writing process

Spice World - the seminal Dune story

Everyone knows Dune (you do, don't you? If not, why are you here?), and if you’ve even given this blog a cursory glance, you know that lately I’ve been obsessing about Dune more than a little.

I happened to chance onto a book called The Road to Dune in a local second-hand book store. Within this book, along with deleted or early draft scenes from Dune and Dune Messiah, was a novella called Spice World.

Brian Herbert detailed in the introduction that this story came form his father’s notes - a detailed chapter by chapter breakdown of the story. But Frank had abandoned this story, making a new start and creating Dune.  READ ON

How a Scene Evolves from First Draft to Last

Rewriting a scene is where the magic happens. First drafts are usually crap (although sometimes they have nuggets of brilliance). Many writing teachers will tell you this, but it’s something that every writer needs to learn for themselves.

I want to compare a scene I wrote three years ago as a first draft with the second draft of the scene, which I wrote last week. 

The text still isn’t perfect. I even did two edits to it as I was re-reading it for this blog entry. Is this important? Individually, the small things like which version of the sentence is better aren’t important, but in the big picture of building a well-crafted story, yes, these little decisions add up - to either a good or bad reader experience. READ ON

TBR - To Be Read

To Be ReadThis my “TBR” pile - my books waiting To Be Read, although after I took the photo, I found two more. Every writer has one. Writing is also about reading, about continually both being engaged creatively and seeing how others’ writing styles might influence yours.

Beyond the obvious science fiction, my current list includes fantasy (Sailing to Sarantium), magical realism (All the Birds in the Sky, and possibly Cloud Atlas? That one’s hard to characterize), historical revisionism (1434, the sequel to 1421) and a Malcolm Gladwell screed. Like most writers, I read outside of my genre, even more so than this pile would suggest.

Music as a weapon - too silly an idea?

I’m at a bit of a crossroads with the novel I’m writing (hereafter referred to as WiP - short for ‘Work in Progress”). I had an idea for an alien race that I thought would be different. I built a plot point around that difference. Then I saw something similar in a movie … and I thought it was stupid.

What to do? What to do? Do I re-write the WiP to eliminate that plot point? Do I remove it entirely? Or is it OK?

Anyone who knows a writer knows that we’re very insecure about our writing, fragile, even. So what do we do when a plot point appears ridiculous? Panic. Stop writing. Have long breaks while we try to understand how we got into this terrible dilemma.

Or maybe we ask for help. Read on

Transformative cover songs

One thing that my partner and I disagree on is cover songs. As often as not, her first exposure to an old song I love is through a cover version made popular much later. Again, as often as not, I find the cover version to be lacking any transformative soul. Often I find them to be desecrating a great old song.

I don’t know how many times we’ve started listening to a song, and she’s said, “I know this song. Sarah Brightman sings it!”

To which my invariable response has been, “Maybe she does, but she didn’t sing it first, and she certainly didn’t write it. How about we enjoy the original singer-songwriter?” READ MORE

What Can Scalzi’s First Novel Teach New Authors?

Whether you love him or hate him, John Scalzi is incredibly influential and is probably the highest-paid science fiction writer today. in 2015, Scalzi signed a ten-year, 13 book, $3.4 million deal with Tor publishing.  Part of my learning process is to deconstruct successful novels to see what I can learn from them. It makes sense to look at John Scalzi’s first book, Old Man’s War. READ MORE

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