What to Read While Writing

So what do you read while you’re in the middle of a writing project? From my personal experience, and some research and reading of other blogs/articles on the topic, there seem to be several different schools of thought on this topic.

Read in your Genre

If you want to know what’s popular in the genre that you’re writing, then read some recent books. Learn about popular tropes, what current readers expect or enjoy out of that genre, average acceptable story length, and so on. After all, how can you expect to write a cozy mystery or a sword-and-sorcery tale if you’ve never read one (or a few) before? Continue reading

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A Glossary of Writerly Jargon

If you’re new (or even not so new) to the world of writing, you may have discovered that us writerly folks have our own jargon. Even if you’re not a writer, if you’re an avid reader you’ve probably associated with enough writers (and/or literary critics) to have heard some odd terms being tossed about. So I thought I’d help you out with this small starter list of writerly words and abbreviations. This is by no means a comprehensive glossary – I’ve just tried to pick some of the most common or weird-sounding terms.

WIP

This stands for Work in Progress. A short story in its first draft or a novel in its third draft is a WIP if it’s unpublished and the author is still working on it.

MC

MC stands for Main Character. There are a lot of other terms to define character types (like protagonist, anti-hero) and one of these may or may not be the main character. But if you’re reading about a writer or a book and you see “MC,” it just means Main Character.

Mary Sue (or Gary Stu)

This is a character that is “too perfect.” A Mary Sue character is often super-model beautiful, multi-talented and excels at everything without trying hard, is loved by everyone, and makes few or no mistakes. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for a male character) frequently is an idealized version of the author, and the story can read like a contrived excuse to showcase the author’s perfect fantasies. Continue reading

Explain It All or Let the Reader Figure It Out?

Someone asked me recently about where a writer should draw the line between explaining something in painstaking detail versus just glossing over a topic and letting the reader try to figure it out on their own. It’s a complex question, really, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

What was really interesting, though, was that right on the heels of this question, I had an experience in my critique group that not only did NOT answer that question, but highlighted how there truly isn’t a right or wrong answer.

First off, let me say that I absolutely love all of my critique partners, and our times together are full of valuable feedback, learning experiences, and lots of fun. One of the elements that makes a good critique group, I think, is having a diverse group of writers who all have different writing styles, favorite genres, and writing experiences. Continue reading

Square Dancing as a Metaphor for Writing

Writers tend to think in metaphors, and have a penchant for turning non-literary stuff into something literary. And so because of that, a great many non-writing things in life can be held up as useful for the writing life.

I have recently begun taking square dancing lessons (you may laugh if you wish). I live in a small town, and square dancing is a big thing here. And with good reason – it’s a fun, family-friendly activity that people of all ages can do together, and it’s good exercise. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m learning a lot. And, because I’m a writer, I’m applying it to my writing life, too.

Dancing/Writing is not a Solitary Activity

While square dancing requires a minimum of eight people, writing tends to be something that one does all alone. And while it’s true that the act of writing is a solitary venture, getting a publishable book into the world is not. Ideally, a writer has critique partners or beta readers, an editor, perhaps a cover designer, and of course readers. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned about Writing from Watching The Librarians

Even though I’ve blogged plenty about older sci-fi shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek, and Stargate, I occasionally watch newer shows, too (it’s rare, actually, but every now and then I find a show that I consider worth my time to watch).

The Librarians just wrapped up its fourth season (and, sadly, final season, unless another network picks up the show). The Librarians is about a magical Library that is the repository for all the magical and supernatural artifacts in the world, and the Librarians protect the Library and jaunt around the world gathering artifacts and fighting bad guys. It’s clever, campy, family-friendly adventure.

Since I’m a writer, I can’t help but look at things from a storytelling point of view and analyzing everything, even as I’m being entertained. (For anyone else who wishes to be entertained, all four seasons are currently on Hulu).

I believe the practice of watching/reading things from a writer’s perspective helps me to become a better writer. And so, here are some things that I’ve learned about writing from watching The Librarians: Continue reading

In Support of Predictability for Fantasy Plots

New, different, unexpected – these are the things we all want in a story, right? After all, if the story is too predictable, too much like all the others we’ve read, then why bother with it? While this is very true – both readers and writers are always looking for the unique element – I believe there is room for some degree of predictability.

Genre Matters

First off, there is the conventions of the genre. This can be very broad, but I believe it’s the most important form of predictability. Readers pick up certain genres because they enjoy the conventions of that type of story. A reader of classic sword and sorcery will not be pleased to find space ships and vampires half way through the novel. Pick your genre/sub-genre, learn your genre, and gain an understanding of what some of the most common or popular elements are. The fantasy/paranormal sub-genre of vampire romance involves – you guessed it – vampires and romance. If your story is lacking these key elements, then it’s not a vampire romance. Continue reading