Why I Really Do What I Do (and Why It Matters to You)
Let’s try a little experiment. What comes to mind when I say, “It’s time to edit your story”?
For many writers, the notion of editing conjures an unwelcome memory of brutal critique or derision—a time you offered your story to a peer or mentor only to be shot down.
Maybe for you, it was a stern English teacher in grade school who filled your papers with inky red hieroglyphics. Or perhaps that college critique group who ripped your idea to shreds and laughed about it—right in front of you. Maybe you’re visualizing the relative who scorned your dream of becoming a writer and told you to find “real” aspirations instead.
Or perhaps—if you’re lucky—you don’t have any specific negative memories of critique; there’s just a general tightening in your midsection at the thought of sending your story child off to a total stranger who probably collects red pens and blogs about comma abuse.
Whatever the source of your apprehension, I get it. Writing stories—even fictional ones—is a deeply personal endeavor, and there’s something terrifying about revealing your creation to another human being, especially when that human’s job (and possibly joy in life) seems to be identifying all of your flaws and weaknesses.
Pen Friends ~ We are starting a series of posts on tips and how to write each genre- Fantasy, Contemporary, Sci-fi, Action-Adventure, and more. This Month is all about WRITING SCI-FI!
First post of the Writing Sci-fi series:
Where do you start when you want to write a science fiction story? Just as with any story, you need to have an idea of your plot, your characters, their world and the struggle they’re going to face.
If you begin with a basic plot in mind, how are you going to structure your story? Is it going to be a straightforward and linear, or will you use frequent flashbacks?
You could insert official reports or journal entries to open a window into other perspectives. Or you could even jump around in the timeline – though this is tricky to keep track of – unless there’s a very plot-specific reason for it, I would caution against this.
Or perhaps you like to start with at your characters, and let the majority of the plot evolve with them. Continue reading
Or: A Retrospective on My Writing Journey
Nearly a decade after starting my first “real” story (i.e. the first one I realized I wanted to finish, no matter what), I am still not finished with a complete draft. That might be depressing to some who aspire to finish their newest tale in under a year, but I knew when I started that I was undertaking a large task in attempting it: the story includes an enormous cast of characters, creating their world from the ground up, setting up a history of at least two hundred years, putting political systems in place (and the different monarchs use very different systems of ruling!!), learning about military campaigns…. The list never really ends, and the stories of minor characters have moved beyond my control, so that now when I mention it to friends in-the-know, I lovingly call it “The Epic.”
I didn’t set out to spend ten years trying to write the thing ( I probably would have balked at even starting if I’d known!) At the time, I wrote to keep myself awake through long midnight shifts at my job. The story grew out of an idea for fanfiction that quickly passed the bounds of those characters, and as I begin coming up with their names and feeling out their story, I realized that I had something unique, and for the first time started to consider myself a writer, and not just someone who liked to write. Continue reading
How many times have you heard “write what you know”? It’s good advice – to a point. Because if everyone only wrote what they knew, we’d have no space odysseys, no dragons, no magical words, no elves or dwarves or krakens… and we’d be poorer for it.
So where does one draw the line between what you “should” write and what you can write? I’d say there isn’t a line, and if you’ve been limiting yourself, STOP! If you can make your readers want to enter the world you’ve written, no matter how unrealistic or crazy, then you’ve still succeeded in writing something good (i.e. interesting). You don’t need to be an expert in fighting to write a fight scene, or on trains to write about your characters taking a train ride. Same goes for flying on the back of a dinosaur, or piloting a ship through outer space – if you can make it interesting and immersive for your readers, only a few are going to nitpick the details. ♦ Continue reading
Last time I talked about killing off your characters, and how that can add momentum to your story, and help shape your plot. But what about handling the emotional spectrum that grief brings out in people as your story goes on?
Grief is a lot like love: everyone will experience it, and no one’s experience of it – or reaction – is going to be the same. Continue reading
In the spirit of Thanksgiving lets take a few moments to be thankful for all of the blessings we have. When it comes to writing what do you have to be thankful for?
Take inventory of your writing
Good story boils down to these four factors: plot, character, setting and craft.
While there are countless other elements that make up the intricacies of a good book, these are the backbone of a good story.
Odds are, you already know what you’re good at. If not, ask your friends or writing community—anyone who’s read your work. Or you can take this quiz to find out. What’s your specialty?
The World Builder
One of the joys of writing Science Fiction is how quickly tomorrow’s technology can surpass a writer’s imagination. Computers the size of your palm? Done. Glasses that help you see 3-D worlds? Done. Real Pokémon lurking in your backyard? Well, sort of. And 30 years ago, no one really expected those inventions to become reality in their lifetime.
So what does that mean for a science fiction writer? Should we all retreat to fantasy? No!
Hindsight is twenty twenty they say. Before I ambitiously embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime, I had no clue what to expect. Sure, I’d read many novels and books and blog posts on how to write them.
What I quickly found out was reading about writing, and actually writing, are totally different. It’s like thinking you’re a good singer because you watch America’s got Talent and belting out off key tunes at a karaoke bar. Time for a reality check.