Play to your weaknesses

Some of my most successful stories have been the easiest to write. “Butterflies on Barbed Wire” was practically a single draft and sold to like the third market I sent it to.  Why?  Well, it plays to my strengths – I wrote about characters I could relate to in situations I could relate to, utilizing […]

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When Genre is Character

I’ve written before about how genre is a set of expectations.  Those expectations can be set for the reader when they see the author’s name, or when they enter a certain section of the bookstore, or see the cover art.  Titles, back cover copy, the first sentence – all of these set up promises to […]

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What Should I Write?

When I was a wee child, picking a topic to write about was easy: I wrote COOL SHIT.  Like… bicycles that transform into helicopters or space ships or motorcycles or maybe power armor and I should have a cool robot friend who is sarcastic and transforms into like a briefcase. (I watched a lot of […]

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We Need to Stop Calling Bad SF “Fantasy”

“This is well-written,” the rejection letter read, “but time travel isn’t science fiction. I suggest you send it to a fantasy magazine like Beneath Ceaseless Skies.” A newbie writer, I had never gotten such a direct referral to another magazine before. Surely it meant this editor knew more than I did about the genre. I […]

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When Tropes Wear Out

I was reading this essay by Joanna Russ, “The Wearing Out of Genre Materials” – it’s a quick read, but I’m not sure it’s freely available anywhere – I got it on Jstore. Yay working in academia! Anyway, the gist of the essay is: Stories feed an emotional need. They fulfill a wish, somehow. The […]

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Think so you can stop thinking so you can think

At Clarion, one of our instructors (I think it was a guest lecture from Kim Stanley Robinson)  said, “The change to your writing won’t come right away. For most it’s two years after Clarion that what you learn here will really change your writing.” The message was, “Don’t expect to get famous on a schedule.” […]

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Story Shapes: The Caper

During the write-a-thon, I found myself looking for the shapes of stories – the very vaguest, simplest structures I could find.  Something to start with, like an artist starts with an outline or sketch.  When you’re in a crunch to produce a complete work, it helps to have an idea of its completeness to start […]

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