Monday, December 27, 2010

Writing Blog - WritingSpirit

http://blog.writingspirit.com/

Writing Spirit is written by Julie Isaac, who is a creativity coach as well as author. If you're the sort of person who likes to think about goal setting and creativity, then this is a good blog for you. It's packed with interesting little snippets, but very down to earth advice. She also hosts a live twitter chat every Sunday to discuss writing and creativity. Imagine hanging out with 2 - 300 writers! That would be a very busy chat indeed.

For more information on ways to use Twitter to leverage yourself and your sales, check out her category "Twitter". I've read a few blogs that talk about publicizing, but this article is very focused on how to use Twitter to be seen as an expert. She also talks about book promotions, and is the founder of WritingSpirit Community.

I don't think this is stuff is complex, but it is interesting, and may be useful.

--
Sarah

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hard Heroes on Voyager

I've just had the pleasure of contributing to a useful blog post, the brainchild of Kim Falconer, author and astrologer extraordinaire, on factors essential to the creation of strong, kick-arse type characters, .

Kim has written a few of these characters herself, as have most of the other contributors, who include K J Taylor, Tracey O’Hara, Stacia Kane, Jennifer Fallon, Mary Victoria, Duncan Lay and Nicole Murphy. I'm not sure what I'm doing in such august company, but I'm pleased to have contributed to such a well-thought-out and helpful article.

Being the Voyager blog, these are, of course, all Harper Collins authors, but if we cast the net wider you'll soon think of more. Marianne de Pierres's Parrish Plessis springs to mind, as do several characters from the pens of Joe Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin, another - and perhaps the most famous - of Voyager's authors.

The post has two parts. Part one, which went up on 20 December, is here and part two is here. In the intervening posts, you can check out Kim's delightful horoscopes and the trailer for the film of GRRM's marvellous A Game of Thrones.

Who is your favourite kick-arse character? Leave a comment and let us know.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tools In The Toolbox

Here's some very useful links for any one working on learning how to write:

http://thesaurus.com/

Favourite parts: Synonym and antonyms! Related searches! Visual thesaurus! Lots of useful information all in one place.

http://dictionary.reference.com/

Sister site to Thesaurus.com, the Dictionary has heaps of information and a similar format.

--
Sarah

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Superstars of Writing Seminar

Kevin J Anderson is arranging another Superstars of Writing Seminar in Utah early next year. In support of this, he is publishing a series of posts of tips for writers.

I was a bit hesitant of anything that's a seminar for Superstars, but then I actually read the pedigree of the instructors, I was a lot more impressed, and a lot more interested in going!

Brandon Sanderson, Dave Wolverton, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and special guest instructor Sherrilyn Kenyon as well as Kevin J Anderson too. That's an awful lot of talent to listen to for three days!

So if any one happens to be in Utah at the right time and right place, send us a report please? Please please please with a pretty on top? 

--
Sarah

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

News from The Specusphere

A new issue of The Specusphere is now available: http://www.specusphere.com/joomla

This issue is something of a special one for The Specusphere. The editorial briefly outlines plans for a publishing enterprise and the team announces the opening of submissions for The Specusphere's first ever fiction anthology! You'll find some guidelines in the Publishing section, and more information on the theme can be found in the article "Myths and Legends".

The anthology will showcase stories that encapsulate the idea of the myth or the legend, or something that plays creatively with the form. It may be the re-telling of an existing myth, or it may be a new slant on an old myth — Jason commanding the Starship Argo, for instance.

The editorial team - Stephen Thompson, Amanda Greenslade, Satima Flavell and Astrid Cooper - will be looking for stories that entertain, are layered with meaning and which bring a new and speculative insight to the theme - stories that can replace current myths and legends, or can be passed off as one of them. Original stories, strong characters, speculative plots.

Elsewhere in the issue, Benjamin Solah investigates torture porn and AA Bell (whose most recent book, Diamond Eyes, is fresh out from Harper Collins) gives us some good advice about formatting manuscripts. Stephen Turner continues his hero's journey and Brian Armour wonders about art and science.

As usual there are plenty of book reviews, and there is a comic review by John Fitch. The fiction section continues the Bomoh series and Bill Pine regales us with a teasing atmospheric piece.

Go check it out at http://www.specusphere.com/joomla - and sharpen those keyboards for your anthology submission!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Joanna Fay wins KSP Poetry Award

Congratulations to Joanna Fay whose poem, 'Persephone', has won first prize in the Katharine Susannah Prichard Karen W Treanor Poetry Award, judged by Kevin Gillam.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Useful Con Information

While researching - okay surfing the net (I have procrastination down to a fine art these days), I discovered several blog posts on Worldcon 2010. As I still haven't managed to get my own thoughts down here are some links that may be useful. They come from a few of my favourite speculative fiction bloggers - apart from my fellow Egoboo writers - Christopher Green, Graham Clements, Laura E. Goodin, Michele Cashmore, Patty Jansen and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Tansy's is particularly useful because she gives her own list as well which expands the number of bloggers way beyond mine.

They don't all blog every day or even every week but when they do it's interesting and thought provoking. I'm sure there are many more so please feel free to add the details of any Worldcon blogs you have found useful in the comments. Because the entries relating to Worldcon are often scattered through the blogs I haven't given links to specific posts but don't let that put you off. You can go to their archives if those posts are all you want to look at.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing the Image-ination

A while ago, I mused in this space about connections between writing and music. Now I'd like to turn to images. For me, there is no separation between story and image, and I would go further and say that image precedes words in my writing. I know we all have our different starting points, our different 'windows in' to story, character, setting, action; in my case pictures are always the way in which an idea initially presents itself, and have been for as long as I can remember. I cannot recall the first thing I ever wrote, but do have a strong recollection of drawings, paintings, clay modelling from about the age of three. And from much younger (and having been born in the tropics), tantalizing expanses of colour, vivid, deep greens and saturated blues, blobs of red that were possibly flowers or crabs.

The storyworld I'm writing in now, obsessively, took shape over a very long period of time and started in pictures at around the age of twelve. Pictures of people, of landscapes and buildings, their forms and colours, maps of a vast world, diagrams of the structure of wings and feathers, pictures of flowers, trees and strange or mythical creatures. The imagery of this world and its characters was quite firmly established in my head before pen ever hit paper to do anything more than thumbnail sketches. Next, moments in scenes started to emerge, like frozen tableaus. Then I would look at them and feel curious. Who were the people in them? What was happening? What brought them to this moment, and how might it play out? Words started to flow from the questions asked of the image, and suddenly I would have a scene, a chapter, a story. The process seemed quite magical at that young age - and still does.

This writing mode has changed very little over time (although I hope the writing craft has); a few months ago, for example, I decided to try writing a short story with a specific themed anthology in mind. The catalyst for the story was, true to form, an image - a picture lifted from a novella which was visually memorable to me. A winged man lying dead on a beach under a blue-grey sky, and woman who could be elvish finding him. The man, his skin white, hair and feathers black, amber-coloured blood soaking into the sand. The woman kneeling beside him, shivering, visibly conflicted in her feelings. Then the questions.....What if the man isn't dead? And what if he's an elf? And following on from that, Who is this woman? Why am I seeing in her fear, repulsion, distrust, desire...even an odd sense of kinship?

When the image has been interrogated, the fascination is then in watching a new story begin to unfold from that single point into its own past and future, crystallizing it into words that not only tumble the image into a whole new shape, but give it a life that moves through time and space. I love this process, every time.

Thinking now of that expression, 'the art of words', I realise how literally true it can be. :-)

Monday, November 1, 2010

World Fantasy Awards

Congratulations to all World Fantasy Award winners with special congratulations to the Australian contingent: Margo Lanagan, Best Novella for Sea-Hearts, and Jonathan Strahan, Special Award - Professional category for editing anthologies, among them. Full winners list is here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Congratulations

Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts has won the 2010 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award for Siren Beat, a novella published by Western Australian small press Twelfth Planet Press and edited by Alisa Krasnostein.

I really enjoyed this novella (part of the Doubles series where it was partnered by Roadkill by Robert Shearman) when I read it last year. The books from this press get better and better, I think. The cover art is always intriguing and I love the variety in the books they put out. Small press has a valuable part to play, particularly in genre fiction, as a place where shorter fiction can be published apart from magazines. Collections, anthologies and novellas are unlikely to be published by mainstream publishers who are forced by commercial constraints to focus on uncontroversial novel length fiction but they definitely are worth the read.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October Aussie Spec Fic Blog Carnival

This month's blog Carnival is up at FableCroft. I love these Carnivals. There's always a mass of news and lots of useful writing information that's worth referring back to through out the month. Why not go and have a look.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Importance of Distance.

One of the best pieces of writing advice ever was given to me by my creative writing teacher many years ago. It was to put away a piece of writing for as long as possible when you have it to the point where you think it is finished. At the time I was sceptical. I had finished my first story and it was polished to within an inch of its life, wasn't it. I had sweated over every word, every comma. What possible difference could putting it aside make? I should be sending it out. Shouldn't I.

Fortunately I was a beginner and writing had yet to become something I tackled seriously and professionally. In the next few weeks Real Life intervened and I was too busy dealing with that to even look at my writing. When I did I was stunned - and embarrassed - as flat writing, over-writing and just plain indulgent writing all jumped out at me, not to mention the parts where, assuming the reader knew what was in my head, I had not put it on the page.

I redrafted and edited and took it back to my teacher who suggested I send it to a national writing competition. I was hesitant, sure I would mess up on manuscript presentation or some other critical aspect of submitting but with Pam's gentle pressure I sent it off to the Alexandra Hasluck Award - and came first. I can't tell you the emotions when I picked up the phone and was given the news. I was overwhelmed.

After I calmed down I realised what a valuable lesson I had learned - and my enforced break from writing while I was on holiday recently has reinforced it. Before I went to Aussiecon 4 and then on to holiday in Tasmania I had been struggling with my current work in progress. While I was happy with most of it there were sections that just were not alive and I couldn't see how to fix them. Now a month later I have just returned to it and already I can see so much that needs to be done.

It's easy to fall in love with what we write but we need to distance ourselves because sometimes what we love does not help the story. It may even damage it. When you've finished your story, put it away and give it some time to mature. When you come back, I promise you will see it with fresh eyes.

PS It works when you are blocked too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Revenge of Omni Rampant?

Over the last few decades, the style of writing preferred by publishers has changed. When I was a child, books were usually written from the viewpoint of the omniscient author, who was free to step in to describe the setting - and often did, at considerable length, before introducing any characters. In extreme cases, such an author would shift the point-of-view from one character to another, even within the same scene, and would also comment on the action from a fly-on-the-wall viewpoint, sometimes even presaging future thoughts or actions of the characters.

My belief is that this style of writing dates back to a time when reading aloud was a common after-dinner entertainment. The person doing the reading was rather like the bards of old, telling the story and commenting on it: a character in his or her own right. But with the advent of radio, reading aloud lost its appeal as a social activity, and as a result, the acceptable style of writing started to change. By the turn of the new century, the "tight third" (also "close third" or "deep third") point-of-view, which sticks to one viewpoint per scene - even the narrative passages are told through the eyes of the POV character - had become almost compulsory. "Head-hopping" - changing POV within a scene - was virtually outlawed.

This newer style of writing has been taught in genre writing classes and insisted on by members of many critique groups for at least a decade. A few established writers continued to write from an intrusive omniscient viewpoint, but new writers didn't dare, because, it was said, no publisher would be interested in such work.

Something else that appeared to have gone out of fashion is the intrusive dialogue tag, with or without a modifying adverb. So "grumbled", "opined" and "shouted angrily" were taboo. Stephen King's noteworthy treatise "On Writing", in which he insists that "said" is the only acceptable dialogue tag, had a lot to do with this. After all, we'd all love to be able to write like Mr King, or at least have a chance at earning his kind of income! So we all stopped using tags where we could get away with it, and used only an unadorned "said", or very occasionally "asked" when we could not.

Furthermore, we were exhorted to start the story "in media res" - right in the thick of the action. A leisurely description of the scenery or the weather was no longer allowed: the reader, we were assured, wanted action on page one, and would not read any further if no action was forthcoming.

The new style seemed entrenched. I ignored the occasional relapse, seeing it as the last stand of an outmoded writing technique. But there have been signs of the old style making a comeback. One of this country's biggest publishing houses recently released, within a few weeks of each other, two fantasy books written in unashamedly omniscient style. And there is not only head hopping, dear friends. In both books we find intrusive dialogue tags, often with attached adverbs. On a single page of one of them, I found three POV changes and five different dialogue tabs. Only one of these was "said" and it came trailing an adverb. And neither of the books started with an action scene.

Is this extreme form of the omniscient point-of-view the new black in fantasy writing? Only time will tell, but I, for one, certainly hope not. The tight third allows the reader to forget that he or she is reading. In the hands of a master such as Joe Abercrombie or Margo Lanagan, the author, the reader and the book all disappear, leaving only the experience of the characters, fed straight into the reader's mind. You simply can't have this kind of sensory immersion experience with omni rampant.

I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring the tight third, but I'd like to hear what others think. Should we start an Association for the Defence of the Tight Third POV, the Non-intrusive Dialogue Tag and the Full-on Action Start? Or is it already a Lost Cause?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To Diacritic or Not to Diacritic, That is the Question

Following recent discussions with friends on inventing names for places or characters in fantasy writing, I've been musing on the topic a bit further. Not without cause....I'm an inveterate lover of diacritics, those little 'visual signifiers' that can add subtle sound changes to letters. The question is: do they work for readers the same way they work for me? And if not, what do I do about it?

Other issues arise too, of course, such as the length of names - just how big a mouthful are they - and the familiarity/unfamiliarity factor. What sort of word roots and stems do you work from? Are they Latinate, Celtic, Greek, Japanese, Klingon or something startlingly 'other'? You might choose your linguistic base to give your fantasy culture a certain 'flavour', or simply to render the strange into something approachable, recognisable. Then there's word length. As I'm finding, too many long names can have readers stumbling, or becoming distanced from the characters, which is the last thing I'm hoping to achieve!

But back to diacritics, those lovely little hats, cups, dots, bars and squiggles above (or below) letters familiar to readers of Spanish, French, German, Scandinavian, Eastern European and Asian languages, but not to readers of English. I heave a wistful sigh. My love affair with diacritics goes back a long way, to the age of fourteen, when a schoolfriend and I taught ourselves Quenya (Tolkien's invented 'High Elven' language) and began writing letters to each other in beautifully calligraphed script (tengwar). Tolkien used diacritics with dual intent; firstly as a vowel system (with each vowel represented by a different diacritic marker) and secondly, to create a specific visual aesthetic (Quenya being in the realm of 'art languages'). I'll come back to the visual aspects of diacritics and letterforms in just a moment.

In the present revision, I've been working through my novels and stripping back squiggles, creating shortened versions of long or otherwise unwieldy names, and looking carefully at the cultural bases of names for people of different races. And I'm finding that it's not as painful as I thought it would be (although keeping all the alterations straight in my head is a bit challenging!), and that I'm enjoying the simplifications as much as my readers undoubtedly will. In each diacritic instance, I've asked myself whether the name/word could survive without it, and have mostly been answered with a resounding 'yes'. Some subtlety of sound-form has been sacrificed for the sake of ease, but I think the basic aesthetic/aural principles are still holding good. Thank the gods! Imagine the terrible angst otherwise! (Reaches for the smelling salts).

What I'm left with no doubt relates to my background as a visual artist; the squiggles that have made it into the mix exist as visual cues just as much as sound modifiers. So, for instance, the only apostrophes (other than showing possessives) are in words used as magical commands; they all follow the same basic visual pattern for ease of recognition. All the grave and acute accents, diereses (umlauts) and circumflexes are gone - apart from one, which I've again kept for visual emphasis of the most important racial name. Other than that, I confess to my chief villain's name starting with the dreaded 'X', since I like the visual significance of the letter ( as a cross for 'wrong', or 'dangerous' as in skull and crossbones, or as an 'alert' - x marks the spot). I smile to myself, since a short story I'm currently reading (Aliette de Bodard's The Lonely Heart in the Panverse anthology Eight Against Reality) features an antagonist whose name starts with X (although this is also related to the story's Chinese origins and setting). On the other hand, Charles Xavier of the X-Men was a good guy of the highest order. Anyway, enough musing for now. Back to the novels!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aussiecon 4: Carol's Epilogue

I arrived at Aussicon 4 (my first) with many expectations including the will to listen and learn from this rare gathering of experts in the field of speculative fiction. I knew I would be dazzled by the Hugo and Ditmar award ceremonies, and of course I was. I also knew that I would have the opportunity to speak to writers whose work I have read and admired over the years. To this end I was not disappointed.

I had also signed up for three panels and from the very start felt daunted at the prospect. But my fears were quickly dispelled when my fellow panellists proved thoughtful and generous. I not only learned to voice my knowledge confidently, but also learned many new ways of understanding the topics we were discussing. I’d like to thank Juliet Marillier, Trudi Canavan, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Ellen Kushner, Rani Graff, Helen Lowe and Ben Chandler for giving me the opportunity to work with them. You all rock.

My only complaint about the panels (it’s actually a compliment to the organizers) is that there were too many to choose from, and for every panel I chose to listen to, there was one or two running at the same time that I wished I could attend also. But for me, the panel that helped the most with my writing was The Steampunk Playground with John Berlyne, Richard Harland and Jay Lake. I went into it expecting to learn about the direction that steampunk was taking and was not disappointed. But something else happened for me as well. I started thinking about the novel I am still second drafting and, as John, Jay and Richard spoke about the mad science factor and the attraction of Steampunk’s visual elements, it suddenly dawned on me how to make my novel not just work but really work. Thanks to this panel, I am now on a much better footing to get this novel finished, knowing exactly where I want it to go and how to get there. I thank John, Jay and Richard for that. Their panel alone made Aussiecon 4 a worthwhile venture for me.

One of the most daunting aspects of the con for me was the twenty-five minute reading slot I signed up for. I decided before hand that I would read from something published – something safe, that I knew more than one reader would approve of. However, at the last moment, I decided that I’d take a risk and read from my novel instead, and hopefully gauge genuine listener reactions to it. So I read the first chapter – one that has been redrafted several times over to the point where I cannot think how to improve it. I began, terrified that people would walk out. But when they stayed till the end, I felt confident that yes, this novel is starting to work. And yes, I will finish it. Huge thanks to everyone who came and listened to me.

Finally the fun part of Aussiecon will be as memorable as the work aspects. I am infinitely grateful to all the generous, amazing people that talked to me, dined with me, partied with me, as well the new friends and old friends who made me feel like I belonged at Aussiecon. For me, this convention was one of those life experiences that will always remain up there with the best.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition

Yesterday I attended the Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary lunch. It's quite an achievement for a club to last this long with meetings every week except for a brief summer break. The club has helped many writers hone their skills, me among them, and I wish them well for another twenty five years.

As well as delicious food and a book launch, on the menu were the presentation of the judges' reports and readings of some of the prize winning entries from the Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition. I was delighted to find the names of so many people I know on the winners list. I'm proud to be among them. Congratulations to all the winners but especially Joanne Mills, the multi talented Pamela Blackburn, Marlene Fulcher and Pat Fletcher.

Poetry Section:

Judge: Shane Macauley

First prize: Kevin Gillam (WA)

Second prize: Joanne Mills (WA)

Third prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Commended: Lorraine White for two poems (NSW), Janeen Samuel (Vic) and Marlene Fulcher (WA)

Short Story Section:

Judge: Maureen Helen

First prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Second prize: Pat Fletcher (WA)

Third prize: Helen Venn (WA)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aussiecon 4 Appearances

If you've ever wanted to know who the Egoboo group is, you can now see most of us in action at Aussiecon4, and even pop in to a Kaffeeklatsch or two and meet some of our members!

Thursday

1400
Opening Ceremony

1500
Spoiler alert: Reviewing plot-driven fiction without giving the story away
One of the biggest challenges to reviewers and critics is discussing works whose narratives depend on surprising plots or shocking twists without spoiling those plots and twists for the reader. How do we manage to navigate our way around this problem without compromising the rest of the review? Is it even a spoiler to mention there are spoilers?
Ian Mond, Helen Venn, Jenny Blackford, Crisetta MacLeod
Room 216

1600

Magic mean streets: The city as a fantasy location
While some fantasy novels explore vast terrains of forests, mountains and oceans, others  choose to remain within the confines of the city. What is the appeal of the fantasy city, how does it contribute to the tone and plot of the fantasy novel, and how much detail do writers need to develop to make their fantasy cities work? A look at the best - and possibly worst - of fantasy  city design.
Ellen Kushner, Trudi Canavan, Carol Ryles, Jennifer Fallon
Room 210

1600
Motherhood in science fiction and fantasy
How is the theme of motherhood presented in science fiction and fantasy? A look at the best  and worst examples, and an exploration of why this theme can resonate so strongly with writers and readers alike.
Helen Merrick, Marianne de Pierres, Helen Venn, Tansy Rayner Roberts
Room 213

2000
Ditmar Awards

Friday

1300
Foundlings and orphans
The orphaned baby who grows up to become a master wizard. The lonely farmboy who becomes a powerful Jedi. The last son of the planet Krypton, who assumes the mantle of the world's greatest hero. Foundlings and orphans form a common and powerful theme in popular culture and fiction around the world, but why? What is the origin of this storytelling theme, and why does it appeal to writers and audiences so much?
Faye Ringel, Sarah Parker, Delia Sherman, Gillian Polack, Mary Victoria, Mur Lafferty
Room 211

1500
Very short stories: Writing and reading flash fiction
Flash fiction - a short story lasting only a few hundred words - is perhaps the most misunderstood of prose fiction forms, and potentially one of the hardest to write. What are the challenges of writing flash fiction, and what sorts of stories is it best equipped to tell? Is it possible to write a work of flash fiction that could rival lengthier classics in the field? Can you write quality fiction shorter than this panel description? (Which is 88 words long, by the way, including this sentence.)
Martin Livings, Sarah Parker, Jeff Harris, Amanda Pillar
Room 217

Saturday

1100
Kafeeklatsch: Satima Flavell
Rm 201

1500
Kaffeeklatsch: Sarah Parker
Rm 201

1700
Love hurts: YA Paranormal romance
Why is Paranormal Romance so popular with teens?
Amanda Pillar, Satima Flavell, Crisetta MacLeod, Tehani Wesley (chair)
Saturday 1700 Room 210

2000
Masquerade

Sunday

1000
Kids Programm: Zombie make-up session
I have facepaint. Kids beware! Adults beware! KNEE HIGH ZOMBIES COMING AT YA!
Sarah Parker, John Parker, Chuck McKenzie  
Rm 209

1100
Kids Programme: Surviving the zombie apocalypse
So now we have a lot of zombies, what do we do now?
Sarah Parker, John Parker, Chuck McKenzie 
Rm 209

1300
Fantasy before fantasy, science fiction before science fiction
The Odyssey. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Frankenstein. Gulliver's Travels. Journey to the West. A look at classic works of world literature that, while not written as science fiction and fantasy, have been co-opted in the 20th and 21st centuries by speculative fiction readers and used as inspiration by the writers.
Rani Graff, Carol Ryles, Helen Lowe, Ben Chandler
Sunday 1300 Room 204

1400
Reading: Carol Ryles
Rm 215

1500
Writing your first novel
Suggestions, tips, advice, ideas, opportunities to help all those who would like to write.
Juliet Marillier, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Carol Ryles (chair)
Room 204

2000
Hugo Awards Ceremony

Monday

1600
Closing Ceremony

We hope to see every one there! If you see us, please feel free to come over and say hello!

--
Collated by Sarah P

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adjectives, commas and confusion

A friend suggested that a post on comma usage might be a good idea. ‘Easy,’ I thought. ‘I’ll knock one up sometime when I can’t think of anything to blog about.’ So, leaving things until the last minute as usual, I sat down an hour or so ago to throw together a quick Dummies Guide to Commas.

HA! Did I say it would be easy? Silly me.

I started by thinking about the many different uses we have for the humble comma. Its main function, of course is clarity. Commas can remove ambiguity, as in the classic sentence: “The man was not killed, mercifully”. Take away the comma and its meaning might be interpreted quite differently!

Commas are also used to separate items in a list, as in “I need to buy oats, nuts, yogurt and cheese”. This is more complex than it looks. Do we use the Harvard (aka the Oxford) comma or not? Another blog post, that!

Commas are essential to the organisation of complex sentences, and this purpose alone could take up several posts. And they are, of course, placed between adjectives when more than one is used to modify a noun.

This last use of commas got me to thinking about the correct placement of adjectives before a noun, so I thought I could take a swipe at two problems with one blog post by talking about the order of adjectives and when to put commas between them. And that will, I’m sure, be enough discussion on both commas and adjectives to confuse everyone, including me.

The role of adjectives, so the Aussie Style Manual* tells us, is to “describe, define or evaluate an adjacent noun”. However, the Style Manual has put them in the wrong order, as we shall see.

If you are using two or three adjectives, you will, if you have native proficiency in the language, automatically place the evaluative one first, then the descriptive, and finally, the definitive. So we would say “An impressive old oak door”. Try putting those adjectives in any other order, and you will notice at once that the sentence takes on a certain strangeness, as if Santa Claus were suddenly to turn up wearing blue instead of red. It just isn’t right.

Evaluative adjectives are words such as lovely, ugly, charming and fascinating. They imply a value judgement on the part of the writer or speaker. Descriptive adjectives, such as large, hot, old, red and square show how the noun varies from others of its class, while definitive adjectives narrow the field still further by telling us something fixed and possibly unchangeable about an object; for instance, its origin (e.g. “Hungarian athlete”) basic material (“wooden door”) or purpose (“sailing ship”).

Now for the comma part. Sure, you put commas between the adjectives (but not between an adjective and its noun) but only when the adjectives are of the same kind. So you might describe a plant as having “small, hairy, prickly, dark green leaves”. (Note, however, that a string of definitive adjectives does not need commas. More on this below.)

A string of adjectives of different types doesn’t need commas, either. “John does enjoy a fine old tawny port” doesn’t need any commas at all, because the three adjectives are all of different classes: fine is evaluative, old is descriptive and tawny in this case refers to an intrinsic quality of the beverage, so it is definitive. (In other cases, such as “tawny hair” we are describing a quality that may or may not be permanent and so falls into the “descriptive” variety.)

Despite the above recommendation, there is actually a movement towards reduced comma use, so you are quite likely to see “small red apples” or “big fat ladies”. When only two adjectives are involved the meaning is usually quite clear, so you can get away without using commas. Sometimes you can even do it with three adjectives. Personal judgement comes into play, and personal judgement is more frequently acceptable in comma usage than in any other form of punctuation.

But back to word order, which is actually even more complex than the above paragraphs suggest. What if we have several adjectives of the same kind? How do we decide what order to put them in? Once again, if you have native proficiency in English, you will put them in a certain order automatically.

But what is that order? Well, it goes like this:

Evaluative
Opinion
For example, a beautiful, enchanting dress.

Descriptive
Value
Size
Temperature
Age
Shape
Colour
For example, a cheap, big, hot, fresh, round, brown bun.

Definitive
Origin
Material or intrinsic quality
Purpose
For example, a Hungarian wooden sailing ship. Note the lack of commas, despite the adjectives all being definitive. Generally, definitive elements in a sentence do not need to be separated by commas. A good rule of thumb is to try placing the word “and” between the words. If it doesn’t make sense with “and”, you don’t need commas. So while you might write “a beautiful and enchanting dress”, you certainly would not write “a Hungarian and wooden and sailing ship”, would you?

And that’s probably enough on commas and adjectives for one post. I’ll blog on other aspects of commas usage another time. In fact, I could probably go on for years, but panic not – I won’t!

*Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, Sixth edition, ©Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. This is the manual upon which most major publishers, government bodies, educational institutions, NGOs and businesses in Australia base their style sheets. Some small presses, for some reason, use the Chicago Manual of Style. I have no idea why.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Words

Words are sneaky little things. Just think about it. They simply won't behave. They start out meaning one thing then they switch to the opposite. Think about 'wicked' which still holds its traditional meaning of something bad but which is also used to mean something excellent. Sometimes they move from the vulgar to the acceptable - or, for that matter, from the acceptable to the vulgar. Words with completely different meanings but with a similar sound can be confused: for example look at 'drivel' that is often substituted with 'dribble'. Instead of clarifying a subject such words can become a tool of confusion. If they are too long they contract sometimes into an unrecognisable form e.g. 'I am not' can become 'I ain't or 'I aren't' instead of 'I amn't'. These might not be grammatically correct but they are often heard. Slippery little things words - and sometimes not so little.

For all that, they remain the best means we have of communicating. We talk together and from that ideas develop - all because we use words. They give us pleasure in the form of poetry, songs and fiction - and we play with them too. Subsets of people invent their own variations on language to distinguish themselves. The recent use of 'fully sick' by young people comes to mind. We create new words - sometimes because we need to name a new invention and sometimes because we just want to. We use colloquialisms for many reasons but mainly because we can't be bothered with formal language. We feel the words flow better with a more casual structure but while many of us allow ourselves these usages we do keep words under control in some areas because, while subsets of language - whether they are local usages, jargon, dialects or slang - are perfectly clear to those in that group, they may be unintelligible to outsiders. We need to have a standard language, one which is understandable to us all. It wasn't always this way. Until recently contracts, for example, were couched in jargon that was almost impossible for the average person to understand. Fortunately we've moved away from that to a less formal ( and less confused ) language so instead of confusing most of us, it is in a form that we can all comprehend.

Put it all together and maybe it's a good thing that words are as flexible as they are. We certainly ask a lot of them so it's no wonder that sometimes they try to escape. We may like the idea of a language that is static and unchanging, but would it really be a good thing? As long as we keep that common framework of words and grammar so we can communicate and understand each other, perhaps it's not always a bad thing to let the words out to play sometimes. What do you think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

KSP Speculative Fiction Awards



The winners of the 2010 KSP Speculative Fiction awards will be announced on Sunday, 15th of August 3-5pm at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, 11 Old York Rd, Greenmount. It promises to be a fun two hours with the awards presentation, readings from the winning entries and judge's report. Special guest, best-selling author Juliet Marillier will also be reading from her latest book and talking about her career as a writer. Afternoon tea will be available for a gold coin donation. So if you're in Perth at the time, you are very welcome to come along and join in.

Open to writers Australia-wide, the KSP SF awards have been held annually since 1998.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Focus : The Muse's Little Helpers

It's the most intoxicating feeling when your writing's 'in the flow'; the story's rocketing along on invisible fuel, your characters are writing themselves effortlessly into and out of sticky situations, there's not a plot-hole in sight and your prose doesn't hit a single log-jam (maybe just the odd twig). Wonderful. Sublime. Then the phone rings. It's time to get dinner. The washing needs doing. That ache in the side of your head starts to intrude. Loved ones outside your storyland need a bit of attention. The budgie cage could do with fresh sand. All that focus dissipates in an instant. Or your own mental or emotional dialogues start to cut into the writing stream, take you off on a thousand diversions. Maybe, since your brain is so inclined, entice you with new stories, a dozen gleaming plot trajectories. Or maybe said brain just got fatigued and opted out of the 'flow' for a while. This is natural, of course. It's Real Life. And the mind's fluctuations. The story will wait for you, patiently or not. But what state will your mind return to it in? What do you do if it won't or can't connect back into all those lovely strands it was unwinding?

I'm sure we all have our own methods of refocussing - and reconnecting - with our stories. I'd like to share with you my favourite helper; music. Not a startling one. I'm sure it's a favourite for many writers, and with good reason. For a start, music is linear - it usually has a beginning, a middle (no matter what genre it belongs to, apart from certain avant-garde forms) and a conclusion, related to the linear nature of stories and the written word. Music and writing aren't the only artforms with a fundamental linearity. Dance, theatre, film all share the same basic 'line' because they exist in time (unlike a painting or other stationary medium where a moment in time is frozen, preserved). But it's not that easy to write while your vision is engaged with something external, unless that is the thing you're writing about! Well, not for me, anyway.

But music can assist the writing process in much more precise ways than that. Music speaks to emotion, or conjures specific emotional or mental states. I find that if I've 'lost my way' with a story, music is the most likely thing to bring me back on track. I used to use this in a general way; by playing music that would either relax (or if I was tired, stimulate) my mind before starting to write. From there, I graduated to playing music that would relate to the type of scene I was writing, using it to 'set the mood', my mood, for the action of that particular scene. Some of those pieces of music have become so ingrained with certain stories or scenes that hearing them will immediately trigger that scene in my mind (just as music can powerfully trigger emotional memories). Massive Attack's 'Silent Spring' (featuring Elizabeth Fraser), for instance, is now inextricably bound up with a wistful scene in the novel currently underway. The delicate Andante from Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No.2 in F Major inspired the emotional atmosphere in a scene where a character in a very fragile state found her internal poise.

Now, I'm 'pre-programming' all my main characters with specific pieces that express their personalities, and which get me straight back into the groove with them if I've been away from them for a while. Looking at my playlist, I see I've looped some songs 140 times. Wow. That's a bit of writing time! My villain has been running on Muse's 'Butterflies and Hurricanes' for some time. It's perfect for him, the intense mood, the escalating, complex structure, even the lyrics, and this song is now so strongly identified with him in my mind that if I play it, I'm right in there with him straight away. If a character is going through a change in their personality, then I find a new piece of music for them that links to that change. It's fun, and enormously helpful.

Currently, I'm taking temporary leave from the set of all-consuming novels to finish a short story. The first thing I've done is to find music for the new story. It had to be music never used for the novels, or it would link me back to them, shift the focus away. So the story now has a defining 'song' of its own; when I hear it, I'm immediately present to the new story (this works best, naturally, if you really like the piece of music too!). And I know when I go back to the novels, their 'soundtracks' will be waiting there to help me get back in touch with them. All great food for the muse!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

World Science Fiction Convention

We Egobooers are excited about Australia’s biggest SF event for a decade. For the first time since 1999, the World Science Fiction Convention is to be held in Australia!

From September 2-6, Melbourne will be awash with visitors from interstate and overseas, who will flood to the Melbourne Convention Centre to network, attend panels, talk, drink, play dressups and generally have and all round Good Time. There will be many noteworthy guests, including Guests of Honour Kim Stanley Robinson, Shaun Tan and Robin Johnson.

Kim Stanley Robinson from America, author of twenty books, has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for his internationally bestselling novels. His work incorporates themes of ecology, environmentalism and social justice. In his Martian trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars), the terraforming and colonization of Mars provide an exploration of sustainability, ethics, corporate greed, and the value of scientific pursuit.

Shaun Tan, an Australian writer and artist, is the author of five books and is an award winning illustrator. His numerous awards include the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist. His illustrations have been included in a number of exhibitions around the world, and he was a concept artist for the hit movies Horton Hears a Who and Pixar's Hugo-winning WALL-E.

Robin Johnson has worked tirelessly for many years to promote and organize science fiction conventions in Australia. He was chairperson of the 33rd Worldcon in 1975, the first Worldcon to be held in Melbourne. He has three times been co-chair for the Australian National Science Fiction Convention. In 2007, he was the winner of the Big Heart Award, the highest honour the science fiction community gives to one of its own.

Other guests of note will include Alan Baxter, Gregory Benford, Jenny Blackford, Russell Blackford, Trudi Canavan, Bill Congreve, Alison Croggon, Jack Dann, Ellen Datlow, Marianne de Pierres, Cory Doctorow, Kate Elliott, Jennifer Fallon, Dirk Flinthart, Bernadette Foley, Kate Forsyth, Dave Freer, Pamela Freeman, Laura E. Goodin, Tim Holman, Robert Hood, Ian Irvine, Trent Jamieson, Deborah Kalin, Ellen Kushner, Glenda Larke, Martin Livings, Juliet Marillier, George RR Martin, Sean McMullen, China MiƩville, Karen Miller, Lara Morgan, Nicole Murphy, Garth Nix, Andrew Porter, Michael Pryor, Alastair Reynolds, Lezli Robyn, John Scalzi, Joel Shepherd, Robert Silverberg, Stephanie Smith, Cat Sparks, Jonathan Strahan, Charles Stross, Lucy Sussex, Kaaron Warren, Kim Wilkins and Sean Williams and many others.

These guests and many other authors, editors and agents from Australia and overseas will be featured on panels encompassing an array of topics drawn from the areas of young adult literature, science fiction, fantasy, horror, academic papers, TV shows, science, ecology, and other genre-related topics. Some items will feature more direct contact with industry professionals, such as kaffeeklatsches (small group gatherings with authors for a coffee and a chat), author readings, and signings.

It’s going to be fabulous. Go check it out at http://www.aussiecon4.org.au/

Friday, July 16, 2010

Writing Groups.

I recently went to a meeting of the face to face writing group I joined fifteen years ago. This group is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, quite an achievement since they meet during the day once a week for eleven months of the year. I have been less regular in my attendance lately for reasons beyond my control and I regret that. This group took me in as very much a beginner and I doubt I would be the writer I am today without them. They gently taught, encouraged and sometimes, when it was needed, pushed me. They shared my joys and disappointments. Actually I think they were as excited over my first competition win as I was. They critiqued my work honestly, fairly and kindly. I owe them a great deal.

I'm describing this experience because to have such a group behind you is invaluable to a writer. Writing is an isolating business. Most of the time it's just you and your computer. You sit there writing away at something that is in your head demanding to be told and it's hard to know whether you have it right or it's just a pile of rubbish. You fall in love with a piece of writing and can't bear to let it go or you think everything you've written is dull and stupid. The truth is you really can't judge your own work objectively because you are too close to it. That piece you've fallen in love with may be completely extraneous to your story and the dull bit might only need to be tightened but you can't see that. You need fresh, impartial eyes on it - not your mother, your best friend or someone who doesn't read anything but the newspaper comics. You need a critiquer.

The group I mentioned above is not the only critique group I have belonged to but they were the first - and they are the standard by which I judge all others. I feel blessed that the two groups I now belong to are just as generous, knowledgeable and supportive.

Although I prefer to belong to a group I have gotten to know well, there are other options including several online critiquing groups in the genre. Among them are Online Writers Workshop and Critters. Although I have no personal experience of either I have heard good reports about both. Apart from peer critiquing they offer a variety of information on useful resources for writers and are run by experienced writers and editors - and, of course, there's always the chance that you might be discovered by a publisher who is taking an interest in what is being put up for critiquing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

4F Day! Four Questions for Friday

Thank goodness it's Friday again! Here's some light entertainment to help you get through the until lunchtime. After lunch, you're on your own!

Helen Venn

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?
I don't think I have a style that is similar to any one writer. It's  more a mixture with my learning from everyone whose work I've ever read. I guess I'd describe my style as tending to the lyrical probably because I also write poetry and love to play with language.

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?
I've been influenced by a lot of different writers and they all have  elements of style I'd like to be as good at. Immediately springing to mind are Patricia A McKillip, Jennifer Fallon, C. J. Cherryh, Margo Lanagan, Stephen King, Glenda Larke and Peter S. Beagle but there are so many more that this is by no means a definitive list.

3) Who would you like to be?
I'm quite happy being myself, thank you, but better health would be a
bonus.

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?
Assuming I could still keep my own brain (I'm quite fond of it) and  they didn't have to be writers, there are a lot of interesting people out there. Among the women - and in no particular order - Dame Julian, Elizabeth 1 and Jane Austen for starters. The men - again in no special order - Mark Twain, John Donne, Rousseau, the writers of the  King James version of the Bible, Gerard Manley Hopkins and yes, Shakespeare. That's only a sample though. Think of all those other amazing artists, scientists and philosophers, each with so much knowledge, stretching back to the beginning of time.

Carol Ryles

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?
I think I'm a mixture of a whole lot of different styles. I suppose if  I listed all the books I'd ever read, you could say I was a bit of this and a bit of that.

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?
Not sure if I'd wish for that. Though of course, I do not believe I  could be totally unique either.  So to this I am going to answer I would like to be a mixture of all my favourites -- those I listed in the previous 4F Questions.

3) Who would you like to be?
Now that's one of those questions that should be prefaced with: "be  careful what you wish for" or "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know." If I could change into someone else, it probably wouldn't be someone real. Probably someone fictional who has lots of adventures and a seemingly impossible goal that, after lots of
twists and turns, she eventually achieves. When I try and think of  exactly who, I'm thinking "Not her, because of xyz" and not him, because of abc", so maybe, for me, the answer for who I would like to be is unanswerable. I would prefer not to start out knowing who I am, because the pleasure is in the discovery. Once I have everything I
need, I would no longer have any goals. I'd probably want to be  someone else again.

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?
So long as I could keep my own brain as well, I think it would be neat  to download the memories of one of the first ever homo sapiens sapiens. I'd like to see if there really was an Eve, whether she was mitochondrial Eve or whatever. I'd like to know how it felt to be part of a new species, learning new skills in an old world, telling new  stories perhaps?  Or maybe changing old stories that didn't quite fit any more?  I'd like to see how those old stories began, what they were about and whether they were filled with ideas from our non-homo sapiens sapiens ancestors. I'd like to see how different those stories were from the stories we now consider to be the world's first. How  would it feel living in a world that still felt all shiny and new and seemingly endless and impossible, where the things we now take for granted were totally inexplicable? I wouldn't want to be stuck in that situation, but to know how we all started. That would useful, I think.

Sarah Parker

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?
I got told once my style was similar to earl Anne Mccaffrey and Lois Mcmaster Bujold, so as you can imagine it made my YEAR.

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?
No one. I don't think anything is polished enough to have a definitive style. I'm working on that right now though.

3) Who would you like to be?
Me! I'm pretty darn happy thanks! Although... Sarah Genge has some rather awesome short stories floating around right now. And Kij Johnson certainly seems to be able to write opening lines that grab your attention.

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?
I've been crushing on Carl Sagan for a few months now, so I'll pick him. I was going to say Asimov, but apparently Asimov said that Sagan was one of only two minds more brilliant than his. I'd also love to check out Nora Robert's brain.

Joanna Fay

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?
My style is probably poetic more than anything else, and stylistically reflects a number of lyrical writers. I enjoy subtleties of syntax and word imagery in both poetry and prose and have unconsciously absorbed a fair dose of 'aestheticism'. My current project is learning how to balance that aesthetic with character, action, tension and the demands of plot, which has meant getting handy with the pruning shears and taking a hard look at where and when to pare back the prose and tighten it up. Still learning.

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?
Much as there are many authors I like, it's hard to think of any one I particularly want to emulate. My own reading tastes have changed over time, and it follows that my writing tastes (and therefore style) will change too.

3) Who would you like to be?
I'm quite happy being me...although a slightly healthier me would be nice. I guess I could handle being Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice or, come to think of it, Virginia Woolf's Orlando would be pretty interesting, starting out male and ending up female, with a lifetime spanning several centuries. I'd love to be one of my own characters (of the winged variety) for the thrill of flight, except that such horrible things keep on happening to them. Most offputting.

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?
Ah, but there have been many admirable brains! How could I choose just one? I think I'd want a whole stack of brains, to make the most of all the different types of gifts. Given my metaphysical leanings, I might end up opting for someone like Deepak Chopra or Karl Sagan, David Bohm or Stephanie Dowrick, for her insight into human nature coupled with her outstanding, forgiving compassion. People I've read and admired. There are so, so many. I feel really inspired just thinking about them!

Satima Flavell

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?
Well, one person did say my work was a bit like Jennifer Fallon's, only not as good...

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?
William Shakespeare. Sadly, fantasy written in blank verse doesn't seem to be selling terribly well at the moment.

3) Who would you like to be?
Me, only luckier, younger, more talented, and better looking.

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?
Can I have Shakespeare's? He isn't using it any more. I'll like Ursula K. LeGuin's, too, only she's still using hers.

You!

1) Which author's style is similar to yours?

2) Which author do you wish your style is similar to?

3) Who would you like to be?

4) Who would you like to download the brain of?


--
Sarah

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ferret's Six Guidelines to Good Critiques

As a Clarion attendee, Ferrett feels very strongly about the benefits and lessons he learned during his time at Clarion, and is trying to put some of these hard earned lessons out there for discussion.

Ferret's Six Guidelines to Good Critiques

These guidelines are excellent. They focus on the TEXT rather than the author, the author's intent, or the critiquer's opinion. A good crit is worth gold, and it's a techniques that needs to be learned.

At the KSP we encourage people to use the Milton method of critiquing:

* What's It About?
* What worked
* What didn't work
* What Happens Next?
* Notes


- Suggested method the 'Milford Method' (explanation by Lee Battersby):

1. What It's About- the critiquer gives a short description of what they thought the story was about (A man wants to marry his girlfriend, but then she reveals that she's a mermaid, he leaves her but falls into the river and almost drowns, she saves him, they reconcile and have an underwater wedding). This enables the author to see whether the story and narrative they *thought* they were writing is actually being received by the readers.

2. What Worked- the critiquer outlines those technical elements s/he felt were the strong points of the story. Note: that's NOT the things they liked, emotionally, but whether the elements worked in writing terms: you may *hate* the drunk paedophile villain of the piece, but if you were supposed to hate them, well, that element is working.

3. What Didn't Work- the opposite of section 2: the critiquer focuses on what elements didn't work, or which let the story down (The hero states he grew up in France, but then didn't know the difference between a baguette and a croissant....). Again, it's not an emotional response, it's a decision regards what technical matters need improving.

4. What Happens Next- the critiquer offers an opinion regarding what the author needs to do with the story, whether that be "combine all three bad guys into one so the hero has a stronger focus and the reader doesn't get confused" or "Hey, it's perfect, get it in an envelope" The goal here is to give the author a plan of action.

Lastly, if you're especially confident, and definitely if you've got a group that communicates well, give the author a right of reply at the end of the critiquing circle (ie: after everyone else has spoken). It gives everyone a chance to expound on points the author may wish redefined, or for the author to open a dialogue regarding what they were trying to do, and whether it was successful.


Often when I am stuck, I will cut and paste the header text and use that as a tool to critique some one's work. Critiquing is a fine balance of helping to make a text stronger, but not to over power that need by offering too much suggestion, or too much opinion, or too much detail. A crit is not an edit. It can be a lot of fun, as long as you are working in tandem with the author, not against them.

--
Sarah

Friday, July 2, 2010

4F Day! Four Questions for Friday

Hello and Welcome to our weekly Four Questions! As ever, please do join us in our fun, and fill out the questions below. Have a great day!

Satima Flavell


1) Who is your favourite author(s)?

There are so many good writers around at the moment that all I can do is point to the ones whose work I follow — and that's without considering the many fine authors of twenty, thirty, forty years ago whose work I still treasure! So, in alphabetical order: Joe Abercrombie, Jaqueline Carey, Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay, Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier and Karen Miller (K.E. Mills). In most cases I have the author's entire oeuvre on my shelves.

2) What do they do well?
It's easy to see from the names I've picked that I love historically-based fantasy, including that which is set in the history of our own world and that which is set on imaginary worlds. I should probably point out here that I adore history — adore and revere it. As a family historian, I long ago realised that history is simply the sum total of all the family histories of our world. It is where we come from and where we are going. It is the place where our ancestors still live. To disrespect it, therefore, is to disrespect our ancestors, who collectively built our society.

So, in reading my favourite books, I look for historical credibility. Even if the story is set on another world, its history needs to be similar to that of our own. In fact, it would resemble very closely the relevant historical period on our planet. Could Paxton have created his press if his society had not already invented paper? The alternative might have been to print on vellum, which would have meant that farmers would have had to send young animals to the slaughterhouse instead of keeping them for breeding, which would have resulted in a shortage of breeding stock and a shortage of large carcases and dairy produce. You can't change even one thing in a society without a serious ripple effect. Therefore, except for a cleverly-placed anachronism that is designed to make a point, such as the submarine in Dave Luckett's recent book Subversive Activity or similar effects in some steampunk novels, I want and expect to read books set in a historically cohesive world. Idiocies such as armoured knights on horseback travelling by spaceship, or people living in castles when a neighbouring society has nuclear weapons, will get short shrift from me, both as reader and reviewer. Such things not only disrespect history, they demonstrate poor logic, so my suspension of disbelief flies out the window.


Likewise with language. Writers who have not done their linguistics homework will also find their works among my discards. Of the above writers, I would point to Guy Gavriel Kay and Jacqueline Carey as numbering among those who've gained HDs for their devoirs!

In other words, I find casual dissing of history or language because the writer either can't be bothered doing the necessary research or because they can't see that it matters really hurtful and offensive. Conversely, I love works in which these aspects have been given the love and attention they deserve. My favourite authors all show signs of having done a fair amount of research in those things that matter to me. And then they write a damned good story about it!

3) What do they do badly?
Some of them fail in the originality stakes here and there. Kay, for instance, seems to have stock characters that continually turn up in his books under different names. But they are good, well-drawn characters with distinctive traits, so their re-appearances in different guises don't make his work any the less enjoyable.

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?

Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself; Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart , Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice; Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantine Mosaic duology, Glenda Larke's The Last Stormlord, Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing and Karen Miller's The Innocent Mage. But that's just today. On another day I might pick other faves, and if you go out and buy anything by any of these authors, I promise you will get a good read.

Helen Venn

1) Who is your favourite author(s)?
I started writing a list and when I got to fifty I realised that wasn't going to work. I have very varied taste in writers so the list included thrillers, police procedurals, historical fantasies, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy as well as many others, old and modern. So I guess I should just pick three and resist the demands of the rest to be included. For obvious reasons I've chosen speculative fiction writers and of those the ones, I've most enjoyed recently in alphabetical order are Robin Hobb, Glenda Larke and Juliet Marillier.

2) What do they do well?
I'm going to concentrate on one author or this would become an opus - and, for no other reason than because she comes first in alphabetical order, Robin Hobb gets the guernsey. She has a great ability to evoke a setting. In one of Hobb's books the reader is drawn into a richly imagined setting that is totally believable. In The Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, two recent releases, she built fascinating worlds ranging from a recognisable city one, through a place where the ground is so hostile a city has been built in giant trees and on to the depressing wild world where rivers run so acid that they kill and just surviving is an achievement. The worlds she creates are alien and familiar at the same time. We have sentient ships and dragons along with people living ordinary - and sometimes extraordinary - lives. At the same time she has a cast of believable characters. The reader wants to know what happens to them and cares about them.

3) What do they do badly?
Hobb can be wordy and, while all these lovingly crafted characters and settings are cleverly described, the reader can find themselves wishing that things moved on faster. There's also a tendency to hammer home a point and not rely on the reader to remember what they had already been told. Don't think from this that she is not an entertaining writer. She certainly is but, for me, the repetition can get irksome.

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?
It's very hard for me to pick favourites. I loved The Farseer Trilogy - Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin's Quest, The Live Ship Traders trilogy - Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny and The Tawny Man trilogy - Fool's Errand, The Golden Fool and Fool's Fate - for all the reasons I've mentioned above.

Joanna Fay

1) Who is your favourite author(s)?
I tend to have favourite novels or series of novels rather than favourite authors as such. I can't think of any whose whole output I have enjoyed, yet I've been touched, changed, inspired by many writers in particular works. To name a few; in SF and Fantasy, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Frank Herbert's Dune, Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover, Julian May's Many-Coloured Land and Galactic Milieu series, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle novels. In the 'classics', Jane Austen's Persuasion, Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Honore de Balzac's Illusions Perdues, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. In more recent times, Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist, Eleven Minutes and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Albert Camus' L'Etranger, Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse and Emma Tennant's Wild Nights. So many others too. I do appreciate for various reasons the fantasy phenomena of recent years, J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter books and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels.

2) What do they do well?
Well, I'll just pick one here or this will turn into a major essay! Tolkien probably hasn't been surpassed as a world-builder, in depth, breadth and sheer detail of vision, because he truly thought from inside his world. You can smell, taste and breathe it as well as see it. Middle Earth feels amazingly 'real', because the histories he created behind his stories were so complex and layered. He always maintained his starting point was the languages (which are an evolved artform in their own right); that he then had to envisage the people who spoke them and the life events/cultural impacts that developed those languages into their various branches. He intelligently used real world mythologies (as do G.G.Kay and Julian May) to create a world with a high level of 'internal reality' (by which I mean it is highly resonant with our collective unconsciousness and its stored mythopoeia).

3) What do they do badly?
He wasn't good at finishing things! There are so many great stories in The Silmarillion that could have become another Lord of the Rings if Tolkien had gotten round to writing them as fully fledged novels rather than as discontinuous, variably personalised, fragments of history. The story of Beren and Luthien is a case in point. It has all the ingredients of a 'great story' and sits at the very centre of his storyworld, yet remained little more than a compressed 'history'. He first wrote it as a poem (The Lay of Leithian), got to 10 000 lines and then abandoned it! From photos of his original manuscript it appears that he was writing firstly in elvish, then translating into English (which might have slowed him down!). Perhaps this is why his work has such a unique ambience. It's frustrating though; this story could have been exceptional. It has deep elements, its reversal of the myth of Orpheus being one of them (in Tolkien's story, it is the woman who charms the god of death in the underworld after ensorcelling his hound, and manages to extract something precious from him). Clearly, this story was right in its author's heart too; the names of Beren and Luthien are carved into the gravestones of Tolkien and his wife.

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?
Here I'll go over to Guy Gavriel Kay and put in a word for The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy (and not just because of its lovely weaving metaphors!). Some of his later novels might be more tightly crafted, but these books are wonderful in their use of Celtic and Arthurian myth in a completely original - and deeply poignant - way. Yet they never overbalance the world he has created, or his passionately drawn characters, or the turns and twists of the (very large) plot. He's holding a lot of threads here and manages not to get them tangled. Oh look, see? I'm getting all weaverly just thinking about it!

Carol Ryles

1) Who is your favourite author(s)?
That would be a very long list for which there is not room enough here. So I'll narrow it down to ten and write them as they spring to mind: Octavia Butler, Stephen Baxter, Damien Broderick, Jeanette Winterson, Vonda N McIntyre, China Mieville, Toni Morrison, Charles Dickens, Ursula Le Guin and Colleen McCullough. I guess this means I like variety.

2) What do they do well?
They can all write a gripping, meaningful story. SF that both entertains and challenges, Fantasy that is both beautiful and grotesque. Mainstream fiction that will make a long distance plane trip bearable.

3) What do they do badly?
They're my favourite. I enjoy their work too much to notice if they do anything badly :)

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?
Broderick: The White Abacus -- a stunning tour of human emotion. Beauty in space, with a touch of Hamlet.
Butler: The entire Xenogenesis Trilogy -- Aliens rescue humanity from extinction -- thoughtful blurring of boundaries between benevolence and cultural assimilation.
Baxter: Ring -- the first Baxter book I ever read. A novel that spans 5 million years with a woman who has been genetically engineered to live in the centre of the sun, discovering dark matter Photino birds that feed on stars. Throw in the inscrutable XeeLee, a generation star ship and how could I not like that one?
Winterson: The Passion -- Wow. Beauty in prose and beauty in the tale. A touch of fantasy, love and loss set in Venice and the Napoleonic wars, from the point of view of Napoleon's cook, and a girl with webbed feet who cross dresses and works in a casino.
McIntyre: The Exile Awaiting -- was the first feminist SF novel I read in the '70s. Always enjoy rereading this one about a thief who fights her way out of oppression.
Mieville: Can't decide between The Scar or Perdido Street Station -- Beauty and the grotesque, audacious technology. Fantasy and Steampunk. I'm writing my thesis about it.
Morrison: Beloved -- the best ghost story I've ever read. A baby ghost. Beauty and tragedy.
Dickens: All of Dickens -- Probably Great Expectations -- Miss Havisham, that wedding dress and uneaten wedding cake! Eek
Ursula Le Guin -- The Left Hand of Darkness -- A world with only one gender -- Intelligent World building and culture building.
McCollough: The Thornbirds -- This is the sort of book I can read on a plane, even after being sleep deprived for 20 hours.

Sarah Parker

1) Who is your favourite author(s)?
Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett, Ann Bishop

2) What do they do well?
Lois has a real gift for writing interesting people. She writes vividly and with great care. Anne Mccaffrey had fantastic ideas and worlds, though I mostly only read her Pern series and her Rowan series. Terry Pratchett has become a master story teller, I think, able to make me cry with a phrase or care for the unexpected. Anne Bishop wrote a great story which carried me along.

3) What do they do badly?
I sometimes find Pratchett's Pratchettisms to be more annoying than entrancing. Anne Mccaffrey can't write sex/relationships at all. Lois... I haven't noticed anything annoying about her works! She had bad luck with last books though. I thought the last book of the Curse of Chalion series was lacking in the strength of the other two, and the last book in the Vorkosigan saga really threw away some of the characters I had been attached to since her short stories were published in Analog. I got a bit tired of Bishop's habit of continuing to up the ante every time Jael did something.

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?
Paladin of Souls is my favourite book of Bujold's. It's just awe inspiring that she's managed to take an unusual heroine and made her so popular! Ista is a favourite character of mine. All of them have written such excellent stories, I love tight pacing and a good plot. Every one I have mentioned has what I want, obviously!

You!

1) Who is your favourite author(s)?

2) What do they do well?

3) What do they do badly?

4) Favourite book of theirs and why?


--
Sarah

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cat Valente Rants about Editing for Apex

Cat Valente (author of Palimpsest, which is a Hugo nominated novel) is currently editing for Apex Magazine. She has a few choice words to say about the opening paragraphs to any creative writing.

Your opening should be something which hooks the reader. I've read a few times now that every novel should have at least three hooks - one in the first paragraph, another by the end of the first page, and one by the end of the first chapter, so that any reader brave enough to tackle the first few pages will get sucked into the story so fast they barely have time to slap their cash on the counter before they're off to a day of walking into sign posts and going "huh?" whenever someone dares to disrupt their reading daze.

This is valuable advice. It's advice I've been using. My poor friends have had the same three paragraphs about twenty times now, sometimes with only one word changed. But it might be a key word. It might change the tone, tense, or meaning of the entire passage. I'm lucky to have such patient, and critical friends.

I have read hundreds of short stories this year, and it gets easier and easier to tell by the end of the first paragraph, or the first page, whether the author has craft enough for their idea, of if this will be a story that appeals to me.

I also note flagship stories in anthologies. The very first story in an anthology is a statement. It stands proud to represent the stories that come after it. It should be the best story in the book. If not the best, then it should be the most indicative of the anthology's tone. The first story is guaranteed to be read more than any other story (except in exceptional circumstances).

The opening to anything is a powerful statement. Make it the best statement you possibly can.

--
Sarah P

Friday, June 25, 2010

4F Day! Four Questions for Friday

Welcome welcome welcome! We were all a bit busy last week, but I'm pleased to let every one know we're back on track with some more yummy Friday questions.

Sarah Parker

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?
I find a lot of authors to be articulate, well read, and interesting. I love talking to people and love hearing people working on projects and ideas.

2) What is your favourite writing activity?
I think I still love first draft. I'm learning to love editing, but second draft still seems like an awful hard slog right now. I'm putting some effort into rediscovering the joy of words, so I expect I'll learn to love editing at some point!

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?
I'm really getting a kick out of 'Word Magic For Writers,' by Cindy Rogers. It's teaching me a lot about the gritty parts of English, and I've been using it to play with my work. It's been very helpful so far! 

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?

I whine at pretty much any one standing still long enough. I have enough friends that no one is getting too overloaded! (They are all still talking to me, in other words!)

Satima Flavell

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?


The sheer joy of being with like-minded people. So like-minded that sometimes it's downright weird! The scribing trades do, in fact seem to attract people who, if you run a Myers-Briggs on them, will test out as Intuitive Feelers, usually of the introverted persuasion. Obviously, we all love words and their use, but over and above that we find other common ground:

  • Most writers have worked in a wide variety of jobs, rather than choosing one profession and sticking with it
  • Many writers suffer from migraines and/or depression
  • Many writers have travelled widely - and the ones that haven't, want to!
  • Most writers seem to love animals
  • Many had troubled childhoods

Those five things alone encourage interesting and mutually sympathetic conversations: add your angst about the current WIP and it's apparent that the best company for writers is other writers!

2) What is your favourite writing activity?
I enjoy the whole process – planning, research, writing and editing.

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?
There are so many good websites it's hard to pick favourites! The writerly blogs I check regularly include http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/, http://writerunboxed.com/, http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/, http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/, http://ripping-ozzie-reads.blogspot.com/, http://callmyagent.blogspot.com/, http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/, and http://accrispin.blogspot.com/ (the writer Beware blog). That's not counting the many individual authors whose blogs and web sites I like to follow.

Book-wise, you're probably fed up with my singing the praises of Robert Olen Butler's From Where You Dream, but that book did do much to help me understand my own writing process that I recommend it above all others. His basic premise, as I understand it, is that in order to write well, you must be in a mind-space where the unconscious can come to the surface, and the best time to do that is immediately up waking in the morning. It certainly works for me.

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?

I know I can talk to anyone in any of the three writing groups I belong to and I will always find a ready listener and often useful suggestions, too. Some of the best ideas in my plots were actually suggested by fellow writers!
Thank heaven for writers groups!


Helen Venn

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?
When I joined my first writing group I was overwhelmed by the generosity of its members to a someone who was very much a newbie. At that stage I had only done half a year of a creative writing course. They showed me so much that I was ignorant of with enormous patience and acceptance that made it a joy to be with them. As I learned they celebrated my successes and encouraged me when I failed. That generosity of spirit and support has been the same in all the writing groups I've belonged to. As well we all share a love of language and telling a good story and how they work together in a way that non-writers can't understand. What more could I ask for?

2) What is your favourite writing activity?

That's really hard to say. All aspects have their joys and irritations. love those times when the story just flows on to the page, seemingly without my directing it but, even when it's hard and the words won't co-operate, there's immense satisfaction in the
process. But I enjoy editing too. All that playing with words, fitting each into its proper place.

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?

I don't have any real favourites. I tend to flit around the internet following links from blogs and my friends apart from sites like ralan.com - www.ralan.com - and duotrope - www.duotrope.com -which are invaluable in market research. For other writing information there's a lot of useful information on the SFWA website - www.sfwa.org.

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?

I have a few friends with a gift for picking up faults in my writing and telling me exactly what the problem in the nicest possible way. I don't know where I'd be as a writer without them.

Joanna Fay

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?
Constant pleasures! The pleasure of having interested, like-minded companions on the writing journey to share, learn, encourage, and brainstorm with. Becoming a member of three writing groups during the last couple of years has been so important in improving my writing craft in all areas, and the opportunity to read and critique the work of other writers, as well as being a privilege in itself, is a wonderful learning experience.

2) What is your favourite writing activity?
It varies. Right now, writing fresh - the first draft of a novel (third in the Quartet..yay!!). Two weeks ago, I was engrossed in editing and rewriting bits of an earlier novel in the series. Occasionally, a bright flash of a poem wings in and makes me stop everything else for a moment to get it down. Poetry is imperious, demanding....catch me now or I'm gone forever. Novel writing is more consistent and, for me, much more structured and routine. They each have their place...I love them both!

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?
My writing resources are varied. I dip into a number of sites and blogs, if somewhat erratically.
As far as books go, I've read bits of a few 'how to' manuals, some of which have been very helpful, but at present I'm finding particular novels are my best teachers - looking at how different authors tackle characterisation and structure, looking at aspects of style and seeing my own more clearly in the light of the differences and similarities I find. This helps define what elements of style I want to develop - or discard - in my own writing.

Then there are internal resources, but that's another question!

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?
Well, being a member of several writing groups means there are always helpful, supportive ears close at hand, so to speak. Thank goodness! They are invaluable! Some problems, I work through on my own - they might just need concentrated inward focus. But at other times, one small suggestion from outside can be exactly what is needed to open a whole new process, move past a groove I've got stuck in, or reassure that the track I'm on is workable after all.

Carol Ryles

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?
Many pleasures. The joy of having people to read my work when I need. The advantage of being in a group is that at least one person will have time enough to do a quick read if I want. It doesn't matter if they are a beginner or semi-pro. For me, a reader response is the best way to figure out if my writing is working or not. I've been an active part of writing groups for over ten years, and it's been great to see people's work get better and better before leading to their first publication. People who started out as readers and critters are now very good friends. I can't ever see myself not wanting to be in a writers group of some kind. Writing is an isolated occupation as it is. Sometimes I just need to get out and show people "Look what I've done."  Also my teacher side enjoys critting as much as my student side benefits from receiving them.

2) What is your favourite writing activity?
I much prefer second drafting. My first drafts are usually all over the place and. for me, harrowing because I have all these different narrative threads going everywhere with nothing connecting. It takes me until the end of a first draft to get to know my characters enough for them to feel real. First drafts are all work, like looking for a lost book in crowded book shelf. Second drafts are much more fun. I put my first draft away and start from scratch. I know who my characters are and all those unrelated narrative threads fall into place and interconnect. My story or novel stops feeling like a broken puzzle and starts feeling like something that works.

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?

I don't really read anything regularly on the internet, so I tend to flit from place to place. I do like Richard Harland's 145 pages of free writing tips -- excellent value at: http://www.richardharland.net/WRITING%20TIPS/indextop.htm and Project Guttenberg. I love Project Guttenberg: http://gutenberg.net.au/

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?

I have writing problems every day, so I save the important ones for my writing groups and my uni supervisor, and just talk to myself for the small stuff. Or go walking and listen to an audiobook and let someone else talk to me through their fiction. Sometimes the trickiest writing questions are answered by just listening to different types of fiction. And it's nice to rest my eyes and let my ears do the work.

You!

1) We are all very active in groups which support and encourage writing. What pleasures does this bring?

2) What is your favourite writing activity?

3) What is your favourite writing website, book or information resource?

4) Who do you go to when you have writing problems that need a sympathetic ear (if it's not us of course!) and why?


--
Sarah

Friday, June 11, 2010

4F Day! Four Questions for Friday

Welcome to 4 Questions Friday! If this is your first visit for 4F Day, I've put the questions at the bottom of the article, because we want to hear from you! We hope you enjoy!

Carol Ryles

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?
The one goal I always aim for is to just sit down and write something  creative. 1000 words is my ideal. 500 is good. 200 is better than 100.  If I'm real lucky I can get 3000, but then I usually end up trading quality for quantity, so I tend not to set my goals excessively high. I've always liked to read slowly, and find writing slowly just as enjoyable.

2) What Goals do you have over all?
My overall goal is to improve my writing and publish at least one  novel. One of the reasons I like to write slowly is that I like to sit  and think about where each paragraph is going. Not so much like editing, but more like trying to get the most out of what I have in front of me. I'm hoping I'll get quicker with practice so for me that will be part of the improvement as well.

3) What Award would you most like to win?

I'm not fussy about awards. Any one will do. Unlike word counts, I aim for quantity over quality. Though I wouldn't be disappointed with  quality either. In fact, I would feel extremely fortunate either way.

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)

I'd love to teach creative writing and/or run workshops. Preferably face to face, as I already spend enough time writing in front of  computers.  Maybe I should have been a teacher instead of my original profession as a registered nurse. Back in 1985, I was almost going to  apply to become a clinical instructor, but ended up getting a job in  China instead. That job involved setting up and running a clinic, but I ended up teaching anyway, running health classes for expats, and helping out with teaching English to the locals at schools and colleges. I have one year left to work on my PhD, plus I'm also involved in a uni teaching and learning project, and really enjoy the challenge and interaction.

Sarah Parker

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?
It depends on what phase I'm in. When I am writing, I vary my goals depending ony family life. I usually aim for 10K a week as a constant. I'm still finding my way with the learning and editing side, so I don't have a specific set of goal systems in place yet.

2) What Goals do you have over all?
I want to sell my writing. I love doing it, and have a ball.

3) What Award would you most like to win?
A Hugo. :D I doubt I will, but if we don't aim for the stars, we'll never even reach the sky. I would like to win a James Tiptree Award, and a Norma K Hemming Award.

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)
I'd love to learn how to give good workshops, and I love teaching things. I guess I'll find out which I prefer as I come in contact with them!

Joanna Fay

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?
My goal is to write a scene every day, which is generally in the vicinity of 1000-1500 wds. I'm currently up to scene 3 of chapter 3 of book 3 of the epic quartet!! But that's first draft, and I'll soon be starting the third draft of book one. It gives me a chance to flip between fresh writing and editing/rewriting, although when editing, I aim for two scenes per day. "Aim" being the operative word, especially if there's much rewriting involved!

2) What Goals do you have over all?
Overall, I want this big fantasy saga to get published and turn into a gigantic blockbuster! But I'll settle for finishing it and getting it published. I have other publishing goals, which include continuing to have poems published and, ultimately, an anthology.

3) What Award would you most like to win?
 I suppose any of the awards I currently have pieces entered in (which would be relatively instant gratification); they include the Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Award, the Dublin Book Review Once Off Flash Fiction Competition, the Gilgamesh Fable Competition and the Blake Poetry Award. Fingers crossed for all and any of the above!!

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)
Well, I am most comfortable one to one when it comes to imparting knowledge/advice and have mentored the willing in areas other than writing (specifically tapestry weaving and astrology); it's always rewarding to teach skills you feel passionate about. I don't think my writing craft is sufficiently developed yet to merit running workshops, certainly not as a novelist, although I have run a poetry workshop on the Japanese short form called tanka, which was great fun.

Satima Flavell

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?
It depends where I am in the process. Right now I'm revising the WIP (again!) and I aim to do a chapter a day. When I'm writing from scratch I aim for 1,000ww per day but I don't always make it, yet sometimes I'll do 3,000. Depends on whether or not the muse is with me:-)

2) What Goals do you have over all?
To finish this series I've been working on for so long. Warning: if you are embarking on your first novel, make sure it's a stand-alone. Trilogies are Too Hard. I blame Lee Battersby. He set a writing exercise at Swancon 2003 and the piece I wrote for that became a chapter in what's now book three of my series. Perhaps I should warn you against writing exercises as well.

3) What Award would you most like to win?
At this point, almost anything short of a cereal packet toy would look good on my mantlepiece. And on my CV! Until last week I hadn't entered any contests or awards since I was in school but I've put a piece in this year's Katharine Susannah Prichard SF award. I'd be so happy if it even got Commended!

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)
I love giving workshops (just give me a topic and I'll research it and put a good and useful workshop together) but I don't think I'd like the commitment of running regular classes. Besides, there are many competent people already doing that, probably much better than I could.

Helen Venn

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?
I've been aiming at writing and doing other writing related work like editing or subbing each for a set time each week day so basically I treat it like a job. I don't worry so much about a specific word count although a deadline is a great incentive. One of the reasons I applied to Clarion South was to learn how to write to one and it certainly taught me to focus when I need to.

2) What Goals do you have over all?
I really want to finish my trilogy and get it published - I'm halfway through it now. I love writing short fiction and I want to see more of that in print too and - since this is a wish list - having some of my poems published would be great.

3) What Award would you most like to win?
I enter a lot of competitions and any wins are gratefully accepted. I've been focused on Writers of the Future for the past year and made it to a finalist in the First Quarter this year so I guess my immediate goal is to keep trying to break through there for now.

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)
I'm a teacher by profession so I really enjoy the teaching aspects. I love giving workshops which make the participants explore creative areas they don't usually think about so you might find yourself being asked to write from unexpected triggers. As well I enjoy critiquing and I'm happy to mentor.


You!

1) What Specific Goals do you have for your every day Writing?

2) What Goals do you have over all?

3) What Award would you most like to win?

4) What extra Writing activity would you like to do? (Ie, teaching some aspect of writing, workshops, editing, mentoring, online teaching...)