Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Gospel of Bad Advice

I was reminded the other day about all the “rules” people like to quote at us, as writers, of how we should (or more often, should not) be writing.  The “should not” is the crucial bit here, because far more often than not, these rules tend to be things not to do.  Which is all well and good, but I’ve noticed that rules that ought to be phrased “try to avoid too much…” or “be aware of…” become gospel from on high: THOU SHALT NOT. And the problem always comes when "here's a suggestion"-- especially when it's specific to a piece being critiqued-- becomes preached like it's universal gospel.

1. Thou shalt not use passive voice.  On the whole, this is sensible advice.  Passive voice tendsto make for weak writing. However, more often than not, I've seen the person giving it not know what passive voice actually is.  Here’s a hint: it is not when the gerund form of the verb is used (as in “the boys were walking down the street”.) Or anything to do with verb tense or helper verbs.  Here’s passive voice in a nutshell: when the object of the action is the subject of the sentence.  Take “the boys were walking down the street”.  What the subject?  The boys.  What’s the action?  Walking.    Who was walking?  The boys.  The subject is doing the action.  Active voice.  Passive voice would be, “The street was walked upon by the boys.”    Subject?  The street.  But the action is done by the boys.  Got it?  Good.

2. Thou shalt not use ‘to be’ in any form.  I’ve heard it said that using forms of ‘to be’ is “weak writing”.  But you know what’s really weak writing?  The kind of convoluted verbal cartwheels I’ve seen people use to avoid a simple “to be” sentence.  Sometimes it pays to be concise.

3. Thou shalt not use ‘said’.  I’m of the school of thought that ‘said’ is an invisible word.  People don’t get caught up in its repetition.  True, if you have a two-person conversation, their dialogue should be distinct enough that you don’t need to indicate the speaker at every line.  But when you do tag, ‘said’ is nice and innocuous.  I’d also rather tack an adverb onto ‘said’ every once in a while instead of having characters chortled, exclaimed, exuded, implied or, god forbid, ejaculated.  I do like, when appropriate, asked, answered, whispered, muttered, murmured and shouted.  But on the whole, said gets the job done.

4. Thou shalt not use adverbs.  Yes, sometimes adverbs can be over done, and using an adverb is used where a stronger verb would do a better job, but adverbs are a useful tool, and they are part of the language for a reason.

Here’s the thing: I’m against any rule that’s spoken of as an absolute, about keeping the tools locked in the box.  The words and tools are there, use them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fan groups, wikis and eligibility

So, a while back, I was chatting with an old friend who is far more business/marketing minded than I am capable of being, and he was talking about giving readers the opportunities tone more than fans, to "live" in Maradaine-- in the sense that there is more for them to engage in beyond the books. Partly that's encouraging things like fan art and fanfic (which: yes, especially fan art.) Partly that's merchandise. But largely it's about engagement and community.

I'm not entirely sure how to go about that, but I do know that some fans have been working on a Maradaine wiki, which is AMAZING. If you are interested in helping out with that project, I highly encourage it: https://the-maradaine-sequence.fandom.com/wiki/The_Maradaine_Sequence_Wiki
ALSO, since I've been asked, here's are my eligible works for this year's Hugo nominations, which are due on the 15th:
  • Best Novel: LADY HENTERMAN'S WARDROBE
  • Best Novel: WAY OF THE SHIELD 
  • Best Series: MARADAINE (the whole saga, not any of the individual series)
  • Best Related Work: #BelgariadLive Read
All right, back into the word mines for me. No use having fans if I'm not putting out the work, right? Right.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Creative Focus, and the Playlists Behind Them

I've been a little radio silent the past few weeks, at least in terms of posting, because I've been chin-deep on a few things, both in terms of creative projects and other personal responsibilities. Nothing bad, mind you, just busy.

Two things have been my creative focus of late. One is finishing the draft of THE FENMERE JOB, the third Streets of Maradaine novel, and like all third novels in the Maradaine saga, there is a crossover element, which I'm sure you can suss out just from title alone. 

The other is more in the developmental stage, but let's just call it a Secret Project for now. But it will probably be a standalone thing to palate cleanse myself between Phase I and Phase II of the Maradaine Saga.

Both of these, I've got some inspirational music for, though I don't tend to go full-on curated playlists. Rather, I tend to find thematic material and throw it together and then, in process, figure out which stuff really works for me.

In the case of The Fenmere Job, I'm leaning toward film scores from films that evoke the same feeling I'm going for. Here's the spotify link for that one.

For The Secret Project, it's got a very different feel from the other stuff, and the playlist matches it. As you can see, it's largely focused on a specific artist. That might morph over time, though.

All right, back to the grind. Plenty to do over the next few days.