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22 June 2007 @ 11:28 pm
words? why, he could almost make 'em talk  
The Turkey City Lexicon is amazing. I like being in the know about stuff like this - alas, if only casually reading the BMJ held such charms for me.

I've wanted to write a SF/fantasy novel ever since I started writing things that had an end. The only thing holding me back, aside from my own inability to commit, is confusion over where to start. With romantic stuff you can just jump in anywhere, because there's no need for meta-narrative (it is in fact frowned upon). Of all the formats I've ever seen, I like George R.R. Martin's the best, because the snippets never drag on too long, you always know where you are, and he leaves you wanting more.

Out of interest, writers on my flist, how do you plot? Do you plot? (I don't.) Does it involve making lists or flash cards? Do you brainstorm or draw spider-graphs? Do you sit down and write out what each of your characters has on his or her bedside table? Don't worry, I'm not going to steal your answers. Much.



Is it me, or is every freakin' character these days a red-head? No offence to red-heads intended in the least; a bottle makes me one of you. But seriously, it's like red hair has become a short-cut to indicating that a character is spiffy, spunky, spirited and other things beginning with S. Not to mention cool with a capital K.

All I say is: surely it's what a character does to their hair - be it dyeing, coiffing or shaving - that's the important indicator to their personality, not what came out from the womb.
 
 
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pir8fancier on June 22nd, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
I do very loose plotting. Because the getting to "there" is just as much fun as writing about the there. I usually have a beginning, an idea of what happens in the middle, and a FIRM end. The one time I didn't have an end, I nearly hung myself from frustration because I tend to write from point to point. Sure, the middle might slip back or move forward but it's an anchor. That way if some nifty character development or a fun plot point appears as some epiphany, I'm not straightjacketed into anything.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Blue haired boy w/ phonescoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
I kind of emulate that style myself, but when people give my prompts I find I can just write them off the top of my head. Granted, these are 1000 words long, but it's still confusing.

Interesting point about the ending. Mine usually comes to me once I've started writing, but once it does I stick to it. Perhaps if I had an end in mind from the beginning (that sounds quantum) I'd do better. ♥
kestrelsparhawkkestrelsparhawk on June 23rd, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)
I have always been what's called an "organic" writer, which is to start with the characters and see what happens. This did NOT work for long in my rl novel (it's taken two years and some to beat it into any kind of structural shape) nor my fanfic; romance was easy, but once I started trying to include mysteries and action, I got really lost. So I have made a decision not to EVER write a significant story again without knowing roughly where it's going, and for novels, what major signposts need to happen on the way. (Advice from multi-published authors got me there.)

FWIW, I have discovered post-its in several colors the size of a 3X5 index card. I'm experimenting with using them to storyboard; set the main signposts, then use the cards to indicate necessary scenes.I'm going to go back and figure out another indicator for "action" scenes,because my writers group says that and description are my most gotta-work-on areas.

Hope that wasn't more than you wanted to know.

And oh yeah, I don't think any of my characters have red hair right now. At least, the OC's.
kestrelsparhawkkestrelsparhawk on June 23rd, 2007 04:56 am (UTC)
Forgot to add -- sf is its own kind of beast. Worldbuilding comes before anything else, really (although of course it continues as you write.) Patricia Wrede has written a great checklist for thinking about it:
http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm

It's really an amazing list.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Candy lipsscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
THAT is the second most fantastic thing I've seen so far - after the Turkey City Lexicon. I'm all aquiver to print off all these questions and try and fill them in. Gosh, published writers really do go out on a limb sometimes, don't they? :DDD
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Platinum Pair: avec le chat dans gris etscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
One last question - I've been thinking about getting Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Have you read it, and if so, would you recommend it?
kestrelsparhawkkestrelsparhawk on June 24th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
I've read it standing up in Buns & Noodles.. sorry, Barnes and Noble. Would have bought it if I had the financial wherewithal this year. Jones has always been on the top of my fave list, since I read her first book as a teenager (well, I think of it as her first book! The SpellCoats. After that, I tracked them all down.) At Wiscon, it was highly recc'd by various writers. I enjoyed it, but think of it as more of commentary than guide -- it makes fun of traditional fantasy tropes. I always think of it as more a companion piece to Dark Lord of Derkholm, myself.

So buy it if you can afford it, but if you want a book of essays on writing, you might well consider LeGuin's book on craft.

Don't think slash would be unwelcome necessarily. Probably at Clarion -- but in Minneapolis, I took a class from Lyda Morehouse, who says her dream is to have someone slash her work (archangel series). She got all excited that I wrote slash. If you ever come to Wiscon (do! every woman writer should!) you'll hear enthusiastic panels on slash matter-of-factly dropped in between panels on plotting and alien language design. (Loved that one -- needed it, too.)

As to the cards, you need a piece of wall, that's all. That's why I got excited by them. You can arrange and rearrange and stare at them without taking up desk or floor space. Computer planning just doesn't do it for me -- there's something about tactile work that helps me think.

In another workshop, a thriller writer drew how he mapped his stories to ensure a building plot. Each one is a little bigger than the one before... then a letdown, then blam. I'm sure there are lots of ways, though this formula apparently works for him, because he actually makes enough to live on from writing.(atypical).

Ask me anything -- I love to talk about what I know. I went to the site you recc'd and liked it -- not because I didn't know each thing separately, but because sf writers have put them in books, and this is just a few pages I can run off and use as a checklist. I emailed the site to the other members of my writers group. (If you want to write, start a writers' group, even online. A friend I met in the fan world is now helping me with the rl novel, and I'll bet there are lots of writers who would like a group any way you can get it.)I'm working frantically on a chapter rewrite now, and I never would have if there weren't someone waiting to read it.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Marui: kissscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
I hear that. All he times I've started organically with original stuff, I ended up petering out anywhere between ten to thirty thousand words. (I'm starting to wonder if that's my niche - the long short story.)

I feel I should signpost myself as well, but I'm afraid of getting so tangled up in the planning I end up losing interest in writing the damn thing itself. This is always what happened in the past. Then again, I kind of assumed this is what people would be telling me ... I guess I wanted some kind of Miracle-Gro for books. :D

When you say storyboard, is that on computer on or an actual 3D page/board? Sounds like a good idea, but one that would need a bit of floorspace?

That was excellent information, thanks a lot. It's never too much when it comes to the mechanics of writing! Maybe I'll try build up a core of original stuff, then go on a course myself. (I think turning up with a sheaf of fanfic would be frowned upon.)

Hee, I just think it's a bit of a stereotype - at least, using it to shortcut to personality traits is.
Geoviki: betta - by geovikigeoviki on June 23rd, 2007 02:14 am (UTC)
I usually start with an image or one thought, kind of a "who's this, then, and what are they doing here?" Then I take a lot of thinking and walking time to tell myself bits of the story, but commonly the images I see are very visual rather than aural. I build up the story around this core, adding all the parts that let us know how they got to this point, what they are learning and how they are changing, and how it all ends. Which sounds very vague. For the anal-retentive part of my personality, I make up a spreadsheet of scenes, characters, POV, and dynamics to try to balance it. I make a note of what briefly happens. Then I write these scenes in random order and try to fit it all together. After I get it all down, more or less, I rewrite a million times and then have it beta'd and posted.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Black Booksscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
I try telling myself bits of story, too, but I end up sending myself to sleep and/or forgetting most of it. That's why I keep notebooks, although of course the handwriting is so illegible that if I don't convert the notes into story form pronto I forget what the hell I was talking about. [facepalm]

So you actually don't write in chronological order? Interesting. Was it always like that or did you train yourself to write a scene as it came into your head? I'm asking because I write linearly and literally cannot break out of that mould. That's why I have so many stories festering in my hard-drive - I got jammed on a particular point, couldn't write it to the next point, and gave up because I'm so anal-retentive I couldn't write ahead or around it.

LE SIGH.

I wonder how editors work - are they like betas? Sending you back .docs with loads of red corrections? :D
Geoviki: animals - nice - flamingogeoviki on June 24th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
No, I write randomly. This is a product of my years of scientific writing, where the pieces can usually be done in any order, so it's a matter of figuring out which piece I want to work on that day. But from polls and questions, I think your way of writing fiction is much more common than mine. Yet I am really anal-retentive in so many things that it's odd I picked this way to write my fics. Which means, of course, that you could do it too.

Maybe the spreadsheet is the key. Because it's so pretty and linear and organized!
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fake: Ryoscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
Not at all, I wish I had half your interest in it. Come to think of it, I don't think I've actually read any of it. I stick to emedicine and wiki for last minute exam info. >.>
Rosefourth_rose on June 23rd, 2007 07:43 am (UTC)
Re: Plotting - it depends. There are one-shots I wrote in one sitting, with no beforehand plotting at all. For longer things, I ususally have a very vague structure thing (usually a separate file on my computer, where I can shift stuff around and add additional ideas - no longhand writing for me...)

With chaptered fics, I have an overall concept what should go into which chapter, but again, it's very vague and gets shifted around a lot. Sometimes a snippet of a scene pops into my mind, and I sit down and write it even if it's for a chapter that won't get written for several months. Makes things a bit difficult if the direction of the story has changed when I finally get there...

I usually have rather vague ideas about background things (like the bedside table stuff ;) if they won't be in the fic. I see my fics as a glimpse into the characters' lives, which can never cover everything about the characters themselves.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Grey's Anatomy: Cristina/Burkescoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
I stick my structure notes at the end of the story to refer down to. I usually forget to take them off before sending them for beta, thus ending up with many comments along the lines of: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CORNFLAKES?!!

Makes things a bit difficult if the direction of the story has changed when I finally get there...

I worry about that A LOT, so much so that I never write future scenes until I come to them. D:

Personally I didn't think that list would be interesting to most readers (also, am lazy), so I never did it ... for anyone. Goyle's might've been interesting.
JRevalangui on June 23rd, 2007 09:29 am (UTC)
I don't see why a sci-fi story needs to start at the beggining. You always have book jackets and 99% of people nowadays read them so there's your initial info-dump out of the way, just jump in whenever and flashback as necessary. As with mainstream fiction there's no reason you can't start with a action scene that only later acquires significance. A very good example of how to start in the middle(before the real conflict but during a smaller one)is my latest favourite; Scott Westerfeld's Uglies. In the first chapter or so a lot is explained just by naming a few experiences of the main character which ilustrate the basic principles of her world, and since they're mentioned because they're relevant at that moment they don't feel info-dumpy. Although this world is quite original we only get to know about it through casual mentions. *stops ranting* Anyway, I'm glad you're inspired :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Dirty Pair: Chompscoradh on June 23rd, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh yes, one of the things the Lexicon was warning against was the 'white room info dump.' I must put that book on my to-buy list, clearly. :D What you've just described her doing is just about the hardest thing to achieve in SF/fantasy/anywhere. This is seriously like doing weight-training for the mind. Gotta shape up and trim down the superfluities ...
JRevalangui on June 23rd, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
The description is certainly handled incredibly well (my lattest journal entry is a rec of this book without spoilers, if you want more than amazon's description) :) Weight training for the mind...wonderful excuse reason to read more!

Isn't Martin too space-operaish? Those big worlds with a million characters books look way too impersonal for my tastes but literally everybody seems to be in love with Martin! I'm starting to doubt myself.

I just found David Levithan's lattest speech and I thought "that's why Scoradh should write stuff like The Problem with Elephants" XD.

Here's a link(you can listen online or download): http://www.insideadog.com.au/downloads/reading_matters_-_david_levithan.html
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: 4 Weddingsscoradh on June 24th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
I think Martin is a genius. He's managed to create a civilisation out of his head that rivals Ancient Rome or Greece. He uses several characters in different places to tie things together and you do get attached to them - or not, depending on who they are. If I had a tenth of his ability I'd be laughing all the way to the bank.

D: I can't dl stuff on my current sloooooow connection - is there a written copy of his speech somewhere? It sounds interesting, and I've got Boy Meets Boy.
JRevalangui on June 25th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
Can't you listen to it online either? I would imagine it would take a while on telephonic connection but it's like 12mb or something so it will eventually load up, in like 20 min, right? I no longer remember what that connection was like but my adsl is not much better, really. There's no transcription that i could find, i always preffer to have a written copy not to miss anything but...no luck.

There's this part that i really liked, though, so i copied it down:

He basically says that there’s no such thing as an “acceptable prejudice”, not for life and not for books. He talks about librarians’, authors’ and teachers’ moral obligation to get the right books to kids because books can help, can assure them they do belong.

I've Boy Meets Boy too... I've to admit fandom's spoiled me and I expected more, something like TPWE. But it was funny enough.

Martin sounds a lot like Frank Herbert and Dune, so I might like it, although future civilizations are much more my thing (and his isn't, right?).
*goes look it up*
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Firefly: Kaylee w/ parasolscoradh on June 27th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
I've never heard the term 'accepable prejudice' - it's an oxymoron if ever I heard one. With emphasis on the 'moron' part.

Yeah, I found it a bit frothy and froufrou if truth be told. You can be gay without a) green hair and b) the interior decorating skillz of Liberace on crack, I'm sure. Still, it was cute, if not much for the UST.

I've never read those, although I've been meaning to. Martin is very fantasy - all knights, swords, magic, dragons and jousting. But in an adulty NC-17 sort of way.
JRevalangui on June 27th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
Well, maybe out of context it sounds silly. He was refering to people refusing to stock GLBT literature in school libraries or even bookshops for fear of public opinion, when nobody would dare refuse a book written or about a Jewish person, which once was an "acceptable prejudice", one that you allowed other people to have. Nowadays you would have a hard time finding a librarian/bookshop owner who let someone tell them they shouldn't stock books by Jews or Blacks but homophobic bannings are accepted (The other day I read about how they banned "Bermudez Triangle" from an American school library, for e.g.)

I think Levithan was more interested in creating a world were being gay was perfectly acceptable than in characters or plot. Since a big part of being gay is homophobia and fear and rejection(much more than the glittery culture, anyway), it felt like there wasn't any gay there, just a heterosexual romance with two boys (and musical bookshops).
If it was the first ever book on the genre I would think it was a bad strategy but as a lighter alternative to angsty coming-of-age and coming-out stories it was good enough. *has already said way too much for such a tiny book*

Yeah, that's what i was fearing about Martin, epic fantasy is not my thing at all, i mean, i fell asleep with LoTR's movie...xx

Just one two thing that might convince me to check them out, are there women who rock in his books? (from his summaries I just see they exist) All-male enviroments(without slash) are one of the things I hate about those kinds of stories, although Martin mentioned that "any cocksucker would like X" in his blog so maybe the NC-17 rating isn't just the blood-spilling... That might also be an incentive :p
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Gakuto: good morningscoradh on June 28th, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
Odd that I've never come across that concept before! I perfectly comprehend it now. I can't believe that would happen - it mainly annoys me because those are exactly the sort of books I want to get my hands on! My local bookshops don't stock many, but they don't stock many of anything.

The LotR movies are nothing to the book, let me assure you. :D

Half the protagonists are female. They are all very strong, almost Pratchettian characters. I think you'd very much like Brienne. A lot of people also admire Cersei, who is vicious and evil but still cool.

I'm not sure what he means by that. There's plenty of overt lesbian interaction in the books, but any male/male action is only ever slightly alluded to. Renly and the Knight of Flowers, everyone assumes are gay, but again, he never explicitly states it. I really don't know what he means by that ... and definitely the NC-17 would be far more about the sex than the death.
JRevalangui on June 28th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Well, bookshops over here are even worse, let me assure you, they don't even have many books in English than are by Dan Brown! If you're still thinking about going to England to study you should consider bookshops and libraries with all kinds of books one of the advantadges. *can't wait till she gets there next month* Otherwise, there's always Amazon and their ridiculously cheap books (if you don't have to pay extra to have they delivered internationally, that's it).

Have you heard of/read "The Geography Club"? It's one of those gay books that sound more serious but not overly dramatic.

oh, i know, I read both the Sinmarillion(which i liked) and the Hobbit(which was tortuous) and I tried to read the 1º LotR but I kept getting bored so i decided to stop hurting my brain and left it.

There's still one book left on this Ice & Fire series, right? (or maybe these ones weren't a trilogy...), maybe he will get to the slashy action later. I'm liking that the rating it's for sex already :p
jehnt: bsg - starbuckjehnt on June 28th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm just kind of dumping all of the writing links I read, liked, and bookmarked. Link!spam:

Writing Meta by synecdochic - A collection of informative meta posts. If you haven't, you should consider reading her fic Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose which is one of the most amazing things I've ever read. I know you don't like SGA, but I think you don't have to in order to like the story. Also, it has an astounding 27 pages of comments, if this tells you anything.

Musings on Writing by minisinoo

Warm Fuzzies versus Cold Pricklies by julad - On the explicitness of emotional subtext.

On Summaries, Rather than Warnings by isiscolo

Fanfic and Weak Endings by aubrem

Thoughts on Conflict in Fanfiction Romance by penknife - Fairly obvious, but I keep it bookmarked in case my brain dies.

kerryblaze's list of writing resources - Mostly geared toward HP slash but has some other useful links as well.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's of America - Articles on Writing

Beta Read G (whatever that is) - articles and links to other resources - The articles appear to be for some sort of anime fandom but I assume the information in them can be applied to other things as well, and the links are pretty decent.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Dirty Pair: Chompscoradh on June 28th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
27 PAGES? YE GODS! I don't even think Maya has that many.

These look awesome ... particularly the one on weak endings. Ahem. You are very good to link all these for me, thank you muchly!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥