deborahjross: (Deb and Cleo)
"As a child, my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it." -- Buddy Hackett

Just about everyone who reads this smiles, but actually I think they should be screaming. Either/or choices and black-and-white thinking serve none of us well. Either you get an A+ or you are a total failure. Your book is either #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and wins both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, or it is an abysmal flop. Your marriage is either the stunning example to all humankind or it's crap. Exaggerated like that, it's easy to see the ridiculousness of perfection-or-nothing. But how many times do we see ourselves and our lives through a perfection-tinted lens?

Years ago, when my children were small, I agonized over my many, many lapses in maternal perfection. At times, I was sure that a single moment of inattention or crabbiness had ruined my beautiful babies forever. A friend (who, interestingly enough, was childless herself) gave me a book in which I read that it isn't necessary to be a perfect mother, only a good-enough mother. Was I good enough? Even in my darkest moments, I knew that I was. For all the black marks, I could look at a thousand time more of games played, books read aloud, lullabies sung, trips to the zoo, mommy and me classes in everything from gymnastics to piano, walks along the beach... (And my daughters have grown up to be amazing, strong women, for which I take an eensy amount of credit, the rest being all their doing.)

I've also learned to relax about my cooking. I'm a good cook, although not given to following recipes too closely or attempting anything too fancy. My general approach is to grab a bunch of fresh produce, mostly from our garden, and not overcook it. But from time to time, the results might be edible but are unlikely to be requested again. Then there are the spectacular disasters. I am notorious for burning things in pots, which is what happens when plot ideas strike in the middle of preparing dinners. My best weapon against perfectionism here is a sense of humor. If I can laugh at the inedibility of an experiment (and follow it up with a 30-minute-or-less-from-pantry-staples dish) then it becomes a shared source of merriment. Silly, rather than tragic.

Why then is it so much harder to cut myself some slack when it comes to writing? In my saner moments, I know that no piece of prose is ever perfect. It works or doesn't work or sort-of works or works for some folks but not others. We say "perfect" when it carries us away so completely, we are oblivious to any flaws. But the flaws are there, and another reader (or viewer, or listener) might well find them looming large.

What would it take for me to say, "This is the best I can do right now"? To remember that, as Paul Valery wrote, "a poem is never finished, only abandoned."

Can I trust my creative instincts to know when to let a project rest and come back to it later, when to keep working away, or when to release it to the world, warts and all?
deborahjross: (Default)


Some years ago, I struck up a conversation with a young writer at a convention. (I love getting to know other writers, so this is not unusual for me.) One thing led to another, led to lunch, led to getting together on a regular basis, led to frequently chatting online. I cheered her on as she had her first professional sale, and then another, and then a cover story on a prestigious magazine. One of the gifts of such a relationship is not the support I receive from it, but the honor and joy of watching someone else come into her own as an artist, to celebrate her achievements. It's the opposite of Schaudenfreude -- it's taking immense pleasure and pride in the success of someone you have come to care about.

I've written about these lunches here: The Lady (Actual and Honorary) Writers' Lunch

I find such friendships invaluable, and even more so when they shift from "pro/newbie" to one of true peers. Although we may not be in the same place in terms of professional publication, we each bring a wealth of life experiences to the conversation. Often, critical skills develop faster than writing craft, so even a novice writer can provide invaluable feedback.Trust arises from recognition of each other's strengths.

This happened recently, when I was wrestling with the opening of a new novel. I typed "Chapter 1" and then stared at the blank screen. Everything I could come up with for a beginning sentence was -- to put it mildly, just awful. I wouldn't want to read a book that began that way. But because my friend and I were IMing and she often shares thoughts about her creative process and struggles with various aspects of storytelling in a very different style than mine, I felt safe with her. She agreed that my idea wasn't very entrancing (she was very nice about it, for she understands that beginnings are vulnerable times and that this is indeed a process, not the final copy on the editor's desk). Her support lightened the burden of "I'm totally useless and now everyone is going to find out; I'll never write another decent sentence in my life and I have no idea how to begin a novel!" which we both knew to be not true, but the sort of self-doubt that regularly assails writers of all skill levels.

Eventually I calmed down enough to remember one of my tried and true techniques for coming up with titles. I write down every one I can think of, quite quickly so that I get through all the really stupid ones first. I give myself permission to be ridiculous -- and silly -- and quirky -- and by this time, I am usually generating stuff that has some potential. I did the same thing with opening lines, and before long I realized I'd become ensnared by one of my perennial challenges: wrong point of entry. By backing up (in this case) or leaping forward, I can find the place that clicks. 

I went to bed, having written a page or so, and woke up with: "Yes, and this other thing happens and then she gets thrown into jail (on page 2 or 3) and by the time she gets bailed out, her father has been brainwashed..." Okay, this has possibilities!

Thanks, dear friend, for cheering me on through the discouraging part!
deborahjross: (Default)
Originally posted by [ profile] sartorias at Editorial comments
Linda Nagata talks extensively about dealing with editorial comments. I wanted to ruminate further, but felt it would be rude to blather in a public forum. This is my safe blather place.

I first want to get the every process is different, every editor and editor-and-writer relationship caveat out of the way. The idea here is not to say anyone or thing is wrong. I find that a dead-end discussion.

Red: First Light, which made it to the Nebula finals as the first very small press novels to do so, I believe, was edited by fellow member Judith Tarr. One of the back-med processes of Book View Cafe is editing; again, writers and styles are different, but there are two or three BVC people to whom I turn for editing, and Judith is one of them. (Deborah Ross and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel are the two others. Though we have more editors, I haven't tried some, and others our styles don't jive.)

It's easy to say "I'm an editor"--in fact the Net is full of people offering to editor your books. Whether or not they actually can depends on your point of view: you can look at reviews of traditionally published books, where you know there was an elite team of Ninja editors at work, and see "Where was the editor on this thing? Asleep at the switch!" Followed by reviews that state the work in question was perfection, of course.

I think the editing process works best when the editor takes the time to explain what they are seeing, and why. In BVC, because no one has the authority to say "You have to do what I say or return your advance," there is an opportunity for dialogue.

One of the things Linda brought up is the "This should be a scene" note. Again, writing is not like math. There is no equation for what ought to be a full scene, a half scene, a bit that occurs offstage and gets reported (and discussed) by characters, or the narrative voice summarizes it as part of a transition. Generally speaking, when I employ this Note of Doom (I suspect every writer's heart sinks at least at first when they see it, because after all, they didn't write the scene in the first place) it's because I feel that the narrative voice is telling the reader what to think, which can be felt as a cheat, or else is shortchanging character evolution/emotion.

Of course, sometimes the writer doesn't write the scene, but discovers a place earlier on that can fortify that bit, then the summary snaps into a tight transition.

I don't like to look at reviews of my own stuff until way after the fact (too wince-making when it's too late to fix) but I do look out for reviews of books I edited. And I love seeing praise, though I am an utterly invisible part of that book's process. But the work still feels important even though what the book is saying is not my words.
deborahjross: (Fall of Neskaya)
One of the most common questions I get asked is how I schedule my writing time. Non-writers often think we either write only when the muse strikes (and then, accompanied by quantities of alcohol, swathed in tobacco or other botanical smoke, and living in the most depressing garret imaginable, surrounded by the wreckage of countless relationships) – or we get up at 7, sit down at the computer/typewriter at 9, take a one-hour lunch break at noon, and work steadily until 5. I am quite sure there are writers who do follow those schedules, but I’m not one of them.

Some writers need long stretches of time to dig deep into their stories. I’m not one of them, either. I’m a slow-and-steady plodder. There’s nothing right or wrong about either way; each writer discovers what’s right for them. So the following comes from my own experience.
If I’m going to write a novel and a couple of short stories every year (or two novels in 18 months), I need to write consistently when I’m in the early drafting stages. All bets are off when I’m writing proposals, rewriting, or revising to editorial order. Most of the time, I find daily goals helpful, so long as they are achievable. I don’t find it at all supportive to post my progress in terms of words of pages. One writer of my acquaintance used to post not only words written but anti-words; words the writer had deleted. I like that the writer acknowledged that not all progress can be measured by the total number of words.

A better goal for me is to write well.Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)
Some writers do all their work in isolation. They are the creative hermits of the literary world. When they get an idea for a story, they tell no one. This isn’t always the misplaced fear that the other person will “steal” their idea. Few ideas are so strikingly original that they have not already been told in a myriad variations. Even if the other person were to write a story on the same idea, the stories would have different executions. Knowing this doesn’t seem to make a difference. Some folks just work better alone. I’ve heard some of them say that if they discuss a work in progress, the very act of telling it aloud dissipates the creative energy: they’ve told the story, so there’s no reward for writing it. Some of them never improve as writers, but others seem able to teach themselves and to produce work of quality.

I’m not one of them.

First of all, I am, as the French say, “très sociable.” I flourish with regular chats with other writers. More importantly, I learned early on in this business that if I am left to my own devices, I will come up with the most dreadful poppycock and think it’s great. My stories will have plot holes you could ride a tyrannosaur through. And let’s not mention grammatical atrocities, inconsistent characterizations…you know the drill. Fortunately, my second and third drafts are a whole lot better than the drivel I throw together as a rough draft. I revise a couple of times, just to get the words on the page into some correlation to the story in my head, before I let anyone else see it.

At some point, however, I need feedback. I need an ally. Better yet, several. I benefit from having a “story midwife” to help me with the process of pushing and squeezing and ruthlessly pruning a story into the form that is most true to my creative vision.

A “story midwife” is someone whose insightful feedback helps me to make the story more fully what I intended it to be. It is not a person who rewrites my work to their own agenda, sabotages my writing efforts in order to make themselves feel good, or who goes about claiming credit for having salvaged or inspired my work. These things happen (and they’ve happened to me), but they’re not only not helpful, they’re potentially devastating. All these things happen because the person reading the story has motives other than being of help to the writer. These folks are often unsuccessful writers themselves.
Read more... )
Often the person who sees an early draft is not a writer, but an astute reader whose reactions I can trust. Usually it’s best that this not be a relative or close friend. It’s possible those folks could give honest feedback, but more likely than not, they want to make me happy. I don’t want to hear what a fantastic writer I am or that this deformed raw effort is the Great American Novel. I want to know where I lost the reader’s attention, or where I misled or confused or infuriated the reader. I don’t necessarily want to know how to fix the problem or even what the problem is.

Interestingly, when I was a new writer, I tended to discount the feedback of trusted readers because of their lack of writing experience. Whether I knew it or not, I was searching for teachers, not readers. This is an important point. There are many kinds of “story midwives,” and trusted readers are only one. Often, we need different types of feedback at different stages in our growth as writers, or in the development of a specific story. So a beginning writer may need a mentor or teacher and then a skilled editor, as well as a trusted reader.

Now I value the feedback from trusted readers. They are in touch with how they feel and can articulate what thoughts pop into their heads as they read. To me, as an experienced writer, these reactions are pure gold. I’m not looking for explanations of the elements of writing craft (and how I’ve mangled them!). I want to know where I connected with the reader and where I failed. It’s up to me to figure out what the problem is and what I want to do about it. For example, if something wasn’t clear, it could be because I didn’t set up and foreshadow adequately, or it could be that I myself was not clear, that I needed to delve more deeply into the story. If I’m unwise enough to follow advice (uncritically), then I may end up patching up the surface instead of doing the hard work to uncover the diamond within the rough. Trusted readers, by and large, don’t go for the spackle and the duct tape. “I just don’t get this,” is often a prelude to revealing structural flaws, inconsistent motivation, or poorly thought out world-building, all of which I am grateful to know about while the story is still in formation (as opposed to when it’s solidified in print!)

I try to keep all this in mind when I act as a trusted reader for someone else. I try to go along for the ride, noticing when it gets bumpy for me. Some of the things that boot me out of the story or cause me as the reader to lose trust in the writer may not be true for someone else. This mode of reading is more focused than casual reading for enjoyment, but much less analytical then when I’m critiquing. I try my best to leave my editor’s hat at the door.

That said, I’ve sometimes run across stories where the roles change or blur. I set out to read a story with one intention in mind but find it requires a different level of engagement and feedback. I cannot overstate it enough that changing gears requires clear communication! I’ve been on both ends – giving and receiving – of an unannounced and unwelcome switch. In one instance, several decades ago when I didn’t know any better, a fairly new writer asked what I thought of a story that had been published in a fanzine. I gave the writer a thorough critique, analyzing the structure and peppering the manuscript with suggestions, when all the writer had wanted to know was if I’d enjoyed it. Now, unless what the writer expects is clear from the beginning, I will say, “What kind of feedback do you want?” And as a trusted reader, I strive to be trustworthy.

In future blog posts, I’ll discuss other “story midwives:” critiquers, beta readers, editors, and those who carry us through difficult times with their support.

The painting is by Jules Ernest Renoux (1863-1932)
deborahjross: (Default)
I knew Art Holcomb decades ago -- gosh, have we been around that long? -- and always respected his insight into writing and publishing. He's a guest blogger over at Larry Brooks's "Storyfix" and has some interesting things to say. He doesn't address how to write, but rather the equally important question of what attitudes and habits comprise a professional attitude.

My favorite is Don't Wait For Perfect. Perfect is the enemy of done. And it's also toxic to the creative space so many of us need -- the self-confidence to try new things, but the insecurity to look critically at what we've done. Being a writer (for me, anyway) is a high-wire act, holding that paradox. Perfectionism slams me into paralysis. I have to be willing to be incredibly imperfect in order to take the risks to be great.
deborahjross: (Default)
I wrote this essay in 1997, when the world of publishing was very different from what it is today. Back then, who could have anticipated the revolution in epublishing and the way it has given rise to self-publishing and independent publishers. Upon reflection, however, I think it's worth considering. Let me know what you think!

Many recent articles in newsletters, magazines and websites describe the dire state of publishing and the difficulties which writers face in order to break in, let alone survive or flourish. Conventional wisdom resonates with images of loss and scarcity:

"The midlist is dead!"

"IDs (Independent [Book] Distributors) have imploded!"

"If a single book fails, your entire career is finished unless you change your name!"

"Media tie-ins and franchised universe fiction are squeezing out original work on bookstore shelves!"

The background to these declarations is grim. Approximately 50% of all novels marketed as first novels are in fact written by established writers seeking to escape from poor sales figures. This situation benefits publishers because they then need pay only first-novel level advances for solid, midlist‑level books. The average advance has not increased in a decade, while those for a few, more highly promoted books have skyrocketed, further fueling the "boom or bust" polarization. Bookstore chains occupy an increasingly large share of the market and their computerized ordering practices base advance orders on the author's previous sales. Some critically‑acclaimed books sell so poorly that their authors have difficulty finding a publisher for their next work. In this age of micro-management by distant multiglomerate corporations, the success of a book can be determined before it appears on the shelves. Publishers hold "autopsy" conferences to discuss why a book which they believed would do well "failed" in terms of sales.

Advice is easily given in an atmosphere of unspoken desperation. Sometimes the suggested tactics succeed: a byline change or a switch to a more commercial form of fiction may rejuvenate an author's sales or at least subsidize more serious writing. Too often, however, such changes are proposed and undertaken without consideration of their emotional implications. Well‑meaning advice gives special privilege to forces which are inherently beyond a writer's control and which have to do with merchandising, not creativity. The writer who follows such advice unsuccessfully is particularly vulnerable to feelings of guilt, regret, loss of artistic identity, and betrayal ("having sold out.")Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)
Sylvia Kelso interviewed me on writing and stuff. Some cool questions. We had fun!

Kelsoglyphs : the Home Page of Sylvia Kelso
deborahjross: (Default)
Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.

--Barbara Kingsolver
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
Recovery (which includes return and renewal of health) is a re-gaining—regaining of a clear view. I do not say “seeing things as they are” and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say “seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them”—as things apart from ourselves. We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity—from possessiveness. Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention, perceiving their likeness and unlikeness: that they are faces, and yet unique faces. This triteness is really the penalty of “appropriation”: the things that are trite, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.


Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds.

J. R. R. Tolkien on Fairy Tales, Language, the Psychology of Fantasy, and Why There’s No Such Thing as Writing “For Children” | Brain Pickings
deborahjross: (Northlight)

Since Northlight is on sale for $1.00 off at Book View Cafe, here from the archives is some background on how I wrote this book.

After I submitted Jaydium, which was to become my first published novel, I began work right away on my next project. Or rather, I took a look at all the ideas and characters which were screaming inside my skull to be made into stories and tried to decide which one would cause me the most anguish if I didn't work on it first. High on my list was to rewrite the last novel I'd written before Jaydium. It had received careful attention, not to mention three single-spaced pages of critical feedback, from the editor who would later buy Jaydium.

I felt that if an editor had taken that much time and trouble with the book, there was something of value, something that perhaps I was now a good enough writer to bring out fully.

The book's working title was Weiremaster, and it was based on the world of my very first professional short story, "Imperatrix", which appeared in the debut Sword & Sorceress anthology. Weires are bipedal ape-like creatures, seven-feet tall, fanged, silver-furred, immensely powerful and receptively telepathic. In the world of "Imperatrix," they obey people of imperial blood. For the purposes of that short story, no further explanation was needed.

Now, years later, my world-building had matured. I wanted to know how these creatures had come into a human world, how the control worked, and how the dynastic characteristic had been established. I concocted an adventure which would lead my hero into the world of the Weires and back home again, changed. He would carry me -- and the reader -- along with him, a classical hero-quest. 

Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)

I've been quieter than usual here and I thank you all for keeping the archives nice and warm. A little while ago, I posted various sorts of good news. Here's what's on my plate -- er, my computer -- now.

I'm about to begin editorial revisions to the third book of The Seven-Petaled Shield. It's called The Heir of Khored, and if you've read the first one, that will mean something. If not, you have a treat in store. Heir is a June 2014 release. It's so great to have the volumes come out about 6 months apart. And, I must confess, a bit odd to be plunging into #3 on the eve of the release of #2 (Shannivar).

To "clear the boards for action," as it were, I finished the first, very rough draft of an "Attack Novel." That is, one that so grabbed me that I wanted to write it, even on spec. Depending on how extensive the revisions my editor wants for Heir and when the deadline is, I'm hoping the keep the excitement of this project going, at least long enough to send it out to a beta reader. A beta reader is someone I trust to take a look at the whole shapeless mess and give me an overall reaction. Beta readers are to be treasured and showered with chocolate.

I'm also working on an anthology that I've been keeping silent on until the lineup of stories was complete. Stars of Darkover (to be published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust in time for Marion's birthday, June 2014) is just that -- an anthology of stories by "Marion's writers" and "friends of Darkover," superb professional writers all. Once the contracts are done -- very soon now! -- I'll be able to post the Table of Contents. Stay tuned!

And if that isn't enough, I'm putting together a collection of my essays on writing, life, and the care of the creative muse. InkDance: Essays on the Writing Life will come out in January from Book View Cafe.

deborahjross: (Default)
For the last seven weeks, I’ve been away from home, helping to take care of my best friend and her family during the end of her life. I had no idea how hard it would be, but we did well by her and her passing was peaceful, attended by great tenderness and forgiveness. I stayed on for another ten days to organize the memorial and transition for her family.

During this entire time, one of my personal anchors was writing. I loaded up my netbook with current projects and took the folders with checklists for various Book View Café projects I was working on. In this way, I created a portable office, albeit one that lacked all the resources I had at home. For example, although I had access to the internet through my carrier’s website, I didn’t have my address book files. I learned to “work around” these limitations, focusing instead on what I could do, delegating and asking for help with things I couldn’t, and postponing other tasks. As a result, I was productive with some projects but “on hold” in others.

Now I’m back in my own office, resources at hand. I’m facing a dual challenge: coming “up to speed” and getting back into balance. What do I mean by balance? I mean reapportioning (or rather, un-deapportioning) my time and focus. Rarely have I been so aware of the many activities involved in my life as a writer. These include, to name a few, original fiction writing (drafting, revision, revision-to-editorial-request), other aspects of book production (proofreading); editing anthologies; beta-reading and editing books, often for other Book View Café members; writing blog posts like this one; keeping up with professional communications (reading and responding to email from fellow writers, fans, and editors, not to mention news of the publishing world).
Read more... )
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
The brochure from hospice inform me that as a dying person’s body winds down, appetite becomes erratic and diminishes. The sense of taste changes so that formerly favorite foods are no longer appealing. The person eats less when they do eat. Finally, many dying people refuse all food. This can be complicated because throughout human cultures, offering food is a way of expressing love. The dying person may continue to eat in order to please a loved one, but in the end the demands of the body prevail.

Besides nourishing our bodies, sometimes past the point of health and into diet-related diseases, food is laden with symbolic meaning. We celebrate with festive meals; we soothe ourselves with favorite treats from our childhood; we give candy to our sweethearts. Even the term “sweetheart” refers to sweetness, a taste, as do “honey” and other endearments. Taste and smell are the most basic, “primitive” senses, so our expressions of care go zing! right into the oldest portions of the brain.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of world-building is creating different cuisines for each culture or social class, ethnic group or family. While it may be true that just about every cuisine has some version of pancake-rolled-around-filling, stew modeled on the canned stuff in American supermarkets shouts “generic fantasy!” Read more... )Just as every family seems to have their own special recipe for spaghetti sauce or meatloaf, you can devise variations on the same dish. Sometimes these variations might reflect notions about what is suitable food for people of different ages, different social status, or even genders (“manly meals” or “kiddy food” or salads-are-for-women). Even within these variations, not everyone has the same taste. Some may be innate (how cilantro tastes is genetically determined), or influenced by personal history (travel, associations with significant events or relationships) and health status.

Which brings me again to caring for a terminally ill friend, in particular providing meals for her. She jokes about taking a trip down the memory lane of the foods she’s enjoyed during her life. Her tastes have become nostalgic, erratic to the point of whimsical, but fleeting. Some of the things she’s asked for are cream of mushroom soup, watermelon, Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, buttermilk biscuits from scratch (which I do know how to make), hot dogs with sauerkraut, salami, and vanilla ice cream with lemon sorbet for breakfast. No pickles with the ice cream, at least not yet, although she jokes about the food cravings of pregnancy. Life is indeed uncertain, so she eats dessert first.

The food comes with memories, of course. “Do you remember the time we ate this when we were students and…” or “I made this recipe while horse camping on Mt. Hood…” or “my father used to cook this for a special occasion…” I think the same is true for everyone, but the awareness that time is limited, that the number of times you will eat this dish or reminisce over the adventures that once accompanied it are not limitless, adds a special poignancy. As my friend’s appetite wanes, she eats less in amount and frequency. There’s a shift from the fullness of having eaten to the sensory pleasure of eating to the anticipation, the idea of that particular food. If there is a sense of re-visiting the past – comfort and celebration, adventure and sharing – there is also a gradual farewell.
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
Over on Janni Lee Simner's blog, Sherwood Smith talks about "keeping the flame burning" as we struggle through what's called midcareer:

"I think killers of inspiration are unexamined literary habits and complacency, but also, there is an insidious one: the conviction that one must speak an important Message. In my years of reading all the works of authors who had long careers, one pattern I’ve noticed is that for many, the earliest, written-purely-for-fun works are those that last, and forgotten are the later ones, wherein the writer—perhaps with sharpened skills, certainly with hard-won wisdom—gave in to the temptation to summarize all that hard-won wisdom in One Great Novel."

Gosh, been there, done that. Or rather, wrote for fun and then tried to pontificate on my own work as if it had cosmic importance. I do write about things that matter to me because I enjoy reading stories that have layers of depth, but I want -- and do my best to offer -- a whopping good tale first.

Read the whole thing here: Sherwood Smith on Writing for the Long Haul - Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
Janet Reid is a literary agent whose blog I often find worth reading. This is in part because she approaches topics of writing, marketing, publishing, the world of books, from a different angle than the one familiar to me as a writer.

Here she set out to analyze one of her favorite movies (Heat, with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro) using a timer to look at the relative length of scenes. The more dramatic the scene, the longer it lasted.

She writes, "The reason this is important for you, as a writer of novels not screenplays is the principal transfers: the big action scenes are LONG, not short. Tension increases with longer scenes. I've heard editors say this over and over, but until I saw the movie (complete with a digital counter on my screen) it hadn't quite sunk in."

I think of the "weight" of scenes as if they are structural materials. The higher the stakes, the more urgent and unsure the outcome, the more details and time that scene can support. These are the places to "play it out," not the times the characters are strolling through a park, admiring the flowers.

Janet Reid, Literary Agent: Building tension
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth, despite the long absences. I've been wrestling with some physical problems that severely limit my computer time, and here's how I've been spending that limited time:

Getting ready for the launch of Collaborators (as Deborah Wheeler) from Dragon Moon Press, including a series of blog posts about world-building and creating a gender fluid race. I'll post a link once it's available, along with snippets.

Editorial revisions for Shannivar, the second book in The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy. The first one, by that name, is coming out next month. You can pre-order the first one here.

Description: Eons ago, a great king used a magical device—the Seven-Petaled Shield—to defeat the forces of primal chaos, but now few remember that secret knowledge. When an ambitious emperor conquers the city that safeguards the Shield, the newly-widowed young Queen, guardian of the heart-stone of the Shield, flees for her life, along with her adolescent son. And much adventure ensues...

Putting together a collection of short stories, Azkhantian Tales, which will be released from Book View Cafe June 11. These stories, originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress formed the foundation for the world of The Seven-Petaled Shield and its cultures. There's a new Introduction about the process of exploring that world, as well as a sneak peek at The Seven-Petaled Shield.

Putting together a proposal for my agent to do magical things with. News will follow when I have it.

Working on editing 2 anthologies. News will follow as release dates approach.
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
I love the idea of letting the words pour forth fast enough that self-doubt can't keep up!

As he [Ray Bradbury] told Writer’s Digest in a February 1976 interview, “The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘Don’t Think!’”

Write Fast Enough to Stay Ahead of the Doubts | Unearthly Fiction
deborahjross: (Shield #1)
Wonderful perspective on world-building, which is as applicable to sf as to epic fantasy. A richly detailed world, however captivating, does not a story make.

" building is important, but in good epic fantasy it only find its way into the story in bits and pieces through the context of the characters. The Silmarillion is rich in history, language, and lore, but it’s outside the framing context of any character’s story arc. It’s an atlas-arguably an atlas Tolkien needed to write in order to write LOTR with such a rich sense of history and culture, but an atlas nonetheless. Only avid fans who are already invested in LOTR bother to read it. Most readers are drawn to the stories of Bilbo and Frodo and Aragorn, and rightly so, because those are the character whose stories are linked to saving the wonderful, complex world Tolkien created."

[GUEST POST] Garrett Calcaterra on Epic Fantasy and How J.R.R. Tolkien Pulled a George Lucas - SF Signal


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Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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