It’s one of the most common pieces of advice for would-be writers: read widely, read often. Less often appended is: read thoughtfully. But that’s what it means, really. As a writer, you’re no longer just reading to be entertained – you’re reading to learn from those further along the journey than you are, studying the work of skilled craftsmen to find out how to better your own craft.
This kind of detective work is one of the best things about my own endless journey towards being a better writer: analysing fiction that appeals to me and discovering clues to improving my own fiction. Sometimes it’s a work of concentration and deep thought; sometimes, like this morning, the pieces just fall into place and suddenly I can see a picture I didn’t even know was there. This morning’s epiphany: the element that ties together the climactic moments of so many of my favourite character-driven short stories.
Continue reading “Writing a compelling, character-driven climax”
This week, I learned about how two of the most prosaic of products have turned out to have entirely unexpected benefits. Find out why scientists and nursing instructors are big fans of prank farts, and how tootsie roll candies may have actually saved lives in the Korean War.
Continue reading “This week I learned: unlikely heroes”
After a postal mishap and a full month of nigh-unbearable anticipation, Mother of Invention – the first really-truly actual book to carry a story of mine – is finally here in my hands, and I couldn’t be more excited!
The cover art by the super-talented Likhain is even more chock-full of glorious details seen up close; I swear everything she creates is like a song for my eyeballs. And I can still barely believe all the clever, talented, wonderful authors and spec fic superstars my first really truly published story is appearing alongside: Seanan McGuire, Cat Sparks, Bogi Takács (I am seriously in love with every story of eirs I read), Ambelin Kwaymullina, Nisi Shawl, Octavia Cade, Stephanie Lai, and so many more. I am thrilled and humbled and just a little bit terrified to be counted among them.
If you already have your own copy of Mother of Invention, I hope you’re enjoying it and I promise to stop frothing at the mouth with envy now. If you weren’t a Kickstarter backer and don’t have a copy of this fabulous book, it will be available to the general public in September. In the meantime, you can sign up on Twelfth Planet Press’s website to be notified when they open for preorders.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a couch to curl up on and some reading to do.
I’ve been in a writing drought for the last week or two. Not through lack of inspiration, much to my relief, but simply through lack of time and – which is just as important thought less often discussed – lack of mental and emotional resources to spare for it.
This week, though, I’m finally back in the saddle with plans for a brand new story. I have themes and characters and a general shape, and it’s all brimming with potential. And so I find myself confronting the single most hair-tearingly difficult challenge of writing: actually putting words down.
Continue reading “Inspiration paralysis and how to get past it”
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “How do I know the colour I call purple is actually the same colour someone else sees when they look at purple things”?
I’ve long been fascinated by the ways different animals – and different people – live in different sensory worlds. As it turns out, we already know that not everyone sees colour the same way – how do you explain the difference between red and green to someone who’s red-green colourblind? Is the dress blue or white? – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different sensory worlds we can live in.
Continue reading “This week I learned: rewiring our senses”
One of the books recommended to me as part of my fiction-writing journey was Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s a book I have mixed feelings about (though I think that’s less of a reflection on the book, and more on the lessons I need/ed to learn not being the ones it was trying to teach me), but one moment in it that got me thinking was a short diatribe about the word “OK”.
Continue reading “OK”
Particularly loyal followers of this blog may remember that I wrote in my first ever TWIL post about the Swedish orchestra that plays instruments made of ice.
At the time, that was the strangest way to make music I had come across. But this week, not one but two other musical groups will vie for the title of Most Unlikely Orchestra. Which one takes the cake (or possibly, in this case, the carrot)? Let me know your pick in the comments.
Continue reading “This week I learned: making music”
In a 2009 interview, Ira Glass talked about what has come to be known as the taste gap: the difficult period early in anyone’s creative life when they know good fiction (or art, or whatever) when they see it, but they don’t yet know how to produce it, so everything they create disappoints them. “A lot of people never get past that phase,” Glass said. “They quit.”
Occasionally, I will read someone else’s short story and it will be so much the kind of thing I want to write but am not yet capable of that I have to spend a day or so talking myself out of quitting (hello there, anxiety). The latest of these is Seanan McGuire’s Little Mermaid-inspired story, Each to Each (recommended to me by a friend because I’ve been thinking about writing my own take on that particular problematic fairytale).
Continue reading “Writer’s review: Analysing Seanan McGuire’s ‘Each to Each’”
This week I learned about the website that lets you take a deep dive into the history of Amsterdam, and took a deep dive of my own into the unsettling history of a Japanese island full of bunnies.
Continue reading “This week I learned: Below the Surface and Ōkunoshima”
If other writers are anything like me, I’m sure they get frustrated by prescriptive articles on grammatical “rules” and “mistakes” (never use adverbs/second person/passive voice!). In general, I will argue passionately for any writer’s right to experiment with and use whatever grammatical structures best suit their voice and the voices of their characters (within the bounds of readability and not promoting racist stereotypes).
But at the same time, language is a powerful tool. As storytellers, we help inform how other people see the world. So when questions of grammar intersect with deeper issues (such as the aforementioned problem of writing dialogue that promotes stereotypes), then it’s time to think harder about the grammatical choices we make.
And that’s why I find myself writing a blog post about generic pronouns (that is, what do you use to describe a person of unknown or irrelevant gender?). Hang on to your hats – it may be grammar, but it’s also a ride through history, politics, and sexism that’s likely to upturn a few things you thought you knew about the English language.
Continue reading “Grammar, politics, and sexism – how do you choose a generic pronoun?”