< class="pagetitle">Archive for the “Observations on Writing” Category

Funny how that goes: I’d written a couple of scenes of a short story, and this week, I re-wrote the entire thing in one day–with different characters, plot and setting. Edited it yesterday. Now it needs to sit for a week or two, and have one more pass before submission.

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Retreat at the Rainforest is, as always, awesome. Took the critiques from my beta readers, organized the comments and rephrased them into positive scenes, determined where in the novel they go, and copied the notes above each appropriate chapter. Have re-written the prologue, mined old chapters out of previous versions and inserted them, interwoven two stories and edited chapter one. Nothing like a few days with nothing to focus on but the novel.

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Had an excellent writers group meeting on Tuesday at which we discussed blurbs: each of us wrote one or more for books we are working on, and we sampled several published ones. We each made a list of qualities that seemed to be important in a blurb, discussed our list, then applied these criteria to the blurbs each of us had written. Then we discussed whether we’d buy the book based on the blurb, and if it gave an accurate indication of what the book was about.

It was very cool, not only for improving our blurbs (which are notoriously hard to write), but for focussing on what the book is about. We told one of our members that the inciting incident was buried toward the end of his blurb and should be closer to the top. The author said, “the increasing violence in the world IS the inciting incident.” No, the point where his brother goes missing is the inciting incident, because this makes the world’s problems personal: the increasing world violence is only setting, but the personal connection turns it to plot. The author had a real “aha!” moment and decided to go back and re-write chapters 1-3, but was very happy to do so.

Here’s the list we generated:

  • short but clear, readable (no long elven names); not a plot summary
  • present tense, active verbs
  • instant, fresh images
  • surprise: a sense of normal and change, a “shock” word (eg; Mars) or a key word that indicates tone / genre
  • central character choice; what drives the character
  • strong voice
  • one classic, short line

The central idea we came up with is: if the protagonist is the entry point for the reader to everything in the book, then the main thing the blurb must accomplish

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I know. I don’t believe it, either. But it was a lot of fun. It is a “one ring to rule them all” poem for the opening of the novel, and it is a sea shanty, so of course it is sung (and it rhymes), but it is needed to help the protagonist figure out how to defeat the mermaids at the end of the book. But the coolest part was how much I enjoyed writing it.

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Got really inspired this week about my novel. As an alternate history, it is speculative, but it didn’t have any aliens or ghosts or anything magical–and now I have a cool idea about introducing evil mermaids. This is great, because they will help me save the antagonist at the end of the book. Took some time on September 29 to re-structure my outline, and am very excited about how the new line is weaving in with the old.

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Spent the morning going over 3 related novels to ensure consistency: which magic wielder is in each city, and which talisman does each use? Amazing how they differ when you’ve been working on a project for a long time. Consistent now, though!

And, last night I got two new pages up on my website, representing 2 new stories that are currently out. One story I won’t be able to post (the contract for “Lucy” is 7 years, exclusive–but hey, it’s only $1.99 on Amazon), but the other I’ll be able to post in about a month (“Turning It Off,” December Analog). Also, I discovered that only my webadmin has the password to put the photos up for those pages, so they will be coming shortly–but they’re not there yet. However, in preparing the pages, I found three really good reviews of my work. You can read the review of “Lucy” here.

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Sometimes I do, and today was one of those days. Got up again–about 5 times–between 4:30 and 5:30 and I think I’m over the little place where I was stuck. So excited!

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He made a podcast of our interview, which came up as a result of his review of my story, “Orange,” published in AE Science Fiction Review. You can hear the interview, here.

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Here’s the quote: “Most Canadian writers earn very modest incomes. Some writers try and get by on less than minimum wage. Some people say that’s our choice. And it is. But creating is our calling, our vocation.
Just like anyone else, creators need income to survive. Our incomes depend not just on sales. We also depend on income we receive when universities, colleges, schools, corporations and governments make copies of my works for their own use, instead of buying more copies of the original.
Copyright exists to protect creators. When others use our works, copyright law should ensure the people who worked so hard to produce them are compensated.”

Watch the video here.

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Friday night kicked off with the IFWA talent show, ConVersion Cabaret. We had great acts — even Guest of Honor, Tanya Huff sang! The next morning, I was one of four judges for the Robin Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest, and all five of the finalists wrote marvellous stories, but top honours went to Erika Holt for a compelling fantasy story about a witch who loses her powers and is tempted to regain them by killing a street waif.

One of the best sessions I went to — at ANY convention — was one held Saturday afternoon with Tanya Huff, Rob Sawyer and Terry Brooks on the business of writing. Yes, the marketplace is tough, and one must always keep in mind that it is a commercial environment where the bottom line is the deciding factor. But despite the recession, people are getting published. The keys are: write the best damn story you can, and write for the market that loves you. Persist!

Here are pics:con-version_09,val_king
Anna Bortolotto and Val King performing at ConVersion Cabaret on Friday night.katie_harse,mike_gillett,con-version_09,IFWA
Katie Harse and Mike Gillett chatting about the day’s sessions at dinner.

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