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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old November 17 2013, 04:49 AM   #46
JD
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Re: Writing questions

Would you guys say it's pretty normal for something to totally transform between the original idea hitting you, and actually writing stuff?
With my story, what I've actually ended up writing is almost nothing like what I original thought of when I first started the outline a year or two ago. It started out fairly small and simple, but has gotten a bigger and lot more complex as I've gone on.
How important would you say world building is for original speculative fiction? Over the last couple years I've built up a 26 page outline with history, character bios, and info for about half a dozen different races. I admit a lot of this probably won't end up in the story, but I've had a blast building this thing and that's really all I care about right now.
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Old November 17 2013, 05:00 AM   #47
Christopher
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Re: Writing questions

JD wrote: View Post
Would you guys say it's pretty normal for something to totally transform between the original idea hitting you, and actually writing stuff?
Oh, hell, yeah. Less so with tie-in work, where the outline has to be approved in advance and you have to stick pretty close to it in manuscript (or at least give notice if it changes radically), but a lot of my original ideas have transformed enormously over time, and sometimes I've rewritten a story massively more than once.


How important would you say world building is for original speculative fiction? Over the last couple years I've built up a 26 page outline with history, character bios, and info for about half a dozen different races. I admit a lot of this probably won't end up in the story, but I've had a blast building this thing and that's really all I care about right now.
For me, worldbuilding is the best part. However, getting too caught up in the worldbuilding can end up being an excuse to avoid actually writing the damn thing.
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Old November 17 2013, 05:07 AM   #48
JD
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Re: Writing questions

I've started working on the actual story too, so I'm good there.
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Old November 17 2013, 05:33 PM   #49
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Occasionally something that seemed to make perfect sense in the outline just doesn't work when you try to bring it to life on the page. "Wait. Why would she get in the car with him if there's even a chance he's the serial killer?"

In which case a course correction may be necessary . . . .

And, putting on my editorial hat for a moment, world-building can be fun and useful, but remember that you're not obliged to make sure that everything in your notebooks gets squeezed into the actual book.As I mentioned earlier, it is good that you, the author, knows the entire history of your imaginary planet, going back six generations, but you don't have to share all of that with your reader--at least not the in the first book!

The same applies to research for historical novels, btw. Just because you spent hours researching every stop on the Orient Express back in 1864 doesn't mean you have to mention every one of them in the book!

True confession: back when I was reading slush for Tor, I used to cringe every time I got a five-hundred page fantasy manuscript that began with pages and pages of maps and family trees and the entire history of the Lost Realm of Zytharria. I usually skipped over that stuff and went straight to the actual first chapter of the book.
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Old November 17 2013, 05:46 PM   #50
Christopher
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Re: Writing questions

^That's why I do website annotations, and sometimes appendices: Those are places to put all the research and worldbuilding that don't go into the story itself.
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Old November 17 2013, 06:01 PM   #51
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Christopher wrote: View Post
^That's why I do website annotations, and sometimes appendices: Those are places to put all the research and worldbuilding that don't go into the story itself.
Not a bad idea.

I certainly understand the impulse to squeeze it all into the actual book. You put all that work into your world-building and/or research, so you don't want it to go to waste.

But here's the thing: All that effort does pay off, even if the reader can't see it, because it allows you to write about your imaginary planet (or 16th century Hungary) with confidence and consistency.
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Old November 17 2013, 06:11 PM   #52
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Re: Writing questions

All I can say is that it's an odd bit of serendipity that I'm reading this thread after having read a friend's non-self-published book that triggered several of my editorial alarms, particularly a few which his prior work also set off.

Unfortunately he had a bad experience with a prior editor once upon a time which I believe has made him a bit oversensitive to critiques, he has in the past handwaved aside critiques as "the book's already published so nothing's going to change now" and, bluntly, I've offered feedback on his work but he hasn't reciprocated. So this time around we had a bit of a conversation about his story in which I neither provided any editorial feedback nor said anything that might have answered the simple question of, "Did you like it?" He didn't seem to notice how I walked around the whole thing, which is simultaneously a bit of a relief, a slightly guilty pleasure and a bit guilt-inducing (I don't actually like it when I think I could help someone become a better writer and I don't try to do so).
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Old November 17 2013, 06:21 PM   #53
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Learning how to filter out misguided input while absorbing the good critiques is something that every writer needs to be learn. But you never want to get so defensive of your work that you stubbornly resist any feedback.

I'm always baffled by people who attend writers workshops, presumably because they want feedback on their work, but then react badly to criticism.

True story: Decades ago, I was in a workshop with another young newbie writer whom I initially dismissed because I decided she just didn't "get" my stuff. Then one day she made an observation that made me completely rethink what I'd been doing up till then:

"Hey, Greg. You ever notice how passive all your protagonists are? They never actually initiate the action, but just react to things that happen to them."

And you know what? She was absolutely right.

That was nearly thirty years ago, but I still remember that critique.
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Old November 17 2013, 07:36 PM   #54
MacLeod
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Re: Writing questions

I can certainly empathise with the whole re-writes of passages. Back when I was invovled in PBEM's. I would often go back and tweek parts or re-write what I had previously written.

Perhaps that was in part because I tended to write in a flow and then go back and change were I felt I needed to. It was quite good fun and at times I still wasn't fully happy with the way it turned out. But with the nature of PBEM perhaps much like writing is that you had a deadline of sorts in the case of the PBEM it was one post a week that was expected. Some of my best experiances where writing with other parties.

It wasn't for a ST novel but for an SG-1 novel, I collaberated with someone from the PBEM to sumbit an example of work and an outline for a novel. Suffice to say it was challanging to both her and I. It was still fun however.
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Old November 17 2013, 07:43 PM   #55
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Most writers, myself included, initially resist making changes. It's a knee-jerk reaction: "No! You're just not getting it. It's perfect the way it is."

It's a perfectly natural response, but then you have to get over it.

Whenever I send an editorial letter to an author, I always tell them not to respond right away. Take a few days to mull my suggestions over, sleep on them, and then get back to me.
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Old November 17 2013, 07:52 PM   #56
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

^ It's very similar for us software people. When someone reports a bug to you, you know they're helping you make your software better, but (and their delivery can unintentionally excercabate this) you still have to fight the base human reaction to having your existing work "attacked". All the more so if it was non-trivial to even get that far and you've become invested in a solution. Learning how to deal with and integrate feedback can be a challenge.

Empathy on both sides helps a lot.
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Old November 17 2013, 08:14 PM   #57
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

Sho wrote: View Post
^ It's very similar for us software people. When someone reports a bug to you, you know they're helping you make your software better, but (and their delivery can unintentionally excercabate this) you still have to fight the base human reaction to having your existing work "attacked". All the more so if it was non-trivial to even get that far and you've become invested in a solution. Learning how to deal with and integrate feedback can be a challenge.

Empathy on both sides helps a lot.
Exactly. I like to think it helps that I've worked both sides of the desk, as an editor and a writer. But even I have that "base human reaction" sometimes.
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Old November 17 2013, 10:22 PM   #58
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

Defcon wrote: View Post
BrentMc wrote: View Post
I have a few scenes that star with "Three weeks later." I have thought about switching some of them to dialogue, such as having a character say "It's been three weeks since the attack."
Talking purely as a reader here, but keep the "Three weeks later" headers. Including things like that in the dialog almost always feels forced IMO. Like the characters both actually know the info already, but know they have to tell the reader as well.
I also thought I could put it into one of my Captain's Logs. "Captain's log stardate 1234, it has been three weeks since the attack and repairs to the ship are finally complete. Tomorrow we get underway for ...."
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Old November 17 2013, 10:36 PM   #59
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Re: Writing questions

I would also like to describe my ship. I thought I could have the Captain give an Admiral a tour, or just describe the places on board when a scene happens there. What do you think?

Also as far as showing and not telling to describe my characters what ways do you like to use?

"She swept her brown hair out of her face."
"He had to stoop to enter the shuttle."
"
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Old November 17 2013, 10:44 PM   #60
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

To describe your ship, maybe you can have an appropriate character reflect on its unique elements, in reverie or so? Personally, I find that it's best not to be overly-specific with place descriptions because the reader's imagination does a lot of work if you give it just the right triggers for the feel of a place. You just need to make sure you're specific enough so the action can be understood, e.g. establishing scale can be important so a reader has a better sense of what a character has to accomplish to get from A or B or generally reason on the timing of things. The good sort of tension can flow from that, and so on.

As for your examples, I liked them.

Tiny vignettes like that actually tend to stick with me a lot. For example, I vividly remember that one of the da Vinci's bridge officers had red hair and long, elegant fingers for some reason. I like both traits, so my imagination immediately filled in the rest and made me interested. Sadly, her personality was never really fleshed out.
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