Archive for the 'Writers Resources' Category

Where do you get your ideas?

There’s a great essay at Neil Gaiman’s blog about creativity, and where his ideas come from.  Read it.  It’s terrific.  Then again, I think that almost everything he does is.

It’s reassuring; it’s good to hear a well-established writer talk about the ideas that don’t work, about the ideas that do, about wrestling them into a shape that’s palatable for public consumption.  It’s good to know that having to struggle, sometimes, doesn’t mean that I’m completely unfit to be a writer.

It’s an interesting exercise, too, to try to figure out where and when you get your best ideas.  Mine tend to come when I’m between activities, or trying to work out a problem, or at the edge of sleep.  And, of course, when I’m in the least convenient place to write them down, like driving in heavy traffic, or giving my son a bath, or stir-frying snow peas.  And often, I lose them as quickly as they come.  I’ve taken to repeating a word or two to myself, over and over, as a mnemonic to try to hold onto them just a little longer.

Sometimes I suffer from a dearth of ideas, nothing to say, and no way to say it if I had something. It happens when I’m too stressed out by life, too busy with the mundane details of motherhood, marriage and mortgage, to generally fried to write.  My favorite quote from Gaiman’s essay:

My idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper. Or a blank screen. And me, staring at it, unable to think of a single thing worth saying, a single character that people could believe in, a single story that hasn’t been told before.

It is.  Hell, that is.  But if I force myself to write, to put words on paper, even if they don’t really mean anything, eventually my creative side will become frustrated at being so sullen and puke something out.  And if I keep the creative side happy and busy, it doesn’t stop spewing them out.  Not all of them are good, mind you, but they’re ideas nonetheless.

So.  Where do you get yours?


Prompt: Good, Evil and Gray

A lot of fiction, especially genre fiction, deals with a conflict between good and evil.  Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter books are just a few of the more famous examples.

Because it’s done so often, though, the good/evil theme is difficult to write about without moving into the dreaded realm of the cliche.  The most important thing, I think, is to have a good handle on what you believe to be truly good, and what you believe to be really evil.  Without knowing, specifically, what you believe, it’s too easy to fall into the ruts that other writers have dug.   

So, here are some questions to answer when considering good and evil in your writing.

What makes a good person good, and what makes a evil man evil?  Which evils are worse than others? 

Are there things that are good, that under certain circumstances, might become evil?  Evil things that might be good?

When people talk and write about “shades of gray,” what do they mean, precisely?  Is there any such thing as absolute good and absolute evil? 

How much of what you see as good, evil and in-between is a product of your culture and your experiences? 

How might you view the world differently, given a different culture and life?

This is just a starting point, but having a firm idea of what you believe about the nature of good and evil can help you to flesh out your stories, and help you to give voice to your own unique ideas.

Get writing!

Ten Terrific Sites for Speculative Fiction Writers

Some of my favorite speculative fiction websites, listed in no particular order:

1. Ralan’s Webstravaganza: A fairly extensive listing of markets, paying and non-paying for horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.

2. Duotrope’s Digest: Another markets database; this one is sortable and includes non-genre markets as well.  Also offers statistics about the markets, such as the acceptance rates, etc.

3. Endicott Studio: If I had to pick a favorite website, this would probably be it. A treasure trove of mythology, folklore, and fairy tales, and information for writers who love them.

4. Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy: Jeffrey Carver’s free online writing course. If you’re an accomplished writer, a lot of this is probably repetition, but some of it probably isn’t, and a refresher never hurt anyone. If you’re just beginning, this site is invaluable.

5. Vision: A Resource for Writers: An online zine dedicated to writers, with all sorts of useful info.

6. Uncle Orson’s Writing Class: Part of Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River website. Tips, hints and info from one of the masters.

7.  Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy:  Vonda N. McIntyre’s advice to writers.

8.  David Walton’s Writing Page:  A plethora of advice to spec-fic writers.

9.  Critters Workshop: One of the best writers’ workshops online, and the site includes a number of resources, including market stats.

10. SFWA’s Articles on Writing:  Advice from a number of pros.

This is, of course, far from an extensive list.  If you have any resources you’d like to share, please post them in the comments!

Prompt: Dreams

There’s an interesting post at Writer Chick Talks about dreams.  Not the kind that you have at night, but the dreams that you have for your life.  All of us have dreams; we dream about the kind of life we want to live, the things we want to do, the things we want to see, what we want to accomplish and what kind of mark we want to make.  When we’re little, our dreams are big; too often, though, our dreams diminish as we get older and reality weighs us down.

Since dreams are so universal, it’s a rich area for writers of all types to explore.  What kind of dreams did you have for your life when you were a child?  How have they changed as you’ve gotten older?  What is it you most wanted when you were little, and what is it that you want most now?  What is the difference between your goals and your dreams?

This is an interesting characterization exercise, too, if you write fiction; certainly your characters must have dreams.  How do your characters’ dreams for their lives relate to the story they’re in?  How do they influence the way your character behaves?  How do they influence the way your character sees the world?

 Get writing!

Great site for writers: DeepGenre

I love this blog. It’s written/maintained a number of authors: Constance Ash, Carol Berg, Barbara Denz, David Louis Edelman, Kate Elliot, Katherine Kerr, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Laura J. Mixon, Sherwood Smith and Lois Tilton.

There’s a lot of info here; discussion on a number of writers’ first novels, 13-line critiques, ins and outs of writing craft and business…I could go on.

So check it out: DeepGenre.

Consider the audience

One of the things I like about blogging is that it forces me to consider audience as I write, even if what I’m writing is a collection of insignificant musings.

I work part-time as a writing tutor at a small university; I work with a number of students who are in developmental/remedial writing classes.  These are students who struggle with writing, and one of the things they struggle with most is audience; they can’t conceive, it seems, of writing for an audience.  If what they say makes sense to them, they reason, it should make sense to everyone else.

But this phenomenon isn’t limited to inexperienced writers, or to people who don’t enjoy writing.  When I have taken writing classes and workshops, or participated in writers’ groups, most fledgling writers, when asked why they write, answer that they want to express themselves.

But writing is not just self-expression; it is communication. Unless you write on paper, in a notebook that you plan to keep entirely private and never, ever show to anyone, writing is a two-way street.  It is not enough that your writing make sense to you, the writer; if it is to be successful, it must also make sense to your reader.  And if you want to be paid for your writing, considering audience is absolutely crucial.  Editors of publications consider their readership when they buy stories; writers must also consider readership when they try to sell stories.

So this begs the question of how to consider audience while you’re writing.  There’s probably an infinite number of ways to go about this, but there are some of the things I try to pin down when I begin a story; these helps me to focus the story and keep it consistent, and if I have a target audience in mind, editing becomes easier after the first draft is done.  Some of the things I try to keep in mind:

  • What do I want readers to gain/take from this story? 
  • What age group is likely to read this story?
  • What genre, if any, does my story fit into?

If I have a general theme or idea, target age group and target genre audience in mind when I begin writing, it becomes easier to consider whether my language is appropriate for the age group I’m writing for, whether my story fulfills genre expectations, whether or not it’s cliche for the genre I’m writing in, and so on.

This is true not just for fiction, but for blogging as well.  Since my blog is public, and I have a (somewhat loose) connecting theme in my blog, I’m able to consider who might be likely to read the blog, and what they might expect from a blog on my topic.

Welcome to WritingFix: The Best Place for Interactive Writing Ideas on the Internet

Welcome to WritingFix: The Best Place for Interactive Writing Ideas on the Internet

If you write, this is a truly terrific site to poke around in.

All in the Past: Even So Archives

Blog Stats

  • 7,042 hits