How is it possible to be given the most incredible premises, the most heart-pounding situations, and then end up writing unreadable slog? This is not a rhetorical question without a clear target. I’m thinking about fantasy fiction here—or, at least, what is usually known as heroic fantasy. What sometimes is also known as adventure fiction or epic fantasy. It mostly involves people pretending to be awesome.
I’ve been running a little writing experiment these past months. What I found may be especially useful for those with little to no free time.
I don’t know about other people, but I have noticed that one of the most effective ways to stifle one’s creative flow is, quite simply, to go to sleep. I may have spent a couple hours before bedtime all absorbed as I worked on something and then said to myself that I’d continue the next day. Then I wake up the next day and… I forget all about it, as if the person who woke up that morning was a different one or sleeping triggered some sort of memory wipe. I guess the deep-rooted rituals and habits of daily life overwrite whatever thing your excited self from 8 hours ago thought was critical. More than once it took me days to remember that I still had something half-done lingering there in the computer. But by then the excitement had pretty much vanished and I had little to no interest in going back to it.
I have written other posts criticizing common bits of advice given to writers, and I have in fact hinted that I believe the emperor to all of them is naked, so here it is: Show, don’t tell. What is it good for? Not much really.
There are also some elephant-in-the-room-sized clues hinting that all this Show, Don’t Tell thing may be, at best, platitudes, and at worst, nonsense. First of all, the entire history of human literature. Pretty much everything written before the last 100 years was 90% Telling, with Showing sparkled here and there to enhance or highlight certain key passages.Continue reading “Tell me, don’t show me your characters’ emotions.”
Via one of the blogs I follow (Amatopia), I found this interview with veteran author Paul Clayton. He talks a bit about his life and work and then he is asked about where he believes publishing is going and how his late works, most of them self-published, tie with that.
Clayton claims traditional self-publishing is too slow and that the selection process has become incestuous, compromised by what I guess could be described as either identity politics or just a very homogenous editorial class.
Continue reading “Thoughts on biases and manuscript reading from the other side of the Atlantic”
But I was never one of these dominant, mega-selling, white males. I was a “mid-list” author, as my first agent told me. But now, anybody that looks and sounds like me, is, in my opinion, wasting their time trying to get past the 20-year-old female, or feminized male, junior acquisition editors and interns. Especially if they write about what I would describe as “traditional America and Americans.”
But along came eBooks and they have given my writing career, such as it is, new life, although not as vibrant and visible as traditionally published books. You CAN publish without waiting five years, but so can everyone else.
You know you are reading fantasy because everybody is a suicidal lemming with no self-preservation instinct. In fact, you know you are reading modern fantasy because everybody (especially the bad guys) cares about his survival as much as the random pin-headed monsters that populate video games: “Oh, look, here’s that guy who has killed hundreds of [insert enemy] like me. Let’s attack him! I’m sure this time will be different!”
Knowing that the writer of a story is drawing most of his (probably unconscious) inspiration from movies or video games —worse, that he is not aware of that and believes he writes “realistically”— has been for a long time my #1 source of reading wrath and frustration. And there’s hardly a better place to see that in action than when characters are trying to murder each other, and since I’m talking about fantasy & adventure stories here, that seems to happen quite a lot.
As is my yearly Christmas custom, I have gone down with something nasty, most likely a strand of the bubonic plague. So because I have been hibernating or coughing my lungs out, I have not been able to do as much stuff as I’d wanted, including posting here. But I feel better now so it’s time for the obligatory wrap-up post.
Howard knew there was no time to lose. The assailants outside weren’t going to let them a few moments to mourn, breath, or pull themselves together, but he found himself unable to muster the energy to rally the people around him, or even himself, out of their glum stupor. He tried to latch on a plan, a course of action to spur everybody, but his thoughts were constantly interrupted and diverted by the faces and names of the men and women down below.
Some of the scientists were starting to stir, or were trying to call those in the lab, to no avail; others were curled against the walls, looking nowhere in particular. Svoboda was talking to someone on the phone, in Dutch, and two junior scientists were sitting down a desolate and silent Wickerman. The cops, although still shocked by their friend’s treason, looked level-headed enough, so Howard focused on them.