Yee-haw! Welcome to the round-up, pardners!
Okay, I know, that was lame even for me. However, I’ve come across some great bits of writing advice on the interwebs of late I want to share…
The cardinal sin of any writer is to be boring. According to Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried), “To vividly imagine and to vividly render extraordinary human events, or sequences of events, is the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer.” In this great essay in last year’s Atlantic Monthly fiction issue, O’Brien illustrates what this writing thing is all about…and especially what it is not. It’s not enough to make sense or to be clear; our writing needs to be about something and it needs to move us in some fashion. It must draw the attention of the reader. It must not be boring!
Writing fiction is work; work that too often goes without reward. So why bother? Why do we do it? Joanna Penn explores this question with a video blog on “Why Do We Read Fiction and Why Do We Write Fiction?” Obviously, most of us write fiction so that we can be read. We read, and we write, to escape into other worlds…either those of our own creation or those discovered by others. We entertain and seek entertainment. It is, and should be, fun. Finally, and this is my favorite reason, “when you read my words, we connect across time and space…it’s a miracle.”
Inspiration, that elusive beast. It taunts me from behind hedges and then nimbly prances just…out…of…reach, tittering all the while. Though speaking more about companies than writing per se, Seth Godin challenges us to find inspiration instead of waiting for it to find us. It’s a scary concept…if we accept the challenge and go forth and seek it, we’re doomed to fail…at least at first. We don’t have the easy out of saying “well, I couldn’t think of anything” when the screen, or the paper, remains blank and we’re playing spider solitaire instead of writing. Good advice.
I have often been accused of being weird. Shocking, I know, but it’s the burden that I bear. It could be said that simply having the desire to be a writer is weird in and of itself. Also, my inability to grow completely out of the need to play “dress up” from time to time doesn’t help. Fortunately for me, as Mary Jaksch points out, weirdness is the writer’s secret weapon. In her excellent post on Write To Done, Jaksch sets out three tips to make your writing just a little bit more weird–and thus memorable, fun, and (most importantly) not boring!
Grammar. The jabberwock lurking behind the writer’s looking-glass. Grammar often eludes me. It jukes, jives, and then forces me to wail in despair, proving me wrong…especially when I’m sure I’m right. Apparently I’m not alone, as the Science Fiction Writers of America presents this list of five great online resources on grammar.
One would think me issuing praise to Black Gate for their “On Writing Fantasy” series has become obligatory. One would think I’m being compensated for my sycophantic advertisements. One would be wrong on both counts. These essays are just that damn good. The latest installment by John Fultz explores the use of “Setting and the Five Senses” to create a lush and realistic fantasy world. Whether it is the most outré alien vista imaginable or simply our world with a bit of a twist, the author must know every sensual facet of it in order to convey it properly to the reader. Great stuff (as per usual).
In local news, “The Wife” and I are getting ready for our trip to Atlanta for DragonCon. As a result, my blogging may be a bit erratic during the week of September 1-8. I’m also looking forward to FenCon later in September. If you recall, I’ve submitted a story to their fiction contest…I’m trying not to let my hopes get too high. We’ll see how it goes.