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Welcome to my blog!

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This blog was my online wordsmith workshop, where you'll find notes on my writing experiences, excerpts from my fantasy and science fiction novels, and essays of a more homeworld flavor.  Some of the advice therein may still be of interest to new writers so I have left it here but due to technical difficulties, I no longer post here regularly.  You can look me up on Dreamwidth, although I do not post frequently. 

Feel free to share a link to this site. If you opt to download it or share content, please give due credit to this website and the author: Emmalyn N. Edwards. Thank you--Emmalyn

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Work and stresses
I can't take my work home with me, but I often take home its stresses. On the up-side, every scene should have tensions, changes, conflicts if only internal uncertainties, and recent aggravation always gets my mind going in useful directions for portraying conflict in my stories. I have a streak that wants everything to be sweet and happy, which makes adding conflict problematic and need the fuel and reminders at time, both in the need to add it, and ideas for how to do so.

For example, anger tends to push sense and logic out the window, and so does passion and pleasure. Even logical characters will act unreasonably in a fury or when they are letting emotions guide their actions, so making the characters act logically and sensibly is the opposite of showing emotion, hence many smart characters need to act stupidly at times, as do all heroes (self preservation is logical, self-sacrifice is pure emotion, heart, and soul). (Whether it works or not, or seems to be working or not, is when outsiders judge it to be stupid or brave, but at the time, the source of the choice is usually the same.)

I know ll these things, recognize them in stories, and yet my first drafts and second drafts are usually full of logical, sensible sequences (or stupid acts portrayed as being for a logical reason if I recognize the need for the story to go that direction) and I have to push myself to go back and reconsider the emotions in each scene, take out the reasoning to let emotion be seen as the controlling factor, and make my characters behave stupidly or badly with no good reason at all before I really can have the story I was aiming for. The writing hand is tied to the logical part of the brain, even if the vision is from the emotional, imaginative part, and getting them to work together with the appropriate parts in charge at appropriate parts of the process can be a challenge, especially as I get older.

Writer's challenge: piss your best, sweetest character off.
30 apr 11 @ 10:12 am

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Surviving weather
Not too bad, here, really, though it got nasty none too far away. It made me think about weather in my stories, not for the first time. n fantasies, there's usually weather if only to prove the characters are traveling outside, but I tend to go "normal" and mild, which isn't necessarily a good thing. think of the LoR mountain blizzard. It changed the course of the story, literally the travelers' course. Other stories are all about the weather, the classic man against nature. Science fiction, not so much but maybe it could be more.

If you're traveing in a ship for months or years, would you want weather changes? Would you be able to control the ship's environment enough to avoid changes over time? they talk about the smelly feet effect and overheating, but all the CSIs et al say the worst odors get blocked out by the mind after awhile so that only visitors will notice. As to the heat, here's the issue of conductivity - where does the heat go when there are no atoms bouncing around the surface to carry it away, but some things convert heat energy into other forms of energy, and any source of energy is at a premium when you aren't where you can pick up fuel, so shouldn't the conversion take away/absorb heat and cool things off, at least periodically, maybe on a slow cycle like a quick summer followed by at least fall-spring. And what about moisture? I know there are issues of oxygen vs carbon dioxide, handled in a variety of ways, but I assume plants could be useful at least in larger, more spacious space ships... but they incorporate water in the cycle, more plants, more oxygen, and more water all going together. Could you get it to rain like a terrarium garden? What would be the upside and downside of rain inside select sections of a ship? Lots more questions than answers in my limited science knowledge, but I can see plenty of room for play in a story!

Wtier's challenge: Pick a question, any question, and come up with answers that are believable and interesting if not necessarily true.
26 apr 11 @ 8:49 pm

Friday, April 22, 2011

Looking back
i can't always tell where my mind is at when I'm writing, but looking back is always revealing and I see the last time that my mind was racing. It reads like one who is speaking without a breath. I've done it intentionally on occasion, but I usually like to be more thoughtful with my blogs. I had family visiting, and probably many things on my mind if not physical interruptions. I also finished my quilted wall-hanging, finally (lots of small quilting though I didn't create the picture), and was thinking about where to go next - the continued cool weather is allowing more quilting...

It's useful to look back and see what words and phraseology gives the results I've achieved accidentally in my earlier drafts, in case I want to do it on purpose some other time, and I often look at my older writings just for that effect.

Sometimes I think it might be useful as an example for others as well, but I now from experience with groups that it doesn't always work that way. For one, we all write differently, so a style/technique that works for one writer doesn't always translate well into someone else's writings. In an old APA I participated in, rewriting even a small section of someone else's work, to show the original author a means of improving a difficult passage, for example, was actively discouraged, and almost always an impressive failure whenever anyone tried it. We may not like what someone else is doing, but very few can imitate another author's style well enough to not only copy but improve. More often, it misses the style entirely, then any sense of improvement is lost, and it may insult or annoy the original writer.

About the closest, doable "copying" Ive encounered is like the Fiction Friday prompts (I havne't checked out today's yet but I encourage others to do so. The same can be done with brief descriptions of a plot (think about the comet disaster movies, several of which came out within a year of each other. Similarities, but in the end very different and adding to the collection rather than detracting from each other though I assume they were in something of competition. A similar thing occured with a woman hiding out in a nunnery. Two movies (one with a sequel that I'm not counting) both coming out not far in time from each other with very different flavors. I don't encourage doing it on purpose, except with little prompts intended for mutual amusement, practice, and a chance for feedback, but if you can's seem to get started, it's one way to crate your own prompt, and later revisions can take you away from the risks of copyright infringements. Ive started a couple that way sort of, with old sci fi settings and a few characters, just to get the feel for writing, changed them because my characters didn't fit the starting setting, changed them again when I merged them with other characters I ended up with novels whose real origins I don't even know and are so numerous I could hardly describe if I do recall or have the old notes.

Well, I'm blathering and lost my starting train (hence the wandering of stories from their origins, too, when I draft first drafts like this).

Writer's challenge: take something you wrote long ago and use it as a starting point for a new or revised story.
22 apr 11 @ 7:00 pm

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

POV issues
Visiting family always reminds me that everyone sees the world a bit differently, the more so for strong fiction characters, but pretty much nobody thinks about what they notice or don't notice, they don't don't think about thinking about what other people are doing.

What that means for my editing my work is that I do a lot of deleting of phrases like "She watched him taking his pipe out" and either going on from there or rephrasing it to say, in her point of view section, "He took out his pipe" or, better yet, "To her annoyance, he took out his pipe," though really, to make it more showing and less describing, especially with emotions, "He took out his pipe and she, with no authority to make him put away, started tapping the desk with her pencil."

Similarly, I try to delete things like "She considered..." "She thought about..." and replace them with "She imagined..." (because its hard to otherwise differentiate between real and the thought-image in mid scene, but at least it's a slightly more appropriate word for thinks she wouldn't seriously consider) or, if she really is considering something, skipping to the logic/content of the thought. "It would be appropriate to..." "Perhaps Carmichal would..." "If Carmichal would just..."

In the former case of an unrealistic consideration, especially to convey that a meeting went long without either expounding on the meeting content or saying it went long, I might cut to a new scene which contains the imaginary scenario, perhaps as if real to start, but then flowing off to the absurd or unrealistic shifts to convey, by end, that it's just the POV character's imagination. This trick is not unique but can be effective, especially if the daydream sequence is used to serve a multiplicity of purposes simultaneously, such as conveying character relationships, wishes and goals of the current POV character, foreshadowing, adding action that might otherwise be lacking in the preceding and following scenes, and conveying something of the local culture for which appropriate scenes are lacking.

I often make one fix, realize at the next pass that I can improve on it, and on the next eliminate the whole scene or add a new one. I never consider the changes wasted because I learn from them, and also because many things I delete, especially if more than a word or two, go in a file of unused versions and bits that have frequently been resurrected, at least as inspiration, for another scene elsewhen, elsewhere.

Writer's challenge: go experiment with different ways to dye eggs, then write a scene in which one of your character's participates in a local tradition: their own or someone else's.
20 apr 11 @ 3:22 pm

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finally made it to Friday
It seemed to take more effort than usual to get through the week. I never did get my Parsec entry in. Lots of starts, one ending, nothing for middles. I finally tried treating the theme like a quicky prompt and that got me the best start as well as a start at an ending just this past week. I've been trying to find something for months on what seemed like a dark theme, but the quicky prompt got me in the mood to aim for comic and that worked better, since most of my stuff is on the lighter side if not exactly comic. It was just too late when I had such a busy week and couldn't drop everything else to work on the middle.

The harder my mind works, the less creative I feel at the end of the day, which is probably why I wind down with something as mindless as crochet or nearly as mindless as quilting (thedesigning and piecing is another matter and not to be done when tired). Currently I'm quilting a little wall hanging that i made from a kit. The piecing and picture were essentially provided but I'm doing lots of detail quilting to make it more personalized and decorative. I also added buttons as docorations. A little of that, then editing for a short while before I go to bed.

Some of the editing takes more brainwork than others (I'm a bad typist so lots of typo corrections are easy,for example. Notes that say "Need a scene here that shows...." which I litter through any book (usually during the first couple of end-to-end revisions take a little more work and when I'm tired I usually stop for the night at that point, though sometimes I make a stab that turns out, the next day when I relook at it, to be helpful but no more than a rough first draft.

Mostly lately it's been that I've found too many little dialogues, different pairings, but no action among them, after having had several scenes that were action in quick succession. Lots of action works, lots of dialog needs a break and sequencing chunks of story are always what ends me having to do a new end-to-end review to catch all the minor adjustments that go with resequencing whole scenes. Well, in some cases, it's better to change the dialog to action, but some kinds of information don't present well with action, or the dialog is the action, to present personal conflicts and viewpoints. Dialog as conflict. Still, for a science fiction, a little more action is expected so interruptions, action from elsewhere broken up perhaps... after I get caught up on my sleep.

Writer's Challenge: Go through a novel and list which scenes are mostly narrative, dialog, adventure or other action. They can't be an even distro, but are there sections overwhelmingly one or another? Then take a nap and fix it later.
15 apr 11 @ 9:59 pm

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reminder
Writer's Challenge: Parsec's writers competition for Confluence is due this Friday, on the prompt "Last Encounter". Think of it as a Friday Fiction prompt, write something, and send it in!
12 apr 11 @ 9:45 pm

What happened to real news? and Social Science Fiction
I am most tempted to try my hand at nonfiction after weekends like this last. It took me three new broadcasts and a chat with coworkers to decide that no, we still don't actually have a budget, that the government is still functioning by dint of a continuing resolution, that the only thing that happened was that there was enough illusion of progress toward a compromise position that they agreed to yet another continuing resolution while they continue to work on the budget. I'm thrilled the parks and all stayed open, which seemed to be the real big news of the weekend on most channels, but does anyone get that budget talks on next year's budget should have started last October, when this year's budget should have started. Congress can decide all they want, but meanwhile, all the agencies keep spending at what I assume is last year's budget plan, because, after all, they still have the same number of employees, the same jobs and duties, more or less, and aren't shut down. I figure they are just waiting til the ned of the fiscal year, by which time, the budget will land on the easy solution of actual expenditures.

I heard a recent thing that suggested science fiction should consider addressing the "other" sciences (as opposed to the hard sciences) and this is why I don't think that's such a great idea: it's too hard to pinpoint political science and social science down to know what's fiction and what's just bad theory and worse practice.

Actually, I've read a couple of short stories that were arguably focused on social sciences (although they inevitably threw in some hard sciences or space fiction or other traditional elements, too). They were about clothing fashions taken to extreme in connection with the "flash mob" and "cloud sourcing" kinds of phenomenon, or not-so-clothing fashions so much as image (babe in arms as a fashion statement, "that cute age" as a "look" that could be retained, and career choice versus "aptitude testing" as a determining factor. I suppose Eternity Brigade could be arguably described as a future-of-political science" as much as bio engineering piece because of the policies of war and the value of life issues behind the replication (though I remember the science fiction framework as primarily an excuse for bizarre and graphically described biological interaction).

Still, I think those pieces all work as identifiably science fiction less because of the social sciences and more because of the space, aliens, and more concrete sciences that accompanied them. I'm not at all convinced they would have worked as near-contemporary pieces where ONLY the social science is taken a step too far or a step beyond where we are now (even if desirable). Rather than science fiction, they would be seen as social commentary and as likely as not land on the mainstream fiction shelves. All fine if you're interested in that sort of thing, but unlikely to be found (and potentially unlikely to be enjoyed) by science fiction fans looking for the sorts of science with rules that are usually followed, rather than those where the rules are generalizations that rarely hold true in human practice. Now, move the poly sci decision-making and policy shift rules to an alien race... I could get into that.
12 apr 11 @ 9:40 pm

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fiction Friday
http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/fiction-friday-challenge-202/

This week's prompt--the phrase "Looks can be deceiving"--is a good one for any genre and several stories have already been posted. Check them out, comment, and share your own stab at it! I did!
8 apr 11 @ 8:21 pm

Warm with a cold
Apparently rambling was the first symptom of my lovely cold-allergy combo pack. Trees started blooming and I love it and the scent, but I barely get a chance to enjoy it before I stop being able to breathe easily. I think the cough and tiredness that have come with this time are more cold than allergy, though, so it's passing while the trees are still blooming. No promises about ceasing to ramble.

It's been long enough since I took English class that I've forgotten the name of the tense, but I regularly encounter the "ing" thing with verbs and am as guilty as anyone of using "ing" words too freely. Not there's anything wrong with using them. It's just that they should probably be reserved for when they make a difference. The rest of the time, they just require the use of words that don't add anything, never great for writing.

Take a look at the first paragraph above, for example.

Are still blooming. Is it really different from 'are blooming' (NOT 'different than'; 'different from' is the appropriate combination)? In this context--a timing differentiation, as in continuation being different from noncontinuation of the symptom--'still' matters. In a lot of cases, though, 'still blooming' really means 'blooming now', and so does 'blooming'. If that was the intent, we are left with 'are blooming', but that's still a two-word combo, so the question is, can we turn it into a single word? Generally speaking, 'is' or 'are' with an ing verb can often be replaced by merely the present or simple past form of the same verb, with no helping verb. The trees bloom. The trees bloomed. Direct, concrete, succinct, especially when magnified by the hundreds of times we might use the longer form in a long text.

Also, eradicate softening verbs like "possible" "probable" and "might" from your writing except for characters that are intended to come across as weak. Except maybe in mysteries, when they are intended to be wrong or suspected of being wrong in the end. For one, if the rest is plausible, their presence in the statement will be ignored and the information treated as fact, anyway. For another, the user of such words is typically and subconsciously perceived as weak whereas the confident, non-caveated speech or writing will come across as strong and confident on the order of "don't say if you don't mean it."

For example, see above 'they should probably be reserved' comes across as uncertain, caveated, full of holes and exceptions, and really, there aren't enough exceptions to numerate, besides there being exceptions to every rule in writing, regardless. 'Probably' adds nothing here.

Oh, and use double quotes, not single quotes, unless quoting within quotes, but I'm not going back to change them all, now that I've remembered that.

Writer's challenge: Take a paragraph and look at every word separately, every phrase, every verb construction. Fix everything. Repeat on the same paragraph. Read aloud between fixes. Which fixes made the paragraph stronger, more intense? Did some of the fixes make the paragraph become too stiff and formal or a tongue-twister?
8 apr 11 @ 5:11 pm

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More on names and references
I was concentrating on names for awhile and almost forgot the other terms of reference and forms of address, like "sir", "ma'am", "Mr", ranks, etc. I decided that one of my junior Forces people should be more accustomed to formal terms of respect and would use them appropriately, perhaps even more than the norm. I believe it also helps give a social and business hierarchy to the characters even if in modern times we've rather lost the distinctions. We do the same thing in movies, have visual cues to hierarchy that in reality would be much less visible. In writing, those cues have to be through dialog and descriptions, word choices such as we use to convey better educated characters or more sophisticated ones as contrast to those that are undereducated (however wise), or plain spoken and unsubtle.

In our own society, the military still retains the formalities that are notably lacking elsewhere (often to our regret, since people have lost all sense of how to show respect, or when to show it (such as respect for the dead and for those in mourning; if society had got its act together, we wouldn't need laws to protect mourners from undeserved harassment by hate mongers, and stalkers might know that what they are doing is out of line if they didn't see papparazzi and plenty of others hanging around celebrities constantly, as if they didn't deserve a life or a break when they were off stage).

Well, I'm rambling, so better end with a new challenge.

Writer's Challenge: Sit back, close your eyes for five minutes, maybe have a glass of milk, and then pick up pen and paper and write something.
3 apr 11 @ 9:16 pm

Friday, April 1, 2011

Its a Fiction Friday
I finally got back to the Fiction Friday prompt (today it was about famous people and baby names) and wrote a little science fiction story in about half and hour or so. My story is at: http://enexplorations.blogspot.com/2011/04/first-born-on-fiction-friday.html

Writers Challenge: You can give it a try and post your results, too! Go to: http://writeanything.wordpress.com/ read the little announcement about copyright, then go to the Fiction Friday Category for instructions and the prompt.
1 apr 11 @ 8:07 pm

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Every word should be an experience