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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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Friday, December 30, 2011

sometimes evening is short
I write (or revise) every night before I go to sleep, but I've been busy enough that some of my revision time is spent nodding off... I watch that close the next night. I've written scenes that I felt were needed but which put me to sleep and that told me something was wrong! Sometimes it just means that some piece of information was needed, but that the scene I had in mind to convey it was wrong. There are times when a brief narrative is better than showing something that might be valuable but isn't all that interesting. Half the time I eventually decide that the reader didn't really need the information, or that I had showed it better eleswhere anyway. Sometimes when I'm first writing a story, I try to include the whole life of my character in the given time frame, but as I learned watching MASH, among other places, the story and the time line aren't the same thing.

MASH, for those of you who don't know, had some episodes that included scenes that spanned a whole year, but it wasn't intended to imply that the next episode was the following year. It might be back at the beginning of that year, or the year-long story might have been the past year. The Bourne movies do something similar, starting the next movie well before the ending scene of the prior movie.

The time line plays a role, but every minute of every day doesn't necessarily do so, and sometimes the story sequence is more reverse than in line with the natural time line. The first book I write (for what I intend as a book and usually turns into several) is seldom in the time line of my eventual stories. They have a role to play but more often as history, backflash, or explanation of why the eventual story is the way it is, most of which is rarely interesting to reader in and of itself but may add to a scene that might include seemingly odd behavior without the background. (Writing such stuff also helps the writer build the characters and get to know them. A well-known character is much easier to write about and have speak and behave appropriately, so don't think that just because it's been "deleted" that you wasted your time writing it. Writing is never a waste of time.)

Writer's challenge: A. Swap two or three scenes. Read it aloud. B. Take several scenes and take one out. Put it back and take another one out and/or move it a backflash. C. Write s story where the first scene is the last in time sequence.
30 dec 11 @ 6:57 pm

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

abrevaiting fancy
I like reading old books but old books were far more verbose than most readers and all publishers would take these days, so shortening and revising in general is always at least in part watching for anything that might be abbreviated. Most of what I find is in flowery descriptions that are fun to write but when I read them aloud I know they aren't worth the number of words they take. Still, it's hard to say what makes them weak, and I know I had a hard time learning what "too many words" meant ("too many words" is a weak, verbose way of saying verbose, BTW, but that's what my HS Creative Writing teacher gave as his only feedback to my writing. Not helpful). As a young writer I didn't know if my piece was too long, the story too complex, or the words verbose, and didn't know what phrases counted as verbose because I had never had a teacher or editor take the time to underline, mark, or otherwise offer a few examples of what I needed to cut, so here are some examples for those who are trying to learn something from my semi-weekly babbling:

how deep it ran=depth

as if there were a phaze line connecting= as if a line connected; ing endings often mean the sentence could be improved... as does "there were/are" constructions

began to walk in a circle around=circled

been able to find=found

to take a break/took a break - slumped

acknowledged that he was working: acknowledged working

took the long way around = (sometimes) detoured


Writer's challenge: take two pages of a first draft and reduce it by half or take five hundred words and reduce it to 300 or less.
27 dec 11 @ 8:52 pm

Friday, December 23, 2011

I should never look back at my own posts. I see every typo and writing error, and the last post was probably barely readable. You can guess what the first drafts of my stories look like. My handwriting isn't any less prone to error that my typing and I even make some of the same errors though the reason has to be different (like writing "ans" instead of "and". S and d are close on the typewriter but nothing like each other for cursive! Thing thing (maybe the Firefox, maybe the web software) gives me a modicum of spell check without offering alternatives but not a grammar check that might tell me my head had gotten ahead of my fingers.

Anyway, I've been trying to follow my own advice and chop whole sentences and paragraphs to reduce the length of the book I'm working on (the numbers I was talking about last time were numbers of words, in case the context didn't help the gap I left in the reference to them.) The most common thing that i chop is a sentence late in a paragraph that rephrases what the rest of the paragraph has said already. Reading it, even, it sounds fine, and along the way I've said it differently enough that I think it wouldn't be obviously repetitive, It, is, though, a practice born more of writing nonfiction essays, where just such subtle "clarifying" though repetition is recommended. But when you are trying to shorten, such sentences don't serve sufficient purpose to keep.

Meanwhile, the holidays have kept more of my attention, and around here the holidays mean cooking so I've been posting more to my cooking blog (http://enefood.blogspot.com). That one is cooking and a little writing, where this one is writing and a little writing, so it's a little easier on some ways. After the holidays, that one will be the harder because with less cooking, I'll have to work harder to find something to write about besides just typing up recipes. On the up side, this one should be easier because I have a lot of writing tasks on my goal list for the new year and I won't have much else to take my attention away from writing for the first couple of months of the year, except some quilting, and lap quilting gives me lots of time to think about what I want to be writing so that I'm ready to go when I've stabbed my finger enough for the day.

Writer's challenge: enjoy the holidays and recharge for a January write fest!
23 dec 11 @ 5:22 pm

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

revision look-fors
I've noticed two things that I do a lot and have to correct as I go though my revision. One of them is that I still use too many words to say simple things, e.g. "view in front of her" - so, there could be a "view" behind her unless she has eyes in the back of her head, and view already conveys whatever can be seen by the view, so I simplify it to view with no loss. When the book i running tens of thousands over the preferred 100,000, getting rid of a lot of verbose phrases can add up, though it's not as effective as deleting whole paragraphs and scenes. I have some partial scenes that I need to delete or expand. The easiest is to delete, but I think the problems I've having later are due in part to some missing/incomplete side story lines, whereas some other sidebars are probably what need to be eliminated. It can be very annoying to try to eliminate when you need to expand, but that's revision for you. I'll bet people who can write a story end-to-end are good chess players.

Another one isn't so much a prob that is specific to science fiction and fantasy where there is a specific connection to Earth. The easiest way to remind readers that a character is from modern or future earth is to have them use common terms and phrases and references product brands, for example. They allow a lot of play: a small company declared as the big thing, a famous current one as an old fashioned backwoods thing. If its' the future, I;ll distort them a bit because nothing lasts unadulterated even in our life times, much less generations later.

The tricky bit, and why I miss the opportunities until several drafts in, is because I've spent years trying to make sure I don't make references like that accidentally for alien and historic characters who might have tissue but won't have Kleenex, for example, or would have energy, but not power, which is more a think of the industrial era unless speaking of magic, and certainly won't have "electric yellow" even if the color is around (orpiment is darn bright yellow and a very early paint pigment; the description electric yellow, a thing of an eon or two later).

Writer's challenge: Read your story backwards looking at individual words. Do you know the meaning and origin of them? Pick a few and look them up in a "college" dictionary.
20 dec 11 @ 8:50 pm

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another quick one, late
Pfeffeneus, packages, house cleaning, and letter/card writing have filled my time and I don't edit a lot before crashing. What I've been finding myself editing mostly is adverbs - deleting them. I don't think it necessary to delete all of them and I find it necessary to include lots of them the first couple of drafts, to remind myself what mood I was trying to set. But as I improve each scene and incorporate details like action, expression, and better dialog, the adverbs should become unnecessary, just like many adjectives should become less necessary as more concrete and expressive nouns and verbs take their place.

Writer's challenge: Write a story using cleverly, angrily, happily, and some other adverb. Polish the story so they can be removed.
17 dec 11 @ 5:03 pm

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm squeezing in time
Between holiday preparations and celebrations, I've been going through one of my stories with recent reading in mind to good effect. Mostly minor tweaks but several sentences chopped as redundant explanations and descriptions, and the addition of a few names to clarify who was speaking or being referred to.

I'm hoping the review process, a little faster now that I've gone through the first three quarters of the book fairly thoroughly by now, will help me charge into the final scenes better. I've yet to have any agent or editor ask to see the whole book, but I want it to be ready before I submit it for consideration, just in case they finally do.

Finishing always seems to be th hardest part. I've tried writing the ending very early on, often do just in the natural course of things, but the climax and the bits just before the ending, always hard. the concept is easy enough: have things seem to be going well, then al the forces collide into a disaster that seems insoluble, struggle, fight, twist it all around in a tornado, and then the problem is solved and its time for the wrap up. I usually end up with lots of pieces of climax and an ending, but the wrap up is weak, the sequencing as messy as a tornado, and maybe a lefthanded tornado at that. And like a tornado, things approach and are bounced away as often as sucked in so I have to try different approaches before I can get myself to really dig in and fis the mess.

In my nonlinear writing, I think I should really do that first, but more often I end up doing the backstory first, even if I'm aiming for a climax, because I haven't built the world well enough at the start to understand all the forces that can play a role or should play a role, and I've never found recipes for the interior of the climactic storm.

Writer's challenge: write a story about a storm
14 dec 11 @ 8:00 pm

Friday, December 9, 2011

It helps to read
I don't take as much time to read as I should. That's my primary reason for doing book reviews, to push myself to read. I enjoy it, but I generally enjoy writing and revising more. Can't do just that, though. After reading is always a great time to do better revisions. Because one of the things Briggs did well was good but fairly brief descriptions, as soon as I turned to my current revision task, I was more aware where I had verbose descriptions and explanations that added nothing to the story. I always end up with books longer than the recommended 100,000 words. so guidance on cutting is always valuable.

Even if a book is problematic, the fact that I found things I didn't like makes me more aware if I do the same thing. One of the things even good editors sometimes miss is references that imply one thing and are contradicted later. Technically, it's legitimate, but unless it's intended to surprise or confuse, it needs to get edited out or it jangles as a mistake and takes the reader out of the story. Awkward phrases, weird descriptions, long-winded diatribes, I've done it all but often don't recognize it until someone else does it, too. Then some pattern is written on the brain as something to look for and fix or delete.

Writer's challenge: take a new book or an old favorite, Identify something you like, something you don't like. check one of your stories for the same.

9 dec 11 @ 9:17 pm

Corus the Champion - comment
name: Rebecca LuElla Miller

comment: A good group of posts. I like the way you tied your observations in with your writing challenges. Thanks for taking part in this tour.

Becky

URL: http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/
9 dec 11 @ 8:27 pm

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Corus the Champion
I can't wrap up my blog tour without at least mentioning that this book is officially Christian Fantasy. I'm not exactly a great fan of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, which might seem an odd thing to say under the circumstances, but it's true. I approve of it as a concept, love some of the better representatives of the genre, but have encountered a lot of modern ones that lecture and sermonize. To me, that's patronizing. The Chronicles of Narnia didn't lecture, they didn't sermonize, they presented stories that conveyed, through the story, a message of faith and hope and good behavior and offered understanding of Christian teachings. And anyone in the world could read them and enjoy them and maybe gain something from them about good behavior, a neceessity sometimes people forget.

Briggs gets it. The world in which the brothers find themselves is not our world. Terms are shifted, culture is shifted and twisted about, but it's the same in a lot of ways. Good characters behave well or try to do so when the path isn't always clear, and the definitions of good and bad are not lost in twisted language. The lessons are there, the messages are there, but he lets the story tell it and doesn't step out of the story to lecture nor let his characters lecture and sermonize. Instead, the story dominates and the reader is left to enjoy and, if they choose, learn from it, just as every good story in every genre teaches something to those who care to learn.

Writer's challenge: does your story teach something? Does it align with the theme? If it or some of it is stated explicitly in the story, take it out. Reread the story. Is the message still apparent?
7 dec 11 @ 8:24 pm

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Corus the Champion - the boys
Book link - http://www.amazon.com/Corus-Champion-Legends-Karac-Tor/dp/0899578640/ (or some other link of your choice)

Authorís Web site - http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?Itemid=49&id=19&option=com_content&task=view

The brothers are an interesting collection and used in a unique way to build the story. The youngest about 13, Ewan, is mostly the main character of this volume, though he doesn't appear in the first several chapters. If you think of Garret and Gabe as examples of what Ewan has gone through earlier, sort of representative of whatever happened in the first book, the sequencing makes sense, and Ewan's role thereafter doesn't need further explanations. Those comfortable with what seems to be a common recent trend (the main character not showing up right away) won't need even need that to help them settle in. Being old school, especially with books for younger readers, I'm more used to the main character being the first one to show up or at least the second and kept looking for Garret and/or Gabe to play a bigger role.

That seems, however, to be a common pattern and I kind of understand it. I've noticed with t.v. shows that the ones with a multiplicity of players and side characters last longer and do better, keeping the reader interested accordingly. Ewan and his party do that once he comes on stage with his collection of companions and it is well worth reading through the early chapters to get to that fascinating core. I inevitably wonder how I might have done the same or similar combination ad think I might hae alternated between Ewan's chapters and those of the others, on the other hand, once I settled into reading about his story, the quest to find Corus, I was content to stay there and keep going, so this approach has its own benefits, too. Te earlier chapters also introduce the reader to Corus and the lead evil-doer, which some readers might find useful.

With teenage main characters and the careful introduction to the past, it is clear that the author intends a younger audience, but older eaders shouldn't be worried about picking this book up. The collection of characters, situations, and political issues will keep adult readers interested and well entertained and as I mentioned yesterday, it's a good study for fellow writer's too. Briggs is very skilled at the brief description that, despite its brevity, evokes clear impressions of a diverse ange of landscapes in a troubled world (flood, drought, and frozen wastes are taking over what I gather used to be the glorious, prosperous Camelot sort of place). He also has plenty of action scenes and quiet scenes that carry the reader along just as thoroughly as action scenes.

More tomorrow

Also, check out the list of other blog tour reviewers posted yesterday.

Writer's challenge: Describe a setting. Reduce by half. If it's still over a page, reduce by half again. Try deleting whole sentences rather than words and phrases.
6 dec 11 @ 7:39 pm

Monday, December 5, 2011

Corus the Champion - a general look
Usual caveat for blog tours: I got the book free for agreeing to write commentary as part of the CSFF blog tour for Crus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs (but honesty is still the policy)

I won't claim the book is perfection itself but its one of the better fantasies I've read in awhile. It's part 2 of a series but written and structured to stand relatively by itself and starts appropriately for a start. It also offers several writing lessons for my usual blog audience, especially on how to create interesting side characters in a paragraph or two, including presenting some strong emotions and attitudes, always one of my challenge areas.

For the readers, it also has much to offer, including for those who haven't read much fantasy. The central characters--four brothers--are from the contemporary world, even if the story takes place way back when, and the story starts with something of a tour guide (a "merling" who has experience helping Outworlders make the transition and understand the vocabulary associated with the past. New locations later in the story have no such guide, but by then the readers should be sufficiently ready to adjust on their own. Also, talian intrigue is a little easier to follow than Norse or Welsh mythology. (The story takes place in neither time or location in different countries of a world with a certain similarity of names and styles. There's a convenient map of the whole of Karac Tor in the front of the book for reference.

Arthurian legends (with the later Lancelot-like additions but set back in the earliest versions, and in the recent past in the time of the story), Roman or Italienesque court intrigues, Norse mythos that LOR fans will recognize as at least sharing the same origins: the story offers much for experienced fantasy readers as well as newcomers to the historical fantasy subgenre.

All in all, the best comprison I can offer is Curse of the Spider King, with new characters and new settings every couple of chapters, a collection of young central characters and several older ones aiding, protecting, or guiding them, and each with their own story building toward a central whole.

More tomorrow.

Writer's challenge: Read a book you haven't read before, looking for lessons to share. Post/share your results.
5 dec 11 @ 10:08 pm

Corus the Champion Blog Tour Starts Today 5 dec 11 @ 9:33 pm

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's December
I can tell because the more I do, the longer my list of things I want and need to do. I got the squares done for our annual Christmas quilt raffle (winner take all). We have a tree that is presentable if not yet fully decorated. Cleaning progresses, and baking has begun. I'm a little behind on writing cards and sending packages.

I've also finished my experiment with making one of my Science Fiction books into a more formal Christian Science Fiction book. It isn't quite there yet but I think the book is improved for the effort, the characters a little better differentiated, the theme refined. A couple of the dialogs make a little more sense than they did before (Angry diatribes in real life rarely make sense because anger overrides any coherent logic, but in a book, it still has to make some kind of sense to the reader).

Now I'm tackling one that I thought was further along until I started typing up the pieces in my random scene pile that I've collected over the past year. In the process of fitting the pieces in where they belong, I discovered that there were larger gaps in the story than I realized so I will be tackling that for probably most of December. (I write or revise a little before going to sleep regardless of how late it gets).

Writer's challenge: If you get some time off from day jobs, experiment with writing during different hours of the day: when can you concentrate and be creative best? Find a way to make writing at that time part of your regular daily routine.
4 dec 11 @ 11:01 am

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Be sure to get in touch so I know you're out there! See contacts page or e-mail wyverns(at)earthlink(dot)net.

Every word should be an experience