Monday, September 29, 2014

Questions you should answer for yourself about THE CONFLICT

Everyone knows that there's no story without conflict, right? I mean, if you're writing a story, you should have figured this out. But here's the thing: sometimes people just throw in a conflict for the sake of drama (::cough - nearly every show about teenagers ever - cough::), but they don't seem to understand that drama as a phrase, and the actual thing that is drama are not the same thing. The first one is just people fighting for no good reason. Think reality television. The other is a literary device that is closely linked to the struggle over the central conflict of the story.

So when you're deciding what your characters will be fighting for, here's some things to ask yourself and to find good answers for:

  • Is the conflict personal for at least one, and preferably more, of your characters?
  • Is the conflict both internal and external--just just other people or the world harping on your character, but some actual struggle over some Big Idea inside the character's own heart and head?
  • Is the Big Idea in question closely tied to the core of the story? If your story is about a guy trying to get out from under some oppressive social injustice to save the world, is his internal struggle over those things? If he's worried about something unrelated to social issues, family issues, Good and Bad, or personal doubt, maybe you should rethink that some.
  • Do the characters in the book reflect different opinions on the central conflict, and act in ways that cause plot-useful other conflicts? Do these other conflicts have as much meaning in the context of the story as the main one, or are they just there to be convenient?
  • Is the resolution of the conflict the main problem of the story? Because it should be.
  • Is the conflict too literal? Being totally literal--a war story about people shooting each other, only-- is simplistic and boring. Try working out a war story about how ideology makes it so that people do things they wouldn't normally do, and then have to deal with the emotional and mental fallout of having become something they aren't.
  • Is the conflict a believable outgrowth of the pasts of the characters AND the history of the land?
  • If the conflict can be dealt with just by talking to each other, it's not really conflict; there has to be a good reason they aren't talking to each other, not just childish stubbornness. Are they incapable of talking? Is there so much history and bloodshed that they have no common ground? Are they speaking different languages, or trying too hard for opposing goals?
  • Is the conflict big enough to run a story, but not so big that it's insurmountable? Nothing kills a story so well as setting up a challenge the hero/s can't get past.
  • Is the conflict multifaceted so that different characters can take different takes on it and act on them?
If you have your conflict worked out, even just a little, the rest of the story becomes a lot easier to write!

The Pipeline

This summer has been one big pile of stress and mess, and now that it's fall and I don't have so much of the heat and light beating down on me, I'm starting to unwind and get back on track. Again. I'm pretty sure the whole act of being a writer is the story of constantly getting back on track.

This morning, I replanned EMBER because I realized that even though I was writing a trilogy, it was actually one very long story, and I had to have a plan for it. I'm still not really a planner, but vague guidance is better than none at all. And Ember keeps slipping out of my grip and going wandering in the wilds, so it needs guidance.

I also set up the vague chapter outline of THE SOUND OF BIRDS SINGING, which is going to be this year's NaNoWriMo project. Last year's project, BEACON, turned out to be, like, half or less of the actual story I was trying to tell, and so it's still in revisions; I keep hitting horrible snarls that happened because I was writing really quickly without thinking about it much and skipping over a lot of stuff. I'm hoping this year's guidelines are clearer so that I don't get into that sort of a mess again, because damn, that's hard. Like, revisions are hard enough anyway, and then to find out while doing them that you haven't actually written two thirds of the story yet? Terrible. But I think it's going to be so good when it's done.

MARRIED TO THE WIND is still looking for a home. The longer it sits here, finished but unpublished, though, the more I think maybe I should go back and noodle with it some more...which is a very dangerous line of thought, because I have other stories that need doing.

Sometime next month, I'm going to launch the first of a series of prompt books called DIVISION OF MUSE RELATIONS. This one is all Fantasy-themed prompts, and I'll be selling it through Gumroad by way of the link up there in the top bar that says SHOP. I'm currently figuring out how to format a pdf so that it looks like a professional book, and I'm deciding on a cover that doesn't look cheesy or cheap. 
Each of these little ebooks will be 100 ideas for starting stories, and I'll price them cheaply so that everyone can get a copy. And I'd love to see the sorts of stories that happen because of this pile of sparks I'm handing out!

Also today, I decided that another story that's been sitting in my head for a while is not, after all, a novel. It's a comic book. And that's all I can say about that right now.

Next up, I'm figuring out what even I'm trying to do with the current new novel, the first in the Drae'Nati series, which is currently unnamed because I had a perfect name for it and can't remember where I wrote it down. That's a big one, probably maybe five books covering at least one generation on this planet, and is probably actually soft-scifi, which is a nice change.

What're you working on?

Website Tweaks!

Hello my lovely readers!

I cleaned out my menu bar a little, combined some of the pages that were starting to be redundant. Simplified my About Me page. And I'll probably do more, later, as it comes to me!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Self-indulgent questions about books and reading 10

46: Which author do you think you'd be friends with?
I feel like I'd get along with Robin McKinley, and Cassandra Clare. Last FM says I have similar tastes to Neil Gaiman, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him when I met him last year. I've had good random mini-convos with various authors online, and I think we could be friends if proper conversations went as well.

I'm already friends with some great upcoming authors!

47: What book have you reread the most?
Probably...Narnia? Maybe Last Unicorn? Wuthering Heights? I don't really re-read books that often because there's so many that I haven't read at all, so it's got to be one I really, really love, or one that I've been forced to read over again at school (Things Fall Apart, Outsiders).

48: Which books do you consider "classics"?
Having a degree in English, pretty much the ones that are generally considered classics--but I'd add more written by women, more from outside the US and UK, and more from the popular genres. My personal classics are the ones that really sank into my head when I was a kid, ones that shaped me and how I write, but are not necessarily ones that I'd make a class read if I had to teach a class on the "classics". I think everyone needs to have their own individual cannon like that, though.

49: Which books do you think should be taught in every school?
The ones that are least boring on the list of those usually taught--I'm convinced the reason why so many people don't like to read is because they're told that only this narrow category of complicated, dull, written-by-dead-white-dudes books are "good" and they're not given ANY CHANCE AT ALL to pick the ones they'd rather read. So they don't even know what they'd rather read, and think that only the ones they hated are readable. So schools need to make reading less boring.

50: Which books should be banned from all schools?
I don't believe in banning books. Banning books only encourages them to be read, only they'll be read without context or education. Schools should be teaching kids to read everything with words in it, to think about what they're reading, and to put down books that scare them or confuse them too much--and then to read them again in ten years when they have more understanding of the world.

This isn't to say that there aren't books I hated reading--because there are--but that there should be more options than just the ones that are so dull no one questions them, or the ones that only talk about and support one view of the world, or the ones that are so inoffensive that we don't learn anything from them. We need to expand the list of books read in schools, not limit it.

And that's the end of this list! I'll find another one and start doing those questions once in a while soon!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books and stuff

Chuck Wendig is having a discussion* about why we like and dislike books, and it's Banned Books week, and here's some (possibly disjointed) thoughts I have on the whole matter.

I'm pretty sure most of the people who ban books do so as a knee jerk reaction without having actually read any of the books they ban. They see that Harry Potter is "about witches and wizards" and ban it before ever actually seeing that the context and definition of "witches and wizards" is not like the classical, that the main message of the whole series is that good always wins and evil always loses, and that good has to be vigilant because evil is also sneaky and doesn't give up. Isn't that a good theme? That's exactly the theme a lot of the banners are trying to spread, but since this comes from ones with words they fear, they just assume it's Satanism a For Kids.**

I read books because I want to. I also, sometimes, read books because someone else who I don't like has told me not to, or has forbidden me from. And I'm pretty sure the whole idea of banning books wakes up a similar crazy streak in a lot of readers, especially in kids and really especially in teens--it makes them look for the books you don't want them to read, and read them, defeating your whole attempt to control what they think by controlling what they have access to.

And that's my main problem with banned books. We hate when other countries censor the media, but we're going to be allowing any old person with some power to define which books are even able to be read? That's the same thing.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions on and about things. But what a lot of Americans fail to realize is that being allowed to have an opinion that you're allowed to talk about, in no way allows you to force that opinion on others. Studies have shown that people who read more are more able to understand the world and other people. So what's the purpose of keeping people from reason except to keep them ignorant? Kids know what they can handle. If a book is too much for them, they won't finish it. If it disagrees with them, they'll ask questions and / or put it down. The average child doesn't need some stranger telling them what they should and shouldn't read, and the average adult doesn't need more reasons to not read at all--enough Americans never read another book after school that it's alarming as is, and probably a part of why the the bad examples of us out in the world are ao dense and self-centered that they're making all of us look bad.

So read banned books to show the banners that the whole process is stupid.

Read them to see what they don't want you to see and to know, first hand, that it's so not worth ignoring.

Read them because it seems there's someone out there who wants you to be ignorant and that someone needs a kick in the pants.

Just read.

It makes you a better person.

**No, that's that coloring book that the people most afraid of such things brought on themselves by insisting on having the right to prostelatize to children without realizing that that allows other points of view to do the same!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Desk voyeurism

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This is madness. I want seven.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Self-indulgent questions about books and reading 9

41: Who gave you your love of reading?
Probably my parents, though I think part of it is genetic, too. We didn't have a TV until I was 7, and even then, being overseas, we didn't have many channels and some of the ones we had weren't in English. But mom and dad always had books--they'd pay extra for movers to move us when they had so many books. Mom used to read to us before bed. Dad would give me the comics from his newspaper before work when I was really really young--like, two and three. By the time I went to school to learn to read, I could already read.

42: What book is next on your list to read?
Probably Insurgent, or maybe one of the books about London I just picked up. Maybe a science book.

43: When did you start to read chapter books?
First grade, when the others were reading stupid boring things as a class. I don't remember which ones, but I'd borrow them from the teacher or read them in the library or the bookstore. By third grade, I was reading longer ones like Charlotte's Web.

44: Who is your favorite children's book author?
I don't really have one author who I read all their stuff like that. I loved the Narnia books but have no interest in any of his other stuff. I adore The Snow Spider, Tottie, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and all the fairytales I could get my hands on, but I didn't read anything else from those authors, either.

45: Which author would you like to interview the most?
Oh, man, I'd love to just talk to any number of favorite authors. Interviews make me nervous; it's better if someone else interviews me!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Genre discussions - "'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative" by Kameron Hurley - A Dribble of Ink

This is a fantastic essay about representation in narrative. It's specifically about women, but I feel like you could apply it to any non-visible anything in the stories we tell each other. And it's something writers need to think about when constructing stories.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Self-indulgent questions about books and reading 8

36: Are you a fast reader?
I don't feel like I am, but I guess in comparison to average I am? I can read a whole, typical novel, in a day if there's nothing else going on; usually I take about three days to read a novel. Back in the day, I'd read them all together, but now that I'm adult and have things to do, I'm usually reading one or two books a week, with space between reading sessions.

37: Are you a slow reader?
I don't feel slow. I feel slower than I used to be (about 30 books a year slower!). And slower than I want to be. When I was in elementary school, though, I started reading on my own because the books we were reading together were taking forever to go nowhere, and I was so bored.

38: Where is your favorite place to read?
Wherever there's a book (or ebook), somewhere comfy to sit, and good light. I'm not picky about places, I'll read anywhere, much like how I'll sleep anywhere. If I'm choosing an ideal day / situation to hunker down and read, though, I'd say it's that classic / cliched rainy day + tea + cat + comfy chair by a bay window overlooking a garden or the woods. Incidentally, that's also a good day for napping, so I'd probably alternate. I love napping almost as much as I love reading.

39: Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?
Nope. It's harder to concentrate when I'm not reading, most days. Real life is frequently stupid and lacks plot development. I can block out most things, but I hate when someone is sitting next to me making dumb, meaningless noises when I'm trying to read.

40: Do you need a room to be silent while you read?
These questions overlap a whole lot.

Silence is not required for almost anything I do. It's nice if there's not a TV yammering, or kids making silly noises, or elephant-neighbors bowling again like they always are, but if I waited until there was a perfectly silent room, I'd never get to read.


When life gets in the way of writing

I'm having one of those months. I'm doing what I can, but stress is high, health is wobbly, weather is wonky, and things just don't ever seem to be geling or taking off the way they should. So I thought I'd talk a little about the whole living-as-a-writer thing. First:

It surely is. Well, putting words on paper isn't that hard, but keeping to a plot, making sure things make sense and the book is cohesive, then editing and revising and selling it afterward? That's definitely hard. Probably almost anyone could just write stuff and hide it away and never let anyone else see it, ever, but actually trying to get it out there, in the hands of readers, in places that will pay you enough to make a living off it? That's hard. It's like throwing yourself at a wall, sometimes.

So when the rest of your life gets complicated, or exhausting, or stressful, and something's got to give, it's often writing that gives. We live in a society that seems to like breeding up kids that value jobs everyone hates over creative endeavors we love to do; it especially likes to breed up girls to have this ingrained and hard-to-beat attitude that their own creative work is less important than taking care of every single other thing from someone else, first.

It makes writing harder.

And it means that there's lots of talented writers that never get published, or that show up and then fade out, and I'm just like:

I don't want to be a flash in the pan. One well-published story is better than none, but fifty is better than one. The problem is all the work that goes into actually writing and selling the story to be well-published, and how much stress can affect me and just steal my power-through.

Writing as a career is different than writing for fun. When no one was going to read it, it didn't matter how I wrote, what I wrote, or whether I finished it. Now, it does, and that can get intimidating. I think, to be a writer, you have to have this strange split where you honestly believe that what you have to say is worth saying, but you also have to have a "fuck it" attitude, because once it's out of your hand, you can't control it. And that attitude also applies to even just getting it out of your own hands and into theirs. And it applies to knowing when you've shopped it enough and need to rework it, file it, or publish it yourself.

And maintaining that spit it also hard.

Right now, I'm feeling how hard it is. I know that I need to push though, but the pushing isn't helping and I'm starting to feel like maybe I need to rest. I know that I need to maintain balance and consistency, but I also know that I'm too tired, too stressed and too unstable to keep worrying about something that isn't a very basic need--remembering to eat, and to eat the things I should be eating to fix my health; making sure we can pay the power bill or the water bill, or buy food; making sure I have the strength of body to support the strength of mind I need.

I think it's okay to pull back once in a while. I also feel bad when I do, like I'm cheating my creations. I also feel that forcing something that isn't coming is doing a disservice to my creations, myself, and my ability to even finish the thing. I also think that stuff needs to feed into a brain to get stuff out--stuff like enough sleep, the right food, good books and TV and movies, experiences other than worrying. Because worrying shrinks the world and makes everything else too hard.

So I've decided to cut my daily wordcounts. I usually aim for about 1000 wds / 4 pages a day; for the nonce, while I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed and scattered, I'm going to aim for 1.5 pages, about 350 words. That should be as close to easy as anything will be when I'm like this. So I can keep going without feeling the pressure of haveing to keep going.

What do you do when you're overwhelmed?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Authors' Blogs I like to read

Personally, I like to know which authors other authors read, how they do what they do, and what they think about the whole Writing Thing, and their blogs are a good way to get to know that sort of thing. So in case you're wondering who I read, here's my favorite ones:

Robin McKinley
I love so many of this woman's books. They're infused into my psyche, and I clamor for more whenever she says one's coming out. And I love her blog. She doesn't talk about writing much, but she talks about all these little absurdities and wonderful moments in a writer's life--and about crazy dogs, and roses, and weather, and singing, and ringing churchbells, and the oddities of living in old English towns. She's just so neat. And her blog is why mine is full of itallics and footnotes.

Neil Gaiman (also on Tumblr here)
Another one who's books often chart at the top of my favorites lists. And sort of a rockstar among writers, which means there's always something good going on either on his blog or his tumblr. And he's always really open with his readers, answering questions and giving advice, which is something that I'd love to encourage among my readers!

I got to meet this man for one blushing minute while he signed a book for me, and I still love him.

John Green (also on YouTube here)
This is a weird thing, because I've actually read not much of this wonderful man's work. I liked what I have read, and I have more sitting on my Kindle waiting, but I haven't gotten to it yet (sorry!). But I've been following his tumblr and his (and his brother's) YouTube exploits in a sort of haphazard watch-a-lot-of-it-all-at-once way, and he's brilliant. He's funny, charming, smart, subversive, he gets points across without being didactic, he's really invested in making the world better and making people less dumb, and it's like he plugs right into my ideal view of the world. So worth a read.

Also, he's super-quotable, which I always like in a writer.

Cassandra Clare
More books that I just love. As long as they're good, I hope she writes a million of them, and in the meantime, I like her blog. She has a really close relationship with her fans, she answers questions, she defends writing, and when she gets into fights, she's clever, articulate and reasonable in a way I don't think I could be, so I'll let her say it all.

PC Hodgell
More wonderful books! These are harder to find because they're published by several different people and in different editions (which bugs me, because it means my set doesn't match, but I'm happy they're still around!), and I've found only a few people who have read them, but they're so good. On her blog, which is miraculously still active on LJ, she talks books, writing, being a writer, but mostly she talks fish and horses and worldbuilding and other things about her life. I like a blog that does that. Maybe I'll merge this one with my lifeblog one day...

So that's the main group! There's other blogs I flit to and from, but these are the ones I come back to a lot. Who do you read? Share in the comments, because we're always looking for new writers to read, aren't we?

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Messy Middle and what to do about it

I'm getting to that part of EMBER where I don't really know where it's going because everything is going at once, and I thought I needed some reminders of what to do about this stuff--and then I thought maybe you guys might like a quick discussion of the middle, too! So here goes, this is everything I know about getting through the middle of your novel.

1. Keep going
It's super tempting to just give up as soon as things get crazy and / or hard. Like, far more tempting than it should be. Usually by now, I have already started planning some other shiny-new siren of a story that wants my attention, and it would be so easy to just leave the mess as it is and go start something new, and get that rush of a story that wants to be written again...

But that's not how books get written. That's how books get started and then get abandoned.

2. Keep track
I'm a big fan of taking notes all the time as you write. Like, if you read this blog, you'll see me harping about it every third post or so. But here's the thing: when you get to the middle of a book, that's when you'll want all those notes. Lists of characters are super important when your books get suddenly full of characters after the world opens up in part two. Lists of what you intended to do are lifesavers when you get to somewhere and you just draw a total blank on how to get those characters out of there.

So every time to change something, every time you start something and then stop for the day, every time you have an idea for something you haven't gotten to yet, write it down. And keep it where you can find it, because it's no use if you don't know what you wrote two months from now when you need it.

3. Make corrections as you go (and keep track of them, too)
Instead of sticking it out and going "I'll fix it in post", make the changes now. Each time you think "well, this whole thing should be more punk"*, or "they need to have been heading this way all along", or "that person actually is this totally other gender / species / plot-device / etc", make a note in the margin to remind yourself that when you revise, you need to fix it before this, and then continue from that point under the new assumption about everything. Things will still be a mess when you go to revise**, but that's why I call the first draft the Mess Draft, and why no one reads it until at least the First Official Draft one or two run-throughs later.

But more importantly, correcting as you go means everything after that point will be right. Or at least right-er. And that's less stuff you have to drastically redo afterward.

4. Brainstorm a lot
Like, a lot. The more story you have--and chances are, at the middle is when you'll have the most story on your hands--the more you need to start knowing how things will connect up, what they'll mean, where they go. If you're stuck, just start writing down what you have and drawing lines between it. Chances are, all of a sudden, you'll start seeing how things could match up, how they could parallel, where they could wind up changing the context of the whole rest of the story. 

Or, if you need to know how to get your characters from where they are to this one point you see in the future but don't see how to get to, start sketching out timelines. Think about what has to happen between now and then, what could go wrong, where they could go, what ideas you wanted to get in and haven't gotten to yet, the implications and ominous meanings of what's already happened that hasn't fallen out yet. 

Or, worse comes to worse, just, like, list every single idea you can come up with, no matter how bonkers, and run with it until either it's too dumb to look at--or until you have an amazing new story thread to weave into the book.

5. Don't worry too much about the future
I know this sounds counter to what I said above, but here's the thing: you have to know where you're going, but what really matters, in the moment when you're typing stuff up and writing it down, is that you know where your feet are right now. Think about three plot points ahead more than you think about the distant outcome. The Middle is often a lot of slogging, but it's slogging along a trail. You might not always know how the trail gets to the top of the hill, but you know it does, and you can see two or three or four of the bends that get you there. 

Less metaphorically, this means write your day's writing, and then before you close up for the day, note three things you wanted to happen next. Even if you don't use them, even if you keep them but skip over then when you're writing and pick up on the other side, they're what you focus on right now, and trust that even when it feels like you're not getting anywhere and all you're producing is crap, your subconscious, where stories come from, knows what it's doing. This is the part of writing where you need to get out of your own way.

Now it's your turn: How do you get through the Messy Middle of a book? Or even just a little story? Share!

It is, Chuck, but that's how you know it's worth doing.

*File under "actual thoughts I've had about this actual book".
**It's ALWAYS a mess when you go back to revise.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Amazon says these writers are like me!

Checking out my Amazon page to be sure it's still all good, and here's the latest list of writers like me!

JP is a good guy, I've worked with him, and I know at least two of these names went to the same school as me, so a pretty good list, I think!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Self-indulgent questions about books and reading 7

31: Do you prefer newspapers or magazines?
Definitely magazines. News with a filter by topic, and more indepth and less slanty--and totally lacking the local your-whole-everything-is-corrupt-and-will-kill-you aspect.

32: Do you read while in bed?
Yes. And at the table, and on buses / planes / boats / cars, in the kitchen, while babysitting, while standing in line...

33: Do you read while on the toilet?
Yes, though not as much as I did when I was a kid and I'd lock myself in the bathroom just to have some space to myself. I used to frequently do my homework in the bathroom, at home and at school, because no one bothers you when they think you're indisposed.

34: Do you read while in the car?
On long tips, yes. In the back seat, where I can hunker down and don't see the stuff moving outside in the corner of my eye. Not in the front seat, and there's not usually time on short trips.

35: Do you read while in the bath?
If I take baths, I'll take a magazine. My current bath doesn't hold water because the plug-thing is broken, and so I take showers--and it's much harder to read in the shower...though I did joke the other day that I was going to take my tea and my book into the shower with me because I wanted to take one, but didn't want to stop reading my book.


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Hello there, writerly friends~ ♥︎

I have been running this advice blog for a long while now, and although I've answered tons of questions and made tons of resources for writers, I think that there is something very important that I have not really touched on… and that is that every writer, regardless of experience or age, has the ability to inspire others.

I mean it.

Writing is such a fluid medium— every writer can find their own way to tell stories. This is the freedom of writing. That is why I want to give my fellow writerly friends (that's you!) a chance to voice their thoughts and advice, so that countless others can be inspired :D

How can we go about doing this? Take a few minutes, and consider the following question:

What is the one piece of advice you wish you would've known when you first got started writing?

And then write down your answer! You can reply to this post, reblog it with your thoughts, or you can drop it on my askbox!

Over the next couple of days I will gather the advice and I will make an awesome post (sourcing each of you correctly and linking back to your blogs, of course) and I will post it here for everyone to see! Imagine this as a nexus— a fountain of inspiration, if you may, and a clear reminder that each and every one of you can inspire others to write!

Let's make something awesome, together~ ♥︎

Oh, jeeze, one piece of advice?

Keep going—like, it’s easy to start a story, and if you’re really into it, it’s also easy to get right into the middle of a story, but then it gets hard and that’s when it gets easy to just…wander off. To start another story, and another. But if you power through, if you just commit to keep going, regardless of what you think of it in the moment, then you’ll have a finished story instead of a whole bunch of fragments. And when you have a finished story, even if it’s missing parts and doesn’t make sense and you still hate the end, you have something to edit, and it’s editing and revising that makes a story great.

For good measure, here’s a few more:

  • Write every day, even if it’s only one page, even if you hate it, even if you have to do it one sentence at a time in between other things.
  • When you’re done with the day’s writing, write three things you intended to do next, even if you don’t actually do them, so you don’t have to look at the blank page and not know what to do next.
  • Plan a story when you get to the middle, not at the beginning, so it can be wild and free and exciting before it all has to come together.
  • Who cares if the story has already been told? It hasn’t been told by you.
  • Give a finished story a month of totally ignoring it and working on something else before you go back to revise, so you’re fresh and a little separate from it.
  • Have side projects, always, but don’t work on them until you’ve done your day’s work on the main one.
  • When you finish, start writing something else.
  • Write about what you don’t know, and figure it out as you go.

What advice would you, my followers, add?


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As you may know, I'm working on what I want to be my first novel. However, I've only ever written short stories before. I feel like I'm going too quickly too soon, and won't have a large enough word count. But I don't want to just add fluff. What tips do you have for going from short stories to writing novels?
Ooooh, good question. I actually have the opposite problem—I set out to write shorts and wind up with novels. But here’s what I can sort of retro-engineer to help you out:
  • Ask as many questions as you can, mostly of the why-sort: why does this character do this? Why does this culture do this? Why did history go the way it went, and what do all the characters feel about that? Adding a sense of history is a great way to expand a world—the things that are happening right here and right now are never isolated incidents, they happen because of the characters’ pasts, the pasts of the parents of the characters, the history of the peoples and the settings. And there’s always fallout because of things that have happened before.
  • See if you can mirror and parallel—are there other characters you can introduce that can show differing options of the trials and tribulations of the main characters? Or who can catch the fallout, keeping it close to home and personal? Side characters with as much story as the main characters (so long as it mirrors-but-doesn’t-repeat, complements, works against, or falls out of and comes back to the main plot) add to the story and, by necessity, the length.
  • Look at your plot structure. A short story is sort of along the lines of incident-action-setback-conclusion, but a novel is more like incident-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-sidetrack into other stuff that puts everything else into perspective-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-conclusion. There’s a lot more space to come up against other characters, other plot happenings, other things that aren’t needed at all in a short, but enrich and inform a novel. Ask yourself if you’re telling enough of the story—and see where you can add in extra meat, not fluff. Are there politics at hand? Is there a wider cultural impact? Is there some other thing entirely that the main characters have to do to get over their issues and be able to save the day?
  • Remember that everyone in the story has their own goals—even baddies. And those goals will lead them down paths that don’t always line up with the main characters, and can even slow down the main characters, or endanger them, or turn them back around, or change the context, or add new meaning, or make it worse.
Does this help? Does it bring up more questions? I’m here to help!

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