My 'comfort zone' genre - both reading and writing - is a kind of blurred sci-fi/fantasy. You know the kind of thing - some interesting tech in some form of AU setting.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld is an interesting example of this. The initial impression is of a pre-tech Earth-type world where magic and myth are real - there are Wizards, Vampires and Werewolves aplenty. There are also racial tensions between Dwarves and Trolls. However, the Wizards have invented a computer called Hex - it includes a ram's skull and has a mouse living inside it (somehow, it works better with a mouse...). What begins as a fantasy story somehow manages to bleed over into sci-fi.
Tad Williams' Otherland series goes the other way. A group of megarich individuals have poured their collective wealth into developing a virtual reality computer network that will enable them to live forever. Each has created a series of virtual worlds drawn from across the range of available literary and historical sources.
So, this is where my writing tends to go. However, I also enjoy reading other genres from Tolkein to Austen to Koontz and everything in between.
The question is, how well could I write in an alternative genre? The last two Flash Fiction Friday challenges (Western and Horro) haven't really inspired me to actually write - but maybe I should be forcing myself outside the comfort zone a little more? After all, I can't be sure where my best writing lies if I never even try other things.
I'm exploring this idea for my NaSho stories - either take a single prompt and write it in as many different genres as I can come up with, or write each prompt in a different genre. The next step is probably to see how many genres I can come up with - and how many sub-genres. For example, 'horror' instantly suggests 'gothic horror', 'slasher' and 'monster'.
More on this in my next post.
I'm up to about 12 story ideas and a couple of suggested unifying themes. So, this new approach of deliberately looking out for ideas seems to be working - at least for the moment.
As I said in the last blog, I've never really gone looking for ideas before. Partly this is bone-idleness, I admit - not just in terms of looking for ideas but also in terms of turning them into stories. I may class myself as a writer, but I can't claim to be always writing.
That's why NaNo has always pulled at me. It demands that you write something every day - or at least most days. I think my NaShoWriMo idea will require discipline of a slightly different kind. Rather than working on the same story, there will be a constant change of focus.
So, November promises to be an interesting month, yet again.
Today, I invested in a notebook for scribbling down random ideas and a set of coloured pencils to scribble them with. I'm feeling quite the professional! So far, I've jotted down some ideas that have popped up over the last couple of days.
Normally, I don't go looking for ideas - they tend to just kind of find me. For example, Rathia (central character of my second NaNo novel) just walked fully-formed into my head one day. But I'm planning something new for November; I'm thinking of writing 25 short stories of about 2k words each. This means actively seeking ideas, since my head isn't so full of stories that I have 25 just waiting to be taken off the mental shelf.
So, how am I going about this? Well, I've been looking around at the objects in my home - a shoe shoved under the wardrobe, a hoodie on the back of a kitchen chair instead of in the owner's bedroom - and jotting them down, along with a couple of extra ideas that might lead into a story. In other words, I'm setting myself a series of challenges.
Will I be able to generate 25 good-enough ideas? Will I be able to turn those ideas into some half-decent stories? I'll let you know on 1 December!
I've had a couple of moments of inspiration over the last few days.
The first was when I was reading one of last week's Flash Fiction Friday entries. The writer is using story challenges to write a continuous story, which I thought was a) very ambitious and b) very interesting. My very first FFF story (which seems to have disappeared - really must chase that up) gave the characters from last year's Nanonovel an outing - almost fanfiction for my own characters :D But the point is that there are lots of ways to approach the use of story challenges. I'm wondering whether I could produce enough short stories that way to count as a publishable collection? What would be the legal implications? I mean, they're my stories but inspired elsewhere...
Then I had the second blast of inspiration last night watching X Factor of all things. Specifically, it was listening to Kye's performance and the line 'I love the way it hurts'. I've always been a fan of song fanfics - a total of 5 out of 13 of my fanfics are song-related in some way. Now, there I would have to careful about copyright, obviously - if I reproduced the song lyrics in something I wanted to make money out of.
I'm really liking the idea of producing a collection of short stories that has some coherent theme, though. For all sorts of reasons, short stories feel easier to handle than a full-sized novel. Of course, it would also allow me to procrastinate on the novel for a little while longer!
I've never been the type to carry a notebook around to jot ideas in but maybe I need to start? Some ideas need to be captured as they happen or they are lost forever. I think I shall look out for something suitable on my travels next week.
So, I learned all sorts of stuff, yesterday - about managing my new blog.
I've added a new section for storing my stories, so they won't clutter up the blog itself. I'll leave 'Queen of Another Country' where it is for now but I will delete it eventually. I've also worked out how to add comments to the story itself rather than the general Guestbook.
No technology can defeat me!
Sometimes it really pays to plan your story. That way, it almost writes itself by the time you come to actually type it out.
I've spent the last few days thinking about how I want my entry to this week's Flash Fiction Friday to go and jotting ideas down in a mind42 map. The result? Free-flowing text that produced a story very much like the one I'd planned. Of course, the best planning process in the world is never perfect. Characters will often do or say something that surprises you. In this instance, there was very little change from what I had imagined. On other cases, however, a whole scene can be changed by a wayward character... or even the path of the story itself!
If there is a way to keep characters in check, I have yet to find it. Instead they roam around my subconscious at will, behaving pretty much as they wish. Sometimes, I feel like a conduit rather than a controller of their destiny. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
So, I'll continue to plan for my stories and hopefully my characters will work out their niggles in the planning rather than the writing!
An essential part of every writer's kit - yet perhaps the hardest part to define - is the Muse.
The Muse can inspire a writer to the greatest heights and can abandon them to the wilderness of writer's block without any warning. And the worst part is that there's no way to control this process. You can't make your muse stay around by being nice to them. Or threatening them for that matter.
Not that spending time with your muse ever hurts!
I've been lucky with my muse - she's never left me. I also have to admit that I probably haven't paid her as much attention as she deserves. Writing makes her happy, though, so more writing is probably a good way to encourage her amazing powers.
So, find some time to spend with your muse - the rewards will be worth it.
This weeks Flash Fiction Friday is about endings. I'm not going to talk too much here about the story - you can read about that in my writing LiveJournal, Athena71 - but I will talk about the process.
The theme of endings didn't really say much to me at first but then I got thinking. The first idea was a person leaving their home for the last time - like they're old and moving into a home. The second idea is the end of a war.
I'm drawn to the end of a war, somehow. I have an image of two queens meeting on the field of battle to make peace after their husbands have pretty much killed each other. That's all I have, so far, but it's definitely pulling at me.
The next step is to get some notes down. Even though it's only 1,500 words, it still needs some planning. I tend to do all my notes via mind-mapping, at least to begin with. I use mind42.com, which is really easy to get to grips with. Making notes helps me to see if there's enough to the story to make it worth writing.
And then it's on with the writing! I do a draft - literally, 'type, damn it!' - without worrying too much about editing. I'm the type that edits as I go but years of Nano have helped me not to do it too much. I'll usually read through once it's finished and do a bit of tidying up - catching the 'an's' that should be 'and's', smoothing out some of the more awkward syntax. If I have time, I'll leave it for a while and then come back and read it through again at least once.
So, a finished piece will have seen at least three versions. That's probably enough for something like FFF or fanfiction. My Master's dissertation probably had more like 20 versions! And my novel...? That waits to be seen.
So, let's start with some thoughts on why I write.
I've had stories in my head for as long as I can remember, most of which haven't gone anywhere - but some have hung around, bugging me until I told them. So, partly it's about maintaining my sanity!
I also flatter myself that my grammar and syntax are at least as good as the best authors' - and a darn sight better than most. So, I feel I need to share with the world what good writing is. Arrogant? Maybe, but it's meant as a simple statement of truth.
Storytelling is an art and the only way to improve one's art is to practice. And there are many, many ways to practice. Writing a blog for example! As long as I don't get too distracted by the blog to write any fiction :D
My new blog has been launched today. Stay focused on it and I will try to keep you informed. You can read new posts on this blog via the RSS feed.