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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

JK Rowling wins Harry Potter battle

September 9th, 2008 by admin

Author JK Rowling has won her legal battle in a New York court to get an unofficial Harry Potter encyclopaedia banned from publication.


Judge Robert Patterson said in a ruling Ms Rowling, 43, had proven Steven Vander Ark’s Harry Potter Lexicon would cause her irreparable harm as a writer.


Ms Rowling sued Michigan based publishers RDR Books last year to stop publication of Mr Vander Ark’s book.


He wrote the book after running a popular Potter fansite.


Following the ruling, Ms Rowling said her legal action had aimed “to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work”.


She said: “The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own.”


The statement added: “Many books have been published which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter. The Lexicon just is not one of them.”


‘Gone too far’


The book had been originally due for publication on 28 November 2007, but legal proceedings prevented it from being released.


Ms Rowling had originally supported the Lexicon website, but she said there was a difference between fans publishing information for free on the internet, and selling it in the form of a book.


Making his ruling, Judge Patterson said reference materials could help readers, but Mr Vander Ark had gone too far in this case.


He said: “While the Lexicon, in its current state, is not a fair use of the Harry Potter works, reference works that share the Lexicon’s purpose of aiding readers of literature generally should be encouraged rather than stifled.”


He said he had made his decision because: “Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling’s creative work for its purposes as a reference guide”.


‘Not about money’


In April, Ms Rowling gave evidence in court and said the encyclopaedia amounted to “wholesale theft”.


The author has always denied the case was about money.


She had been planning to write her own definitive encyclopaedia, the proceeds of which she had intended to donate to charity.


However, she told the court in April she is not sure if she has “the will or the heart” to do it after all.


At the time RDR Books argued that it is little different than any other novel reference guide and should be allowed to go to press without interference.


Source: BBC News Online


Stuart Rothgiesser

Writer, Researcher, Editor

PO Box 27755, Rhine Road, Cape Town 8050


2F, Beckham House, Gardens, Cape Town 8001

+27 21 424 8631 (office)    

+27 72 496 2483 (mobile)

+27 86 602 8888 (fax)


10 Tips for Querying an Agent

August 27th, 2008 by Paula Marais

August 26, 2008
by  Chuck Sambuchino
Before you dive in, check out these essential tips on submitting your work to an agent.


1. If you write across categories (let’s say you write both picture books and adult fantasy), look for an agent who handles everything you write. She might just be your perfect fit.

2. Mass mailing (or e-mailing) agents without considering each one’s specialties is a waste of time and postage. Not every agent listed here will be a good fit for you. In fact, the fewer true matches you find, the more you’ve done your research. Agents love when you query them individually and provide a reason, such as, “Because you represented such-and-such book, I think you’d be a great agent for my work.”

3. Make sure your work is edited, revised and polished. Rewriting is a crucial step to bettering your work, so be sure to have trusted peers give you an honest critique, or consider seeking a professional freelance editor to evaluate it. And never query an agent for a novel until the work is complete.

4. Single-space your query letter, and keep it to one page. Double-space your manuscript and synopsis.

5. If you lack a good opening for your query letter, just give the facts. A simple yet effective opening line would be, “I am seeking literary representation for my 75,000-word completed thriller, titled Dead Cat Bounce.” In one sentence, you can tell the agent the length, genre, whether it’s complete and the title. After that, follow with the pitch and a little biographical information.

6. Follow submission directions (found at writersdigest.com) to a T. If an agent requests “no attachments,” your query will likely be deleted should it arrive with an attachment. If they say “query first,” do just that. If they reply to your query and ask for an exclusive read of your manuscript for four weeks, make sure you give them that exclusive look. 

7. If you have an automatic spam filter, turn it off. If you’re lucky enough to garner a reply from an agent interested in your work, the last thing they want to deal with is a spam filter requiring them to prove their existence.

8. Remember that publishing is a business and there’s much to learn. If you’ve finished a novel, make sure you know how to construct a good synopsis. If you’re pitching nonfiction, you’ll likely be asked to submit a full proposal detailing the book and how you intend to sell it. If you don’t know everything that goes into a book proposal, now’s the time to learn.

9. Realize that these listings are an excellent start, but there’s still work to be done. Research the agent’s website to confirm that he is indeed still seeking “electronic queries for romance novels,” etc. Also, remember the frustratingly sad reality that the publishing industry is constantly in flux. Agents quit; they switch agencies; they suddenly stop representing fiction and move completely to nonfiction. The best way to deal with this is to cast a wide net.

10. Be persistent. Every famous author has a story about how many agents rejected their work before they made a connection. Work hard, work smart and don’t give up.


Even good writers butcher language with extra words

July 1st, 2008 by admin

By Bill Paccone • June 27, 2008


We easily recognize atrocious sentences such as this one: “How would you react if someone were to repeat and repeat himself repetitiously in the exact same way, over and over and again and again ad infinitum.” We recoil at such superfluity.
Yet redundancy, perhaps the most flagrant of all language solecisms, daily slips unhesitatingly into our language. Having become inured, we seldom notice it. Even professional journalists bombard us with redundancies.

All of the following phrases, recently culled from reputable publications, contain a redundancy. Can you spot them?

* I’ll go get the dinner.
* He lost by one single vote.
* They divided it up.
* It was catapulted forward 100 yards.
* Bronxville is a good place for children to grow up.
* Its history we don’t know about.
* The bombing shattered and cracked its every window.
* She tried to subtract 10 percent off.
* They traveled around for an entire year.
* They heard symphonies by 23 different composers.
* Where did you draw your inspiration from?
* The coalition of religious parties was cobbled together from formerly dissident groups.
* They infiltrated into the enemy’s ranks.
* He extended the time forward for them.
* Others advanced forward.
* They whittled away at the inventory.

Even the following short phrases are redundant: to build up; to filter out; eschewing the street vernacular; rice paddies (though the latter has become acceptable notwithstanding that the word “rice” is unnecessary).

Sometimes more than one word must be removed to negate the redundancy. Consider the following:

* Over half of the petroleum we consume is imported into the United States.
* We take it for granted that a baby, once born, will grow into adulthood.
* Not one more dollar of money should be spent trying to rectify the situation.

And from Bill O’ Reilly we recently read that “Carranza executed three college students in Newark by shooting them to death.”
I’m sure, too, you’ve encountered some of the following ways the word “down” has been redundantly employed: the sun shining down; the rain falling down; narrowing down the possibilities; descending down the tribal route; shrinking the design down; tamping down; dwindling down; winnowing down; whittling down; simplifying things down; condemning it all down.

And so too with the word “away”:

* Obama shifted the conversation away from the subjects of race and gender.
* He marched away from his responsibilities.
* Cheetahs have been isolated away from visitors.
* Attention was diverted away from his misdeeds.
* The goalie deflected the ball away from the net.
* They turned away from their heritage.
* The Indians migrated away from the coastal zones.
* She moved a short distance away from her family.
* She was terrorized at being separated away from her children.
* Don’t shift away from your responsibilities.
* The cargo was diverted away from the harbor and then shipped away to China.
* He deflected the puck away.
* The tide ebbed away.
* Picture them sequestered away from the world.

Now observe what has been redundantly perpetrated with the word “out”:

* We filter out the light and screen out the misfits.
* We map out a strategy and edit out what we don’t like before we sift out the facts.
* Her winsomeness radiates out.
* We rent out a house and transfer out from the army into civilian life.

And then we have statements such as:

* Out of 150 donors examined, 3 out of 10 had to be refused.
* Vapors precipitated out as both rain and snow.
* Chinese rescue workers encouraged many elderly to stay, even as whole towns emptied out.
* Separate out the prisoner’s intentions from his actions.

What about his being toxically obsessed with ferreting out reporters’ preferences; the Republicans contracting out their canvassing operations; or people seeking out, plotting out, and figuring out what they should do?
The notion of “time” can also announce itself with inane redundancies. Consider the following: a lengthy period of time; at some point in the future; at some future time; at any given point in time; at this moment in time; from the same time period.

Additionally we may encounter:

* Stock splits have occurred over time.
* Numerous studies extend back in time.
* It’s something we’ll be able to use in the future.
* It happened several times in the past.
* It is still observed today.
* In three to five years they’ll be in a position to do it by then.

Should I dare ask if there exists any reader who has not encountered such solecisms “in the past?” Of course not!
Finally, the word “back” is probably employed redundantly more often than any other. Can anything excuse phrases such as: His commitment stretches back to his youth; turning one’s thoughts back to earlier times; asking for nothing back in return; a tradition dating back to an early age; ceding ground back to his adversary; relaying the answers back; pointing back to yesteryear; funneling back into the trough; relating back the information; reflecting sunlight back into space; shipping treasures back across the sea; reverting back to childhood; extending back to the 1800′s; shifting the emphasis back to a time before he was born?

These redundant “backs” continue to appear perhaps far more often than you ever thought possible.

Maybe you’ve even become accustomed to such abominations as:

* The illegal immigrants were transported back to Mexico.
* He hoped to return the relationship back to trust.
* His mind drifted back to the Civil War.
* The spacecraft sent back to earth its first observations.
* They vacillated back and forth.
* General Meyers transmitted the data back.
* They arrived back home.
* He had heard back from the company.
* They thought the animal existed back in former times
* They dispersed back into the mountains.

Remember, all of the foregoing statements have appeared recently in reputable newspapers and magazines.
And what about this egregious statement? “The president was firmly convinced in his own mind that every last thing he did was right.” Six words in this abominable sentence call for deracination.
Linguistically, it’s acceptable to throw a person out of the house or down the stairs; or to have him bed down anywhere; to give him the time of day or to look back over your shoulder and away from the sun. The problem is not with the words but with their needless usage.

On a final note, be reminded that in this column we’ve been considering only unnecessary repetitions. Of course, repetition can be employed gloriously and for sundry purposes including balance, emphasis, rhyme, transition, connection, alliteration, consonance, assonance, chiming, and even contrast or comparison.

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Thomas Jefferson

Writers’ Rooms: Roald Dahl

July 1st, 2008 by admin

dahl.jpgQuentin Blake
I didn’t go into the shed very often, because the whole point of it as far as Roald was concerned was that it was private, a sanctuary where he could work where no one interrupted him. The whole of the inside was organised as a place for writing: so the old wing-back chair had part of the back burrowed out to make it more comfortable; he had a sleeping bag that he put his legs in when it was cold and a footstool to rest them on; he had a very characteristic Roald arrangement for a writing table with a bar across the arms of the chair and a cardboard tube that altered the angle of the board on which he wrote. As he didn’t want to move from his chair everything was within reach. He wrote on yellow legal paper with his favourite kind of pencils; he started off with a handful of them ready sharpened. He used to smoke and there is an ashtray with cigarette butts preserved to this day.

The table near to his right hand had all kinds of strange memorabilia on it, one of which was part of his own hip bone that had been removed; another was a ball of silver paper that he’d collected from bars of chocolate since he was a young man and it had gradually increased in size. There were various other things that had been sent to him by fans or schoolchildren.

On the wall were letters from schools, and photographs of his family. The three or four strips of paper behind his head were bookmarks, which I had drawn. He kept the curtains closed so that nothing from outside came in to interfere with the story that he was imagining. He went into the shed in the morning and wrote until lunchtime. He didn’t write in the afternoon, but went back later to edit what he’d done after it had been typed out by his secretary.

He wrote in the shed as long as I knew him – we worked together for 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and I illustrated a dozen of his books. I would take my drawings down to Gipsy House for him to look at while sitting on the sofa in the dining room. I don’t think he let anybody in the shed.