Alien landscape with two suns

Set-up and pay-off – focusing on what is relevant

Today I read an amateur science-fiction short story that opened by describing at length the twin-sunned planet the protagonist’s ship was orbiting. It then moved on to several paragraphs about the mega-corporation whose employees worked on planets like this, the unfortunate circumstances of said employees, and why they needed the protagonist’s services.

And then the action started with the protagonist arriving at a completely different planet to engage in work that had nothing to do with the corporation or its employees. None of these things was ever mentioned again.

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Update: Mother of Invention

I’ve now seen the proofs of my story Arguing with People on the Internet as it will appear in the upcoming Mother of Invention anthology – so exciting! It’s looking great, and I’m just stoked.

For people who didn’t back Mother of Invention on Kickstarter, the book will be available to the public in September. In the meantime, though, Twelfth Planet Press will be holding not one but two book launches. If any of you happen to be in Wisconsin at the end of May, their first launch will be at Wiscon (or, as the editors put it, FREAKING WISCON – I think they’re a bit excited about that 😉).

The second book launch, which is the one I’ll be at (on account of it not being a great time to just hop a plane to Wisconsin), will be in Melbourne in June at Continuum, a convention that’s deeply close to my heart. It means a whole lot to me that Continuum will be the first place I get to hold my first really truly book-published work in my hands.

Hope to see some of you there!

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Book cover: Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 2

This is the sequel to last week’s post about all the ways Ted Chiang’s book blows my mind and makes me want to be a better writer.

I’m aware that what follows may come across as overly critical, so let me start by reiterating that I really enjoyed these stories. They intrigued and surprised me, and made me feel like I was wrestling with some incredible intellectual notions.

If I’ve written more about what didn’t work for me than what did, it’s only because those were the aspects I felt best able to get a grip on when it comes to analysing why they affected me the way I did and applying those lessons to my own writing.

Again, this review contains very minor and non-specific spoilers – unless you’re reading the book right now, you should be fine.

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Book cover: Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 1

I said at the start of this blog that I might try the odd book review-type thing, so this is me trying one. It’s really about what I took away from this book as a writer, rather than a reader, but hopefully it will be helpful (or at least interesting) to readers and writers both.

Edited: Looking at this just post publication, I’ve realised what a wall of text it turned into. So I’m going to take a load off you (and *cough* off future me) and split it into two posts. Tune in next week for part two.

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Man with a bow and arrow

Why “show, don’t tell” is nonsense – and why it’s important anyway

It has to be the single most common piece of writing advice there is: “Show, don’t tell.” And yet so many of the unpublished stories I read demonstrate that their authors don’t understand it. And honestly, that’s not surprising, because taken literally it’s utter nonsense.

Writing is, by definition, telling. You’re speaking to your reader through words, not pictures. So how the heck are you supposed to do anything but tell them things?

Here’s the secret: yes, all writing is telling. But by choosing what it is you tell your reader, and how you tell it, you can create a vastly more enjoyable reading experience.

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Box of coloured crayons

Colouring books and creative anxiety

A couple of years ago, at the height of the craze for such things, a couple of people gave me adult colouring books for Christmas. They were beautiful things, full of intricate spirals and minutely detailed images, each one a blank canvas open to a thousand possibilities for filling it with glorious colour.

And my first thought was, What if I get it wrong?

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