Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 23-29, 2017

It’s another week chock full of informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland shares three ways to make your fiction more visual. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate returns with how to write (and not write) expository dialog(ue).

Colleen Oakley guest posts on Writer Unboxed: how to make your readers believe the unbelievable (or, the importance of facts in fiction).

Barbara O’Neal explores the complex power of mapping the world of your novel (with neuroscience!). Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb explains why changing up your writing process from book to book works. Writer Unboxed

Allie Larkin says fighting writing stage fright is about more than picturing your readers in their underwear. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: to sleep, perchance to dream. Writers in the Storm

Jamie Raintree asks, are you writing out of fear, or love? Writers in the Storm

Sara Letourneau: seven steps to honouring your reality. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira recommends some must-read books for your writing library. DIY MFA

Kolina Cicero reviews Scratch for DIY MFA.

Angela Ackerman shares some of her fantastic finds for writers. Writers Helping Writers

Julie Glover guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: four common copy editing issues to watch for.

Bonnie Randall guest posts on Fiction University: what writing rules do you always get wrong?

Elizabeth Sims guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: four methods for developing any idea into a great story.

Jenna Moreci helps you choose your next story.

 

Margaret Atwood shares seven tips for writers. Writer’s Digest

Roz Morris pleads with reviewers: can we open up a dialogue about self-published books? Nail Your Novel

Chris Winkle helps you depict internal conflicts. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi examines five stories that are afraid of their own premises. Mythcreants

Aaron Miles returns with part two of sieges and siegecraft: defenders. Fantasy Faction

Kate Elliott: the status quo does not need world building. Tor.com

Eight words that changed the way we think. Kelley Grovier for the BBC.

Marie Mutsuki muses on the nature of fairytales and storytelling from east to west. [yes, it’s from last year, but it’s awesome] Literary Hub

Alexandra Alter reviews William Gibson’s Agency. The New York Times

Jeff Vandermeer and Cory Doctorow discuss the future of science fiction and the world. Electric Lit

Twelve women authors share how Margaret Atwood made them feminists. Elle

Another oldie but goodie from 2015. Emily Asher-Perrin thinks Real Genius is the geek solidarity film that nerd culture deserves. Tor.com

Germaine Lussier takes a look at the trailer for Kingsman: the Golden Circle. i09

And this is how we improve our craft 🙂

Hope something here gave you what you need to get to the next level.

Be well until thoughty Thursday comes along to pop your mental corn!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 19-25, 2014

There is so much Writerly Goodness this week, I don’t know what to do with myself!

Martha Conway says, Forget heroes: Why heroines are important. Writer Unboxed.

Dave King on the wonders of Whedon. Everything I need to know about plot, I learned from Buffy. Writer Unboxed.

Dan Blank says it’s more about giving than receiving. Writer Unboxed.

Karina Sumner-Smith guests on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Finding rhythm and voice for a beginning that sings.

How many characters do you need? Jami Gold answers reader questions.

Piper Bayard guests on Jenny Hanson’s blog, Cowbell. Little Darlings Anonymous. I need to be a member 😉

Piper stopped by Kristen’s Lamb’s blog, too, to talk about backstory.

Story concept and story premise. Do you know the difference? K.M. Weiland cites Larry Brooks in this post and podcast combo.

Veronica Sicoe finds a strategy for NaNoWriMo.

Blurb’s Coffee & Quill interview with NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. There were some audio issues at the start, but there was also a lot of good information about NaNo and what you can do to prepare.

Moar podcasts from Roz Morris and Peter Snell for Surrey Hills Radio. So you want to be a writer? Check them all out!

Mary Robinette Kowal shares her outlines for Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass. I love it when the professionals give us a little peek at how it’s done 🙂

The comma story by Terisa Folaron. Ted.ed.

 

The Oxford comma debate. Ted.ed.

 

Helen Sword says, beware of nominalizations (zombie nouns). Ted.ed.

 

Marlee Neel states the case against good and bad. Ted.ed.

 

Sarah F. Hawkins, lawyer, posts about the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism.

Roz Morris asks, Have we forgotten what science fiction should be?

Project Hieroglyph’s push for positive science fiction. Eoghan.com.

The Wall Street Journal has a book club and Margaret Atwood just chose Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea as the next read.

Tasneem Raja of Mother Jones interviews William Gibson.

The Sword & Laser interview with Delilah S. Dawson. Teh awesome.

 

An interview with Mary Stewart. Off the Page.

 

Jane Austen on men who refuse to hear no. The Atlantic.

J.K. Rowling pens a new Harry Potter story, just in time for Hallowe’en. Buzzfeed.

Sarah Michelle Gellar on how playing a strong female character spoiled her. Perth Now.

Matt Herron returns to the Write Practice to show how to create a setting sketch using Scrivener.

See you on Thoughty Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 17-23, 2014

I really tried to get used to the new WordPress editor, but I finally had to give in and activate Classic Mode (Dum-ta-de-dah!). It’s so much easier to apply tags in the classic editor.

Let’s start with some publishing news. From Publishers Weekly, no less. What copyright changes mean for Canadian publishers.

Here’s K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcast/post: Can a character’s arc be a subplot?

Here’s her guest post on the Writer’s Alley on what weather can do for your story.

Then Katie wandered over to the Wordserve Water Cooler to discuss how to make a walk-on character memorable (but not too memorable).

Here’s Katie’s workshops & webinars page if you want to get moar of the good stuff.

And her weekly vlog on how to tighten your tale by streamlining your symbolism.

Anne R. Allen rounds up the usual suspects for her post on five protagonists readers hate.

Roz Morris examines how to write a character with an addiction.

Angela Ackerman guest posted on The Insecure Writers Support Group about how to deepen your conflict by forcing your hero to embrace the grey of morality.

Jan O’Hara considers cadence and its power to affect the reader in this post on Writer Unboxed. I started off as a poet. Believe me, people can tell 😉

Dave King shares his love of bafflgab on Writer Unboxed.

Painting vs. Dramatizing: How to make a scene, on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University.

How one writer kept a productivity streak going for 373 days. Jamie Todd Rubin on 99u.

Jami Gold has some fun discovering how writing changes our brains. Brain science rules 😀

I do a little conference reportage, but today I get to feature Mona Alvarado Frazier’s post about the lessons she learned at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Part two will be coming up next week, if you’re interested.

Lev Grossman writes about finding his voice in fantasy. The New York Times.

Buzzfeed presents the epic writing tips of George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb.

I was shocked to discover that William Gibson’s Neuromancer is 30 years old. Egad. The Guardian.

25 pieces of life advice from literature, presented by Flavorwire.

A little writer tech for you here. Bookbaby blog posted about proofreading software. Interesting . . .

And that’s the load for this week.

See you on Thoughty Thursday with researchy, inspirational stuff.

Let me know if any of this curation tweaks your muse, will you? I’d love to know how things are going 🙂

Tipsday

Challenges become opportunities: The Author Salon Experience

Back in December, I joined Author Salon on the advice of one of the people I consider to be my writing mentors, Barbara Kyle.

Initially, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

My first mistake was not reading anything before I signed up, so when I was presented with a profile to fill out, I dove right in.  Little did I know that there was an art to this …  I did read the AS step-by-step guide, belatedly, but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I set up my profile to the best of my ability, sounded off in the Shout Out Forum, and then posted a call for peers in the In Production I Forum group that seemed to suit me best: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction.

The initial group that formed was small, but dedicated.  We started off by critiquing each other’s profiles.

Now, this may not seem particularly important work, but part of the AS process is that professional editors and agents peruse the site from time to time.  Ultimately, the author’s profile will be a marketing tool to those same agents and editors, so it is a critical piece of the AS puzzle.

It’s as important as perfecting your “pitch” or logline, as important as writing a knock-their-socks-off query letter, in short, the AS profile is as important as it gets.

I’ve been at a bit of a disadvantage because I’ve not yet attended a conference where I’ve had the opportunity to “pitch” my concept to agents.  I haven’t started shopping my novel yet, and so I really don’t have any experience crafting a query or synopsis.  I really don’t have an idea about what a hook line should be and how it differs from a conflict statement.  But I’m learning …  and I have to learn fast.

I thought I knew at least one thing going in: even if you have a series planned, the novel must function as a stand-alone, but it seems that everyone else in my critique group is using the fact that they have a series planned as a selling point.  So now I’m fairly convinced that I know nothing, and am approaching the whole process tabula rasa.

One question posed to me was, “why mention your day-job?”  The point was that the information should only be included in the event that it lends to the topic you write about, like a retired police officer writing mysteries/police procedurals.  I’d like to address that here.

As a learning and development professional, I write courses.  Certainly, it’s a completely different beast than a novel, but writing is writing and any practice reinforces skill.  It develops my rhetorical skills to direct my writing to a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Also, as a corporate trainer, I have presentation skills.  It’s a good marketing point and while it may not be on the top of every agent’s list of skills an author must have, it may be an asset that tips the scales in my favour.

I’m more likely to be comfortable in an interview situation, doing public readings, and participating in workshops or conferences on a panel.  I’m tech-friendly, if not tech-savvy, as the result of my work.  I could easily put out YouTube videos or podcasts regarding craft, or reading of my work (in fact, it’s something on my list of things to do for my platform).  I could even parlay my skills into delivering Webinars or tutorials.

Finally, it was my learning and development day-job that got me back into learning-as-lifestyle.  Mutant learning, social learning, independent research, call it what you want, it’s what I need to ramp up my profile and my writing as presented on AS and attract the attention of agents and editors.  I started developing my online platform as a writer thanks to my work in L&D.

What I learned about Initiate of Stone in the first go-round:

  • It was too long;
  • It was too complex:
  • I’m too wordy; and
  • I’m not very good at seeing the redundancies in my own work.

Then, in January, all of my critique partners left In Production I and were promoted to Editor Suite.  Most of them had attended an Algonkian Conference which acted as their respective invitations to AS.  They all received personal notification to move along.  I thought I was left behind.

So I started over with a new call for peers and waited.  Eventually the administrators realized that there was some kind of miscommunication and offered a clarification.  I was promoted to Editor Suite after all!  My relief was immense.

My new critique group in Editor Suite included all of my old friends, plus a couple new ones.

The first order of business was to start over with the profile critiques, and when that was done, we moved onto critique our first acts.  AS calls them the first 50 pages, but I prefer to call it the first act because it’s actually the first 50 -100 pp, depending on where your first major plot point falls.

What I’ve learned from the critique of the first act:

  • My first major plot point takes too long to arrive;
  • The story line for my protagonist needs to be seriously amped up;
  • I still suck at the profile stuff (that’s part of what I’m working on next);
  • I may be wordy, but given my chosen genre, epic fantasy, it works, overall.

Along the way, there was this thing called the Showcase.  AS reps would be showing a foreshortened version of our profile to industry experts and seeing if they could get any interest.  The call went out about the time that the former version of this blog was hacked and there was a little confusion while I reordered my electronic life.  The server on which my blog was hosted at the time was also my email server …

Got that mess sorted, but even though the Showcase went on until May, IoS did not get a single nod.  Almost everyone else in my critique group, however, got at least one, and many received multiple expressions of interest.  I’m very happy for my peers, but really disappointed in/for myself.  This just speaks, once again, to the importance of the AS profile in the overall process.

What I’ve done or am doing as a result of all this:

  1. Cut my novel in half.  The former mid-way point is now the climax and I still have to cut about 40k words.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m willing to work at it until it’s fabulous 🙂 ;
  2. Rewriting Ferathainn’s story/plot line;
  3. Revamping my profile;
  4. I’ve applied for, was accepted to, and have registered for Algonkian’s New York Comes to Niagara conference in October.  If nothing else, I’ll learn how to get my profile together there.

So we’ll see where this all takes me.  The AS journey has been fraught and fun and incredibly hard work so far.

That’s it for this week bubbies!  Gotta get working on my WIP!

For my science fiction writer friends, I want to post links to Robert Sawyer’s two-part January interview with William Gibson:

Also check out Robert’s TedXManitoba lecture:

Are you part of an online critique group?  What have you learned from the process?  How is it changing your creative life?

World-building: Where do you start?

This is a sample constructed-world as seen fro...

Confession time

I’m a pantser.  I write through first, and restructure later, but I do extensive mapping using my trusty bulletin board, and as I’m getting to know the inner workings of Microsoft Word better, I’m learning to use headings to organize my chapters and sections, making outline view a useful tool too.  I have Office 2007 right now, so that’s the best I can do.  When I have blocked some time to learn more about it, I intend to use a master document to further organize my novel.  I’ll probably start using OneNote to organize a lot of my research, world-building, character sketches, and other resources.  More on that in the future.

Process, process, process

Where to start, indeed?  Really, this all depends on how you write and what your process is.  If you’ve been reading Writerly Goodness, you know my process is organic and holistic.  Some writers might see that as a cop-out, an excuse for a sloppy and ill-defined (dare I say undisciplined?) process.  Really, it’s process as a way of life.

Life = process

That demands a lot of dedication, organization, awareness, and the ability to think, not only on your feet, but sitting, laying down, at work, watching TV, eating …  In short, it means thinking all the time.

Plot leads to setting

If you’re a plot-based writer, that is, if you start with the story, then that will be your jumping off point for your world-building.

Example:

Hard-boiled detective?  Then you’ll have to create that milieu, and that means research.  Add Hammett and Chandler to your reading list, watch the classics of the movie genre, and then once you’ve got the flavour, go for the meat.  What time will you set your story in?  Just because the genre evolved in the 1920’s and 30’s doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself.  As long as you can evoke the feeling of the hard-boiled detective, you can play.  William Gibson plays elements of the hard-boiled into some of his science fiction.

Once you have your setting, then you have direction.  Research the heck out of it.  Dream about it.  Start mining your life.  Have you ever done or seen anything that is distinctively “hard-boiled”?  Chances are, if you’re attracted to the genre, there’s a reason.  Dig.  You can find it.

But that’s where you’d start, in the Writerly Goodness universe 🙂

Character leads to plot/setting/theme (sometimes simultaneously)

If you’re a character-based writer though, it’s a little tougher.  You write the character, or characters, first, and the story emerges from them.  Sometimes, you don’t even know where or when the story will be set when you start out.

That’s the way it is for me.

If the story is the plot-based writer’s place to start, then character is the character-based writer’s place to start.

Do character sketches, written ones, and maybe actual sketches, if you’re so talented.  If not, find pictures of actors that might fit the bill.  Have them fully developed as people: their back-stories, their personal quirks, their convictions and beliefs.  Invite your writers’ group, or just some writer friends over for coffee, and have them quiz you on your characters, quick-fire style (it’s in the post, about half-way through).  And, of course, keep writing in the meantime.  Only once your characters are real people to you will their stories start to emerge and direct your plot.  Only once you have a developed plot, will your setting and themes become apparent.  Only then will you be able to truly start developing your world.

You may have some ideas when you begin to write, and by all means, start your research as soon as possible.  If you’re going for a contemporary setting, or a historical one, immerse yourself in the time or place.  It might inform your writing as you go and help you develop your setting with crystalline clarity.  If you’re trying to create a truly original fantasy or science fiction milieu, however, those details might have to wait for you to discover them through writing.  The best you may be able to do at the outset is read in your chosen genre.  If nothing else, do that.

Other options

Ultimately, how you write will determine where and when you start to build your world.  Plot- and character-based writers aren’t the only kinds either.  They’re the only kinds I can provide any guidance for, however.  If you’re another kind of writer, then go with your strengths.  Does your theme emerge first?  Or maybe you can’t write in a world that you don’t know and start off with the world first.  It’s all good.  The point is that no matter what you write, you have to put your characters and their stories in a time and a place and you have to know that world as intimately as you know your characters and plot.  It’s the only way to roll 🙂

Coming up

In the next weeks, I propose to post some of my character sketches and the plot lines that developed from them, along with pictures (though I have started to draw some of them, I’m not finished and they wouldn’t come through in a scan well … also, they’re not very good).

In the future, I’ll move on to other aspects of world-building, including a number of print resources on the subject.

Are you a pantser, or a plotter?  Are you a plot-based, or a character-based writer?  Are you something else entirely?  Where do you start in your world building?  Please, comment, like, share!