Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Writer’s Boot Camp

So I’ve been working my way through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course. I’ve previously found that her methods mesh well with the way I think, and this big “survival school for writers” course is no different. Most importantly I’ve discovered some key issues with my past process. Wanting to stay safely in my comfort zone, or have the end product turn out perfect, for example. Both hamstring the creative process, and keep me from completing projects. Or worse, I turn out stories that I’m not proud of and no one wants to buy–or read.

I also have a habit of leaping at the first vague concept that enters my head and trying to write it out by the seat of my pants without really questioning where the idea is going or what makes it special. Surprising to perhaps no one other than myself, it’s difficult to write a story about “somebody who’s special because something and saves the world or crap, I dunno, good stuff goes here.”

Ooh, shiny!

Ooh, shiny! Isn’t my setting beautiful? Let me tell you the story of Ixmitplatl, the God of Flatulence and Rainbows. No really, it’s kind of a funny story…

Occasionally I have the related-but-not-quite-opposite problem of getting so lost in an orgy of world-building that the actual story never materializes. Or, should a story spontaneously develop, it’s so weighed down with chunks of exposition to show off the Shiny Cool Setting that no one can read it without passing out from boredom.

So I’m taking it slower, trying to refine ideas before I commit to writing them, weeding out the ones that aren’t going to go anywhere, and locking in on the necessary¬† details that make a story extraordinary without detailing the cultural significance of what Character A ate for lunch. Honing ideas in preparation for writing is probably a much better use of my time than flailing around creating three pantheons of gods with six related languages and a plethora of weird social conventions.

Not that I’ve ever done that. I mean, come on, how much of a nerd do you have to be to actually make up verb conjugations for fun? Or write up a ten page essay on how the Great God Jahir of the Squin Empire differs from his aspect as The Highfather Johar of the Tentarin Archipelago. Ha ha, no sir, that’s not something I would do!

Ahem.

Striking that balance between the too loose, generalized story concept and the over-planned story bible without a plot is getting easier. At least I’m recognizing those tendencies, and locking that shit down before it gets out of control. This is a learning process, and a very necessary one.

I mean, would you like to read about a girl who happens to have some cool powers who is going to save the world because the cool Macguffin chose her?

OR

Would you rather read about the last necromancer’s reluctant apprentice who defies the law and sacrifices her standing as a reputable mage in order to restore Nature’s balance before the wall between Life and Death crumbles forever?

Yeah, me too.

 

On Writing…
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?~J.R.R. Tolkien
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