Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 14-20, 2019

The weeks continue to march along, whether we want them to or not. Summer’s passing too fast! Console yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Jan O’Hara extolls the life-changing magic of zeroing non-writing commitments. Carol Newman Cronin says, there are no wasted words: power to the pantsers! Julie Carrick Dalton is interrogating characters about their motivations. Writer Unboxed

Manuela Williams looks at five mistakes you’re making with your author brand (and how to avoid them). Pamela Taylor is extrapolating the past. DIY MFA

Reedsy examines the chosen one trope.

Robert Lee Brewer: everyday vs. every day. Writer’s Digest

Jeri Bronson’s married to a coroner and she explains the hows, whys and the WHAT?! Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci answers all your critique partner questions.

Lisa Cron poses three simple questions that will unlock your story. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford explains how authors make money.

Angela Ackerman visits Jami Gold’s blog to explain how to avoid the boring stuff in character descriptions. Then, Kassandra Lamb stops by: what’s the right way to include multiple POVs?

Oren Ashkenazi examines six stories with failed turning points. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu considers Vonnegut’s ice-nine and superionic ice. Science!

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you found something you need to help you with your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 24-Mar 2, 2019

All rightie, then! It’s time for some informal writerly learnings.

Lisa Hall-Wilson: how to make dominant female characters likeable. Then, Tiffany Yates-Martin helps you get unblocked and avoid writer’s block. Later still, Orly Konig shares the secrets to turning a lemon into a book. Writers in the Storm

Julia Munroe Martin advises on the care and feeding of the weary writer. Barbara O’Neal is a writer seeking experiences (it’s called filling the well). Then, Jeanne Kisacky asks, what keeps your characters up at night? Writer Unboxed

Jenna Moreci offers her top tips on writing healthy relationships.

 

K.M. Weiland examines her difficulties with writing: seven things to try when writing is hard. Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy explains the difference between archetypes, tropes, and clichés. Later in the week, Janice explores one common way writers weaken their descriptions. Fiction University

Emily Wenstrom shares her tips for decluttering your social media accounts.  My latest column came out on Tuesday. How to build an alien: extremophiles. Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews Glynn Stewart about twisting the tropes of military science fiction. DIY MFA

Jerry B. Jenkins stops by Writers Helping Writers to help you write backstory through dialogue.

Chris Winkle wants you to plan super light stories. Mythcreants

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found something to help you progress in your creative endeavours.

Be well until next time!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 25-31, 2018

I proudly present you informal writerly learnings for the week.

K.M. Weiland answers seven frequently asked questions. Helping Writers Become Authors

Anne Greenwood Brown discusses visual thinking on Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal shares a few tips on dealing with judgement. Writer Unboxed

John J. Kelley: what mystery propels your novel? Writer Unboxed

Jeff Shear guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: a brief history of the fantasy genre.

Kristen Lamb warns about the dangers of premature editing.

Jami Gold fills in another blank in her writing craft master list: parallelism.

Chuck Wendig offers an analogy for character agency: history versus destiny. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle lists six types of turning points for climaxes. Mythcreants

Jenna Moreci lists the ten tropes that drive her crazy in fiction.

 

Then, she follows up with the ten tropes she LURVES.

 

N.K. Jemisin interviews Neil Gaiman on writing the comics—and queer characters—we need. Literary Hub

Halimah Marcus and Benjamin Samuel came up with this fun way to build a novel pitch. Think I’ll use a D20 and a D6 🙂 Electric Lit

Geeta Dayal shares Ursula K. Le Guin’s deeply weird and enjoyable electronica album. Because Ursula. The Guardian

And that was Tipsday.

Be well until Thursday!

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Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Deconstructing tropes

First, a disclaimer

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.

We good?

Alrightie, then!

Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet, Charlotte Ashley, K.W. Ramsey

KWR: What if you love genre, but hate tropes?

LB: Tropes are clichés. They’re mass produced. They’re widgets. Genre is more than just the tropes that are common to it. Genre is an assumed set of knowledge. This can include tropes, but it’s more enjoyable for most readers if the writer alludes to tropes rather than spelling them out in the same ways as other writers before them.

GZM: We have archetypes, the Hero’s Journey. That’s structure. To use a construction metaphor, not every house will be built the same way, even if the builders start out with exactly the same materials.

KWR: You have to understand the tropes to use them properly. When you understand what an FTL [faster than light] drive is, and the scientific problems attendant upon creating one, then you can use it well.

GZM: Butcher does that with Harry Dresden. He’s a wizard, and powerful, but he lives without any of the benefits you would think go with that power.

CA: Dresden is basically an import into urban fantasy of the hardboiled detective trope.

KWR: And there are writers who do this well. Firefly mixed science fiction and the tropes of the western. Defiance tried to do something similar, but they didn’t understand the tropes they were trying to use in enough depth to use them well. The writers behind Firefly were conscious of what they were doing and wrote around their tropes intentionally.

GZM: After the Civil War, people went west, not seeking adventure, but because they’d been on the losing side.

KWR: Defiance trots out their tropes too obviously: here’s the stagecoach episode, etc.

LB: A photocopy of a photocopy eventually fades to nothing. If we see the same tropes used similarly in story after story, they lose meaning.

GZM: If the writer wants to be successful, she has to bring something new to inform the trope and give it fresh life.

LB: We all read books for different reasons. Some readers want comfort and familiarity. For these readers, tropes are fine. Some readers want their minds blown.

CA: In that sense, Firefly does not subvert its tropes.

GZM: It’s not just the tropes, though. Characters can bring something fresh as well. Tropes alone will only get you so far.

CA: Comfort reading is like decor. Mind-blowing reading is deeper.

LB: The stories that meant something to us as children need to be reinvented for a modern audience.

GZM: Myth is bigger than the telling.

CA: Look at Diana Wynn Jones’s retelling of Tam Lin.

LB: The books that point out that “this is messed up” further the conversation. We need these conversations.

KWR: Literature is cyclical. It responds to what has gone before but also invites the next voice to the conversation. The pendulum is always swinging.

GZM: In the 50’s and the 60’s, the cold war was a huge trope in science fiction. Recent authors have brought that tropes forward successfully.

LB: There’s a genre fallacy that there should only be one conversation going on, though. For example, post-colonialism is not part of the SF conversation.

CA: A Stranger in the Laundry speaks to that.

[There was a short side-track into the Hugo’s controversy that I chose not to record.]

CA: Is Star Wars not a post-colonial narrative?

KWR: The Jedis are basically samurai. It all goes back to the Tokugawa gun law.

GZM: What about Carpe Demon? The protagonist is an everyday person. She has to get the kids to school, work, manage her household, and still fight demons.

LB: That’s just good writing. Rounded characters are the result of good writing. Kate Elliott is an underrated writer. Karen Addison’s The Goblin King is fabulous also.

And we were out of time.

Next week: You get a double shot. Science Fiction in YA from Ad Astra 2015 and my next chapter April update.

I failed the test

Back in December, Robert J. Sawyer shared this: http://www.rinkworks.com/fnovel/

Rinkworks warns the following:

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.

The problem is … I answered yes more than once.

Specifically:

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme bad guy?

Well, it’s about three young characters, two who “come of age” and one who just figures out what his damage is, spanks his inner moppet and gets on with it, all three of whom have roles to play in the defeat of the dark god Yllel, and his sourcerous servant Kane.

12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?

Yes, Aeldred is dithering and occasionally confused, but he is the exception and considerably younger than most of the magickal movers and shakers in my novel.  Plus, he’s not even close to being a main character.

21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?

That would be Aislinn, actually and she’s not torn so much between the two peoples as derided and feared by both because she is the first child born of a Tellurin (my version of humans) and an eleph (my version of elves).  She’s actually going to be pivotal in uniting the two peoples.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

Actually, all of the above.  I’ve changed the names slightly and given them different origins.  My orcs are called okante and are peaceful tribes-people who generally live in harmony with the Tellurin tribes of the north.  They’re only drawn in as villains because Yllel tricks them into soul-slavery.  My elves, as mentioned above, are called eleph and they come from a different world.  One of my gods tries to do something good, but ends up tearing a hole in the world and sucking half the population of Elphindar into Tellurin before the gap can be closed.  The eleph are not pleased.  Dwarves are called dwergen, and are the children of the elemental Gods of earth and fire.  Rather than halflings, I have gnomes I call dwergini and they are the children of earth and air.  Neither race is terribly differentiated from their fantastic forefathers, but they’re certainly not dour and I try not to make them overtly stereotypical.

Enough of the justification, but I can tell you that I was not a little disconcerted by saying yes even those four times.

Fantasy Forest

Fantasy Forest (Photo credit: ozjimbob)

Then, in January, Author Salon posted this for the benefit of the Fantasy and YA Fantasy peer groups, two of the more active in the AS fold: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/fantasytropes/

Again, I shook in my metaphorical boots because my story is fairly littered with orcs, trolls (which I call krean), ogres (the gunden), etc.  Will renaming be sufficient?  It’s not like any of them play a significant role, but they are there in their standard and stereotypical glory.

I started questioning the value of my novel in a serious and neurotic way.  Then I sat back and tried to put things into perspective.  My story is not “about” any of these tropes, save perhaps for my protagonists coming of age, finding power, and defeating the big bad.  Renaming will likely be sufficient in most cases.  I don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I almost failed another one

AS says it wants thick-skinned writers.  Though I do tend to take some criticism more to heart, or react poorly to some of their advice (largely because I think that it’s being posted because someone has looked at my work and though poorly of it, even though I “know” I’m not that important to anyone), I’m learning to understand being thick-skinned in the same way I understand being courageous.  Being brave doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid; being brave means that you act despite your fear and try not to let it limit you.  I’m taking the same, long view of being thick-skinned.  It doesn’t mean that my confidence isn’t shaken; it means that even when it is, I get my shit together and soldier on.

Then Rachelle Gardner posted this in March:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/03/do-you-have-a-thick-skin/

It’s good to know that agents feel the same way us writers do sometimes 🙂

Writing well is the best revenge 🙂

Then I came across a very helpful blog post:

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/writing-rules-10-experts-take-on-the-writers-rulebook?et_mid=538945&rid=3085641

I’ve always aspired to be transgressive; sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not so much.  I think ultimately, I have to focus on writing the best novel I can, so that when I do break the rules, I’ll be forgiven.  It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, right?  It’s such a relief to know that I can write my way out of the corner I seem to be getting scrunched into.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness

In future posts, I want to get a bit into the background of the novel, stuff that won’t necessarily be in it, but all of the window dressing I developed so that my world would work fairly consistently.  Stuff like cosmology, the historical timeline leading up to the novel, religion, the way magic works, my various peoples and their origins (in more detail than above), naming conventions, and some of the unique things about Tellurin.  In other words, I’m going to write about world-building.  Have any interest in that?

What are your feelings about tropes and their use/overuse?  Would you fail Rinkworks’ test?  What about the Author Salon article?  Does it give you pause?

If you liked this post, feel free to use the “like” or sharing buttons below.  Or, you may consider subscribing via email, or RSS feed (there are links below each post, or on right side menu on my home page).

Until next week!