We all know who wins

Let me start off by saying this advice doesn’t work for horror or for fantasy like George R R Martin or Joe Abercrombie where there are no real good guys and anyone can die at any time. On the other hand, Pat Rothfuss does this brilliantly. I’ll come back to that later. In a heroic fantasy, we all know who is going to win. The hero is going to slay the dragon and win the war. No one doubts that, but that’s not what makes a story great. I heard a question from author and former Pyr editor Lou Anders. What does James Bond have in common with the Harlem Globe Trotters? The always win, in spite of that, they are enormously popular. It’s not about who is going to win. It’s about what they going to have to go through to win. It’s how...

Your story isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay

It’s important to write a story that reaches as broad an audience as possible. By the same token, you need to understand you not everyone will like what you write. It’s not just a matter of not liking the genre. Some people will just not like your particular voice or characters or how you handle your plot. You know what? That’s okay. Now that the Hugos are over (I did this post a week ahead of time, so I don’t know who won), I thought I would give you my impressions on the works that were in the “Novel” category. My ballot was as follows. 1. Skin Game by Jim Butcher 2. Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J Anderson 3. Three Body Problem by Lui Cixin 4. No Award If you follow the Hugos, you’ll notice that there are two books...

Writing: It’s a business

These days, publishing a book is easy. Pretty much anyone can do it. The problem is relatively few people can do it well. There are plenty of good indie books out there, but there are many more bad ones. I’m not even talking about the quality of writing. I’m talking about everything else. Recently, I decided I was going to go indie with one of my books, Shadowguard. There are a couple of reasons for this that I may go into that in a future post. This post isn’t about why so much as it’s about how. I decided I needed it done within two months, largely to give me time to finish it. The first draft is already done, and I expect the next couple of weeks to happen in a frenzy. There are still several other things that need to get done. There...

Write what you know: Exhaustion

Exhaustion is something may characters go through. It’s particularly common at the end of act 2, when the character has given all they have to give, but what does it feel like? I’ve had a couple of brushes with it. I’m not talking about just being tired. I’m talking about the bone weary exhaustion that makes you wonder if you’re going to be able to push on. Background: I’ve run several half marathons as well as a full one. I’ve hiked up a mountain after having no sleep. I’ve lain on the deck of a boat, curled into a fetal position because the effort of constantly throwing up drained much of my strength. I ran eight miles this morning in preparation for a half marathon in a week. Right now, I’m laying on my...

“Said” is not dead and never was

A common piece of terrible advice bandied about writing forums is “Said is dead”. Basically, the thought is that in your dialog tags, you should avoid using “said”. You should use “replied”, “exclaimed”, “shouted”, or one of any of a myriad of words. This kind of thing is often taught in English classes. The problem is that it’s completely wrong. Generally, you should avoid dialog tags whenever you can. Each of your characters should have a distinct voice so that dialog tags aren’t needed. The reader should know who is speaking because that’s the way a particular character speaks. This isn’t always possible. If a character says “Hi.”, it a generic enough phrase that...

Suspension of disbelief

Warning: Minor spoilers for Jurassic World. Recently, I was involved in an online discussion about Jurassic World. In particular, we were talking about the scene where Claire outruns the T-Rex in heels. Someone pointed out that a T-Rex could run 35 MPH. Someone else commented that the problem with a lot of people today is that they’ve lost the ability to suspend their disbelief. I completely disagree with that, but it got me thinking about suspension of disbelief. Jurassic World is a science fiction about DNA. I can accept that they can find DNA in preserved mosquitoes and other, unnamed sources. I can accept that they can combine DNA from different dinosaurs to create a super dinosaur. I can accept the ridiculous idea that if you add DNA from a fish that...

Write what you know: Running for your life

Let’s be honest. We put our characters through terrible things. It’s fun to terrify them. It brings us pleasure to do so…or at least it brings me pleasure. There are certain “terrible things” that are universal. They’re in our nightmares. They’ve been a part of our collective psyche since there’s been a human race. That’s not to say everyone is afraid of them. Some people have overcome that fear, but it was still a fear that had to be overcome.   This happens so often in stories. Your character is just minding their own business (or not) and suddenly, the big scary thing is after them, and they have to run. A few years ago, I decided I would experience this for myself. I just needed to find something...