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Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Gender bias in fantasy characters

A couple of months ago, I highlighted a list of “the best fantasy series”. As always, such lists are personal opinions. However, a writer friend from the SFF Online Writers Workshop, Kathryn Jankowski, wrote a comment on how ” very male-protagonist oriented” the list was and offered another list to balance this.

I have to be honest here that I had not noticed how skewed the original list was when I wrote the post (but then I am an elderly while male which does not excuse me but perhaps explains the omission!). However, it set me thinking and I have kept my eye open for more on this topic.

I have just come across a blog post that explores this bias by Freda Warrington, an excellent British fantasy writer I have admired since I read her first novel, “A Blackbird in Silver” in the mid-’80s.

If you are interested in this topic, check out the rest of Sarah Ash’s blog on Women Who Write Excellent SFF under the heading of Nobody Knew She Was There.

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Solitude, coffee, music: Ian Rankin on how he writes

As mentioned before a while ago, I am a big fan of Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime fiction writer. Therefore I was fascinated to read this article by him in The Guardian about how he writes:
Ian Rankin: ‘Solitude, coffee, music: 27 days later I have a first draft’

I found particularly interesting his different approaches to the first, second and third drafts of his novels and that he does not research too much early on.

Incidentally, his taste in writing music matches mine pretty well, as does his need for solitude and coffee… I live in hope of emulating some of his success!

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Refuting Lee Child’s take on Amazon’s book-selling

My thanks to Kathryn Jankowski for pointing out Joe Konrath’s refutation of Lee Child’s opinion piece on Amazon that I posted about recently.

Rather than leave the link in a comment, I am posting it separately as Konrath’s article, titled Fisking Lee Child, makes some excellent points. I particularly liked how he highlights the differences between the few bestseller category authors like Child and the thousands of other writers.

Well worth reading for a balance to Child’s arguments.

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An author’s perspective on Amazon’s book stores

Since my previous post on the implications of Amazon opening physical book shops, the Guardian has published an opinion piece by thriller writer Lee Child on why he thinks this is a bad idea: Lee Child on Amazon’s real-life bookshops – and why we should be worried.

Apart from the implications for publishers and print books, he also weighs in on the terms and conditions Amazon imposes (and subsequently adversely changes) for writers following the indie publishing route.

Some good and interesting arguments against an Amazon monopoly.

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Many advantages to Amazon opening physical book stores

Anyone interested in Amazon’s approach to book retailing (and most writers will fall into this category!) will be interested in this analysis in Computerworld of Amazon’s approach to physical stores and its strategy to leverage “bricks and mortar”:

This is why Amazon will open physical bookstores

The point here is not so much competition with other book shops as positioning its overall placement of products, delivery and how Amazon’s publishing business competes with other publishers.

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Emotional truths in the history-based novel’s characters

This article on the challenges of writing a historical novel that has characters true to their time caught my eye. While it is not directly SF or fantasy related, it has some useful insights in developing characters that reflect the culture and society in which they live. This not only applies to historical fiction but also fantasy and SF set in thee past but also is relevant whenever the story is set, be it present day, near or distant future, on Earth or out in space.

Emotional Truths and Historical Lies in the Shadow of the Great War

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Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

The previous post, about Susan Sontag, came from an initial reference to a very useful web site called Brain Pickings. Since then I have been exploring the site and found some very useful posts on writing advice. These are summarised as Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers.

Read, learn and enjoy!

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Susan Sontag on Storytelling

Another article on writing and reading. This time Susan Sontag on Storytelling which has some very useful insights from one of her last public appearances — a lecture on South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer delivered shortly before Sontag’s death in 2004.

As well as looking at the difference between telling a story and imparting information or the writer’s role in deciding whhich of many stories to tell, the part of the article that really spoke to me was a quote of Sontag’s definition of what a writer does and is:

Every writer of fiction wants to tell many stories, but we know that we can’t tell all the stories — certainly not simultaneously. We know we must pick one story, well, one central story; we have to be selective. The art of the writer is to find as much as one can in that story, in that sequence … in that time (the timeline of the story), in that space (the concrete geography of the story).
[…]
A novelist, then, is someone who takes you on a journey. Through space. Through time. A novelist leads the reader over a gap, makes something go where it was not.
[…]
Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once … and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.
[…]
The work of the novelist is to enliven time, as it is to animate space.

Thought-provoking and well worth taking the time to read and absorb.

Hat-tip to Jan Whitaker on OWW SFF Writing Forum for drawing my attention to it.

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David Brin on why 2015 was the best year ever in space

Nautilus is an excellent online science resource I use for writing ideas and I recommend you take a look at it. Each month it publishes a series of articles around a common theme.

This month the theme is “space” and it has published an article titled 2015 Was the Best Year Ever in Space by SF writer David Brin giving his opinion on why last year was the best ever for space exploration. The article includes a few superb photos and videos.

While there are plenty of ideas for writing and about plans for the future, what really appealed to me is the sense of hope for the future the article conveys.

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Review: “Self-editing for Fiction Writers”

Late last year I made the decision to undertake a proper edit of my first novel, “Rose In Winter”, which has waited in the twilight zone between second or third draft for over a year. To help me tackle this, my family gave me two books on editing for Christmas. The first, reviewed here, is “Self-editing for Fiction Writers – How to edit yourself into print” by Renni Browne and Dave King, both professional editors.

I think it is fair to say I have learnt something useful from each chapter. These are:

    Show and Tell
    Characterisation and Exposition
    Point of View
    Proportion
    Dialogue Mechanics
    See How it Sounds
    Interior Monologue
    Easy Beats
    Breaking Up is Easy to Do
    Once is Usually Enough
    Sophistication
    Voice

As someone who has struggled with writing natural sounding dialogue and with finding the unique voice for the different characters, I suspect those two sections will be the most useful but the tips and all the chapter summaries have proved their value already.

Strongly recommended if you are having problems with editing!

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