How To Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween to all my readers. Here’s an informative video from HowToBasic that is essential viewing for anyone who plans to trick or treat this year:

-Tim

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Kindle MatchBook: Pretty sure we all saw this coming

I already tweeted about this, but I feel Amazon’s newest program is worth blogging about:

Amazon has rolled out its Kindle MatchBook, a new program that allows customers the option to purchase discounted Kindle Editions of print books that they have purchased new from Amazon. The eBook editions are sold as an add-on purchase. Most cost somewhere between free and $2.99.

I knew they were going to do this eventually. It was inevitable. They already give you the digital versions of songs if you buy the CD. With the popularity of ebooks on the rise, it was only a matter of time before they did something like this. And I approve of it (c’mon, Amazon, I know you were looking for the approval of an obscure blogger whose existence you probably weren’t even aware of. Don’t be bashful).

The only part I don’t like is that you will have to pay for some ebook editions. $2.99 isn’t much, true, and most will probably cost less than that, but it still seems like a rip-off to me. At least you don’t have to pay the same price for the ebook as the print edition.

What do you think? Good, bad, or meh?

-Tim

The Importance of Physical Labor

Like most writers, I spend a lot of time in my head. As a result, I am very much a sedentary person. I like to sit around and think and write and watch. It’s probably my most natural state.

I did not get to do much sitting around today, however, or at least not as much as I am used to. We were changing rooms, moving furniture and all that. Most of it wasn’t too bad, but there was one wardrobe my younger brother and I really had to work to move due to its sheer weight.

It was exhausting, strenuous, and annoying. It was also exactly what I needed to do.

You see, physical labor — which can be as simple as planting a flower to as grueling as running a marathon — keeps me active. It reminds me that my body is at least as important as my mind and that I shouldn’t neglect taking care of my body in favor of some grand idea I want to pursue.

Not only that, but there’s a certain sense of accomplishment I get when I achieve a certain task. Moving that wardrobe, for example, has left me in a much better mood than I was before. Whenever I am feeling down, that’s usually a cue from my body that I need to get out and do something, even if that “something” is taking a walk down the road or into town.

I don’t think the life of a laborer is the life for me. I am not a very strong person, physically; in fact, I am quite weak. Maybe I could change that if I did more exercise or physical labor, but I’ve never been a particularly athletic person, so I don’t know how much stronger I could get if I tried.

But I do appreciate the lessons physical labor teaches me. Sometimes physical labor is boring, hard, frustrating, and even dangerous, but it’s usually worth taking the time and effort to do that chore, especially if it’s one you have been meaning to do for a while.

-Tim

Limyaael’s Rants

I’ve read a lot of books and articles on writing. The ones I like the most I return to again and again, when I am stuck on a project, when I am bored with a project, or when I fall into complacency and laziness. The best writing guides are the ones that teach me something new every time I read them or enhance my understanding of a concept I already know.

The rants of Limyaael, a fantasy/fanfiction writer who unfortunately disappeared off the Internet in 2010, are one of my main writing guides. I discovered her rants a few years ago via the NaNoWriMo Fantasy subforum. I started reading and was hooked instantly. I now look upon her as something of a writing mentor, even though I have never met nor spoken to her even once.

In her rants, Limyaael clearly knows what she wants in a fantasy and isn’t afraid to say it. As a result, she is blunt and sometimes even vulgar in her language, yet it’s hard to dismiss her obviously well thought-out opinions. I don’t agree with everything she says, but most of what she says is spot-on and well worth taking into consideration during your own writing.

My favorite rants of hers are her rant on clichéd fantasy (her first rant, actually, and a good place to start if you want to read through them), her ten pieces of writing advice, her rant on avoiding archetypes, her rant on writing without an outline, and her rant on flaw-scrubbing. Almost all of her rants are good, however, so don’t just limit yourself to my favorites if you intend to read them. You don’t even have to read them in order, if you don’t want to.

What I like best about her rants is that she covers nearly every possible subject related to fantasy. She talks about themes, characters, worldbuilding, politics, religion, plotting, protagonists, antagonists, fantasy with and without magic, sexuality, non-human species, description, clothing, animals, the environment, geography . . . you name it, and she’s probably got a rant about it. It makes her one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever read, at least when it comes to giving out writing advice.

To be honest, I have not actually read any of her stories. That was primarily because I didn’t know where to look for them, but thanks to Curiosity Quills’ mirror, I will probably begin reading them soon. If she follows even half of her own advice, I imagine she’s probably one hell of a writer.

If you like to write at all, I suggest reading some of her rants. Even non-fantasy writers, I think, can find a wealth of great advice and ideas in some of her less fantasy-centric rants (such as her personal advice on writing, for example). Many of the principles behind her fantasy rants can probably be applied to other genres and types of writing, too.

If you need inspiration, ideas, or just a good old fashion kick in the butt, read Limyaael’s rants. You may not agree with everything she says, but if you seriously engage with her rants, you will come away a better writer for it.

-Tim

Neil Gaiman on Reading and Libraries

Neil Gaiman delivered an excellent lecture the Reading Agency at the Babican in London recently.

It’s a very good lecture, well worth the read. My favorite part was the line “Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.”

I confess that I have not actually read any of Neil Gaiman’s stories yet. But if they’re even half as good as this lecture, then I may just have to stop by my local library and pick one up. Any suggestions?

-Tim

Are you writing a story or building a world?

Several years back, I tried my hand at writing what I planned to be a five book epic science-fantasy series (that I might still write some day, so I won’t share too many details here to avoid spoilers).

Because this was my first serious attempt at writing an original story (up until then I had written mostly fanfiction), I was determined not to go in blind. So I took a long time to worldbuild, crafting world after world, character after character, culture after culture, all with the intent of making the best imaginary universe I could for my series. It would be even better than the Star Wars universe or the Star Trek universe or any of the other countless detailed fictional universes out there. Okay, maybe not better than any of those, but it would certainly be great.

When I decided I had done enough worldbuilding, I sat down to write the first book in the series. And I did; I wrote a few drafts, changing details that didn’t make sense to me, doing what any writer does when working on a novel, the usual stuff, you know.

And then, after the third or fourth draft, I just lost interest in the series.

I still have the drafts, still have all the worldbuilding notes. I haven’t tossed any of it away and frankly I don’t want to because I might still return to it someday.

I just don’t want to write it. Even though I couldn’t wait to write it before, it has been years since I last wrote about any of the characters or worlds I made (although I have borrowed a few ideas and names because I liked them a lot). Why did this happen?

I believe this happened because I lost sight of the series’ heart. I got so caught up in worldbuilding that I forgot this very essential, basic fact: That I was writing a story, not building a world.

To be sure, worldbuilding is highly important in speculative fiction. I don’t disagree with that. It’s just that I forgot that I was creating a world for the story, not the world for its own sake. As fun as worldbuilding is, to the speculative fiction writer, one must always ask the question, “Does this help the story?”

Some people worldbuild for the sake of worldbuilding. And if that helps, sure, go ahead. Have fun. I have a lot of fun doing it, too, at least when I’m on a roll.

But not all of us find worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding so wonderful. Remember what we’re doing here; we’re writing speculative fiction. Not world guides. Not gaming manuals. Not Wikis. Not histories. Fiction. Stories. Adventures. Art. Life, even, if you want to go that far.

Worldbuilding is a tool and should be treated as such. In my inexperience, I lost sight of the story for the sake of making more and more detailed worldbuilding notes on subjects that weren’t even important to my story. I unconsciously treated worldbuilding as an end in itself. And it killed my series as a result. Or at least put it into a coma that it has yet to awaken from.

My advice to all speculative fiction writers out there, to beginners and veterans alike, is this: When you find yourself getting lost in worldbuilding, ask yourself, “Am I writing a story or building a world for its own sake?”

The answer will determine what you should do next.

What about you, my readers? What have your experiences been with worldbuilding? Do you like worldbuilding? How much worldbuilding is enough and how much is too little? Post your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Sunday Meme Thread #2

In this week’s Sunday Meme Thread, I have two memes to share today. The first one is by me, while the other is one I found. Both, I hope, are equally entertaining.

The first is this:

Nintendo Y U No make f-zero game for Wii? | Y U No

As you can tell, I am a disgruntled F-Zero fanboy. I have my fingers crossed for an F-Zero U or 3DS, but I have a feeling the only F-Zero presence on either system will be Captain Falcon in the new Super Smash Bros. coming out next year. *Sigh*

WHy did Cinderella's shoe fall off if it fit her perfectly? | Philosoraptor

Philosoraptor makes a very good point about a classic fairy tale/Disney movie.

Any funny or thought-provoking memes you’d like to share? Post them in the comments!

-Tim