Young-adult author John Green has done an amazing job mobilizing a generation of readers and writers through his “nerdfighter” campaign. Kids from all around the country shout from the rooftops that they love to read and learn and make art. One day Mr. Green will undoubtedly win a MacArthur Fellowship, or something similar, for the groundbreaking online community he’s created (as well as for his fiction). But not every kid is able to own his or her creativity in this way. In many working-class neighborhoods, the “nerdfighter” label just isn’t gonna fly. Self preservation won’t allow for it. I’m sensitive to this because it’s the way I grew up, too.

Matt de la Peña’s amazing story on NPR today. Have you read it yet? You really should.  (via leeandlow)

Really worth reading the whole article.

(via hedgepigsofthenorth)

People too often conceive of worldbuilding strictly as background research, asa sort of dry and exhaustive homework. Every tiny and immediate detail in a story can be worldbuilding. Every button and widget can imply or reveal something to the reader. You can replaces pages of deadly boring infodump with a few comments in conversation, a few glances at what people wear or eat or venerate. You shouldn’t think of worldbuilding as something boxed off from the rest of the text. it can be intrinsic with dialogue, description, etc. It’s crucial (and liberating) to realize that every word you put on a page can and should perform multiple duties simultaneously. Description can be worldbuilding. Dialogue can be character development. Messages within messages, revelation within revelation. Also, remember that nobody can follow all these guidelines all the time without exception or flaw. The point is just to keep aiming higher. It’s art as well as craft. Some parts of it you can measure almost scientifically. Some parts are mad whack inscrutable alchemy. But chances are, if you work hard to lay a solid foundation of craft, you’ll strengthen everything that’s more numinous and subjective, too. There is no “one true way” to write anything, nor one true goal in writing/publishing. Treasure beautiful oddballs and weird experiments.
Scott Lynch, author of the Gentlemen Bastards series, on world-building and the craft of writing and publishing, as collated from a series of tweets I woke up to this morning, (via kammartinez)
The significance of plot without conflict

stilleatingoranges:

In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.

The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

Read More

uGH this character has lived in the U.S. his entire life and his ancestors are mostly from Scotland and yet I keep hearing everything he says in a toff-tastic English accent

WHY

also: remember to take good notes, kids, otherwise you won’t remember when you shipped that 17th-century Scottish manor overseas.

I am having the actual best night

Work was really chill and fun today (my second day!) because I was on closing shift and it’s a weekday so hardly anyone came in. I like all the people I’ve been working with. There was fog on the river tonight and it was beautiful, and I met a gorgeous guy on the light rail home (he was sort of staring so I grinned at him figuring that he’d either get embarrassed and stop looking or come say hi) and gave him my number.

(Sometimes I have moments where I’m like “Why is it only ever dudes that hit on me?” and then I realize that there’s probably more straight people than queer people in the world and also I’m presenting pretty understated femme currently and not “visibly queer” which shouldn’t matter but it does.)

I’m also 1,100 words behind on my NaNo, but I’ve decided that I don’t give a damn as long as I’m writing at least 300 words a day (which is about how long it takes me to get a really good groove going) because I don’t want to burn myself out on writing again and I’d rather be able to keep working on this project without hating it than have 50,000 words at the end of the month. I’m also rediscovering my writing voice in other ways, and it’s amazing, and I don’t want to lose it again.

chos:

asdeepasyouplay:

I once had a week-long workshop with writer Jack Kreitzer. I was twelve, and I had just finished the very first draft of what is slowly becoming Our Eyes to the Stars. He told me I was a still pond that ran very deep, and I never forgot what I learned from him.
This sheet was one of the most valuable. Said is Dead.
For the next thirty days, the word “said” is your enemy.

This is lovely, I wish I had a hard copy of this

Really? Most style guides I have read say to use “said” for almost everything—because speech tags are supposed to be nearly invisible to readers, and nobody notices “said” unless you use it a bajillion times in a row, which you… really shouldn’t have to. Oftentimes other words A) call attention to themselves, which disrupts the reader’s immersion in your narrative and B) are more likely to be either redundant, at odds with the dialogue, or just let you be lazy with writing your dialogue. If you use “[character] said” 1/2 to 1/3 of the time, your readers won’t notice it, you won’t tell them the same thing twice or give them a verb that’s incompatible with your character’s speech, and your dialogue will have to be strong enough to stand on its own. If it’s clear who’s speaking, you can just dispense with speech tags completely, or you can use beats in place of an explicit speaker attribution (a beat is a short action—for example, “‘This is unacceptable!’ Beatriz Costa Takahashi slammed her hands onto the table and surged out of her chair.”) When you have dialogue and a character doing something in the same paragraph, readers will understand that the character was also the one speaking.
Beats also help anchor your characters in a real actual setting and helps keep your dialogue from becoming disembodied voices, though if they’re used too often they can overwhelm your dialogue and become distracting.

chos:

asdeepasyouplay:

I once had a week-long workshop with writer Jack Kreitzer. I was twelve, and I had just finished the very first draft of what is slowly becoming Our Eyes to the Stars. He told me I was a still pond that ran very deep, and I never forgot what I learned from him.

This sheet was one of the most valuable. Said is Dead.

For the next thirty days, the word “said” is your enemy.

This is lovely, I wish I had a hard copy of this

Really? Most style guides I have read say to use “said” for almost everything—because speech tags are supposed to be nearly invisible to readers, and nobody notices “said” unless you use it a bajillion times in a row, which you… really shouldn’t have to. Oftentimes other words A) call attention to themselves, which disrupts the reader’s immersion in your narrative and B) are more likely to be either redundant, at odds with the dialogue, or just let you be lazy with writing your dialogue. If you use “[character] said” 1/2 to 1/3 of the time, your readers won’t notice it, you won’t tell them the same thing twice or give them a verb that’s incompatible with your character’s speech, and your dialogue will have to be strong enough to stand on its own. If it’s clear who’s speaking, you can just dispense with speech tags completely, or you can use beats in place of an explicit speaker attribution (a beat is a short action—for example, “‘This is unacceptable!’ Beatriz Costa Takahashi slammed her hands onto the table and surged out of her chair.”) When you have dialogue and a character doing something in the same paragraph, readers will understand that the character was also the one speaking.

Beats also help anchor your characters in a real actual setting and helps keep your dialogue from becoming disembodied voices, though if they’re used too often they can overwhelm your dialogue and become distracting.

Virtually all clichés, of course, began their lives as original, effective expressions—so effective, in fact, that they got used until all the life went out of them. So if you come across lifeless passages, you may need to self-edit for the purpose of weeding out any clichés. Your characters should never live life in the fast lane, nor should anything in your writing be worth no more than a plugged nickel. And if you come across ‘She tossed her head,’ the first question you should ask is, ‘How far?’
Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Day 2 - What’s the title of your story?  Why did you choose the name you did? 

The working title is Owe My Soul, from the song Sixteen Tons (after the line “I owe my soul to the company store”) because the plot bears more than a passing resemblance to the situation of the coal miners that inspired that song (IN SPACE!) 

[original post]

I enter libraries the way one is probably supposed to enter a cathedral: with reverence, with awe, with regard for the sanctity and splendor of the world and its inhabitants; with a great sense of relief that there is something greater than myself, and a momentary surrender of the pettier concerns of my life.

"The other argument that causes me to flinch reactively is the one which talks about writing the Other just like you would write any character—with respect for their individuality and uniqueness. 

You know why I flinch? It’s because the assumptions flatten the problem. A poorly written book has cardboard cut-out characters, and a well-written book has thoughtful, nuanced characterisation. But I have spent a lifetime reading well-written books with nuanced characters that hurt me by erasing or misrepresenting me. Sara Crewe gets sent to boarding school because my home had a bad climate for her to grow up in. Libba Bray can in 2003write about a lesbian schoolgirl in Victorian England, but posit that Indians sell snakes to eat in a Bombay marketplace. And the White characters in Gone With the Wind, and Atlas Shrugged—two books I idolised and reread voraciously as a teenager—are iconoclastic in their individuality. 

Asking an author to write the Other with respect and assuming it to be sufficient, is like telling a person that being polite to everyone is sufficient in their goal of being an anti-racist ally. This is crap. Your definition of individuality, just like your definition of politeness is culture-specific. And just like I do not want to see yet another Indian princess or lascar stereotype, I do not want to see a White American with brown skin and kohl and an elephant sidekick.”