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Fringe Fiction General Chat > How do you know if your writing is publishable quality?

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message 1: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand | 532 comments I've gotten myself in a bad position with my writing. I get the feeling it might soon be good enough to start writing specifically for ebook publication, but I've thought that and looking back at it now makes me cringe. My writing ability is intimately linked to my ability to judge the quality of writing, so I will never be able to evaluate my own work.

The question is, should I just go for it and find out? Should I stick some example work in front of a load of people and find out the general consensus? Should I just find someone I trust to be cruel if I need it?

I'd love to be publishing by the end of the 14/15 academic year, but only if the quality is there.


message 2: by Wren (last edited May 06, 2014 03:37PM) (new)

Wren Figueiro | 216 comments That's a really difficult question. I'm guessing every author out there believes his/her writing is well done, but it's hard to truly judge your own work. When I first started writing Atancia (my first novel) I thought it was awesome. I gave the first few chapters to my sister and she came back and very diplomatically asked 'wtf'? She pointed out stuff that just wouldn't work (in the plot). That gave me the clarity to really look at the story, and I decided I needed to change a lot of it.

Once I finished it and again thought it was good, I gave it to my BF. She also pointed out a lot of places where things didn't make sense. That helped me to again tighten the story.

After that it was in need of major editing, even though I could have sworn there was barely anything wrong. I think the best thing to do is to have someone honest read it. You just have to be willing to hear the criticism and improve.


message 3: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) Sigh, damn good question. I wish there was an easy answer and I could tell you, here's how you can tell! You'll be ready for publishing by this date, no later, guaranteed.

But that would be a lie.

What I can say for sure is a rather annoying vague answer of, you just know when you're ready. It really depends on you. Some writers get great benefit from beta readers before publishing. Others would rather unleash the writing on the public and go from there. It also depends on which type of publishing. There's just too many variables.

In terms of feeling ready, as a person, though I would love nothing more than see my thriller published by tomorrow because I know the book is ready, at the same time, I'll still have that nagging anxious voice in the back of my head that whispers, are you sure you're ready?

It's a risk, like anything else. Bottom line is simply you're ready when you have decided, for yourself, that you're ready.


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark First, you have to read a lot. By reading books that have been published, you'll get a good sense of what things make a book good enough to be published. Grammar is important, sentence structure, good use of language. But those are all nuts and bolts things (i.e. things that are easy to point out and somewhat easy to work on) the real key is the subtle things. Pacing, use of description, dialogue. Those things are harder to master, and to be honest, most writers aren't exactly sure why it works when it does and why it falls flat when it does.
The second thing is to give your work to a handful of people who you trust to give you some honest feedback. Listen to what they say. You don't have to agree with everything they say (perish the thought) but listen to them and try to understand why they are saying it.
Also, I recommend putting your completed manuscript aside for a month or so before you go back to read it again. This will give you some distance and let you look a little more objectively at it.
I hope this helps you.


message 5: by Virginia (last edited May 06, 2014 04:12PM) (new)

Virginia Rand | 532 comments I think the problem at the moment is that I'm doing a lot of 'deliberate practice', writing short stories to concentrate on one skill at a time and work on a wider range of issues with the same amount of writing, because I've been told that it's a quicker way to improve. I don't want to throw months into a novel length work if I don't think I'm ready.


message 6: by Chad (new)

Chad Lorion (goodreadscomcmichaellorion) It took me three years to write my debut novel, Totem, which was released last month. I scraped the whole plot structure after one year. I took my time, fought the urge to rush it through, gave the finished first draft to a half-dozen beta readers who gave me honest feedback, and read it at least a dozen times myself. It takes time and deliberate effort, and you know what? I STILL wonder if it was ready for publication. But it was time to let it go, see if it could fly.

I agree with Mark's advice--when you've finished the first draft, put it aside for long time, a month or so. You'll be surprised at how much that will help.


message 7: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) That changes the question a bit. Are you ready for novel writing? Probably. Will your first attempt at novel writing guarantee successful publishing? Probably not.

I have a total of 4 manuscripts that will never be published. Well, one might, if I ever feel the urge to finish it, but my heart just wasn't in it anymore. Regardless, I don't regret a single word. For some, it takes years, not because they're bad writers or lack practice, just because that's way life has worked out for them. For some, they got lucky, and the first time worked. There still isn't a guarantee, no short-cuts. Novel writing takes practice just like short stories.


message 8: by Chad (new)

Chad Lorion (goodreadscomcmichaellorion) Virginia, I threw months into writing my first novel, found out I wasn't quite ready in certain areas, but kept at it. I kept reading novels for pleasure, but also to learn from them. I read up on how to polish my writing, and I kept at it, learning along the way. That's the great thing about the writing life--you can learn as you go and go back to something to fix it, if it's fixable.


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Roberts | 616 comments My first novel took just over a year to write and another year to edit. I read it, re-read it, listened to it read to me by a terrible digital voice, and read it again. I finally had to accept that there will always be something - some typo, some misspelling, something. No book is without a pesky error. You know you are ready when you love what have created. If you don't love it, and I mean head over heals love it, you can't expect anyone else to.
I agree with the others. Writing well isn't something you can learn by study alone. You have to dive in, do it, make mistakes, learn, mimic what works, and evolve your own style.


message 10: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
-breathes into bag-

My writecation this week has me spacing along these lines. I'm still writing and not at all confident about what I'm composing so I almost wish I was just done, could hand it off and see what they thought.

I say bite the bullet. Let someone read and tell you if it's worse/better than you think. The hardest part is letting go.


message 11: by M.D. (new)

M.D. Meyer (mdmeyer) | 159 comments Sarah wrote: "My first novel took just over a year to write and another year to edit. I read it, re-read it, listened to it read to me by a terrible digital voice, and read it again. I finally had to accept that..."

I agree with Sarah. If you love it then its ready (but still have it proofread and edited). Even after rereading my book multiple time I still love it and find it thrilling to read.


message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I believe that if you've been an avid reader for some years, and then you start to write, you get the sense of what's good and what's bad with experience. Most people, even intelligent people, write garbage the first time they write anything serious, so until you have that experience, evaluating your own writing may be impossible. Don't let friends or relatives give you input about your work--especially your mother; they'll all assure you that every word's a jewel. And, yes, putting aside a manuscript for awhile is a good idea if you're not sure of it--even for experienced authors.


message 13: by Yzabel (new)

Yzabel Ginsberg (yzabelginsberg) | 176 comments I'd go as far as to say, always put your manuscript away for a while, no matter how experienced an author you are. It's not a matter of skill or intelligence, just the way the human brain is wired: we can't see all our mistakes, and this is why we need a fresh pair of eyes or two, at least, to notice them for us. Waiting for a few weeks or month doesn't ensure we'll be able to correct everything, but it's kind of similar to bringing a new person in: we don't remember exactly what we had written, so we don't immediately perceive what we want to see, instead of what's actually on paper (or screen).


message 14: by Lena (new)

Lena | 187 comments Ken wrote: "I believe that if you've been an avid reader for some years, and then you start to write, you get the sense of what's good and what's bad with experience. Most people, even intelligent people, wri..."

I agree with everything here. I think we tend to adore our own babies (er, books) even when they are ugly.

I wrote 18 novels before I knew anything about writing, and they are all crap (though I still love the characters, I'd never publish one without rewriting the whole damn thing from scratch). Even the books I later published sometimes make me cringe when I go back and read them.

Practice, practice, practice, the writing and editing parts, with at least a rudimentary knowledge of current industry standards (I still read SP stuff with adverbs EVERYWHERE--readers instantly know you're an amateur).

My suggestion is to get a few books on writing, which will teach you a lot and are way more fun to read than you'd think they would be.


message 15: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand | 532 comments If I showed you guys a sample would you tell me what you think?


message 16: by Lena (new)

Lena | 187 comments Of course! Also, you can post a sample on goodreads or Wattpad and see if you get some good feedback.

I also run a beta reader group here on goodreads, and lots of people who don't want to commit the whole thing will ask for betas for the first few chapters. I think I'm going to do that next time, to find the ones who match my style before sending off the whole MS. It's a good place to start if you're unsure of your writing.


message 17: by Stuart (last edited May 07, 2014 07:18AM) (new)

Stuart Keane (StuartKeane) | 38 comments This may be a little off topic but one of my proofreaders/copy editors (yes, I have two) is a published author. He reads my work for me and recommends changes, edits etc. The second proofreader polishes it (because an author sometimes misses things...we've all been there) and gives me feedback.

I go by the feedback. If they dont think it's ready to publish, I take that on board. Having another author, who's a veteran journalist to boot, is handy but rare but if he likes it, that's okay for me. He does this stuff for a living so its a good indicator that my writing is ready.

Having a trustworthy editor is key, for me anyway. This may not work for everyone but its a second opinion, an experienced opinion, waiting to help me. I like to think I'm a decent writer but every writer makes little mistakes occasionally.


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) I have a few professional friends I can rely on, authors and editors. It helps a lot.

I wanted to mention that the most valuable experience which can help greatly to tell if you're ready is finishing a whole manuscript. There's no substitute for that experience and no amount of practive beforehand will make a difference. Those four manuscripts I have which will never be published, I don't regret because they showed me I wasn't ready at that time.

Take the plunge. Get feedback. And if people express feedback that show you're not ready, don't take it to heart. It doesn't mean you're a bad writer. It means you're still growing from a seed to a gorgeous full flower. It takes time.


message 19: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Brenner (amandabrenner) You have to pretend it's someone else's work. Forget about it for a month, and then read as if it's the first time you've seen it. If you can read your work in that frame of mind, you have a better chance of catching errors and things that don't make sense.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Welke (mewelke) | 3 comments My experience is something like this:

1. Read work aloud. Fix what I don't like.
2. Have computer read work aloud to me (I use Scrivener for this). Fix what I don't like.
3. Send work to critique buddies. Read their comments and make fixes.
4. Do a polish pass.
5. Send to Editor and hope they like it. If they do, then yay, I'll fix what they want fixed. If they don't like it, I'll put it on the shelf for at least a few months and work on other things before I return to it to see what's wrong.


message 21: by Stuart (new)

Stuart Keane (StuartKeane) | 38 comments Lily wrote: "I have a few professional friends I can rely on, authors and editors. It helps a lot.

I wanted to mention that the most valuable experience which can help greatly to tell if you're ready is finish..."


Lily is right here, finishing a manuscript, be it a short story, poem or full novel, will always generate pride and accomplishment. You know you're in the right zone if you can finish one. When I finished my first full novel, I was ecstatic. True, the editing has taken two months or so but it's being polished and finalised as we speak and I don't regret a moment of it.

Amanda is right too, seeing the book from a readers POV is a talent that few possess but can be crucial. I'm learning this myself (through many rereads) but until I master it, I will rely on my editors to do the proof for me. Fresh eyes are never a bad thing.


message 22: by Ken (last edited May 07, 2014 08:30AM) (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I get it to what I think is the finished stage on my computer, then I format it for loading into my Kindle, and I read it as I would any other book. It's amazing what shows up. You can then either bookmark bad places and typos--or anything you feel needs changing--or fix it on your computer as you go. I did this with my novel, reading through it several times, until I realized that the changes I was now inclined to make didn't actually improve the work; my mind was just seeking an alternate way to say it. For me, that's when it's really finished.


message 23: by Stuart (new)

Stuart Keane (StuartKeane) | 38 comments Ken wrote: "I get it to what I think is the finished stage on my computer, then I format it for loading into my Kindle, and I read it as I would any other book. It's amazing what shows up. You can then eithe..."

Excellent advice. I write in a different font to my Kindle. If I need a quick proof, this is a very useful way of spotting the errors...it really does feel like reading a completely new book.


message 24: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Simmons (aaroncsimmons) | 29 comments Amanda wrote: "You have to pretend it's someone else's work. Forget about it for a month, and then read as if it's the first time you've seen it. If you can read your work in that frame of mind, you have a bett..."

Haha, this is exactly what happened to me! I was visiting my parents, and saw a few pages of a manauscript sitting on the coffee table. I flipped through it, thinking it was something my mother got from her friend, whose son was studying for a Master's degree in fiction writing. I thought to myself, this isn't half bad.

But in the end, it turned out to be a section from my own novel that I had written several months before and was an obscure passage I didn't remember.

I'm typically my own worst critic. If it wasn't for that moment, I might never have published!


message 25: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand | 532 comments Aaron, that's so sweet! I hope I'm my worst critic, because if I met someone harsher I'd cry.


message 26: by Brian (new)

Brian  J. J. (jokeboy) | 37 comments Mark wrote: "First, you have to read a lot. By reading books that have been published, you'll get a good sense of what things make a book good enough to be published. Grammar is important, sentence structure,..."

I differ a little with Mark. I'm getting close to introducing some words to the public also. While I have looked at other books for the nuts and bolts, I haven't actually read them. I want to write in my style and have my own following.

For review and opinion, I started with friends and family, but they really don't have the time and the subject matter might not be quite what they like. Plus, I'm not sure their feedback is/will be real or just supportive.

I have passed my work onto some beta readers I found here on GoodReads. Since these are people that have read a lot, I look forward to their opinions and will move forward from there.


message 27: by Brian (new)

Brian  J. J. (jokeboy) | 37 comments Aaron wrote: "Amanda wrote: "You have to pretend it's someone else's work. Forget about it for a month, and then read as if it's the first time you've seen it. If you can read your work in that frame of mind, ..."

Aaron, that's hysterical!


message 28: by Jason (new)

Jason Crawford (jasonpatrickcrawford) | 591 comments That's what I do, too - and then it's like, "God, did I actually write THAT?" ;)


message 29: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Roberts | 616 comments I have gone back and read research papers I wrote years ago. It is amazing how time can impact ones memory. Usually my response is something along the lines of "well hot damn can I bs."


message 30: by Lori (new)

Lori Clark (clarklori) | 72 comments Ian's procedure is much like mine. Only I did it backwards this time and sent it to the editor before I got some of my critiques back.

Now my critiques are coming back with some very good ideas, and I've started cleaning up the ms based on the beta readers suggestions.

My editor told me yesterday she's running a bit behind. :) Lucky for me.


message 31: by Maron (last edited May 19, 2014 09:12AM) (new)

Maron Anrow (maronanrow) | 117 comments I want to second the suggestions to seek input from beta readers and editors. One of my beta readers was also an editor (she works both freelance and through an organization), and her feedback was AMAZING. I had four beta readers, and while all of them gave me helpful input, hers was the only feedback that targeted the weaknesses that stood between "draft" and "publishable quality." She beta-read my book for free because we swapped books with each other, but I later paid her to edit the book (after making revisions based on beta-reading).

Paying an editor is expensive, yes... But I think if you're really serious about self-publishing (instead of going the traditional route), it's an investment you need to make. My editor did two rounds of editing on my book, and I made many revisions in between (based on her feedback and noticing areas for improvement during my own re-reading).

I think it's easy to disregard advice to hire an editor; I did this myself at first. (I'm a college professor, so I'm constantly writing papers and grading papers. I've published over twenty research papers, so I felt completely confident in my own writing ability. "Surely," I thought, "I'm not one of those amateur writers who needs an editor..." Nope! That was stupid and big-headed of me to think, although I only realized it after having an editor and seeing what a difference her editing made. Now I'm embarrassed by the haughty self-confidence I had earlier!)

Here's the editor I worked with if you're interested: Marcy Sheiner (http://marcysbookbuster.wordpress.com/). I highly recommend her. She was a terrific editor (I plan to use her in the future, assuming I continue to write), and she's also a pretty cool person overall.


message 32: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) I just wanted to bring this back on topic a bit. While a good editor is worth their weight in gold, no argument from me, I personally wouldn't encourage paying anyone to tell you if you're ready.

When I submitted my novella, and I only submitted it once, I was shocked to get an acceptance. At the time, I was honestly looking for a rejection, or possibly some feedback, because I was right at that point of wondering if I'm ready. So, I was kinda forced to be ready really fast when this wasn't what I expected at all. They were suppose to reject me, dammit....

Anyway, my point is, no one can possibly know when they're 100% ready until they're put in a position where they find themselves saying, oh, okay, I guess now I'm ready. Full speed ahead, captain.

Submit short stories. Submit poetry. Get rejected. Get bad reviews. Those are the ways an author can tell if they're ready. And it will happen, whenever it happens.


message 33: by Maron (last edited May 19, 2014 09:34AM) (new)

Maron Anrow (maronanrow) | 117 comments I like Lily's point about not paying anyone to tell you if you're ready. My editor actually didn't do that (she just focused on editing), which I appreciated. However, the multiple rounds of editing with a professional editor are what made me see the book transform from "draft" to "publishable."

I also want to second the suggestions to read the book on your Kindle or read it in another font. I did my first editing on the computer, and then I converted my book to mobi and read it on my Kindle (http://ebook.online-convert.com/conve...). That was a very different reading experience. It felt more like a "real book," but it also made it easier to catch errors (both simple writing errors and plot inconsistencies). I think I read my book on the Kindle (making revisions after every reading) at least 5 times. (The first few times were fun. By the end, I never wanted to read my book again. :))

In conclusion... If you can read your book on your Kindle or in printed form (e.g., using CreateSpace) and it "feels" finished (acknowledging that's a completely subjective and undefinable experience...), then I think you can trust that feeling. (That's just my opinion, of course.)


message 34: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Maron wrote: " I think I read my book on the Kindle (making revisions after every reading) at least 5 times. (The first few times were fun. By the end, I never wanted to read my book again...."
That's true. When you edit and proof your own book, it's a long time before you want to read it again. Maybe years...


message 35: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Merriweather (kp_merriweather) | 519 comments I do everything right, the way I'm supposed to. I'm a decent writer and I've had people ask me why I'm not published by TP since I apparently write well - all my books did well in review. However, I have a nagging feeling those beta readers and the writing club I'm in are shining me on, because lately I keep hearing that my work isn't their cuppa when I've been sending out ARCs, and it sounds to me like it's a soft 'your writing stinks'.

It's not driving me crazy (yet). I keep working hard though. I'm eventually going to sell something!


message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian Welke (mewelke) | 3 comments K.P. wrote: "...I have a nagging feeling those beta readers and the writing club I'm in are shining me on, because lately I keep hearing that my work isn't their cuppa when I've been sending out ARCs, and it sounds to me like it's a soft 'your writing stinks'. ..."

It's hard to find good critiquers. Critiquing is a different skill than writing, and then writing groups are such a mixed bag. I suggest joining a few, online if there aren't other groups close by, and then poaching the best critiquers out of the lot. At the end of the day having the guts to tell you, if need be, that "your writing stinks" is one thing, but what's really needed is how to fix what needs to be fixed.


message 37: by Chad (new)

Chad Lorion (goodreadscomcmichaellorion) Maron wrote: "I like Lily's point about not paying anyone to tell you if you're ready. My editor actually didn't do that (she just focused on editing), which I appreciated. However, the multiple rounds of editin..."

Maron, How do you upload a book to Kindle to preview before it goes live in the Kindle Store? I know how to convert to .mobi and .epub, but not how to read it on Kindle without first publishing it in KDP.


message 38: by J.S. (new)

J.S. (jsedge) | 369 comments Sarah wrote: "I have gone back and read research papers I wrote years ago. It is amazing how time can impact ones memory. Usually my response is something along the lines of "well hot damn can I bs.""

Lol. Yeah, I've been majorly harsh on myself lately, of the mind my writing just doesn't cut it (I've read and re-read my current work til I've completely lost focus, I think). I pulled out my old uni scripts and essays a couple of nights ago and found reading through the stuff I barely remember writing surprisingly encouraging. Full of bs, but not half bad and, with all the writing I've done since, there must be some improvement since then, right? I'm still far from the point of deeming myself 'ready' but my trip back in time has at least prompted me to push on forwards.

I also read a lot and I finish every book I start, good or bad, cos there's stuff to learn from both.

I'm yet to finish anything beyond a short or a poem, so the day I do I reckon I'll be feeling mighty damn smug in that success regardless of whether it's pants or not.

I've heard it said you don't reach your full potential until you've accomplished a million words...so a whole lot of practise ground to hone skills right there.


message 39: by Tiger (new)

Tiger Gray (tiger_gray) | 291 comments You absolutely need someone else to read and evaluate it. Choose your reader carefully. You should respect their opinion, they should have some knowledge of publishing/writing, and should be fair and balanced without kissing your ass (imo)


message 40: by Maron (last edited May 19, 2014 11:41AM) (new)

Maron Anrow (maronanrow) | 117 comments In response to C: You can convert your document file to mobi (use this link: http://ebook.online-convert.com/conve...). Plug your Kindle into your computer with your USB cable, and then drop the mobi file into your Kindle's "documents" folder (the Kindle will show up as a Removable Disk). Then you'll be able to read the book on your Kindle.


message 41: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) C wrote: "How do you upload a book to Kindle to preview before it goes live in the Kindle Store? I know how to convert to .mobi and .epub, but not how to read it on Kindle without first publishing it in KDP. ..."
I use Calibre. It's a free download, it converts your doc, and loads it directly to "books" on your Kindle. You do have to have the Kindle plugged into the computer with your USB cable. You can even load it with the cover, if you have one, and it looks like an actual book listed with the rest of the books on your Kindle.


message 42: by Kat (last edited May 19, 2014 12:40PM) (new)

Kat Desi (katdesiwrites) | 73 comments I just came across an article and thought it's applicable to this topic: 5 Tips to Gain Confidence and Overcome Writer’s Doubt. "It’s true: not everyone will “get you,” but that’s okay. Not everyone “gets” Stephen King, either, and he’s sold over 350 million copies of his books."


message 43: by Patrick (last edited May 19, 2014 01:20PM) (new)

Patrick Rutigliano | 85 comments Assuming you've had work traditionally published before (or even if you haven't), my advice is to first find some well-read and brutally honest people. Put it in front of them and see what they have to say. And make sure that you hire an editor with the same mentality after your drafts pass through the beta-reading phase.

Input from outside perspectives is always critical.


message 44: by Chad (new)

Chad Lorion (goodreadscomcmichaellorion) Ken wrote: "C wrote: "How do you upload a book to Kindle to preview before it goes live in the Kindle Store? I know how to convert to .mobi and .epub, but not how to read it on Kindle without first publishing ..."

Maron and Ken, thank you very much. I used both Calibre and the site Maron mentioned, but it never dawned on me to plug my Kindle into my laptop and download it directly. D'oh!


message 45: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand | 532 comments There's an e-mail you can send it to as an attachment that sticks it in your kindle account. I use it when I buy books from other websites and read ARCs.


message 46: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Marie Gabriel (lisamariegabriel) | 46 comments The best advice I can think of is put it on one side for a couple of months and write something else. When you come back to it with fresh eyes you will either love it or see the need to rework it. Always have beta readers and don't trust spell checkers for editing on WP software. Automatic spelling checkers miss homonyms and grammatical errors; they also miss inconsistencies and silly errors. Fresh eyes are always best especially if neutral and professional but at the end of the day if you don't feel your work is ready it probably isn't.


message 47: by J.S. (new)

J.S. (jsedge) | 369 comments Katrina wrote: "I just came across an article and thought it's applicable to this topic: 5 Tips to Gain Confidence and Overcome Writer’s Doubt. "It’s true: not everyone will “get you,” but that’s okay. Not everyon..."

Just read this. Awesome. Seriously, takes a new viewpoint and encouraging perspective and I'm set to push on. Though stubborn spite...gives me something to prove.


message 48: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 1398 comments Mod
I would say if it's been looked over, edited, beta read, chopped and screwed(not to be confused with the music mixings) and you feel you cannot or don't have to have it looked over anymore then it's good to go! Although when you have it submitted to publish and the company recjects it? Then maybe it's back to the drawing board so to speak.


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