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Back in May I posted about the Brandon Sanderson lecture series. Well it is underway! I'm in a 6-person group and we just had our first submissions today. To stir up discussion when we haven't been writing, I decided to summarize the lectures as they are released (we'll see how long this lasts lol). I did find it very useful and realized that one of my stories that I'm currently working on really needs some world-building.

His class is sci-fi/fantasy focused, but still contains useful advice for any writer.

If you'd like to view the original videos, they are at YouTube under the Write About Dragons account. Be warned that Lecture 2 does have some random blue line problems, but since Brandon's handwriting is basically illegible, you're better off listening to it anyway.

Summary of Lecture 2 on WorldbuildingCollapse )

If you, like me, occasionally write stories in made-up worlds, the book (and/or Nat Geo special of the book) Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond is a resource you don't want to be without.

Have you ever wondered why it was Europeans who conquered North and South America and not the other way around? Why did the conquistadors kill so many Native Americans with diseases but didn't get any from the natives themselves?

This book attempts to answer these questions and many others.

From the Preface:

This book attempts to provide a short history of everybody for the past 13,000 years. The question motivating the book is: Why did history unfold differently on different continents? In case [you think] that you are about to read a racist treatise, you aren't: as you will see, the answers to the question don't involve human racial differences at all. This book's emphasis is on the search for ultimate explanations, and on pushing back the chain of historical causation as far as possible.

I am right now in the middle of viewing the National Geographic special made of this book, though I plan to read the book as well. Not only is it a fascinating read that looks deeper beyond the textbook history that we were all force-fed, it's also a good resource for worldbuilders. If you want to create a society that conquers everything in their path, make sure they have the the advantages they need to become the top of the food chain. Or, if your society stays small and agrarian, then use the knowledge from this book to make that happen for your fictional world.

Think before you sign

So in case you haven't been on the internet today, Amazon has announced a plan to monetize certain types of fanfiction for Alloy Entertainment. Yes, you read that right.

Controversial as this may be, the point of this post is not to slam or praise the action, but to point out an interesting factor that this rasies. If you read the details (summarized nicely by author John Scalzi on his blog), this deal is highly in favor of Amazon and not so much the actual writer.

Example:

“We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.”
i.e., that really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made? If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you — which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.
Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves.

It's a good lesson to learn as we write and look for markets and maybe, just maybe, get our own shot in the publishing world. Make sure you read the contract--better yet, make sure you have an agent or someone with some legal know-how read the contract before you sign anything.

The publishing market is a big place that is changing almost day by day. Be careful out there.

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Free online creative writing class

Awhile back I posted a link to some video lectures by one of my favorite authors. Well, the webmaster who is producing 2013's lectures for his master's degree is starting up an online class to follow the new lectures. Essentially, it'll be an online student-only class, but it looks like it could be fun. I'm 90% sure I'm going to sign up for it. Here's the blurb from the website:

The lectures from Brandon’s 2013 class are currently in the process of being filmed and edited and we will be staging an online version of the class here at this website beginning June 1. It will be similar to the class last year but with the difference that there will be an interactive feedback system going on, so you can give and receive feedback on your writing. It’s going to be awesome.

Some have asked about cost, and just like the site is now there will be no charge. I’m doing all of this for a masters degree project and the best way you can give back is by simply actively engaging in the class. And I might have one or two short surveys for you.

- Link to website

Edit: Also, this will be completely FREE. :D

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Alpha Readers (and apologies)

Sorry for being completely absent lately. I was losing ideas for posting on Tuesday and, to be honest, a community is easier to run with two mods. Unfortunately oddlittleturtle still has lack of internet issues.

All that to say, I going to try to keep posting advice and stuff now and then. Can't promise it'll be on a schedule.

Anyway. Found an interesting post about alpha readers:
The alpha-reader’s job, then, is to recreate their reading experience for the author. They can do this in various ways, but the more detailed the description and summary of their various reactions (not just the negative ones and not just the positive ones), the more helpful they will be.

Talky-Bits: Character Arcs

Welcome to Talky-Bits Tuesday!

What is that?

For now, we envision it as a forum for a discussion of anything and everything about writing. From strengths to weaknesses to everything in between. We'll introduce a topic for discussion, but there are no hard and fast rules. If the discussion moves on from the topic, that's fine as well.

Today's topic: Character Arcs

I recently read a book about two sisters. The youngest sister was a bit of a rebel, had a sunny personality, and the stubbornness to pursue her dreams. I liked her immediately and read each of her sections with excitement and anticipation. The oldest sister was quiet, demure, always thoughtful, always in control, never speaking out of turn. She was nice enough, but for the beginning of the book I always sped through her sections to get back to the younger sister. Then something changed: the oldest sister got knocked out of her comfort zone where she couldn't be quiet, couldn't be in control, couldn't be all the things that had helped her survive in her old life. Suddenly the oldest sister's sections became the parts that I just had to read. By the end of the book the oldest sister believably grows from the anxiety-ridden control freak into a strong, self-confident woman. Even after a reread, I find that my favorite character is the oldest sister.

What made the oldest sister's story more interesting to me? It was her character arc.

That movement of a character from one emotional state at the beginning to another emotional state at the end is called a character arc. Normally, this is a positive change, at least for your main character. For side characters, however, it can often be a negative change. Such as a character descending into madness, or revenge, some other opposite than where they started at. For example, The Illusive Man is a pretty smooth talker in ME2. Taking him in that game at face value, and you might begin to believe that Cerberus isn't all bad; at the very least, you are convinced that he wouldn't want to hurt humanity in any way. By ME3, his indoctrination has driven him down the path away from "save humanity" to "join the Reapers."

Character arcs are what make readers invested in your characters over the long haul.

So, back to you, dear readers. Are you good at character arcs or not? What are your favorite character arcs? How have you incorporated them into what you're writing?

More resources:
+ Article about character arcs with some examples. Scroll down a bit past the video to read the article.

+ Character Arcs: Growth, Recovery, Change

Talky-Bits: Post-Writing Slump

Welcome to Talky-Bits Tuesday!

What is that?

For now, we envision it as a forum for a discussion of anything and everything about writing. From strengths to weaknesses to everything in between. We'll introduce a topic for discussion, but there are no hard and fast rules. If the discussion moves on from the topic, that's fine as well.

Today's topic: The Post-Writing Slump

Has this ever happened to you? You've been working on something for awhile, you're excited about it, and soon, you're finished. And then... nothing. You know you should be working on something else but you're still thinking about how great it felt to write your last thing. Soon, you've spent a few days not writing at all and you feel a little drained of creativity. Why did that last story come so easily and now, when you should be pumped and ready to work on something else, the well dries up? What do you do?

Talky-Bits: What are you working on?

Welcome to Talky-Bits Tuesday!

What is that?

A forum for a discussion of anything and everything about writing. From strengths to weaknesses to everything in between. We'll introduce a topic for discussion, but there are no hard and fast rules. If the discussion moves on from the topic, that's fine as well.

Today's topic: Current Projects

It's a new week! What are you working on? Fanfiction? Original? Drabbles? A novel? What's your progress? Need a little encouragement? Brainstorming help? Tell us what you are currently working on.

We've been working on plot the past few weeks, so I thought it might be good to check in with everyone. :)

I don't know about you but some days I sit down at the keyboard and think, what's the point? I'm sitting here writing fanfic/writing stupid stuff/not writing but thinking about writing or doing XYZ and This Author or That Author is super cool and writes a bajillion words a month. Why even try?

An author whose twitter feed I follow posted a link to this blog entry by author Jessica Spotswood about this very topic. You might find it encouraging as I did. :)

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Talky-Bits: The Plot Diamond

After a long hiatus for the holidays, we are back with one last (?) post on plotting.

Welcome to Talky-Bits Tuesday!

What is that?

For now, we envision it as a forum for a discussion of anything and everything about writing. From strengths to weaknesses to everything in between. We'll introduce a topic for discussion, but there are no hard and fast rules. If the discussion moves on from the topic, that's fine as well.

Today's topic: Plotting: The Plot Diamond

The Diamond is a plotting structure related to the 3-Act Structure, utilized by author Zoe Marriott. The link to her original post about this can be found here. I recommend reading her original blog post because I'm really just skimming the surface here.

The plot diamond in all its glory.

1) At the top of the diamond, we have the First Plot Event. This is what gets the story started; what takes your character out of a normal life into whatever adventure awaits them.

2) Character Takes Action to Change Course of Plot is the second facet of the diamond. This is a tricky one: it could be a number of situations, could mean success or failure for the hero, but they actually do something to affect what's happening. Zoe Marriott gives the example of Lord of the Rings. At this point, Frodo agrees to take the One Ring to Mordor.

3) Major Diaster or Setback is the third facet of the diamond. The events triggered by the hero's choices and actions reach critical mass. Events might be going well for them, or they might not. But at this point, disaster strikes. Characters might see it coming or they might not, but they are powerless to prevent it from happening.

4) The Plateau of Awfulness. Just what it sounds like. Things go from bad to worse.

5) Last Plot Point. The diamond comes full circle... or diamond... or something. Anyway. This is the point where you cash in all the promises you made to the reader earlier in your novel and all the threads start coming together so that the hero can save the day.

Be sure to also read Zoe's follow-up post about fleshing out the plot diamond.