Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

At Capclave this Weekend

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

This weekend I will be at Capclave, the local D.C.-area SF/F con.

The co-Guest of Honor this year is bestselling writer Carrie Vaughn, a fellow Odyssey grad.  I’ve heard her writing lectures in podcasts (they’re very insightful), but I’ve never met her in person.

The con again this year has lots of cool literary SF/F programming.  I will be on several panels, again this year:

Friday 8:00 pm:
Short Fiction: Where is the new good short fiction found now?

Saturday 11:00 am:
Small Press Publishing: Running a publishing company, publishing a magazine or semi-prozine.

Saturday 1:00 pm:
When Characters Threaten to Take Over

Alas, no reading this year, for some reason–I did ask for one.

I will probably swing by the hotel bar Friday after my panel, at 9PM.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be around Saturday, and I probably won’t be there Sunday.  If you see me, feel free to grab a snazzy BCS flyer and say hello.

Read to Write

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

A recent article on laments that more and more aspiring writers don’t read much.

Reading has always been viewed as an essential activity for writers, whether for priming the creative pump, checking out other authors’ technique, researching the field, or reading for fun.  (Which of course is how all writers started out.)

Writers who don’t read can end up with huge knowledge gaps in any of the above, which often show through in their work.  My favorite is the infamous case of an epic fantasy novelist who had only ever read one fantasy novel before writing his own (and a third-generation one at that: Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth).  It was a classic case of the reader thinking (as the Salon article puts it) “If this guy can do it, so can I!”  The (epically awful) results speak for themselves.

Alas, I’m as guilty of not-reading as anyone.  I do read magazine subs for hours every day, which makes me think a bit about writing and technique, but that’s not the same.  I blame it on not having much time, which is always a lame excuse, and on being very hard to impress.

But over the summer I started my reread of George R.R. Martin’s Ice and Fire books, in preparation for the new one.  I’m enjoying them all over again, and I’m getting a lot of new insight.  I’ve always admired his stuff, and I have kept current on his short fiction.  Maybe it’s that I’m reading slower this time or I know more about writing than when they first came out, or I’m thinking more about novels lately, but I’m seeing lots of very cool story things and writing things.

So maybe this will get me back on the reading wagon.  At least, until I finish all 5,500 pages of GRRM. :)

Opening Control

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

My Homeless Moon cohort Justin Howe had a neat writing post last week about openings.  Justin is a first-reader for a Hugo-award winning magazine, so he has seen a ton of story openings, and he’s written a few cool ones himself.

In his post, he articulates the way he thinks writers in openings establish that “trust” with the reader.  He calls it “control.”  For example, not trying to do too much into the opening; not cramming in lots of introspection or backstory or setting.

That’s a neat way to articulate it.  I often call it the prose feeling “assured.”  As a reader you can tell, in a great opening, that you’re in expert hands.  Like the writer knows exactly where they want to lead you.  What things they need to lay out for you in order to have you follow them there, with nothing that’s unnecessary or extra.

Thinking about “control” or “assured-ness” in openings reminded me of a nugget I read a while back.  It’s via Bradley P. Beaulieu, a new fantasy novelist with a dozen pro story sales, who’s also written some neat articles on writing in the SFWA Bulletin.

He went to Clarion years ago and, in his awesome post of nuggets from the whole six weeks of the workshop, related this one from veteran writer Nancy Kress (whose books on writing I love):

It’s more important to be interesting at the beginning of a story than clear. The common tendency at the beginning of a story is to over-explain so that the reader “understands.”

Well, the reader doesn’t really care about understanding early on. They care about an interesting character in an interesting situation, something to entertain them and make them want to read on, and that’s almost always not the same as explaining to the Nth detail what’s going on and what came before.

That’s a slightly different angle on it than Justin’s “control,” but it’s talking about the same end. It’s a notch beyond the common writerly advice of honing the purpose of every thing you put in an opening. It’s honing your overall bundle of purposes there.

It’s sticking to the bare minimum of purposes to be achieved in your opening. Having them be enough that the opening should be interesting.  But exercising control as far as which purposes you plan to achieve in the opening and which you set aside to accomplish later in the story.

Having that sort of metered approach to the set of things you’re trying to accomplish in the opening also means you probably won’t have too much background/etc or be over-explaining.

Insightful food for writerly thought the next time you craft an opening.

Farewell, New Weird

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Weird Tales magazine has been sold, according to Editor Ann VanderMeer, to a new Publisher/Editor, Marvin Kaye, who intends to edit the magazine himself.  Ms. VanderMeer’s editorship will end with the next issue, #359, which Mr. Kaye plans to publish next February.

I for one will be sorry to see Ms. VanderMeer go. Her editorial vision took WT in a less pulp, more literary and character-centered direction. She published several pieces by veteran writers that I enjoyed, including a new Elric novella by Michael Moorcock.  And she also published many new and neo-pro writers, as she proudly mentions in her farewell editorial, including Rachel Swirsky, Jonathan Wood, Amanda Downum, and N.K. Jemisin.

The former and the latter have gone on to earn Finalists for major awards.  Jonathan Wood has authored two of my favorite stories so far in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Amanda Downum has published a dark, secondary-world fantasy trilogy.

Ms. VanderMeer also bought my first genre sale, “Excision” in WT #347. (That same issue included the Jonathan Wood and Amanda Downum pieces.  Downum’s story is one of the top ten stories I’ve read in the last decade–a creepy yet heart-rending tale of emotional loss and attempted redemption.)  And Ann was delightful to me in person at Capclave last year.

Best of luck to Mr. Kaye with his new plans for the magazine, and I’m certain that Ms. VanderMeer’s editorial vision will continue in her future projects.  But I’m sad to see the new slant that she brought to WT five years ago end.

Weird Tales #347