Mar 28

Luxury Polishing

Posted: under Collections, Craft, the writing life.
Tags: ,  March 28th, 2014

Quite often, and especially with long books,  writers are up against tight deadlines.   Yes, we proofread.  Yes, we try to find every continuity error, every awkward phrase, every less than perfect word choice.    And we hope Editor and Copy-Editor and eventually the proofreader for the page proofs will find the ones we miss (though sometimes we need to correct their corrections.   The CE who wanted me to have a ship’s weapons “staffed” instead of “manned,” for instance.)  But once a writer is hooked into a traditional publishing workflow,  there’s a limit to how many drafts, how many re-readings, how much polishing can be done in the time alloted. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 28

Paksworld Politics

Posted: under Background, Contents.
Tags: , ,  February 28th, 2014

Many forms of government have existed, and now exist, in our world…many forms of government can be depicted in fiction (including ones we haven’t yet seen in reality, like, um, a completely fair one.)   Epic fantasy is frequently criticized for having monarchies and aristocracies  (and the writers thereof accused of romanticism about the Middle Ages.)    So a reasonable question is “Why are the political systems in Paksworld what they are?”

And the answer is, “I studied history at Rice under F.S. Lear and K.F. Drew and C. Garside.  That explains everything.”   And I see a row of stubbornly frowning faces in front of me, with thought balloons over their heads saying “That explains NOTHING.”  And I’ll bet the stubborn faces would still have those thought balloons if I added, “OK, there was also prehistory and cultural anthropology…” Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 14

Writer’s Toolkit: Strong v. Weak Characters

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  February 14th, 2014

I recently followed a link from Twitter and found myself at a site listing “women who will kick your ass” to go along with praise of a particular book.   All the other kick-ass women were in movies or TV shows, not books, which I found…annoying.   But still.   Once more the “strong woman character” is interpreted by a media outlet as “kickass” and (as comments on the chosen characters showed) not just “kickass” but “badass.”    For that writer, in that instance, a strong woman character had to be both physically strong and aggressive, and psychologically, morally, glad to be bad, at least part of the time.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 13

Craft, Art, Secrecy, Sharing

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  February 13th, 2014

There’s a sensible article about Craft and Art  by Theodora Goss  on the SFWA website.   Goss, an experienced creative writing teacher, has a somewhat different angle on it than I do, but we see both pretty much the same way.   My way of saying it:  Craft makes art possible.   Art gives craft life.   But in the story I’m working on now,  which happens to be partly about craft (in knitting) and art (ditto) there’s something more I believe is important.

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Jan 25

Writer’s Toolkit: Ignoring Expert Advice

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  January 25th, 2014

Now this may sound ridiculous–why would a writer, especially a relatively inexperienced writer–ignore advice?  Especially expert advice, perhaps advice from a writer he/she admires?   Surely that’s exactly the advice to follow…isn’t it?

Sometimes.  And sometimes not.   Every writer has much to learn from other writers.    But every writer also has much to not learn from other writers.    (Yes, a very deliberate split infinitive.)  That’s because of the very nature of the writer’s connection to the writing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jan 22

Writer Toolkit: Research Done Right

Posted: under Craft.
Tags: ,  January 22nd, 2014

Every writer needs to do research at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to be (should not be!) just hours in a library or staring at the computer.   In both fiction and nonfiction, vivid writing that brings the reader the next best thing to “being there” requires research done right…from the best available sources, in the most hands-on way possible.   But most of us (nearly all) don’t have unlimited time and funds to spend on research.   How can we use the resources we can afford in the best way?   How should a writer tackle the research mountain when all he or she has is sneakers and day-pack?

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Jan 20

Egg, Chicken, Omelet

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  January 20th, 2014

Since there’s interest, here’s another post on writing stories.    One perennial question (less here than elsewhere) is “Which came first, plot or character?”  It also emerges as “Is this plot-driven or character-driven?”  Another variation is “Do you get the idea first, or a character?”    In other words, “We know you can’t get a chicken from an omelet, but did this omelet start with the egg or the chicken that laid it?  And what part does the heat play, and  the frying pan?”

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Jan 15

Writer’s Toolkit: Backing Up

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  January 15th, 2014

No, this isn’t about backing up your work on another device or keeping a printout.   (Though that kind of backup is vital if you work on a computer.)   This is about one way to diagnose and fix a problem you have while writing, and it’s related (no surprise) to the problem you might have untangling yarn.

When your yarn (or story) has gotten itself in a tangle, you can either keep pulling forward, on the grounds that it will sort itself out (and sometimes it does, when you’re pulling yarn from the inside of a ball–the entire guts of the ball may come out, or just a small bit that the yarn has looped around)  or you can work backwards from the tangle to find that loop or knot and pick it loose.  This post is about the backing-up kind of fix. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 16

Epic Fantasy, First Edition

Posted: under Craft.
Tags:  December 16th, 2013

Periodically there are online discussions (and arguments) about what constitutes epic fantasy, who can and can’t write epic fantasy, which books are or are not epic fantasy, why someone should (or should not) write or try to write epic fantasy, what settings work or don’t work for epic fantasy, etc.   Given my writing schedule, I usually hear about these weeks to months after they appear and far too late to add my two (hundred and thirty seven) cents to the discussion.   But a recent one (October of this year) in another venue, that I happened across by following links on Twitter about something else (you know how Twitter links jump topics, right?  It’s how I ended up following a bunch of shepherds in the UK) drove me to comment even though I was very late to the party.   It was a sensible, thoughtful, interesting discussion, and I thought I had something to add to it.

It also led me to think more analytically about my own thoughts on epic fantasy.    And here they are. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct 27

Structure: Making a Story Out of a Fragment

Posted: under Craft, Story.
Tags: ,  October 27th, 2013

The current story’s day or two in structural revision has made huge changes in its organization and now has it on an open track to completion as a story of approximately (after some cutting) the right length.    It’s an interesting example of the kinds of decisions writers make when something doesn’t run easily the first time.  Read the rest of this entry »

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