Monday, 27 February 2012

Writing Like Wasps

There’s a wasp building a nest outside my window. He’s been hard at work since late yesterday afternoon, gathering dirt one grain at a time, and slowly moulding it all into a home for himself. He started work yesterday evening and by this morning looked to be nearly finished.

Then my mum knocked it down.

This wasp could have said to himself, “oh dear, someone’s knocked down all my hard work. I might as well give up – if I try to start over someone will just knock it down again”.* But no. The wasp is there again, slowly starting to rebuild his nest.

Resilient little brute.

Now, I hate wasps. Not as much as spiders, but wasps are up there with the rest of the insect world. They’re creepy, with stingers, evil eyes, and pincers. I mean, can you imagine if they were a hundred times bigger and could easily take on Fido? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t pee yourself if the Mega Wasp suddenly started eying you off while it was paralysing Rex to feed its unborn larvae.

This isn't the wasp outside my window, but you get the point.


Anyway, I hate wasps, but when it comes to resilience, we writers can learn a lot from them. When we get a rejection letter, or a bad critique, or just encounter someone who wants to be rude, we shouldn’t say, “oh dear, someone’s knocked all my hard work. I might as well give up – if I try to start over someone will just knock it again”.

Rather, we should be like wasps and keep going. Each rejection, each bad critique will sting, but a good writer will get back up and keep on going. Because if we keep going, eventually people are going to stop knocking down our houses

So that’s today’s thoughts. Your turn now: for the comments, let me know what you think about wasps and writers. Do you think there are any other animals writers could learn from?

* Actually, he probably would have said “Bzzz bzzz bzzz bzzz. Bzzz bzzz bzzz – bzzz bzzz bzzz” but it’s simpler to have the English translation.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Guide to Writing a (Bad) Fantasy Novel

Having never written a fantasy before or done much world-building, I decided the search Google for “how to write a fantasy novel”. I know it sounds like a novice thing to do, but I’m in uncharted territory here, and I thought there might be a few little gems of information I could use.

In a way, there was.

All I was able to find were sarcastic webpages that at first didn’t seem that helpful. But as I thought about them I realised that the websites actually listed all the things to avoid when writing fantasy novels. So, here’s my guide to writing a bad fantasy novel (or, what to avoid):

1. Your protagonist should be a farmhand.

2. And an orphan.
3. The Evil Bad Guy should secretly be the protagonist’s father.

4. Make sure there’s a Wise of Wizard who mentors the protagonist.

5. The Wise Old Wizard should know all about the quest, but doesn’t tell the protagonist.

6. Several of your characters should have apostrophes or dashes in their names.

7. The more the better.

8. The Evil Bad Guy should have an enormous army of (ugly) henchmen (the uglier the better) at his disposal. These henchmen don’t require payment, or food.

9. There should be several locations with the following words in the place names:
     a. Doom
     b. Forbidden
     c. Fear
     d. Death

10. The characters should go through an abandoned Dwarfish mine.

Admittedly, a few of the above feature in my own fantasy novel. My Metaphorical Red Pen is going to be hard at work before too long.

For the comments, what are some things to avoid when writing a fantasy novel? Let me know!

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Quick Update

So, it’s been a while between posts, hasn’t it? A mean, it’s nearly mid-February already. What the?

I’ve been super busy this past week. Okay, who am I kidding? I’ve been super busy for ages*. I’ve been working heaps over the Christmas period**, and then one girl quit meaning I got even more work. I’m kinda exhausted.

The editing front has slowed down almost to a complete halt. Writing has slowed down to a complete halt. I grew bored of my current project and haven’t had anything I wanted to work on. So now I’ve decided to quit wasting time and start writing my Untitled YA Fantasy Idea! I’ve already been working on it a lot over the past few weeks… but now I can actually start putting my thoughts about the characters and the world onto paper.

In other fantasy-related news, I’ve finished reading Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, which I enjoyed. It has made me realise how much I’ve neglected the fantasy genre. So now I’m on the prowl for more YA fantasy.

So, that’s my quick update. For the comments, let me know what you’ve been up to in the past few weeks. And I want to know: what are some good YA fantasy novels to read?

* By “ages” I mean three or four weeks.
** I’m an Australian uni student. Christmas period is mid-November to mid-February.

Friday, 3 February 2012

So I've Built a House...

It’s February now, which means Project 2012 is moving from the read through to focussing on the big picture. This means looking at scenes, characters, and the entire story as a whole.

It’s like I’ve built a house. The house is okay. It’s liveable. But it’s just okay. It’s not perfect, not even near it. It’s not a great house. Just “all right, I guess…*”. To make the house the best house in the world, it’s going to need a lot of work. A massive renovation job. Mostly little things, like making a bedroom a bit bigger, adding a spa and a swimming pool. Maybe putting some bigger windows in to take advantages of the view. But then there’s some big things. Like tearing out entire walls. And I’m scared to knock out the walls, because what if the house falls down? Suddenly I’d have gone from having an okay house to a pile of rubble.

This is how I’m feeling with my manuscript. It’s okay. It’s “all right, I guess…*”. But it needs to be the best book in the world (or at least the best book I’ve ever written). This means a lot of work. Character arcs redone, characters fleshed out, chapters rewritten. Deep down inside I also know there’s bigger issues which need to be addressed. But it’s like I’m blinded to them. I’m purposely not seeing them.

With my house, it’s like I’m keeping away from one end of the building so that I don’t look at that wall that looks like it’s about to fall down. Because if I don’t see the wall, then I can’t be sure that it’s about to fall over, which means I don’t have to tear it out and risk end up being crushed by debris.

But I know I’m going to have to force myself to eventually inspect that wall. Sooner or later someone else is going to see that wall and wonder why it’s going to collapse and kill the neighbour’s cat.

Likewise, I have to address the bigger issues of EXCALIBUR before someone else spots them. Which is hard, yanno? Because I feel that if I play around with the structure too much, I’m going to end up with 80,000 words. Not a story, just 80,000 individual words. That’s scary.

So, yeah, that’s how I’m feeling right now. I’ll be able to address the bigger issues, but it’s going to be hard to face it. For the comments: Have you ever had to do anything like this? How did you go? Was it hard, or pretty simple once you got started? Let me know!

* Said in a really non-committal tone.