Intentional intentional writing time. A life lesson learned.

October 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

The subject of “buzzwords” has come up often lately, for some reason, and my wife has informed me that “intentional” is definitely one of mine, and here I am using it twice in a single title. New personal best.

Intentional writing time is something writers talk about (or at least blog about) a lot. They say that if you want to be a writer (at least in a professional or semi-professional capacity) then it’s important to set aside time specifically to write. It’s not time to check facebook or respond to emails or to organize your messy desk (times when I’m suffering from a case of writer’s block are the only times cleaning sounds appealing), it’s time to sit in your chair and scribble or type, even if it feels like the worst thing you’ve ever written. « Read the rest of this entry »

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The selective pigheadedness of fantasy fans

January 16, 2012 § 5 Comments

Or: The tension between fantasy and familiar

(Note: for anyone hoping for the second post on book trailers: It’s coming, but I haven’t had the time to put it together properly yet, so be patient)

Recently I found myself in a bookish conversation when my fellow reader took issue with the use of the word “id” in a fantasy story (though I can’t remember which story for the life of me). The argument was that id is part of a theory of the psyche that was developed by Freud, and since Freud had never lived in this fantasy world, the characters wouldn’t have any idea what id was.

I’ve raised similar issues before regarding technology or terms that don’t belong in a given fantasy world, my favorite being « Read the rest of this entry »

Five lessons I learned from what I read in 2011

January 10, 2012 § 4 Comments

I read oodles (the technical term for it) when I was in elementary and middle school, a lot in high school, and not terribly much in college (aside from what I was reading for classes, which took the majority of my reading energy). Fortunately I’m rectifying that error, by reading more than ever these days. The ‘real’ world, with mortgages and bills and full-time jobs isn’t all glamor and glitz, but it’s one major redeeming quality is a total lack of homework. I’ve taken advantage of the extra time in my life (and the fact that my wife who is in grad school still does have homework in the evenings) by reading more this year than in the previous eight years combined.

Since I began writing seriously, the way I read books has changed significantly, for better or worse. I’m more discerning of everything from adverb overuse and cliches to strong and original characters. Most of the books I read « Read the rest of this entry »

I need to write more like my dog plays

December 15, 2011 § 9 Comments

I hate to admit it, but I’m a lazy writer. Given the opportunity, I will tell rather than show (despite what the psychologists say) and I have the bad habit of rushing through the last quarter of my stories because I’m so anxious to get to the end. With How to Run a Five-Star Restaurant in the Capital of the Elf Kingdom, my fellow author and beta reader, Jay Swanson told me he loved where the story was going, but that right about where a climax should be, it just sort of fell off a cliff into an ending (he was a bit more diplomatic in the way he phrased it). Even before he said something I’d known it subconsciously, so I dutifully took pen in hand and dove back into prewriting, trying to flesh out a proper climax and conclusion. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Three Stooges Syndrome: a life lesson I learned from The Simpsons

December 11, 2011 § 7 Comments

Over the years, I’ve been known to say that everything worth knowing in life can be learned from The Simpsons. That’s a lie. It’s also a pretty good reason to question why you’re reading the blog of someone who gives such terrible advice. That said, The Simpsons have taught me a thing or two over the years (don’t judge me).

In season 11, in the episode “The Mansion Family” (thank you Google, yet another reason you are my Obi wan Kenobi) Mr. Burns learns that he has every disease known to man (as well as all the unknown ones too). The only reason he hasn’t died yet is because in something called “The Three Stooges Syndrome,” which amounts to all of the diseases trying to kill him at once, but by doing so are preventing all the other diseases trying just as eagerly to get through the proverbial door. « Read the rest of this entry »

Does psychology support the show-don’t-tell writing maxim?

December 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

When of the most common things an aspiring writer will hear about writing is “show don’t tell.” I come across it ad nauseum in blogs, books, and conversations. “Don’t tell me he was upset,” they say, “show me he was upset.” But there are a lot of other “rules” in the writing world that are founded on the current literary climate and personal styles, rather than laws of the writing universe.  It’s hardly worth mentioning that storytelling methods have evolved over time and people don’t write today the same way that Jane Austen wrote, who didn’t write the same way as the authors that came before her, and people breaking rules is how that evolution happens. For example, I think the fear and loathing that is often expressed towards adverbs is overstated and (at least for me) counterproductive. Despite their overuse, there is a time and a place to use it, like any other part of speech. This has left me to ponder the age-old struggle between showing and telling.

Enter the psychologists. Joan Peskin and Janet Astington, who have studied the effects of showing and telling on children. « Read the rest of this entry »

Learning from your synopsis

December 6, 2011 § 6 Comments

A few nights ago I was in a social setting and asked the question I dread more than any other: “What’s your book about?”

I hear those words and my heart starts beating wildly in my chest, my mouth dries up, and I adopt an unfortunate stutter. I could talk about my story, characters, and world for hours, but minutes? That’s much more difficult. How can I boil down a year of work, untold hundreds of hours spent prewriting, plotting, and producing these tens of thousands of words into a few sentences that won’t bore my audience to death or make me look like one of the millions of people out there who say they want to write a book? Sometimes I start by explaining the setting, but I’ve found that the majority of people don’t know what “steampunk” is.  This is further complicated by the fact that my story differs from most steampunk in that it isn’t historical fiction, it’s fantasy in an industrializing society. « Read the rest of this entry »

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