20 March 2018

Some Encouragement

[Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash]

Just some encouraging bits I've come across and wanted to share.

They're mostly about writing, of course, but you can apply them to any creativity.

The novelty and freshness you'll bring to the field won't come from the new ideas you think up. Truly new ideas are rare, and usually turn out to be variations on old themes anyway. No, your freshness will come from the way you think, from the person you are; it will invariably show up in your writing, provided you don't mask it with heavy-handed formulas or clichés. Orson Scott Card

Never put yourself down about things that you create. That mean voice inside you that says, 'You're not good enough' is not your friend, okay? I used to hear that voice all the time. If I hadn't started ignoring it, I wouldn't be here right now. There are enough negative forces in this world - don't let the pessimistic voice that lives inside you get away with that stuff, too. Felicia Day

The 'next book' in your imagination always looks easier and more fun to write than your work in progress. Robin Hobb

I cannot express enough the importance of failure. To fear it is natural, but you will learn/grow as a person faster & stronger through it. Matt Mercer

If you strive for something, make sure it's for the right reasons. And if you fail, that will be a better lesson for you than any success you'll ever have. Because you learn a lot from screwing up. Felicia Day

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14 March 2018

Building Worlds

[Photo by Michael on Unsplash]

So I went to Ireland (well, Dublin) to stay with a friend for a week, that turned into ten days due to 'the Beast from the East' meeting 'Storm Emma' over the UK. Everything has a label these days.

The break was great! We chatted, watched Eureka, explored libraries and bookshops, and I re-read How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card because it never hurts to be reminded of some things. This time it was world building.

First, story worlds.

I'm writing a story about a place, a house, set where an edge of fantasy and an edge of sci-fi meet. I'd put a lot of thought into the house and where it fitted in this world, and I'd mapped out the sci-fi world, planets, races, species, its technology level, the speed of travel, etc., but fantasyland was always just 'Fantasyland.'

How magic, how space travel works, affects the characters and their decisions and behaviour, even if the details never appear in the story. My story was stuck because a third of the world was missing.

What the Rules Can Do for You

All this attention to space travel, and your stroy doesn't have a single scene aboard the ship? Do you really have to go through all this?
    Yes - in your head, or perhaps in your outline. Just enough time to make your decisions about the rules and then make sure your whole story doesn't violate them. But your reader doesn't have to go through all that with you. Once you've decided you're using a difficult, dangerous hyperspace where the emergence points can shift by parsecs without warning, then all you have to do is drop some reference in the story - perhaps a single sentence, like this:
    "It was a perfect flight, which is to say that they didn't emerge from the jump through hyperspace in the middle of a star or heading straight for an asteroid, and even though everyone puked for days after the jump, nobody died of it."
    That's it. That's all. No more discussion about the mechanics of star-flight. But your readers will understand why none of the travelers is eager to leave the planet, and why it'll be quite a while before another ship comes.
    The rules you establish don't limit you; they open up possibilities.
    Know the rules, and the rules will make you free.

There is so much more but I hope you get the gist of it.

[Photo by Dmitrij Paskevic on Unsplash]

Second, my worlds.

I noticed how much I was doing, thinking, away from the distractions of home - and even with the distractions of talking, checking my phone, watching TV, and a blizzard. As well as reading and world building I also made a bunch of notes for my Etsy shop that I had, up until now, been avoiding.

I'm trying to re-structure the shop in a more manageable way, so I can add more variety and things I love, and where I don't put off adding listings because taking photographs and writing takes me an entire day, each. Since we've moved/downsized I don't have a lot of room to work or to keep stock.

And I realised what exactly I want to do with the rest of my life.

And the importance of creating spaces to think and dream and imagine, my world. I have one friend who has finished a novel. She has a laptop with no Internet and regularly goes on solo writing retreats in off season caravans and cottages. Sometimes I work well with a distraction, because it gives me something to ignore, if that makes sense, rather than navigating a hundred stray thoughts a minute. Most of the time, however, there are too many. I love my animals but I am forever leaping up to attend to them... In the midst of this very sentence sentence a visitor arrived next door (I'm watching their animals today too) and I was instantly ready to fetch the dogs here if they were causing too much trouble.

I need to go away from time to time. Maybe just once a year, maybe not even alone - being with another person brought me insights and thoughts (and encouragement!) my own brain doesn't come up with.

Build a detailed world for you story, it will make it easier to write, and more believable and consistent too.

Build a world for you to write in, a different comfort zone, a new place safely observed from a cosy tea room, book shop, library.*

(*I had one bad anxiety day while I was out there. At home I would never go out in case I saw someone I knew. In Dublin, I was with a friend in a city of strangers and it was no problem going out, and into the crowded and delightfully stunning Trinity Library. Which, incidentally, I did not realise I had already 'seen' when using it as the image for an earlier blog post.)

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19 February 2018

Overthinking, Overthinking

[Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash]

I put this post off for a week (more, now) because I couldn't settle on anything to write about. I'd start, run out of words or thoughts, then time, then come back the next day with a 'better' idea.

I've been overthinking my story, too.

In short: there's a woman, a magic house, a spaceship, and a portal to fantasyland. At first I thought she should go into space. I really, really love space. But it just wouldn't fit. Then I tried to push her into fantasyland. Strangely enough, it felt forced.

I couldn't have her stuck in a house for a whole book.

Then (after much angst and despair at my writing ability) I remembered that was exactly what I wanted.

Well, I wanted the hosue to be an adventure.

Folks, I spend a lot of time at home. I work from home. Going out costs money and takes social energy; my home is my Fortress of Solitude. I've put time into making it comfortable and practical, and quirky and interesting. My home, my family (of pets) is my life. And I am not alone in any of this.

We can't all go marching off into the woods or mountains at the drop of a hat. Or conveniently stopping time in one world while we visit another. Ever since I was . . . a lot younger I've been making up stories where adventuring is the characters' job. I think I wanted it to be available to anyone (i.e. me), not just a 'chosen one' (i.e. not me).

Not that any of that stops me reading any and all speculative fiction I can lay my hands on. Just to be clear.

Anyway. Lesson number I've lost count: Don't write the story you *think* it should be (especially if it's based on what's currently trendy because that will all change in one to a few years anyway).

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08 February 2018

Read These III

[Positive pineapples! Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash]

The vague theme this week is hope. Or something. Positivity, maybe.

It started with an intro to 'Solarpunk.' (I actually began writing this post a couple of days ago but got sidetracked into reading all I could find about Solarounk for a whole afternoon.) Anyway, my first thought was "Yes! This!"

Sci-Fi Doean't Have to be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk by Tom Cassauwers on ozy.com

It's just an introduction. If you like it, there'll be a link [here] at some point to a post with a bunch more links I've found.

A bit later, Maria Popova posted Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves on her endlessly fascinating website Brain Pinckings. It's not a quick read, there's too much detail for that, but here's a little extract:

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.

A plant needs water in order to survive, and needs the right amount of water in order to thrive. Overwater it and it rots with excess. Underwater it and it dries up inside.

Finally, this twitter thread made me stop and think about how and where I spend my time. Especially the ones about books and beaches and laughter.

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01 February 2018

Keep Reading

[Photo by Jack Reichert on Unsplash]
I've been reading a lot this week. Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett's whole Long Earth series was just £12 in The Works (a discount craft/book shop here in the UK) so I'm halfway through that now. I also re-read Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell because it was lying around and looked easy when I was tired. I bought the rest of those, bar the newest two, for £20 from ebay, and am halfway through the first trilogy.

I remembered why I'd let this habit peter out.

It reminded me I wasn't writing. Now it reminds me I'm not as good at writing as these authors, or anywhere near as imaginative, and if not what's the point? There are so many great books and stories out there, what's the point in adding any less-great ones? You could already spend every day reading and not even scratch the surface of published stories.

I'm looking at the wrong goal posts. Well, I never was good at sports. Commercial success is the publisher's goal and I'm not a publisher, I'm a writer; a writer's goal is the end of the book.

And writing?

Writing, storytelling, is art and art is subjective. Personal. No two people will read exactly the same books throughout their lives. And can you have too much art? I don't think so.

Stories and art and creativity and imagination make us who we are and change us and teach us. That's what smarter people than me say. If you go to BrainPickings.org and start reading, maybe from here, you might begin to find yourselves encouraged, and believing again, in the importance of your story, whatever it is. Just in case, like me, you were having doubts.

Who am I writing for anyway, a bunch of strangers, or myself?

So keep reading. Keep writing.

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