Saturday, February 13, 2010

My week as a writer

Today has been a good week.

1) I finished editing the changes on the first section of my new novel required by my (far more experienced and talanted) co-author.

2) I received word that I have a new scientific paper out in Molecular Ecology.

3) Five days ago I got a commission for a short story for an Urban Fantasy short story - provided I finished it in a fortnight. the editor gave me a meme to get me started.

Of course, I said yes, deciding to panic later. I went to bed that night with various ideas running around in my head. In the morning, I had a story. Today I finished the first draft.

This has focussed my mind on how I did it.

1. Write about what you know. Either do extensive research or use material from your own life. The latter is infinitely preferable.
2. Ruthlessly trim down extraneous detail and side issues to focus on the story line.
3. Assume no special knowledge among the readers.
4. Use strong characters as the protagonists. Try to make them real.
5. See the story as a series of scenes, each of which either advances the plot or tells the reader something interesting about the protagonists.
6. Don't infodump - dump the information from the story. It probably isn't necessary.
7. Write. Write. Write.
I got up each day and wrote at least a thousand lines before lunch. Get into the writing habit.
8. Edit, show it to another writer and edit some more. When you have finished that do some more editing.
9. Removing words usually improves a story much more than adding words.
10. Enjoy it. You are not doing this to get rich so why bother if you are not having fun.


PS You can follow me on Twitter. I twit under johnlambshead.


Anonymous said...

"Today was a good week"

The worse case of time confusion I've ever had involved deciding that plotlines that were sequential needed to be simultaneous. Urban Fantasy, Post 2012 weirdness. I finally had to date each scene, go through and double check that reactions didn't occur before actions and so forth. Finished a few days ago. Then I went shopping. Pulled out the checkbook. Could not remember the date. Couldn't remember the month. Had to think hard to make sure I was writing down the right year. I'm pretty sure I got through the day without writing September 14, 2013 on anything.

Congrats, John. That sounds like an _excellent_ week.

C Kelsey said...

Congrats John!

The Urban Fantasy thing about mostly using first person POV saved me from a major mistake in the UF short I'm writing now. There are 6 main characters in this short story, the POV character and his Pride of werelions. If I'd tried to write this one in a different POV, there would be nothing short about it. I plan to have the draft finished either tonight or tomorrow. Then I'm going to apply every checklist from "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers". Then I'm going to find another pair of eyes to look at it.

The goal is to start submitting this story to magazines by Friday. :)

John Lambshead said...

Oh boy, simultaneous timelines. You need to be a Heinlein to handle that.

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
Robert A. Heinlein

John Lambshead said...

dear Chris
I would be happy to cast an eye over it if you can wait four or five days.

C Kelsey said...

Wow, John. Thanks for the offer. I can certainly wait, the deadline I'm under is self imposed. :)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Go John!

Who are the two people in the photo?

Did I miss something?

Stephen Simmons said...

We're not doing this to get rich? You're sure? I thought I was ...

Of course, I also joined the Navy to get rich. And became a submariner so I'd be all set to move to the space habitats we'd have by the time I retired from active duty. And I became a nuke so I'd be all set to shift over to operating the fusion plants we' have by now, too.

Congrats on the week! :)

John Lambshead said...

Dear Rowena
It's a scan of a very old slide taken in 1978 or 1979.

The two people are a very young John and his delightful new wife.

It is up for no better reason than I like it.


John Lambshead said...

Dear Stephen
Ah, yes, fusion plants, and flying cars, and aluminium foil clothes, and food in pills, and girls in very short skirts......
The future was going to be wonderful. Then it turned out much like the present, only with bigger problems.