words in there (with an explanation/translation immediately after). Otherwise, all I am left with that relates to Japan is a lot of difficult to pronounce names. Okay, you and I can pronounce them without trouble, but how many of your readers think that Sonsuke is pronounced Sonsook, or Sonsookee? For me, it's not exotic or pretentious to use Japanese nouns, it's boring if you don't. Take the use of the word halberd (or glaive) used instead of naginata. I have no clue what a halberd is, so I would have to google it to find out. I'd rather google naginata! Most people who buy your book want to know more about Japan, in that era. Or why buy it? I don't know if it is a particularly American thing to want text simplified to words in english, but if done sparingly and carefully, you can only add to the book by using Japanese words. It's not showing off, it's the country you are writing about!

Your story started with a beautifully restrained ebb and flow, I liked the gentle rhythm of it. However, as I read through the further chapters, I realised that the rhythm did not change, and I would have liked a little more light and shade, a little change of tempo. I had no real feel of character development. This is my own personal taste in spades: I want to see characters change their moods, their thoughts, their precious beliefs, as the story progresses, because there should be enough material to have caused them to change. In that respect, I found it a little dry. However, I only read what was posted, and I don't know how long the book is or what else happens. So take that with a pinch of salt.

I understand that some people have recommended that you start off with a different chapter, that the one you chose is too restrained perhaps. Again, it's personal taste. If the book had built on this gentle beginning, I would say keep it. It's a beautiful start, not overly descriptive and florid, but simple and a little intriguing. If the book takes this mood and keeps it throughout, then I would recommend a little boost here or there. Or start with a flash forward to a dramatic scene, then build up to it. But clearly the book is not a dynamic battle/action novel, and so it would be innapropriate to manufacture a whole scene like that just to make that type of reader happy - when that type of reader wouldn't buy the book anyway.

In all, I thought it was beautifully written and had a lovely atmosphere. I wish you all the best with it, and look forward to buying it when it is published!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Gozen, thank you for the insightful and detailed feedback. I think you're essentially right in your point about using Japanese words, especially with geta. A couple years ago while reading Musashi, I was struck by how effective straight translations of Japanese words worked. Consequently, I went through the novel and replaced words like geta with clogs and genkan with foyer. My fear with clogs was that people would picture something Dutch, but decided to go with it anyway. Having read your post, I'm tempted to go halfway and try “wooden sandal.” I know with google at people's fingertips, they can look up any word they want, but do they want that experience?

I can't disagree with any of your points in the second paragraph. I was hoping that the action in the chapters labeled on the site as 4, 5, & 6, would counterbalance the subdued tone. The way the novel is structured, the first half is told from the perspective of a middle aged man reflecting on his life. The second half moves into his present and a greater variation in tone and character development results. The risk of this approach is that I might lose the reader before they ever reach Part 2. Your comments have certainly given me food for thought.

I think your third paragraph comments are a response to some of the comments left by other readers on the novel's page. The opening chapter they are referring to was a prologue that I removed from the site. Speaking of battle scenes, I do have chapters written about Sekigahara and the Osaka Campaigns of 1614-1615. I'm tempted to upload them if a member of the Archives would be willing to call me on any historical inaccuracies they find.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment so extensively. Your story is next on my list after Wave Tossed's. Hopefully, I can get to it before Christmas. If not, I'll have to beg your patience until the new year.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 6:06 am    Post subject: The Street Sweeper Reply with quote
Wave Tossed, I just finished reading The Street Sweeper and enjoyed it a lot. It reads like it was thoroughly edited and revised before submission, and there are no distracting errors while reading. It sets up well with gritty realism and the promise of providing insight into the lives of characters seldom examined in Japanese-themed fiction written in English. Due to this realistic setup, I had trouble with the supernatural element. I considered the possibility that the spirits were psychological projections, but the appearance of real swords at the end discounted that possibility. Although I haven't read all three of the top finishers, the only reason I can think that this story didn't place had to do with believability issues with the character. Here's a man that failed in his sword training, watched his wife, child, and lord killed without intervening, accepts life as a hinin, and THEN finds the resolve to avenge their deaths? It seems an unlikely transformation. Your obvious strength as a writer and ability to evoke empathy for a character in a realist mode makes me want to see more of your work in that vein.
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Wave Tossed
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for your feedback. I agree that one of the main issues is that the main character develops his resolve too quickly. I'm working on a novel-length version of this, which will have many changes. One of the major changes is that the main character develops his resolve a LOT more slowly and needs a lot more "prodding" on the part of other people and elements before he finally stops feeling sorry for himself and actually gets up and does something.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Thanks for your feedback. I agree that one of the main issues is that the main character develops his resolve too quickly. I'm working on a novel-length version of this, which will have many changes. One of the major changes is that the main character develops his resolve a LOT more slowly and needs a lot more "prodding" on the part of other people and elements before he finally stops feeling sorry for himself and actually gets up and does something.


Glad you didn't find my comments off base. It sounds like a promising seed for a novel.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:28 pm    Post subject: The Stone Steps Reply with quote
Wow! Well done. My curiosity was piqued as I began to realize that I might be reading about the early life of Yoshitsune and Benkei. You wisely avoided using these names and kept me reading on, enjoying the conflicts with the bullying boys at the temple. The only thing I stumbled on were the nicknames of Kind Priest and Grumpy Priest. While they reflect the psychology of a young boy to some extent, the names also lend themselves to caricature. Having been to Kurama, I still had trouble visualizing the setting. Perhaps a bit more description could be added. That aside, this reads like the first chapter of a novel, and an excellent treatment of a classic Japanese story that to the best of my knowledge, isn't available in English. Any plans in that regard?
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for your comments, really made my day. If you have any suggestions regarding what to call the priests, I'd be glad to hear them!
When I wrote it, I hadn't been to Kurama, and didn't want to make a huge mistake with a made up description. As part of my big trip to Japan last month, I went there. If I was writing it now....

As for the rest of their story, I have been working on my own vision of these characters for a few years now. After my trip I have been able to improve on my Kurama and Yashima sections. My writing is so poor that I have to keep going over and over it, trying to improve it. My book originally had the first meeting on Gojo Bridge, but for the short story, I wanted to do something completely different. It has stirred things up in my head, and after I finished it, I kept thinking about what would happen to Oniwaka when he left Kurama. And so eventually I wrote the next bit (which I hope is better written). Then some more, then tweaked what I already had, and I'm at 177k words right now. I have to beat myself into trying to put right all the things I have done wrong, and sometimes I can see it clearly. Sometimes, though, I just can't understand why what I have or haven't done is wrong, why it doesn't work, why it isn't enough. I'm an amateur, clearly!
I know that the sections I wrote first are terrible and need work. Vast sections need a rewrite. And there is this description thing, I'm so lousy at it, and wonder why people can't use their imaginations! I think I'll be writing it for years to come, always trying to make it better and always falling short. But, I am never happier than when I am in that world, I just love researching and writing about them. I won't be giving up my day job though!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
gozen wrote:
Then some more, then tweaked what I already had, and I'm at 177k words right now. I have to beat myself into trying to put right all the things I have done wrong, and sometimes I can see it clearly. Sometimes, though, I just can't understand why what I have or haven't done is wrong, why it doesn't work, why it isn't enough. I'm an amateur, clearly!


177k. That's quite a bit. I pulled these suggested word counts from agentquery.com

Word Count for first time novelist:
Adult fiction: 80,000-100,000 words.
Young Adult fiction: 40,000-60,000 words

It seems to me that you have enough to form the backbone of a trilogy. Why not carve off the first 60-80k and focus on getting that first novel done and take it from there? From what I've read so far, it seems like you have something that would appeal to teen to adult readers. Where do you see it fitting in?

Lastly, don't be so hard on your own writing--at least not in public. We need to be our own worst critics in private, but from the sample I've read, you have ability. That's my two cents at least.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for your encouragement, and suggestions. I've thought about it, splitting it into three parts. The whole thing is called Warriors' Dreams, part one would be The Dreamers, part two would be The Battles, part three would be something I haven't thought up yet... When it's all done, and in a condition that doesn't annoy the reader, I'll take stock of what I have and see if there is enough in each section to make a book in itself. I have so much material, and I haven't even included every historical character, preferring to bring to life those that "speak" to me. I hadn't thought about adult or young adult readers, that's something to explore a little further!

I would really love to know how you are getting on with finding agents and publishers. I know that there isn't that much of an audience for what we try to create with historical Japanese fiction, but there is always the lulu.com route if all else fails. Ultimately, though, I'm writing it because it makes me happy, and I don't expect to be successful with it. Won't stop me dreaming though!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Gozen, I agree with Shisendo. Don't put yourself down so much. You are an excellent writer. I truly look forward to reading your final work. I look forward to seeing it on the NY TIMES best seller list! Very Happy

Like you, I write because I love to write. My characters "talk" to me. Even if hardly anyone reads my scribblings, I still would write.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Many thanks for your support, Wave, it is much appreciated. I found a little time today to write, and it's now at 180k. When will it ever end? Why is it, when I edit, that I find I have used the same dreadful words or phrases a million times (like "Finally..." or "and so". I edit them out, then find something else that I keep writing and shouldn't.) Tell me, does anyone else have this problem? On the whole though, I think all of us enjoy the act of writing and creating, even if we don't always adore what we have created when we look at it later. We learn as we go along, and try to do justice to our characters. They won't leave us alone if we don't...But oh, it's hard to be objective when you have laboured long and poured your love into it, it's hard to slash and burn even when you know you must. That's where I'm at, right now. I need to rewrite stuff but I'm putting it off.

Merry Christmas to all of you, hope you have a great break (and make use of that writing time!)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
gozen wrote:
Many thanks for your support, Wave, it is much appreciated. I found a little time today to write, and it's now at 180k. When will it ever end? Why is it, when I edit, that I find I have used the same dreadful words or phrases a million times (like "Finally..." or "and so". I edit them out, then find something else that I keep writing and shouldn't.) Tell me, does anyone else have this problem?
Absolutely! In my novel, I had to use "edit/find" to look for over-used words. I found I was using "clenched his fists," "swallowed hard," "slammed into his mind" and other similar phrases a few zillion times. I needed to go to Thesaurus.com in order to find other words rather than using the same ones over and over. Shocked
Quote:
On the whole though, I think all of us enjoy the act of writing and creating, even if we don't always adore what we have created when we look at it later. We learn as we go along, and try to do justice to our characters. They won't leave us alone if we don't...But oh, it's hard to be objective when you have laboured long and poured your love into it, it's hard to slash and burn even when you know you must. That's where I'm at, right now. I need to rewrite stuff but I'm putting it off.
I think that a lot of us are in the same boat. Very Happy
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Merry Christmas to all of you, hope you have a great break (and make use of that writing time!)
Merry Christmas to you and everyone here! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It seems there is to be a new contest. It is my hope that people of more remarkable talents will participate even if they do so anonoymously. It should be a lot of fun. Very Happy Perhaps some one will start an 09 thread(pronounced aught nine Wink )
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I have something in the works. However, I do not know if I will enter. Only time will tell.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Great! A new contest! I have one entry already completed and I might have another one in the works.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Great! A new contest! I have one entry already completed and I might have another one in the works.


Maybe I can finish the piece I have been working on, for 3 years.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Once I'm ready, I'll probably give 10 weeks to finish and submit a short story, give or take a week. I'm thinking the due date will probably be around mid-May, but I'll let everyone know, of course. This year, I'm thinking that I'll keep it with no entrance fee, but switch it up a bit. If we can get 8 entries, I'll throw in a $100 award, divided by how many stories the winner submits. I.E. if they submit 2 stories, they will win $50, but if the winner just submits 1 story, they will get the full $100 - something along those lines. In other words, submitting multiple stories will be OK, and will possibly increase your odds of winning, but it will decrease your award amount.

Also, this year I am definitely throwing in a clause - if the judges deem that the grammar is just too bad in a particular story, then they have the option, but not requirement, of disqualifying it.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:


Also, this year I am definitely throwing in a clause - if the judges deem that the grammar is just too bad in a particular story, then they have the option, but not requirement, of disqualifying it.


Rolling Eyes I reckon I arter ge' me sam mar o' thet thar book larnin, but 'round here, folk don' cottin to none o' thet. ahem! I mean, Microsoft word! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:


Also, this year I am definitely throwing in a clause - if the judges deem that the grammar is just too bad in a particular story, then they have the option, but not requirement, of disqualifying it.

A.L.Mundell wrote:


Rolling Eyes I reckon I arter ge' me sam mar o' thet thar book larnin, but 'round here, folk don' cottin to none o' thet. ahem! I mean, Microsoft word! Very Happy
Amen on the grammar requirement, kitsuno! And Arthur, I wouldn't put too much stock in Microsoft Word's capabilities; some of their spellcheck "suggestions" are downright ludicrous! Amusing though! Laughing I did manage to load a Japanese language pack into it though, so I can type in hiragana and then scratch my head when the MANY kanji choices come up for a particular syllable or word. Useful...sometimes. Confused
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
onnamusha wrote:
kitsuno wrote:


Also, this year I am definitely throwing in a clause - if the judges deem that the grammar is just too bad in a particular story, then they have the option, but not requirement, of disqualifying it.

A.L.Mundell wrote:


Rolling Eyes I reckon I arter ge' me sam mar o' thet thar book larnin, but 'round here, folk don' cottin to none o' thet. ahem! I mean, Microsoft word! Very Happy
Amen on the grammar requirement, kitsuno! And Arthur, I wouldn't put too much stock in Microsoft Word's capabilities; some of their spellcheck "suggestions" are downright ludicrous! Amusing though! Laughing I did manage to load a Japanese language pack into it though, so I can type in hiragana and then scratch my head when the MANY kanji choices come up for a particular syllable or word. Useful...sometimes. Confused


I think that since there were perhaps ten entries, is it really necessary to say this?
Grammar Nazi Ober Furher Mien Blut, Mien Ehre! 'Domer
If you don't count ze comma, ve vill put you in ze cooler. Ve have vays of makink you not talk!

I doubt I can summon the motivation to get something serious going. I don't feel like opening myself up again(pun included Very Happy ) I really enjoyed what you wrote! I have read it several times.

I got to get the groove back but the buzzkills are like mosquitoes on the mojo!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Is decent grammar so much to ask for? I was one of the judges for the last contest, and everyone was determined to give each story a fair shake, despite the atrocious, impenetrable language in some of the entries. Cut us a break, jeez. If a contestant wants the judges to care enough to read their entry, they should care enough to give their work a cursory check for grammar. Make life easier for the judges and you improve your chances of winning, it's not rocket surgery or anything. Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm on the side of the Good Grammar people. It's not hard to buy a book on basic grammar and usage. There are community college courses on grammar and basic composition, some which are online so a person doesn't have to attend class.

If one is truly hard-up because of the economy, many grammar/English composition books can be bought at used book stores for a pittance. Or there is always the local library.

I know that it's VERY difficult to wend my way through a story if the grammar is poor. If I were a judge, this would likely make me rate the story very low.
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