Monday, February 01, 2021

2020'S Locus Recommended Reading

 INCLUDES nearly HALF of the Wyrdsmiths!!

The Locus Recommended Reading list is out, and Wyrdsmiths Naomi Kritzer, Eleanor Arnason, and Kelly Barnhill are all on it. Kelly and Eleanor are back-to-back under Novelette: "Tunnels," for Eleanor, "Lucky's Dragon," for Kelly. Naomi is on there under Short Story for "Little Free Library."


Monday, January 18, 2021

Starting with a Bang (and Why That's Bull)

 I've start up a new writers' group that includes some writers who are newer to the craft. This has been wonderful for me, because I personally find it useful to my own process and to my own understanding to have to articulate how writing works. 

One of my colleagues was complaining that his other writers group always harps on him to have a strong hook. They keep telling him "You have to start with a BANG." The problem is the story he wants to tell isn't a high octane shoot 'em up, it a quiet, reflective piece about grief and a small, personal mystery. So, he was talking about how frustrating it is to have to artificially wrench his story into a form where it starts with some kind of huge dramatic moment

I stopped him and said, "It's a lie. What your colleagues are telling you is a lie."

A hook can be an actual gunshot, but what a BANG is, is simply the easiest way to get a reader's attention. It is not--absolutely not--the only way to get it.

You don't actually have to start with a bang at all. What you have to start with is a "hook," and that is very, very, VERY different than a bang. What a hook is, is something that compels a reader to want to go on. It's a sense of tension, an anxiousness to know more, it is a question that the reader desperately wants answered, or a quiet sense of building dread... or something else that has the reader saying 'OOoooooOOO, I want more of THIS.' 

It doesn't have to be BIG, it just has to be compelling.

It has been drilled into to new writers that the opening has to be exciting... and it does. It's just that it doesn't have to be "exciting" in a conventional way. 

I would go so far as to say that, if you do it right, almost anything could be a hook. A really strong sense of place could be enough for a reader to settle in an say to themselves, "Yes, this place seems super interesting, I want more." A strong, quirky narrative voice might be enough for a reader to say, "WHO is this person?? I must find out!" 

My friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Adam Stemple once told me that an opening has to leave the reader with the impression that they are "in the hands of a master." And, he's right. Part of what you are establishing with your hook is a sense that you can be trusted to tell a good story. One of the ways you can gain that trust is believing that what you have to say is enough. Don't feel like you have to artificially contort your story so that you start in some conventionally "exciting" way. Just give your readers that nugget, the one that hints to them that what is promised is totally worth it. 

It still takes work to do it right, but don't waste that work thinking you have to go big or go home. You have to be interesting and compelling. That's hard enough! 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020



Thursday, October 29, 2020

New Book on Writing Fantasy

 Adam has a new book coming out on October 31 called How to Write Fantasy Novels!  

Currently, if you sign up for his newsletter on his website you can get a free copy of volume one of this three volume set!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

I Think I've Read this Book...

 ...and it was a horror novel.

Wired Magazine is reporting that Isreal's Lunar Lander Crashed... AND SPILLED TARDIGRADES ON THE MOON.

What could go wrong with several hundred water bears now living on the Moon?????

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Promise of Idea

 One of the things that I'm doing as I continue to prep for class, is read through old (and I do mean OLD--it is really clear from the copyright pages, exactly WHEN I was trying to learn about writing science fiction/fantasy,) writing advice books.  

I have nearly the entire set of the Writer's Digest Books that have names like Plot and Character and the one I'm reading now Beginnings, Middles & Ends.

Just flipping through, I came across the idea of the promise the author makes to the reader. This Writers' Digest author, science fiction's own Nancy Kress, suggests there are two implicit promises made to the reader. One emotional and the other intellectual.

I've heard about the idea of the writer/read contract before, of course, but the thought that the emotional promise of a story or a novel is that you will be entertained by (or at least absorbed by) it is a new one to me. Specifically, Kress suggests that when a person picks up a romance novel, they come to it with the idea of what they think a romance novel is supposed to be: fun, sexy, titillating... something that, by the end, confirms the belief that 'love conquers all." 

I don't think she's wrong at all.

It's just an interesting question to consider. When I pick up a science fiction book, what am I automatically expecting as a reader?  

Interestingly, I think that when I pick up a science fiction book, I'm expecting to be intellectually challenged. Like, I want to experience something I've never thought of before. I want something new. I kind of don't have an idea of what that's shaped like. I just want to leave the book with a "mmmm, that was fascinating."

I don't think I'm alone, either.

I suspect a lot of science fiction readers just want to be wow-ed, but they have no real criteria for how that's meant to be done by the author. I think this is why you see a lot of experimentation in format of short stories, in plot, in character, in theme... the only promise science fiction readers expect is that you surprise us, keep us on our toes, be innovative in some fashion or another.... sometimes even in mundane ways, like a plot twist or clever maneuver in an otherwise standard military sf novel would be enough for me, you know?  We want a nifty idea, but the shape of it is wide, wide open.

Fantasy is a different animal, I think. I suspect that one of the reasons I read less of fantasy is because what it offers is kind of opaque to me. Do fantasy novels offer a sense of chivalry? Or, a sense of belonging to a special group? The hope that magic exists in some fashion in the world?  When I find a fantasy book that works for me, it's often one that still trips my sense of wonder and is clever or innovative. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What Day is It in New Zealand?

Some time ago, I registered for CONZeland, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention.... which begins today in North America, because it is already tomorrow in New Zealand.

I spent a surprisingly large portion of the day yesterday trying to figure out WHEN things were happening and how to sync my Discord account to their Discord channel and get set up with their other concurrent systems.

I was hoping to be able to download my schedule into my Google calendar so everything would show up completely in CDT, (GMT-6,) but if that was possible, I never figured it out. In fact, I just wrote down everything, translated to my time, on a piece of PAPER. Because, while they *did* have a way to show your time on panel descriptions, the problem was that I could never get the full schedule to appear that way. If I wanted to see *my* time zone shown, I'd have to click through to each full panel description individually. I mean, I'm glad it was there AT ALL?

Still, this means the list under "my schedule" is pretty useless as something to quickly refer to. And the time slots, even translated to my time zone, all appear in military time, and, as someone whose dyslexia also effects numbers, I can not easily remember what time 1800 hours is, even if you're just saying,"D'uh, Lyda, subtract 12!" That just doesn't happen easily in my head, I have to write it down to do the math, by hand, each time.

So now I have my scribbled notes.

That should work just fine.

This is only important because I have ONE thing that I absolutely MUST attend tomorrow (my Wednesday, New Zealand's Thursday) my UK publisher, Wizard Tower Press, is hosting a party for their authors, which includes me, and I am doing a reading for them at 2 pm (CDT.GMT-6). IF you are also attending WorldCON, please come?

My publisher's press release, regarding the event:
I will be reading from my newest release, Unjust Cause, which you can buy here: or anywhere fine books are sold. This book can come to you as paper, hardcover, or e-book. /advertisement.

I have actually not yet checked to see how the party rooms operate. Are they Zoom? Are they Discord voice/video channels? This is going to matter because I'm going to have to figure out which computer to use, because not all of mine have the same processing power. If there is more than one "room" in a Zoom meeting, it has previously (at the Nebula parties I attended) not been possible to navigate independently from my iPad, whereas it is/was, when I use Mason's old computer (which, technically, is one of mine now.)

Ah, virtual cons.

I mean, I have really loved them? I really loved the way the Nebula parties were structured and WisCON was a blast. but, there is always this tech adjustment to be made at the start.

Hope to see you there!