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Saturday, 29 October 2005
Writing lesson, vol. III
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Garden of Allah, Don Henley
Topic: Instructional
Subjectivity

That's what we're going to talk about today. Writing is very subjective - you never know what is going to interest or completely turn off your readers. The same goes for genre writing.

Horror and humor are two of the most subjective genres. What is funny or scary to one person may not be funny or scary to another; but, there is a trick to writing good horror or humor.

The trick is to write what you think is funny or scary yourself, and write it with conviction. I can't speak to humor so much, but I do write a fair bit of horror, and I know from experience. Concepts or situations that you find frightening, but may not be frightening to others, when written with conviction can seem frightening to others. You're suspending the disbelief of your reader by imposing your impressions of the concept or situation upon them, showing the reader these things in a way that they may not have thought of before.

The subjectivity of these particular genres can work for or against a writer; the good writer will make them work for them by writing with conviction.

Today's word count on short story "Singing Them Down": 1,542

Posted by wvwritergirl at 2:12 AM EDT
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Thursday, 6 October 2005
Writing lesson, vol. II
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Instructional
Today, I'm going to try and give you a little more advice on becoming a good writer. Take my advice for what its worth - that of an unpublished author struggling to get published. Any writing tips I offer here are things that have worked for me in the past, and that I think might work for you, too.

One of the things that I have found most helpful in developing my own voice (which is an entirely different lesson altogether) is by reading the works of other authors. I enjoy reading to begin with, so it hasn't been difficult for me to read a lot.

I can hear you now, sitting there at your computer screen saying, "Oh, ok, no biggie. I read (my genre) all the time!" Well, yes and no. It's good that you read within your genre. It gives you an idea of what's going on in the world of publishing in your chosen field, but it also gives you a rather limited view of the publishing world as a whole. And, if you think about it, it's giving you a limited education, as well. If you write fantasy and all you ever read is fantasy, you're finding out what the fantasy agents and publishers were interested in picking up last year, not what they want to buy tomorrow or six months from tomorrow.

Read everything you can get your hands on. Learn character development from a mystery novel, voice from horror, scene-setting from literary works. You can even learn from magazine and newspaper articles. While the style of fiction writing shouldn't be journalistic, the way journalists describe a scene of a crime or disaster or any other happening can teach you a lot about what is important and what isn't important to setting a scene.

Research is also an important component of reading. I personally write in the fantasy genre, but that doesn't preclude me from doing research when the piece calls for it. Ahh, I can hear you again, "But it's fantasy, just make it up!" Nope, can't do that all the time. You want your readers to believe what they're reading, at least while they've got your book in their hands. Doing that requires research (but research is also another topic for another day).

For now, get in the habit of reading, and reading outside your genre. Read for entertainment, but also take note of the author's style, characterization, and the plot devices he or she uses throughout their writing. By understanding these elements in the works of others, you will become a stronger writer yourself, and will be well on your way to developing your own voice and distinct writing style.

Good luck, fellow writers!

Posted by wvwritergirl at 11:40 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 27 September 2005
I'm gonna learn you something today
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Instructional
I've been writing seriously for a relatively short time (about four years or so) and although my fiction isn't published yet, that doesn't mean I have stopped writing and trying to submit. It's like any other profession - unless you put in the effort, you won't see the results.

But that's not what this post is about. I thought I'd give away a little bit of the secret of "how I do it". My techniques may work for some, and may be completely off base for others. Take my advice for what it is - that of an unpublished writer, struggling to get my fiction out into the world.

I get my story ideas from many different places; I tend to eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers, I people-watch, I like to look at fantsay art, and I watch a lot of historical/educational programming on channels like TLC, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, etc.

Each of these sources spur very different story types. I'm going to run through each of them, and give you an idea of what I'm talking about and how I've gotten ideas from them in the past:

1. Eavesdropping and people-watching
For the dialogue-driven writer, this method can be invaluable. If a certain phrase or snippet of conversation you've overheard is the basis of a story for you, you know what I'm talking about. I don't use this method myself very often, as my characters are usually created first and it's their conversations that get the ball rolling, but I know of many authors who swear by this method.

2. Fantasy Art
This is my biggest inspiration for short story writing. I can find a piece of fantasy art that I like (usually from someone like Boris Villejo or Julie Bell) and then I ask questions of myself about it. If the artist has written a description of the picture detailing what he or she thinks it's about, I usually avoid that - after all, the story will be about what I thnk the picture's about. I ask questions like, "What was he/she doing to get here?", "What is he/she going to do next?", and "What events that have happened or will happen are influencing what's happening to this person?". The best by far, however, is the good 'ole "What if..." question. Take the answers you give yourself for these questions (and any others you may ask yourself about the picture) and voila! You've got a story! Now. Go write it.

3. Television Programs
A lot of my longer works have been inspired by educational or historical documentary-type TV programs. I love watching TLC, Discovery, the History Channel and the Travel Channel. I may not incorporate ancient Egypt into my work in progress (WIP), but I will take elements I've learned from the programs and incorporate them into my WIP. It helps to make your world and the people who populate it feel "more real" when you base them on actual places or cultural norms. Also, you've got a handy reference for your world or culture you can look at any time you need to for that added bit of detail. And people say TV's bad for you. Pshaw.

These are only a few of the tools I've used over the years to develop my skill. As I'm becoming more and more serious about writing as a career and not just a "hobby", I find I'm developing more and more skills every day, learning new things about writing in general and my own style, as well. As a writer, we must learn to adapt. Adapt to everything from family and job situations to our own inner moods.

I hope this has helped a little for any of those who know they have the talent and the ability, but are struggling with the source.

Posted by wvwritergirl at 1:03 PM EDT
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