Monday, June 23, 2008

Amazing Writing Books

I'm certain that there are more than four amazing writing books out there (I've actually probably read more than a few of those) but when it comes to fantasy writing, and to what I want to post on my blog, I've limited my selection of Amazing Writing Books to these four (not in any particular order).

Stephen King's On Writing:
This book gives you a look at the
life of a writer, the trials and
errors, the ups and downs, the
work you have to put into the
craft before you get a paid (usually).
It's very insightful, interesting
and helpful. Other than just
King's life story, it holds pointers
and lessons in writing.

Orson Scott Card's How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy:
This is an awesome book devoted

to the craft of writing science
fiction and fantasy. It delves into
character and world creation
while giving help on the subject
of writing well and exploring the
business of writing for the novice

Orson Scott Card's Characters & Viewpoint:
This book may not be specifically
aimed towards science fiction
and fantasy authors, but it is
helpful when writing any story.
I find that Card explains things
well and thoroughly, leaving
the reader with few questions
and new tools to create better
characters in their tales.

Robert Masello's Writer Tells All:

This is an awesome book
that explores all
elements of writing
a novel, from the
birth of an idea,
through it's publication
and beyond. This is a book that will guide an author through every stage of writing and getting published. (Also check out Robert's Rules of Writing for good tips).

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Other Creative Arts In Which I Dabble...

This was a spur of the moment idea, to share some of the areas I express my creativity.
I enjoy art:
(This is a Jenny original)

I enjoy music:

(This is my fake band, I'm the Lame Unicorn - incase you were wondering)

I like to draw comics:

(Most are related to work, but are not as comical as Dilbert)

And I like to make children's crafts:
(Mind you, the pom-pom grover is my contribution to this set.)

I guess, upon review of these creative pursuits, I should probably stick to writing...

Monday, June 16, 2008


When considering the wild world of writing, we often need others too keep our stories on track.

One way to achieve this is to establish a workshop group. I’ve never been to one of those weekend/week/day/month w/e workshops, led by some know all where there are hundreds of people or hundreds of dollars (or both) involved, but that didn’t mean I had to go without receiving feedback from other writers about my work.

On several occasions a writer friend and I shared our writing with one another and finally we decided to make a larger group, an actual workshop group. At smallest our group was 2 people, at largest it was 5, but it has always been helpful. When you make your own group, it should be a small group so that everyone gets equal attention to their writing.

I find that there are three keys to creating a workshop:

1. Find people.

2. Set rules.

3. Write/submit/read/critique.

Finding people can be as simple as having friends who write or are interested in starting writing and would like the group to look at their work. If you don’t know writers you can place ads at libraries or book stores or even online.

Setting rules is pretty simple to. How much can someone submit for each meeting? How often will you meet, where and when? When do you have to submit your stuff to the group, at the meeting or before?

Lastly, you just have to do the work. You have to write stuff for workshop, or submit already written work, you have to read what others wrote, critique it on the page and then to their face when you meet.

In my current workshop we submit 10 pages or fewer one week before meeting. We try to meet around peoples schedules and we have tried several different places. We’ve met at my place and I’ve made food, we’ve met at restaurants and recently we’ve been more inclined to meet at the local bookstore’s cafĂ©.

Overall, a workshop group can be very helpful to your writing or even to your ego.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses

While preparing what I wanted to say at my most recent workshop meeting, I came across the concept of what my strengths and weaknesses are. This is something that haunts writers when their weaknesses are very evident in their writing or their strengths make a piece really work.

Weaknesses are something that creep out from all the dark places of your psyche when editing. The wish to be perfect is most severe in these moments. Overall, I don't mind my weaknesses because I understand them, they don't hide as faceless bogeymen around the corner waiting to undercut my newest story. By knowing your weaknesses, you can empower your work because it gives you something to improve upon and it won't surprise you when critiquers mention them.

My biggest weakness when writing is my description. I've done a lot to improve my description, and in the world of fantasy, description should be a writer's strong point, but my ability to show a scene will always be lacking. I accept that, and do my best to do what I can to portray the events and characters in my story as vividly as I am able.

My biggest strength (and this is something you need to discover, so that when you are thinking about your weaknesses you can at least smile about what you do well), I think, is my dialogue. I feel like I have knack for funny conversations, and for meaningful/thought provoking statements.

Ultimately, by discovering your weaknesses you can find a place to improve your work and by locating your strengths you can find the elements of your writing which keep you going even when your writing is lacking; those elements that remind you that you have something to offer, that there is something you do well and there is a reason to carry on writing, no matter how poorly something looks or how brutally something is critiqued.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

World Creation

Although I ususally wouldn't start with World Creation when building a story, it is probably more interesting to talk about and easier to explore in blog form than character creation and story outlines.

Now, Patricia C. Wrede (a wonderful fantasy author), has established an amazing set of questions for assisting authors in world creation. I am attaching a link to it HERE.

I, though, will go through some basic points of world creation for those of you who don't want to (maybe not now, maybe not ever) look through such a long list, and for those of you who like to see the basic points instead of/or with all of the small details.

First, you need to determine the time and place. This is a "duh" suggestion, but necessary. Is it in the past? Is it in the future? Is it on Earth? Someplace similiar to Earth? Someplace not similiar to Earth? In space? In the ocean? This is very basic, but building a fantasy world can be complex and you'll need this simple foundation to build the rest of your world on.

Next, I like to explore what kind of people live in this world. Is everyone pretty much human (or based on the human design), or are there elves, dwarves, unicorns etc.

Thirdly, I like to determine the geographic landscape. Sometimes I'll make maps (especially as I get further along in the story and I need to visually see where I'm taking my characters). I draw my maps by hand but I recently came across a program called Auto Realm which seems promising. Along with geography comes climate. Does your world have four seasons like we do or only two? Does it rain constantly or never?

As a final but complex stage to world building, I consider many things about my people.

-What is their history? This doesn't have to be too complex unless it affects the story or you like writing epics.

-What is their education? Also does not have to be too thought out, just limited to your main characters or an explanation of some sort of universal education (as in everyone learns to be a warrior, or everyone learns magic).

-What is their form of magic/what weapons do they use? This does not mean the magic has to be a weapon, it's just that in my experience a character either has magic, a weapon or both, so determining one can go hand in hand with determining the other.

-What are their customs/political organization/commerce/dress/food/manners/spirituality? These can be thought up together, because it is the layout of the society and gives a good direction for what food to serve, what clothes to wear, if there is a king or queen, if there is a proper way to greet people, if there is a class system, do they have a religion, so on and so forth.

Hopefully this helps in your attempts to create new worlds for your fantasy tales.