Welcome back, Jitterbug! Today I get to spotlight the release of Writers Workshop with an excerpt and TWO giveaways. In addition I've got a guest post from one of the 36 contributing authors, Stephen Zimmer. Be sure to check out the entry forms at the bottom of the post.
About the Book:
Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews by and with many of the movers-and-shakers in the industry. Each contributor covers the specific element of craft he or she excels in. Expect to find varying perspectives and viewpoints, which is why you many find differing opinions on any particular subject.
This is, after all, a collection of advice from professional storytellers. And no two writers have made it to the stage via the same journey-each has made his or her own path to success. And that’s one of the strengths of this book. The reader is afforded the luxury of discovering various approaches and then is allowed to choose what works best for him or her.
More Than One Right Way to Write
By Stephen Zimmer
One of the things that makes Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy such an insightful book for writers is the fact that it openly acknowledges there is more than one path to writing good literature.
We’ve all heard of plotters and pantsers, those who outline fastidiously and those who fly by the seat of their pants in terms of plot development. We’ve heard of authors who live by rigid word counts and others who don’t worry one iota about what their word count was for a given day. We also know of authors who are minimalists, and more sparse with their descriptions, and others who paint a very detailed and comprehensive picture with their words.
The truth is, both extremes in those three examples can be successful paths to take for a particular writer, as well as everything in between. Writing is a very personal and individual art, and there really is no one-size-fits all approach to it.
This is a very logical perspective, as any casual survey of a top-selling author’s reviews will tell you. Pick any major author, and I can just about guarantee you that you will find reviews ranging between the book being the best thing ever read by a person to proclamations of the book being absolute garbage (seeing this will also help new writers in learning to handle negative reviews too!). In these cases, those authors who are universally regarded as the most popular, and often award-winning, have connected with one reader while falling short of connecting with another.
As you can see clearly in that short exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all for readers, two of whom can read the very same thing and come to completely opposing conclusions. Similarly, there is no “one way” to writing, and that is an important fact to keep in mind from the beginning for writers who are just getting underway on their path or seeking their first publishing experience.
It is far too easy for a newer or unpublished writer to take what a successful author says as a hard rule or gospel. After all, a new writer can naturally feel like the things that come smoother to them must be wrong if it is in conflict with what a well-established author is saying. The new writer might be more of a minimalist with description, a bit of a pantser with their approach to plot, and loose with word counts, and feel they are way off track if they are taking in the words of a New York Times Best Selling Author who happens to be highly descriptive, a big outliner, and strict on their daily minimum word counts.
The reality is that the new author’s voice and method of working could well be just fine for them, and perhaps it is helpful for that author to look into the insights of a major author who is known to be more minimalist, more of a pantser, or less concerned about word counts. That is not to say that a new author should not read about other various approaches and perspectives, as there is always the chance of discovering methods and approaches that work even better. It is merely saying that the author does need to be conscious of the truth that there is more than one path to creating effective, well-crafted literature.
The Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy embraces that truth right from the outset. In fact, that truth is stated very clearly on the back cover, in words that one could say serve as one of the first highly beneficial insights among the host of perspectives and insights offered in this exciting new release!
“Nothing fills a page faster than dialogue,” the writer said.
There it is, the blank page or screen, the intimidating and recurring challenge every writer must face. The temptation is to fill that page as quickly as possible, to advance the narrative however you can. Often the easiest way to do that, even for writers who are not masters of dialogue, is to get the characters talking. A few A few writers are even bold enough to begin novels or stories with a line of dialogue, something I don’t recommend unless you possess the skills of the early Robert A Heinlein, who began his story “Blowups Happen” with the suspenseful line: “Put down that wrench!” Orson Scott Card also opened his popular novel Ender’s Game with a piece of dialogue that immediately rouses the reader’s curiosity: “‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.” Writing good and convincing dialogue is usually enough of a challenge without relying on it to hook a reader right at the beginning of one’s story. Writing dialogue, whatever the difficulties, is generally easier than, for example, crafting descriptive passages, offering insights into a character’s
psychology, creating vigorous and absorbing action scenes, or presenting necessary exposition in a graceful way.
Writers who harbor dreams of scriptwriting may be especially prone to fill pages with dialogue, but others also succumb, partly because dialogue is a shortcut and a very useful one. Sometimes a few well-chosen words of conversation can accomplish as much in a story as pages of description and exposition. There are also a fair number of readers who are more absorbed by stretches of repartee than by beautifully and poetically rendered descriptions. (Writers meet these people all the time; they’re the ones who tell you they skip all the dull parts, often meaning those carefully wrought passages that cost you so much effort.) Better just to cut to the chase, or in this case, drop in on the conversation.
The strength of dialogue—namely that it can be a useful shortcut—is also its weakness. Writers who rely too much on dialogue risk leaving too much out. The writer may hear the characters clearly and easily envision the scene, but that doesn’t mean that the reader will. (In a review of a novel some years back, Joanna Russ wrote that passages in that book seemed to be largely about names drinking cups of coffee, noticing the designs of ashtrays, or riffing on the furnishings in a room, the characters were so indistinguishable.) The beginning writer is likely to produce dialogue in which the reader will find it hard to tell one character from another. The useful shortcut can produce a story that is sketchy, in which too much has been left out.List of Authors
Orson Scott Card
Ursula K. Le Guin
Alan Dean Foster
Kevin J. Anderson
James Patrick Kelly
Gordon Van Gelder
John Joseph Adams
Lucy A. Snyder
Nayad A. Monroe
G. Cameron Fuller