Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Harry Potter Trailer!

Here's ET's link to the new Harry Potter trailer. The new movie looks chilling, and wonderful. I can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2008

We Love Productive Weekends

Another week gone by, only this week is far different than most. I got my extra word goal in over the weekend, which made me quite happy. then I went to work. And then I found out that my good friend was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.

I'm not going to cry for you, Tommy. I'm going to be there with you cheering you along as you fight it off. You're one of the most dedicated people I know, and if anyone has the strength and vitality to fight off something like this, it's you.

The lesson I learned today is don't wait for tomorrow to make the change. Shoot for the stars now, because you might never get a shot later.

I got to see the first "proof" page of a story I wrote. My first published piece will be out next month, and I can't wait to send my first spam email--I mean, huge cross-post email--to my friends and family. I haven't done as well as I would like keeping several things out on the market, but I figure it's either keep dithering around with the short stories and putting the novels off, or write a novel and tinker with it and the short stories.

I thought I had plenty of drive before; after hearing about my friend's predicament, I'm more determined than ever to finish this story. Otherwise, who's going to tell it?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Blues? More Like Writer's Cramp

I blazed through my writing this week, even writing more than my daily goal, and it looks like I'm on track to have another one of those weeks. I've got the next couple of scenes forming up nicely in my head, and it won't take much but time to write them all down. Time, unfortunately, is the most costly of items around here right now, what with simply living life and taking care of ourselves, as well as my other hobby (World of Warcraft, if you're curious).

The one good thing about my current frustration with my job is that it motivates me to write, but the downside is it utterly exhausts me. Trying to get the energy to write at the end of the day takes concentrated effort, but I'm glad when I do, because writing is a joy and thrill.

Speaking of time, it's time for work. And writing during lunch hour.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

This week was a long week. I struggled with word count completion for my novel every day, but I pulled through it, and I think my novel is better and stronger for it. The thing I hate about long writing projects is the further you go on, the more you can get bogged down in the worries and what-ifs. I'm doing my best not to hit the plateau of discouragement by proxy, and so far I'm doing pretty well, but I almost had a moment this week.

When you're writing, you have this whole world in your hands, with people that move around like chesspieces on the board you've crafted. Sometimes you direct the movements, but other times your characters can take you down a completely different path than you're expecting. And when you're engrossed in the world, you can write and write and everything will come out just fine, but once you're out of that world and if you start thinking about all of the outside influences that you will have to inevitably work with to get published-- i.e., the marketing to agents and publishers, the editing and polishing, the scrutiny by others -- it can feel pretty harrowing.

I write mostly in the fantasy genre, with some other elements thrown in, and one of the hardships of genre writing is there are some things you must satisfy in order to get your book published. And I really need to stop being so hard on myself about it, because I'm nowhere near the point where I even have to worry about that. I'm in the first draft, so why am I worried about what to change for an editor? It's no wonder that out of the number of people who say they're going to write, so few actually make it to the step of publication. The steps inbetween are huge, a big commitment for very little money, and they can be brain busters.

So, for myself and the other writers/readers who read my blog, I thought I'd post Heinlein's rules for writing success as explained by Robert Sawyer, a popular sci-fi writer. Here is the direct link, with the text posted below:


by Robert J. Sawyer

Heinlein's Rules

Copyright © 1996 by Robert J. Sawyer. All rights reserved.

There are countless rules for writing success, but the most famous ones, at least in the speculative-fiction field, are the five coined by the late, great Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein used to say he had no qualms about giving away these rules, even though they explained how you could become his direct competitor, because he knew that almost no one would follow their advice.

In my experience, that's true: if you start off with a hundred people who say they want to be writers, you lose half of the remaining total after each rule — fully half the people who hear each rule will fail to follow it.

I'm going to share Heinlein's five rules with you, plus add a sixth of my own.

Rule One: You Must Write

It sounds ridiculously obvious, doesn't it? But it is a very difficult rule to apply. You can't just talk about wanting to be a writer. You can't simply take courses, or read up on the process of writing, or daydream about someday getting around to it. The only way to become a writer is to plant yourself in front of your keyboard and go to work.

And don't you dare complain that you don't have the time to write. Real writers buy the time, if they can't get it any other way. Take Toronto's Terence M. Green, a high-school English teacher. His third novel, Shadow of Ashland, just came out from Tor. Terry takes every fifth year off from teaching without pay so that he can write; most writers I know have made similar sacrifices for their art.

(Out of our hundred original aspirant writers, half will never get around to writing anything. That leaves us with fifty . . .)

Rule Two: Finish What Your Start

You cannot learn how to write without seeing a piece through to its conclusion. Yes, the first few pages you churn out might be weak, and you may be tempted to toss them out. Don't. Press on until you're done. Once you have an overall draft, with a beginning, middle, and end, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to see what works and what doesn't. And you'll never master such things as plot, suspense, or character growth unless you actually construct an entire piece.

On a related point: if you belong to a writers' workshop, don't let people critique your novel a chapter at a time. No one can properly judge a book by a piece lifted out of it at random, and you'll end up with all sorts of pointless advice: "This part seems irrelevant." "Well, no, actually, it's very important a hundred pages from now . . ."

(Of our fifty remaining potential writers, half will never finish anything — leaving just twenty-five still in the running . . .)

Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order

This is the one that got Heinlein in trouble with creative-writing teachers. Perhaps a more appropriate wording would have been, "Don't tinker endlessly with your story." You can spend forever modifying, revising, and polishing. There's an old saying that stories are never finished, only abandoned — learn to abandon yours.

If you find your current revisions amount to restoring the work to the way it was at an earlier stage, then it's time to push the baby out of the nest.

And although many beginners don't believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable. Some small-press magazines do this at length, but you'll also get advice from Analog, Asimov's, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(Of our remaining twenty-five writers, twelve will fiddle endlessly, and so are now out of the game. Twelve more will finally declare a piece complete. The twenty-fifth writer, the one who got chopped in half, is now desperately looking for his legs . . .)

Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market

This is the hardest rule of all for beginners. You can't simply declare yourself to be a professional writer. Rather, it's a title that must be conferred upon you by those willing to pay money for your words. Until you actually show your work to an editor, you can live the fantasy that you're every bit as good as Guy Gavriel Kay or William Gibson. But having to see if that fantasy has any grounding in reality is a very hard thing for most people to do.

I know one Canadian aspirant writer who managed to delay for two years sending out his story because, he said, he didn't have any American stamps for the self-addressed stamped envelope. This, despite the fact that he'd known dozens of people who went regularly to the States and could have gotten stamps for him, despite the fact that he could have driven across the border himself and picked up stamps, despite the fact that you don't even really need US stamps — you can use International Postal Reply Coupons instead, available at any large post office. [And those in Toronto can buy actual U.S. stamps at the First Toronto Post Office at 260 Adelaide Street South.]

No, it wasn't stamps he was lacking — it was backbone. He was afraid to find out whether his prose was salable. Don't be a coward: send your story out.

(Of our twelve writers left, half of them won't work up the nerve to make a submission, leaving just six . . .)

Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

It's a fact: work gets rejected all the time. Almost certainly your first submission will be rejected. Don't let that stop you. I've currently got 142 rejection slips in my files; every professional writer I know has stacks of them (the prolific Canadian horror writer Edo van Belkom does a great talk at SF conventions called "Thriving on Rejection" in which he reads samples from the many he's acquired over the years).

If the rejection note contains advice you think is good, revise the story and send it out again. If not, then simply turn the story around: pop it in the mail, sending it to another market. Keep at it. My own record for the maximum number of submissions before selling a story is eighteen — but the story did eventually find a good home. (And within days, I'd sold it again to a reprint-only anthology; getting a story in print the first time opens up whole new markets.)

If your story is rejected, send it out that very same day to another market.

(Still, of our six remaining writers, three will be so discouraged by that first rejection that they'll give up writing for good. But three more will keep at it . . .)

Rule Six: Start Working on Something Else

That's my own rule. I've seen too many beginning writers labour for years over a single story or novel. As soon as you've finished one piece, start on another. Don't wait for the first story to come back from the editor you've submitted it to; get to work on your next project. (And if you find you're experiencing writer's block on your current project, begin writing something new — a real writer can always write something.) You must produce a body of work to count yourself as a real working pro.

Of our original hundred wannabe writers, only one or two will follow all six rules. The question is: will you be one of them? I hope so, because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it.

30,000/90,000 completed