We kick off this week with a roundup of interesting links on Monday, regarding such diverse topics as the film industry, the use of the Wii in medecine, and the hardships Moroccan women face in the wake of a changing political economic climate.
Wednesday's post will touch on the art of superheroines, and how we can improve it.
And on Friday I shall continue blogging on research for my novel, via a short essay about calendars and timekeeping in the Renaissance.
Many writers talk about “Shitty First Drafts,” to use the
term coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by
Bird. These are your horrific first attempts at your story. They’re hairy
with adjectives, and stumble about on improperly placed limbs. I like to call them
“ugly duckling” drafts because, despite their deformity, they are merely good
works in their infancy.
I used to believe I did not write these. In recent times, I
have discovered the extent of my error. Here are five lessons I learned on how
to bring ugly duckling drafts to maturity, which may be of use to you as well:
Write action, trim description. Action
is the currency of your story. Your readers may forget your paragraphs of prose
poetry on an ancient horn’s carvings. They will
remember what your characters did—because
that is the story. Description works
best riding on the trail of action, so marble your action and description like
meat and fat in a good steak.
If you must describe at length, make it
sound like action. Writing figuratively allows you to make things incapable of action come alive. We already say that vines coil and patterns flow, so let your imagination play with the possibilities. Start by turning gerunds back into verbs: "His steep forehead sloped into a thick brow," instead of "He had a steeply sloping forehead and a thick brow."
Give your characters something to do.
Even bit characters should make themselves of use. This goes double for
characters who usher us into the story. The first draft of my novel-in-progress opened with
a beleaguered priest waiting in the rain. He waited for three-quarters of a
page. When I showed the passage to an editor, the opening failed to capture her
attention. She recommended that I give him something to do. I followed her
advice, and his plight became far more interesting. Conflict drives stories,
and conflict dies when characters do nothing.
Weed out the cliches. Avoiding trite
phrases and tropes is difficult on your first draft. But second and third
drafts grant you the benefit of hindsight. Now is the time to chuck those old
chestnuts and try something more lively. If you feel your story requires a
scene that would be considered cliche, ask yourself aspects of that approach
are important. Then find another scenario that fulfills those requirements. If
you cannot, then cut everything not essential to the task.
Nothing is novel about these suggestions. I suspect that
ninety percent of what we know about the craft of writing is old news. The remaining
ten percent is unique to every writer, and we must each discover that for
On Bad Astronomy, I found this video featuring Phil Plait and Dr. Karin Bondar. In the video, Phil speaks briefly on the possibility of applying 3-D printing technology to building settlements on the moon—an option actually under development by NASA. Karin follows up with an equally fascinating development: biologists are manipulating DNA in a manner that I can only describe as genetic computing.
To me, these developments are evidence that we already live in a science fiction world. Every day heralds new discoveries about the natural world, and more knowledge of how we can apply those principles to our technology. As someone who writes science fiction, this is good news for me.
I just returned from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.
This is my first year in attendance, and in the aftermath I have so much to say
that my thoughts render me mute. What do I feel? I think I feel like I have
finally come home.
The conference is of too great a scope for me to sum up in
one post, but I discovered a common refrain: e-books are changing everything.
One of the first panels I attended was about digital publishing. Guy Kawasaki
spoke at Saturday morning’s keynote about—yes—digital publishing, and Friday’s
afternoon keynote featured romance author Bella Andre, who discussed how she
earned a spot on the New York Times Bestseller’s list as a self-published
This Wednesday, the 20th, a brief post on recent developments in science.
And for Friday the 22nd I explore the process of revising, including tips I picked up this weekend and some notes from my own experience.
Due to some limitations I have discovered with Blogger, I will be switching Runicfire over to Wordpress. The process will likely take a month, and involve a visual retooling as well. Don't worry: everything I have posted so far will transfer over, and the new site will be prettier, more useful and easier to use than before.
As a Friday treat to you all, I am posting an older short story of mine. It's called "A Glitch in the Timing." It's about Esau Alexander, a detective of the gilded city of Starfall who, against his better judgment, pursues a missing persons case—pro bono. I hope you enjoy it!
This is the first part of a series in which I discuss a portion of the research behind Rosaria of Venice, my forthcoming alternate-history novel, and other matters related to that research. If you like what you read, please keep an eye out for new updates, and tell your friends!
There was a time, centuries after the fall of Rome, when northern Italy blossomed with the rediscovery of ancient culture. Perspective returned to
painting, form to sculpture, and new artists expanded upon the ancient
techniques. These times saw the rise of the printing press and the spreading of
literacy. The new age brought political turmoil and religious revolution through the Protestant Reformation.
The works of figures such as Copernicus and Galileo shaped science into a semblance of its modern form. Through the cracks of feudal Europe, the modern
era broke soil.
Today marks the beginning of Runicfire's first full week of operation, and also a busy and exciting time for its author! Here's a look at what's in store for the next seven days:
I will be attending the San Francisco Writer's Conference from Thursday through Saturday. I hope to learn a lot more about the craft and business of writing from the panels, and to find plenty of opportunities to network and promote my novel, Rosaria of Venice. I will be posting a recap of my experience next Monday, February 18th. My more immediate reactions can be found on my Twitter feed @AaronM_Miner.
Speaking of my novel, this Wednesday I'll be writing about some of my historical research for Rosaria of Venice. When you're writing a steampunk alternate-history version of 15th-century Italy starring a Renaissance woman, you need to do your homework. And researching the Italian Renaissance is very fun homework.
And on Friday... a little treat to my early readers!
You are no doubt wondering where on Earth you are, and who
the blazes this bespectacled, bearded man pictured on the right sidebar happens
to be. Worry not. You will have your answers soon, but be warned: you may get a
tale out of the bargain.