I Am Not Editing – Really!

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Editing, Fantasy, My Writing, Science Fiction | Tags: , , , |

I got enough sleep last night after all the craziness of the last few days. It was glorious. And it was so lovely to wake up and realize I’d overslept my alarm for the umpteenth time. I suppose getting a job would cure me of that failing or else that failing would cure me of a job. Either way, I feel rested today.

So I thought it would be a good idea to read a bit more of How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy while I was awake and able to process it. So far I’m really enjoying the book, but it’s also been rather challenging. That’s both good and bad for me.

Having Orson Scott Card’s take on this area of fiction has been rather invaluable for me. I finished reading the chapter on world creation today and am currently reading the story construction chapter. It’s fascinating because there are so many facets that need to be considered in order to write a well-rounded, thoroughly planned, adequately articulated novel. Granted, a lot of those are things that become subconscious, like deciding your genre and then adding in elements that are typical to that genre in order to fit with the conventions. But there are a lot of questions this book is raising for my own story.

For example, I have to wonder if my world is really developed yet. Do I have an organized system of government for my country? Is the magic involved fully scientific and fully ‘magical’ at the same time? Does it make sense? Are their articulated rules on how the magic works?

My answers to each of those questions are the same. Yes and no.

Card’s challenge to think through these expectations of readers is really causing me to want to get into the nitty-gritty development of my world regardless of the story I’ve written. I want to go back and pin down all the variables that make up even the details of the world that will never be written into a story.

It’s kind of exciting and kind of exhausting at the same time. But I’m thinking it’s a good idea to begin working on some of those extra details now while I have the opportunity and before I begin editing that first draft. That’ll make it easier for me when I go back to identify the areas that need to be explored, fleshed out, and detailed. Or nixed altogether.

And, despite the fact this book was written for authors of science fiction and fantasy, I think it can provide guidance for writers of any genre. Just check out the third chapter on story construction. Card begins with a discussion of the distinctions between ‘heroes,’ main characters, and point of view characters and throws out ideas for just how those characters can be the same and different depending on the story.

Perhaps this is a plug for the book, but I’m enjoying it. In fact, I’ll probably go back to reading it some more after I finish this. But it’s beneficial, challenging, and thought-provoking in all the best ways. So I’m going to stick with it.

-Rae-

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Things In My Room

Posted on February 12, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , |

I have to admit; posting on a daily basis is causing me to reach for topics that relate to my initial concept of writing and reading related blogs. It’s not the easiest thing to come up with, especially since I’m not as interested in following the media for inspiration as I am simply letting the things around me inspire my ideas.

With that in mind, I have to say the picture of me in this room would make for at least a simple scene in a story. Setting it up for something exciting or dreary would be easy enough. I’m going to be silly today and write my post with a small writing exercise based on the things in my room.

The ticking of the wooden clock above the desk is too low to hear in the midst of murmuring technology. A laptop set in front of a larger monitor is silent but for the tapping of nails across the keys. To the right, two computers battle to see which can be loudest; the hum is soothing and familiar.

At the left, the door opens to the hallway, cream-colored carpet and stark white walls empty of decoration but for the circular smoke detector with its unblinking, red light and the small picture in a cherry wood frame. Inside the room, the carpet shifts to blue with no transition while the walls remain white.

The light-colored wooden desk sits awkwardly against the wall. It seems skeletal despite being covered with the requisite items of necessity. Along the top lie a row of similar books with uniform sizes and titles. Their colorful patterns brightening up the area. Atop the books perch two figures: a stuffed Snoopy from the Peanuts gang that once held a miniature Whitman’s chocolate box, and a rather bug-eyed, bobble-headed Darth Vader complete with red lightsaber and extending arm.

Along the front of the books lie various odds an ends. A planter converted into a pincushion has a variety of colorful pins adorning her pink ‘nightcap’ with her flowing gray curls falling out from underneath. She hides behind a yellow index card that manages to obstruct the view of a hand-painted blue glass. More index cards hide the jars of coins stemming out from this vision while a little further along the shelf sits a tiny gong.

She taps away with vigor, not noticing the day slipping away.

If messy eccentricity were enough to make an author, the combination of merely the few books and other trinkets on the shelf would condemn the woman sitting in front of the laptop, nails tapping away in quick succession as the world passes her by.

Aside from the fact that wasn’t done very well and I only paused to change one word after finishing, I’m just going to leave it as is. It’s not really enough to draw you in in my opinion, but at the very least, there’s enough offered up from the items on my shelf to make you potentially wonder what books I’ve stored there, why I have the figures I do, and what else might be on my desk.

For anyone who cares to know, if I continued with this, I might write about the Coca-Cola tin filled with notes from friends, the presence of Democratic donkey keychain, the Nebraska Book Company pink highlighter complete with bright grinning face, and the gigantic jawbreaker that cost $0.95 and is reminiscent of childhood lollipops.

There’s a plethora of things just on my desk I could probably write about if I were inclined to do so. I think that’s one of the advantages of being a writer: we see stories where others see objects. In my world, and not my fantasy one at that, everything has a history: from the Snoopy doll to the tin of notes on my desk. It’s just a matter of matching the history to a plot that gives you something worth writing about.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Critiques on my writing? Feel free to leave them here.

-Rae-

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Write What You Know

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, My Writing, writing | Tags: , , , , , |

Pen

It’s a simple piece of advice echoed in thousands of ways. “Write what you know.” That’s what I’ve heard, read, and seen in people’s writing over the years. And it’s the single piece of advice I’ve heard most from others who write.

So I have a question.

How many writers actually do this?

Yes, of course, I understand there are elements of truth in all fiction. That’s quite obvious. And I know writers tend to put a little bit of themselves into what they write. That’s one of the reasons so many authors are passionate about what they do.

But if you take apart the elements of the story, how much of what authors write do they actually know?

Since I’m asking the question, I’ll use myself as the example. (It works well considering I don’t want to make claims on another author’s behalf.)

For NaNoWriMo, I planned, outlined, and wrote a majority of a fantasy novel. Like most fantasies, my novel was written entirely in a made-up world. The countries I created were not based off the United States in any real way. Nor was the continent based off North America (though I could certainly argue that my inclusion of three countries within my continent is similar to N.A.).

My fantasy elements are all based off elements in nature, so perhaps I’m writing what I know there. However, instead of using a typical four-element society, I dreamed big and wrote a ten-element society, which I’m still getting the hang of.

For the most part, my fantasy world is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve never experienced a world where the most advanced form of transportation is through horse-drawn carriages, nor have I experienced a journey through a wild forest on foot that lasts more than a day.

I don’t know what it would be like to wield an element in nature, nor the extent to which a person would have to practice in order to control that element. And I don’t know what it’s like to watch a very close friend tortured to death.

These are just a few of the elements I’ve thrown into my world. Now I’m not trying to generate interest in my novel; I’m just explaining why I wonder how much writers actually know about the worlds they write in.

I do understand some of my world, for sure. My characters have become my friends, and I understand and know them. I know the friendships and relationships I’ve created, and I see the web I’ve weaved to tie them all together.

And as a great portion of what I write is in some way, shape, or form loosely based on others’ works that I’ve read or watched, I know those things, too. But it makes little sense to me to claim that I’m writing what I know.

I’m curious. Are there any other writers out there who have similar problems? And is it related more to the experience the author has? I’m relatively new to the art of writing a novel as this is the first one I plan to finish. So maybe I just don’t understand because I haven’t really been there yet.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear others’ perspectives. Let me know what you think.

-Rae-

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How do you read books?

Posted on February 3, 2010. Filed under: Books, reading, Style | Tags: , , , , |

Instead of talking about Twilight and all the ways ‘Twihards’ are making me angry, I thought I’d try a new tack. So today let’s talk books. Specifically let’s talk how we read.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Most people pick books up, start at the beginning and read through to the end.

I don’t.

Let’s just say that I’m an end-reader. It’s not on purpose, either. As a matter of course, I know some people will pick books out in the bookstores or libraries, read the back cover, and then flip through to the end to see what the ending is. My great-granny was one of those, and I blame her for my peculiarities.

See, my problem isn’t that I want to know the ending before I read the rest of the book. It’s just that I have relatively little self-discipline when it comes to books. I’m afraid I’m way past the days when I could stay up all night reading without feeling ashamed of the lapse the next morning, but at the same time, I get so excited about reading that I just have to know what comes next!

So what do I do? Many times I’ll tell myself I’m stopping at the end of this one chapter and headed to bed or off to work or whatever task awaits me. When I get to the end of said chapter, I find myself torn, unable to resist the pull to see what’s coming up next. I flip just a few pages, ignoring the beginnings of the next chapter, and look ahead to the next scenes.

The next thing I know two hours have passed and I now know how the book ends because I’ve managed to read all the way (sparingly–meaning without reading every word) to the end.

Some people (my mother included) find this practice abhorrent. But, ironically, it doesn’t leave me wanting to stop reading. In fact, it makes it a little bit easier to go back and really read the book. I pick up on little details I normally wouldn’t have and find myself just as enthralled as if I never read the ending in the first place.

And apparently this little quirk of mine is no respecter of genres because I do it to all books. (This is why, unfortunately, I know the endings to a number of books on my current to-read list, actually. Shh! Don’t tell anyone!)

Is anyone else plagued in this way? I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who does this. I’d honestly like to quit, but it’s become almost a habit. I can read a good book for a couple of days and not flip ahead, but eventually it becomes too much to bear, and my hands start moving before I really realize what I’m doing.

So with that said, does anyone have any tips and tricks on quitting? I’d love to hear them! And while we’re at it, how do you read books? Any quirks like mine out there? Feel free to comment and let me know!

-Rae-

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