It’s finally here! IXEOS: Rebellion, book 2 of the IXEOS Trilogy, is now available on Amazon! Pick up your copy of both books today – great summer reading, now that summer’s finally here. Just click on the photos to be taken to the Kindle links.
Please welcome Amanda DeBord!
When I first started hearing the buzz about this new guide, Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy, I was a bit skeptical. Not like you think, though. I knew some of the people involved and had (obviously) heard of just a few others ifyouknowwhoi’mtalkingabout. I had no doubt the final product would be high-quality. No, my skepticism was over my understanding of the venture. We’re putting out a book with advice from Neil Gaiman and Orson Scott Card and … me? Surely there must be some mistake. Just take a minute to read the names at the top of the list. What are these people doing, giving advice, anyway? It’s not like they actually try at this stuff. I’m pretty sure Neil Gaiman just wakes up each morning, and the Gods of Awesomeness have delivered his latest product tooth-fairy-style on a golden platter on his nightstand. Right?
So, I’m only being a little silly here, but I think you know what I’m getting at. When I first started to take seriously the thought of myself as a writer, one thing constantly frustrated me. No matter how happy I was with a piece I’d written, no matter how close to flawless I felt I’d gotten, there was still something intangible between my stuff and their stuff. I wasn’t a “real” writer. I was just someone who wrote. There was something missing there – some spark, some specialness that was the secret handshake to the club where the real writers hung out. We are not the same people.
It wasn’t long before I found myself taking part in some critiquing circles, and found myself doing some editing, which is all just fancy forms of one of my favorite past-times: giving advice. “You know what I’d do with this character if I were you?” That sort of thing. I got advice myself, too. From writers better than me. From writers worse than me. And it all helped. Still does, in fact.
That’s just the thing. All writers are readers at heart, and we all struggle with the blank page. Just like you. Sometimes the stories come fast, out of nowhere, and really do feel like they’re laid like mysterious packages on our doorstep. With others, we battle with every word. Sometimes, we read an essay by Orson Scott Card and it inspires us to try something new. Sometimes, we break out that dusty old Strunk & White and remind ourselves just how to use a semi-colon. Sometimes, we read a round-table interview with Amanda DeBord and it helps us understand why that editor was being such a jerk, and why we really shouldn’t send her hate mail. They’re all building blocks.
And, all this advice from all of these people, top of the page to bottom shows you something very important. We are all the same people. Forgive my hubris, and realize the hidden message in what all of these great writers are saying in their essays in this book: This is what worked for me. I’ve struggled with what you’re struggling with, and here’s the lantern that lit my way.
Today is the start of the Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour! I’ll have a guest post on Wednesday, May 8th. Meanwhile, enjoy this excerpt from the book:
“Nothing fills a page faster than dialogue,” the writer said.
There it is, the blank page or screen, the intimidating and recurring challenge every writer must face. The temptation is to fill that page as quickly as possible, to advance the narrative however you can. Often the easiest way to do that, even for writers who are not masters of dialogue, is to get the characters talking. A few A few writers are even bold enough to begin novels or stories with a line of dialogue, something I don’t recommend unless you possess the skills of the early Robert A Heinlein, who began his story “Blowups Happen” with the suspenseful line: “Put down that wrench!” Orson Scott Card also opened his popular novel Ender’s Game with a piece of dialogue that immediately rouses the reader’s curiosity: “‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.” Writing good and convincing dialogue is usually enough of a challenge without relying on it to hook a reader right at the beginning of one’s story. Writing dialogue, whatever the difficulties, is generally easier than, for example, crafting descriptive passages, offering insights into a character’s psychology, creating vigorous and absorbing action scenes, or presenting necessary exposition in a graceful way.
Writers who harbor dreams of scriptwriting may be especially prone to fill pages with dialogue, but others also succumb, partly because dialogue is a shortcut and a very useful one. Sometimes a few well-chosen words of conversation can accomplish as much in a story as pages of description and exposition. There are also a fair number of readers who are more absorbed by stretches of repartee than by beautifully and poetically rendered descriptions. (Writers meet these people all the time; they’re the ones who tell you they skip all the dull parts, often meaning those carefully wrought passages that cost you so much effort.) Better just to cut to the chase, or in this case, drop in on the conversation.
The strength of dialogue—namely that it can be a useful shortcut—is also its weakness. Writers who rely too much on dialogue risk leaving too much out. The writer may hear the characters clearly and easily envision the scene, but that doesn’t mean that the reader will. (In a review of a novel some years back, Joanna Russ wrote that passages in that book seemed to be largely about names drinking cups of coffee, noticing the designs of ashtrays, or riffing on the furnishings in a room, the characters were so indistinguishable.) The beginning writer is likely to produce dialogue in which the reader will find it hard to tell one character from another. The useful shortcut can produce a story that is sketchy, in which too much has been left out
Here are the blog posts for the last couple of days. I had a migraine-interruption yesterday, but hopefully am back to the land of the living today. Thanks for reading!
Tens list on White Sky Project – my top 10 sci-fi and fantasy characters
The First Link – The Genesis of Ixeos
From the Bootheel Cotton Patch – excerpt
Mythical Books – review (good review, non-native English speaker – I’d reply to the comment if I knew what it said!!)
Handmade in Uganda
Building relationships, bringing hope
A creative writing blog. Simple as that.
For this is our journey