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Ask a Lot of Questions

A week ago I snagged from the local library a book by Orson Scott Card entitled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  It’s a short book, only getting to 140 pages, so it reads quick.  It may be 21 years old, but it’s filled with a lot of good information for writers of not just speculative fiction, but also for writers of other genres as well.

Much like Stephen King’s On Writing, this isn’t a how-to manual on how to write a best selling novel or an award winning short story.  Anyone looking for a book like that really isn’t serious about writing, anyway.  No, in this book Card reflects upon his own writing career and explains how he reaches into his imagination and pulls out such wonderful stories.  And he states that he is in no way seeking to tell you that his formula is the best way.  He explains that his goal here is to give you ideas and inspiration to create your own methods.  What works for Card may not work for King, and furthermore, what works for both of them probably won’t work for me.  But, I can get insights from them on how to approach story telling, and how to write them in such a way that they are more interesting and have a larger impact on the reader.

One of the things I think I don’t do enough of is to ask questions about the story.  I come up with an idea, map out the events toward the end, and start writing.  While it may make an interesting story, sometimes its obvious I didn’t think all of my options through.  My Steampunk story called “Brass Spiders” is an example of a story that while interesting and dark, lacks depth.  I see this now.  And while I hate to violate Heinlein’s Rules (specifically, #3 – You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order), in this case, I think when one realizes that the story isn’t the best they can do, its time to drop back and rethink your story.

So, I will press on with “Brass Spiders” (which still needs a new name) and rewrite it.  Also, “Harvest Moon” received its tenth rejection over the weekend, and I think it could also benefit from a rewrite.  So, I will focus on those and move forward.

This brings me to the wayward novel that I’m writing.  I spent some time pondering it, as well, and found that it was suffering quite a bit in the development areas as well.  Additionally, the other novel I started and stopped on last year about a airship crewman named Kyle has an alarming similarity to the story about Johnny.  It’s like the idea morphed into the newest incarnation.  Both books are different, but the plot flows just the same.  So, both of them will get pulled back as well, and I will revise my approach on them later.

And that is why the counter at the top right there has been reset.

I can say with a large degree of happiness that my Steampunk epic Mist is just fine.  I had spent so much time letting it churn and marinate in my head before I started writing that it flowed onto the page.  And Card says that if you are several pages in and you get hung up, you may have started it wrong, or you’ve structured it wrong, or you didn’t spend enough time asking questions.  If it flows, you are well on your way.  Maybe one day I’ll feel ready to pull it out and start editing it.

It’s a new year, and while I made a lot of progress last year, I won’t get anywhere this year if I can’t continue to learn about my craft.

On a side note, I would like to wish a speedy recovery to Orson Scott Card.  He suffered a mild stroke on New Years Day, and from what I see on Facebook, he is well on his way to recovery.  His writing has always been an inspiration to me, Ender’s Game being one of my favorite books ever, and I hope to see many more from him in the future.


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