Category Archives: writing workshop

WU! On Dr. Paul’s Family Talk

WU! On “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Podcast!

If you missed Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Friday, here is the Podcast of the segment.

Join host Paul W. Reeves and WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff as they discuss the topic, “ Story Structure”.

Story Structure

If you would like to listen to the show in its entirety (and it’s a lot of fun), click on this Podcast link for Friday’s show!

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Dr. Paul’s Family Talk 11-15-19

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DRABBLE ME THIS! October Winners

DRABBLE ME THIS!

A Writers Unite! Workshop Project

In addition to our Write the Story! project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.

A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.

Drabble Me This! is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt. Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to LIKE” an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.


A quick history of the Drabble

The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel, Drabbles emerged within the British Science Fiction Fandom in the 1980s, The Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words. (From folklore.com)

October 2019 Drabble Me This Winners


Week One: 
Prompt “Mirror” 

Charles Stucker      

Twelve jurors sat around the table debating the case. John Smith summed it up, “The video clearly shows the murderer was left handed. The suspect is right handed. Despite all the evidence, I don’t see any way to convict.”

“I know how it was done,” Bob Jackson said. “Look at the room in the video. Everything in it is symmetric.”

“So what?” Kelly Myers asked.

“So the suspect arranged for it to be filmed using a mirror. Everything is reversed, but we don’t notice. The power cut off just after, so he had ample chance to change the angle afterward.”


Week Two: 
Prompt “Empty” 

Rylee Black 

Friday. Four-forty-five. Fifteen more minutes and it’s freedom from the drudgery of my nine-to-five. What I’m really looking forward to more than freedom is the package from Momma. Douglas called and told me it arrived. I’m stoked. A package from Momma means a tin of home-made chocolate chip cookies, my fav. Soft, chocolaty, and yummy. I can practically taste them now.

All the way home, visions of Momma’s cookies dance through my head. Come on traffic, move. Douglas isn’t anywhere around when I get inside. I know why when I pick up the tin – the cookies are gone – it’s empty.


Week Three 
Prompt “Letter” 


Calliope Njo

Your body deserved to be burned in the hottest of fires.

Would it hurt for you to offer a bit of warmth? Would it have bothered you to think of something I might have liked? Did you bother to think about me during the day? Of course not, you soulless bastard. I couldn’t express to you how I felt in life. Only after your death do I have the drive, the guts to tell how you deserved to die.

Signed, the Idiot.

I folded up the letter and stuffed it in an envelope to watch it burn in the fireplace.


Week Four
Prompt “Clock” 

Caroline Giammanco 

You twist me in circles, for days, months, and years. I check with you over and over to make sure I’m not off course or running too late or too early. Maybe I should take comfort in your consistency, but I feel myself slip farther away from being me because you rule my day. The alarms go off with a predictability that scares me. Sometimes I wait for the blows, the ringing in my ears that’s about to come. The ticking is the next bomb that will explode. The bruises you say I deserve. What will it be this time?


 Admin’s Choice

Week One
Prompt “Mirror” 

Rylee Black

I felt it as soon as I opened the door. Something was wrong. Energy, painful and unwelcome, danced along my skin. The lights I’d switched on, usually so bright and welcoming, had done little to dispel the darkness.

When my eyes adjusted, I saw them. Hundreds of forms of gossamer white. Angry and pulsing with rage and fear. Red eyes turned to me.

Why? From where? My blood ran cold. The mirror. From the sale. Samuel had declared it to be a portal for the damned. I hadn’t believed him.

I needed to get out. I knew I never would.

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Thanks to all who participated and who read and voted. This has been a fun project and we are looking forward to more drabbles!

If you would like to participate and are not a member of our WU! Facebook group, please join us!

Join Writers Unite!

Please note: The Writers Unite! Admins are selected on a rotating basis for the Admin Choice. The drabble selected is at the sole discretion of the admin. In those months containing five weeks, an Admin’s Choice selection will not be made.

WU! Workshop: The Short Story

WU! Workshop: The Short Story

By D. A. Ratliff

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”  ― Edgar Allan Poe

The short story evolved in the 19th Century as a result of the changing population in America. British novelists published chapters of their novels in serial form in newspapers and then published the entire novel. American novelists began to circulate their novels as serials as well until the population began to migrate from city to city. Serializing a novel for a paper that changes readership often was ineffective. Publishers who needed story content for their newspapers commissioned shorter complete stories, and the short story was born.

Commercialized at first, interest in these stories diminished with the advent of the motion picture. Short stories as we know them today are more literary and not as widely read. Fewer outlets for publishing exist, but the last few years have seen an increased interest in the format. Writing groups are publishing anthologies, and literary and national magazines offer short stories.

“A short story is a sprint, a novel is a marathon. Sprinters have seconds to get from here to there and then they are finished. Marathoners have to carefully pace themselves so that they don’t run out of energy (or in the case of the novelist — ideas) because they have so far to run. To mix the metaphor, writing a short story is like having a short, intense affair, whereas writing a novel is like a long rich marriage.”  ― Jonathan Carroll

The question often asked is, how does a short story differ from a novel?

The clever answer is that they are shorter, albeit a somewhat obvious answer. Writer’s Digest, a well-known magazine and online writing site, defines a short story as ranging from 1,500 to 30,000 words. However, there is a considerable discrepancy regarding short-story word count between ‘experts.’ If submitting to a publication or contest, always check the stated guidelines.

Length, however, is not the only variance. A short story is structured differently. To create an effective short story, you need to simplify and amplify.

Let’s look at the components of a short story.

The Character

Yes, the character. While you will have secondary characters in your story, the conflict, the goal, the action, and focus should be on one character. Keep all other characters to their specific roles to move the story along. Not to say that you cannot develop those secondary characters but do so only in the context of the plot.

You need to develop your main character quickly. It is imperative to establish a connection between your reader and character from the beginning as you would in a novel. Being as concise as possible, give as many traits, positive and negative, physical or personality, as needed to paint a believable image in the minds of your readers. You can still complete a story arc but with fewer steps.

The Opening

The goal of any writer is to gain the attention of your reader from the first word. That is not always an attainable goal but at least have their attention in the first paragraph or two. In a short story, the quicker you get to the action, the better. Open with movement, a vivid scene that puts your reader into the story immediately or something compelling about your main character.

The Plot

A short story should have one plot defined and focused on your main character. There is no room for sub-plots to be incorporated into a short story. You need to keep the conflict, action, and goal faced by your character at the center of attention.

The Theme

While you may have several themes that you wish to convey in a novel, love, friendship, pessimism, hopelessness or hope, or justice, among others, only include one theme in a short story. As with your characters, keep the structure simple and amplify your words. 

The Constraints and Pluses in Short Stories

  • The obvious constraint in a short story is the number of words available to tell your tale. There is little room for backstory or details that you have some leeway to include in a novel. This leads to a plus in that you are forced to be cognizant of finding the precise words to use, such as strong action verbs and the fewest number of words to convey a thought, giving you experience in word selection and editing.
  • Telling a story is not as effective as showing the action, and short stories provide an excellent experience for you to master the art of showing what is happening. Replacing dialog tags with action beats will save extraneous words and help create the show that you need.
  • Learning to craft a short story will help with structuring stronger chapters in a longer work.

Whether you are intending on publishing your short stories independently, in an anthology, through a publication, in a contest, or for your enjoyment, by following these tips, you will create a well-crafted story.

Resources

http://bookcritics.org/blog/archive/a-brief-history-of-the-short-story-in-america

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/short-storiesWU! Workshop:

 

Caroline Giammanco: Book Signing Basics

Caroline Giammanco at a recent Barnes and Noble book signing. Photo courtesy of the author.

Book Signing Basics

By Caroline Giammanco

We spend months or years struggling to complete our manuscripts, and the thrill of signing a publishing contract blinds us to the cold truth: our work isn’t over. Four years ago I hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to market and promote my first book. Few publishers, even large ones, promote authors, so we writers have to do what it takes to be successful. Book signings are a critical part of landing your book in the hands of readers. 

Not everyone is a born salesperson. I know I wasn’t, but I’ve picked up some strategies along the way that have helped me transition from determined writer to successful salesperson. Arranging an event and making it a success may seem difficult and overwhelming. Now that I’m on tour with my third book, with over forty Barnes and Noble signings under my belt, I’m offering tips to make your book signing a win for you, the store, and the readers.

First, let’s start at the beginning.

When you contact a bookstore, whether by phone, in person, or by email, have a game plan.  At Barnes and Noble stores, ask to speak to the CRM (Community Relations Manager). If contacting an independent store, ask to speak to the owner. Once you are connected to the right person, have confidence. Pitch your book and who you are. Be enthusiastic. Explain what your book is about, why it appeals to readers, and what you will do to promote an event. Include press releases, the use of social media, and any print or radio and tv interviews you may do around the time of the event.

Be persistent. Not every store will immediately agree to a book signing. Don’t take that as a definite no. Follow up on the conversation. Send an email including your book trailer, photos of you and your book cover, and a blurb about your book. If you have high ratings on Amazon, let them know. Your job is to convince the management it won’t be a wasted effort to have you in their store. While most bookstores are supportive of authors, sales are their bottom line. Let them know you will be able to bring buyers into their store. 

Be seen as good for business for that bookstore, and be proactive once an event is scheduled. Advertise and discuss the signing on social media. Facebook events are a great way to target people in the area. Use the resources you have available. If you can afford a Facebook or print ad, place one. Ask the local newspaper if they’d write an article. Ask radio stations about interviews they may be willing to have with you. Use Twitter and any other networking sites you belong to in order to spread the word. Word of mouth works.

Even with a full-fledged effort to get your friends and relatives into the store on the day of the signing, the truth is that most of the readers you encounter will be general foot traffic—people who just happened to come to the store on that day. In truth, you don’t want your target customers to be your friends and family. The only way you will be successful is to have complete strangers buy your book. We all hope our circle of friends and family will support us, but that will never get us to the bestseller category. It won’t even produce lukewarm royalties. You have to be willing to expand your comfort zone and reach out to total strangers for sales.

Many writers enjoy being introverts. There’s comfort found in being alone with our laptop and the stack of research we’ve compiled, but once a book signing is at hand, it’s time to come out of your shell. Be prepared to engage customers as soon as they walk near your table. There’s no need to be the heavy-handed used car salesman, but you must initiate the conversation.

At my first Barnes and Noble signing, I had an epiphany. I realized after the first hour that when I smiled and said hello most customers assumed I was a store employee. Yes, I had a big sign sitting next to me announcing my appearance as an author, but few paid attention to it. I adjusted and overcame. I adopted an approach that has worked well for me in stores across the country. As people enter my area I cheerfully say, “Hi, I’m having a book signing today. If you have a moment, I’d love to talk with you about my book.” Bingo! Now I have their attention and they are aware that I am an author with a book they may be interested in. Book sales only happen if readers are attracted to your product. It is your job to get their attention.

I’ve had multiple sold-out signings, and I’ve also seen authors who are doing all the wrong things. They placidly sit at their tables waiting for customers to come to them. Others only schedule an hour or two at a signing. Don’t do that! Devote time to meet as many readers as possible. If the store has been kind enough to give you space in their business, don’t make their efforts to order books, develop signs, etc. be wasted by a half-hearted effort on your part.

Be passionate about your book. If it was important enough to write, it should be important enough for you to promote. This is difficult for introverts. You must put on your performance mask, however, and engage, engage, engage! Keep in mind that many readers are also introverts and may not feel comfortable walking up to you unless you make yourself a welcoming presence. A book signing is no time to be shy. Also, don’t be discouraged. Not everyone you talk to will buy your book. That’s okay. 

Remember to have fun! Book signings aren’t an obligation or work. You are getting to talk about something you love. What better topic do you have to talk about than the book you created and are incredibly proud of? 

Marketing and personal appearances are important. Your fan base grows when you put yourself out into the public. Personal encounters with readers fuel sales and are a rewarding part of an otherwise private journey as a writer. Now get going!

All images are from free use sites unless otherwise noted.
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Caroline Giammanco’s latest book, Inside the Death Fences: Memoirs of a Whistleblower can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Giammanco/e/B017KQZRU4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237

Website: http://www.booniehatbandit.com

Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower by [Giammanco, Caroline]


Science Fiction Today and Characterizations of the Genre

Science Fiction Today

Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”
— Isaac Asimov

From the early days of pulp science fiction, the 1920s and 1930s saw the popularity of science fiction begin in earnest with Philip Francis Nowlan’s first Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419 published in 1928. In 1937, John W. Campbell was named editor of Astounding Science Fiction and thus began what many consider the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There is a debate on how long that Golden Age lasted, some feel into the 1950s, but there is no debate that the novels from that era stand today as classics in the world of science fiction.

Among those classics, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series followed over the years by the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, an exploration of the future evolution of humans, and Robert Heinlein’s military sci-fi novel Starship Troopers.

During this time the first attempt to separate science fiction from fantasy began when Hugo Gernsback, at the time editor of Amazing Stories used the name scientifiction to describe the genre. He defined the term as “…a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision…

Notable authors such as John W. Campbell J, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and others added their own opinion to Gernsback’s definition over the years. One point all of these authors agreed on was that the basis of science fiction is scientific theory and technology. Robert Heinlein’s term ‘speculative fiction’ written in a 1947 essay has remained the term most used to this day. The attempt to redefine the genre never completely took hold although speculative fiction is still being used.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new term arose. New Wave Science Fiction was used to describe a more literary and artistic feel to a sci-fi novel. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris dealt with human limitations. In 1965, Frank Herbert introduced an incredibly complex and intricate future society in the amazing novel, Dune. Phillip K. Dick, whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? spawned the film, Blade Runner. These years also saw an explosion of social and feminist science fiction as exemplified by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The last forty years of science fiction has introduced us to a myriad of sub-genres such as steampunk and cyberpunk as seen in Neuromancer, William Gibson’s first novel published in 1984. Themes such as the environment, the Internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology, post-apocalyptic worlds, and the increasing list of sub-genres like steampunk, biopunk, and others have opened the genre to new horizons.

The most recent trends in science fiction discussed at Speculate, the Speculative Writers Festival in 2019 were as follows.

  • Climate Fiction – Dealing with climate change
  • New Space Opera – A grander, more technology-based and character-driven version of the old Space Opera.
  • Generation Ship – Where original colonists and their descendants travel on slower spaceships. A recognition of the vastness of space and that faster-than-light speed is impossible.
  • Gender-Focused – As we see in our society now, the question of gender fluidity is central to the story.

In reviewing the amazing and innovative stories that form the history of science fiction, it is evident that from the beginnings of Buck Rogers to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, science fiction continues to evolve with compelling stories to tell.

Common Characteristics of Science Fiction

While there are many aspects of science fiction that are shared with other genres, there are some characteristics that are unique to the genre. These identifiers should be present in the story.

1.       Time Frame – This is the one area where there is some flexibility. While most science fiction is set in the future, a sci-fi story can be set in the present or in the past but other identifying characteristics must be present.

2.       Advanced Technology – In the early days of science fiction, advanced technology while imaginative was not as difficult to create. In present day, technology advances at an exponential rate. It is considerably more difficult to imagine technology for advanced civilizations and stay ahead of current tech. Consider the tech, computers, communication, spaceships, ground transports, etc. that you want your characters and those they encounter will have, and be consistent.

3.       Worlds and world-building – Probably the most formidable and most exciting aspect of writing sci-fi is alien world building. Some authors spend weeks building and creating their worlds. When you are presenting a futuristic Earth or an alien world and civilization, pay attention to detail. Think about how your characters will live, eat, breathe, and what kind of clothing and transport they will have. Every detail is important and will add depth and reality to your story.

4.       Characters Creating a cast of characters for your story can be as much fun as world building. As we know from some favorite movies, there is no limit to the imagination. Again, pay attention to detail. How they breathe, ambulate, dress, communicate, and appear.

5.       Plausibility – This is possibly one of the most important characteristics of your writing. Remember that your reader has one frame of reference, the current world they live in. You need to keep your worlds, characters, and technology within a scope that most of your readers can understand. This does not preclude you from being innovative, but always remember to be plausible. Another thing to remember is to allow your characters to live in this world—nothing that you provide them with, from weapons to transport should surprise them. It should be normal. These guidelines apply to all genres except for fantasy where you can suspend belief. Which is a good thing if you are writing science-fiction fantasy.

Writing science fiction is challenging and exciting. Pay attention to these aspects of the genre and have fun!

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We will be covering world building, character development, and plots in upcoming articles.

Resources

Asimov, “How Easy to See the Future!”, Natural History, 1975

Asimov, Isaac (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954–1978. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. chapter 24. ISBN 978-0-385-15544-1.

Quoted in [1993] in: Stableford, Brian; Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). “Definitions of SF”. In Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit/Little, Brown and Company. pp. 311–314. ISBN 978-1-85723-124-3.

Roberts, Adam (2000). Science Fiction. New York: Routledge. pp. 85–90. ISBN 978-0-415-19204-0.

Sammon, Paul M. (1996). Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner. London: Orion Media. p. 49. ISBN 0-06-105314-7.

Spivack, Charlotte (1984). Ursula K. Le Guin (1st ed.). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7393-4.,pp=44–50

http://www.dirkstrasser.com/dirks-blog/current-trends-in-science-fiction

The Genre of Science Fiction: The Beginning

The Beginnings of Science Fiction

Merriam-Webster defines the genre of science fiction as fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

This is a prime example of a technically correct definition but does not represent the scope and excitement of the science fiction genre. There is so much more to this fantastic genre, and the many directions science fiction stories can take.

The term is relatively modern. An article by H. Bruce Franklin on the Rutgers University website states that the word scientist was not used until 1840, and the term science fiction first appeared in 1841 in “A Little Earnest Book upon a Great Old Subject” written by William Wilson. Wilson writes: “Science-Fiction, in which the revealed truths of Science may be given interwoven with a pleasing story which may itself be poetical and true.”  A more lyrical definition of science fiction.

Often intertwined with the fantasy which is often called impossible, science fiction falls into the possible or probable realm. Although a modern genre, travel to far-off worlds (granted far off in the Mediterranean) was depicted in Greek writings, but it was not until Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” that science fiction began to emerge. As the dime novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century became popular, the genre became hugely popular and the genre took on a less-than-desirable label as “vulgar and puerile.” 

Fortunately, as we know, the science fiction genre has evolved into a respected and popular genre. In coming articles, we will look at other aspects of the genre from world building to character development.

Attached is a list of the numerous sub-genres of science fiction. As science-fiction writing grew in popularity, authors began to incorporate other genres into the realm of science fiction. The advent of self-publishing added additional opportunities to break out of the traditional publishing guidelines for the genre and create unique works.

The Sub-genres of Science Fiction

The world of science fiction is literally epic and incredibly complex. The genre can be divided into dozens of subgenres, each with their own unique themes and attributes. Any one science fiction story can cross the boundaries of several of these subgenres, or even break off into its own cult category. Charting the entire universe of sci-fi subgenres would therefore be impossible, but here are some of its most heavily populated worlds.

HARD SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction in which science and technology take center stage, or in which scientific concepts are explained in detail. hard SF is typically concept heavy, and attempts to provide scientific realism, often at the expense of character development and plot.

SOFT SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction in which science and technology take a back seat to character-driven plots. In soft SF, the how is much less important than the why.

MILITARY SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction with a distinctly military theme. Characters are usually members of a military organization, and the plot will generally revolve around a war and/or military conflict. Duty, honor, heroism and other military clichés are par for the course.

ROBOT FICTION

Fiction in which the science of robotics is a central theme, typically relating to work of Isaac Asimov and the ideas advanced in his Robot series.

SOCIAL SCIENCE FICTION

Fiction in which future societies are extrapolated, explained and often criticized, usually for the purpose of social satire. The social sciences are the over-riding theme in this type of fiction; however, science and technology will usually play a central role in the structure of the extrapolated society.

Some writers of social science fiction choose to label their work as ‘speculative fiction’, perhaps to avoid the stigma attached to science fiction, and especially when science and technology are not central to the plot (see ‘Speculative Fiction’).

SPACE OPERA

Space opera is one of the more confusing and ill-defined terms that the genre has to offer. It typically refers to long-running science fiction series with continuing story arcs. These are usually set in space (or involve travel between two or more planets), have a large number of recurring characters and focus on large-scale (or “epic”) fictional events, such as galactic wars.

Recurring themes in space opera include politics, imperialism, colonialism, war, space exploration, heroism and rebellion.

STEAMPUNK

Steampunk merges the science fiction genre with alternate history and the design aesthetic of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is a literary genre, a style of dress and an artistic movement all rolled into one.

The basic idea behind steampunk is the introduction of modern (or futuristic) concepts and technologies into an earlier setting, or vice versa. It focuses largely on ‘the age of steam’ and the perceived inventiveness of industrial engineers. In a steampunk timeline, for example, computers may have been invented several centuries earlier and used alongside, or even powered by, steam engines.

Since the 1980s steampunk has grown beyond a simple literary genre and expanded into a large-scale artistic and cultural movement. Central to this movement is the belief that 19th Century literature (the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in particular), technology and fashion was more aesthetically appealing, and ultimately more durable than those produced by today’s ‘throw-away’ culture.

CYBERPUNK

Fiction relating to the science of cybernetics, which views nature as a series of interconnecting mechanical systems. Specifically, cyberpunk deals with the link between biology and computer technology and explores humanity’s changing relationship with computer systems. Virtual reality, prosthetics, cyborgs, and internet fraud are all part of the cyberpunk niche, and usually go hand-in-hand with social decline.

BIOPUNK

Biopunk is similar to cyberpunk, except that it focuses on the use of bio-technology and genetic engineering rather than computer technology. Genetic manipulation, body modification and eugenics are all common themes in biopunk literature, as are social decline and political repression.

NANOPUNK

Nanopunk is closely related to cyberpunk and biopunk but focuses mainly on the use of microscopic machinery (or nanotechnology).

SUPERHERO FICTION

Opinion varies on whether or not stories about superheroes belong to the science fiction or fantasy genres. Personally, I’ve always felt that this type of literature (and media) belongs in a genre of its own, having its own set of rules, themes and characteristics. The level of scientific realism employed by such a work can affect the degree to which it is ‘accepted’ into the genre. Generally speaking, however, superhero fiction is thought to be a sci-fi subgenre, whether we like it or not.

VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES

Jules Verne used this term to categorize his works, long before the term ‘science fiction’ was coined. It means “extraordinary voyages” and says as much about the exploratory format of his stories as it does about the fantastical ideas they contained. Today, the term may be attached to works that are directly inspired by Verne, or which follow the same format and imbue the same spirit of adventure.

SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE

This label was widely used before the term ‘science fiction’ was coined. It generally refers to the works of early British sci-fi writers, such as H.G. Wells.

GOTHIC SCIENCE FICTION

A blurring of the line between science fiction and gothic fiction. Gothic science fiction often takes conventional gothic concepts (mythology, magic, monsters, etc.) and attempts to explain them scientifically. A good example of this would be vampirism explained as a rare blood disease.

MUNDANE SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction using only currently available or ‘achievable’ technology. This usually discounts faster-than-light travel. The aim is to create realism and explore science fiction ideas that are a little closer to home, such as the colonization of worlds in our own solar system.

Mundane science fiction is as much a movement as it is a genre and recognizes the huge impact that science fiction has on our society. It aims to promote a more realistic view of our universe to avoid future disillusionment. It is hoped that this will lead to a greater appreciation of the natural wonders and abundant resources that exist on our own world, and those close by.

SCI-FI/HORROR

Works that bridge the boundaries of both the science fiction and horror genres.

SCI-FI/COMEDY

Science fiction that is humorous in nature.

SCI-FI/FANTASY (OR ‘SCIENCE FANTASY’)

Works that bridge the boundaries of both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Concepts traditionally belonging to science fiction (space travel, robots, etc.) appear alongside those usually associated with fantasy (magic, mythology, etc.)

APOCALYPTIC SCIENCE FICTION

Fiction concerning a cataclysmic event, typically ending in the decline of the human race, human extinction, societal upheaval, or the total destruction of the Earth itself.

POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION

Fiction set in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event, in which the world, and human civilization, has been radically altered. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are typically grim, with survivors facing multiple dangers, such as violence, starvation, radiation, extreme weather, and even mutants.

ZOMBIE FICTION

While zombie fiction is also claimed by the horror and fantasy genres, it is sometimes considered to be science fiction at its core. An individual zombie story may fall into any one or more of these categories, depending on its content and theme. However, most zombie fiction falls under the ‘post-apocalyptic’ heading (taking place during or after a ‘zombie apocalypse’) and can therefore be categorized as sci-fi (if not sci-fi-horror).

ALIEN INVASION

Fiction in which aliens attempt to invade the Earth, either through military conquest, political subversion, or a campaign of mass extermination.

ALIEN CONSPIRACY

Fiction in which the existence of alien life, or a government’s interaction with alien intelligences, has been hidden from public knowledge.

TIME TRAVEL

Science fiction in which the character/characters travel into the past or future. This often merges with the ‘alternate history’ and ‘parallel worlds’ subgenres.

ALTERNATE HISTORY

Although not strictly sci-fi, this is a branch of the speculative fiction tree that frequently converges with the ‘social science fiction’, ‘time travel’ and ‘parallel worlds’ subgenres of science fiction. Alternate history stories are set in a world in which history has taken a different course. Often, a single event is identified as the beginning of this change; the assassination of Hitler, for example.

PARALLEL WORLDS

Fiction concerning travel to parallel universes, in which the world is slightly different from our own. The theory of parallel universes states that there are an infinite number of these alternate worlds. The traditional way to visit them is via a wormhole (or ‘Einstein-Rosen bridge’).

LOST WORLDS

Essentially a continuation of Jules Verne’s ‘voyage extraordinaires’, this is more a story-telling format than it is a genre. It concerns voyages to forgotten lands (islands, lost continents, isolated jungles, etc.) and the discovery therein of scientific wonders (living dinosaurs, ancient technology, the secret of Atlantis, etc.).

DYSTOPIAN FICTION

Dystopian fiction deals with political repression and police states. A dystopian society is one in which freedoms are limited and conventional morality has been in some way perverted. This is the opposite of a utopian society. The flagship work in this subgenre is undoubtedly George Orwell’s 1984.

SPACE WESTERN

Science fiction in which a future space-borne society portrayed as being like that of the American West. The comparison may be literal, with astronauts wearing cowboy hats and sporting Colt revolvers; or figurative, depicting a lawless society of traders and pioneers.

RETRO FUTURISM

Retro futurism does for 1950s American pulp science fiction what Steampunk does for the works of Verne and Wells. It is an attempt to recapture the spirit of (or parody) ‘the golden age of science fiction.’

RECURSIVE SCIENCE FICTION

In the words of author Mike Resnick, this is “science fiction about science fiction.” More precisely, it is science fiction in which there are multiple references to other sci-fi works, or which attempts to examine, parody, or pay homage to existing science fiction works (or the genre itself).

SPECULATIVE FICTION

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term, encompassing the larger genres of science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, alternate history, and horror. Writers of social science fiction often refer to their work as speculative fiction, perhaps to avoid the stigma attached to science fiction.

SLIPSTREAM

A post-modern crossover, where elements of science fiction, speculative fiction and/or fantasy merge with contemporary and mainstream literature. This is a highly dubious genre, which may or may not fall under the greater science fiction umbrella. Sometimes defined as the indefinable it may or may not exist, according to some critics, who see it as a kind of homeless shelter for those works that cannot be easily classified. Slipstream’s tendency toward the absurd is sometimes seen to be at odds with mainstream science fiction.

Please note, this list of science fiction subgenres are from a blog called Sci-fi Ideas. It is the most contemporary list that I could find, but remember genres are mergeable, but to classify as science fiction, keep sci-fi to the forefront.

Resources

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science%20fiction

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/sfhist.html

http://www.scifiideas.com/writing-2/writing-advice/a-guide-to-science-fiction-subgenres/

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

Tineke Peeters: Pantser

Pantser

By Tineke Peeters

What is ‘a pantser’? Well, we are the writers that ‘go with the flow’ of our ideas without a set process.

Quite a few authors have a set of rules in writing out their plot and characters from start to finish in bullet points or another form before writing the actual book.

What we do is, in general, get an idea, but don’t work it out into detail before the writing process. I call it, as I have said before, go with the flow.

Some might say the characters tell the story and guide them throughout the story.

Others would say they have a muse telling them what to write without giving you a clue about the ending.

Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be a general idea obviously. There are no set ‘rules’ for how each and every author writes. All writers have their own process; no two are alike.

My personal process:

I write the first chapter without any idea of plot. My MC (main character) is only a vague character at this point. In my mind the characters get clearer as I write the next chapter. Then I start procrastinating for a few days about where this first chapter could go.

More than one scenario, with some research each, get written down on paper. If another one comes to mind one or half of another one gets scratched. When I think I have a plot, very vague still mind you, I start writing the next few chapters and then the muse comes into play. He or she, mostly she as my main character is a she as well, comes up with an idea, which I don’t have much time to work out. Bullet points are quickly noted. Problem here is that the new plot, yes, a totally new plot, doesn’t always work with what I have written yet.

I have to go back, not to edit, but to change some settings or another character. I will get the need to slap my muse around, but most of the time the new idea is better.

While writing I suddenly get stuck. Not necessarily writer’s block, but more like my vague plot needs some more detail. That is when the proverbial light bulb lights up.

Now, obviously, I get too many ideas and need to eliminate. Again, this process needs to happen fast, as my memory doesn’t work very well.

If I am still stuck, because my muse has a problem with my final idea, I chat with other writers or family or friends. They come up with ideas that my muse changes into something else, because suddenly she is happy with a certain idea that got triggered by chatting with everyone.

A perfect example was when my main character got stuck in the head of a unicorn and I didn’t know how to get her back out. What I did was talk to my teenage stepdaughter and her friend. They came up with one idea after the other, which led to another idea from my muse. This was my published book.

My recent book got some ideas from them as well, as I needed help with writing the diary of a twelve-year-old, which they are. Throughout all the ideas I got the light bulb thing again. Another idea about the plot suddenly became clear.

Basics of a pantser: no set plot, working with the characters, being open for changes throughout your story, and allowing the story to guide you.

There is always the editing process to work out the details which you missed while changing from one plot to the other.

Tineke Peeters is a 36-year-old pantser from Belgium and the author of ‘Book of Panacea,’ which can be found on Amazon.  You can find Tineke on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tineke.peeters.1

Writers Unite! Workshop: Those Pesky Brand Names

Recently an author published a story on Amazon.com that included a brand name in the title. With the investigative algorithms that they utilize, Amazon caught it and politely asked the author, who complied immediately, to correct the error. Much effort ensued to change titles, ISBN numbers, and cross-references across the author’s extensive body of work.  

In this case, it was a simple matter of oversight. The author never considered there was an issue. The brand name was so commonplace, it never occurred that using it would be a problem. A lesson that illustrates the care needed to be taken when writing.

This is not to say you can’t use brand names. You can. However, the context that you use them in is essential.

In an article written by Michy and posted on the “Accentuated Authors Services” website, she notes the following:

•    If you have a character crying in your story, she should ask for a tissue, not a Kleenex.
•    If a person is cleaning the bathroom, they should be using bleach and not Clorox.
•    Babies should be wearing diapers, not Pampers.
•    When you order a soft drink, it should be cola not Coke.
•    If cleaning ears, one should use a cotton swab, not a Q-tip.    

The point is that brand names should not be used in describing a generic product that may have numerous other brand identities. However, don’t despair, brand names can be used when identifying something specific. Michy writes that if you are in a football stadium and the Goodyear Blimp flies overhead, it is perfectly acceptable to use its correct name. For a mystery writer like me, she also mentions that if you are identifying evidence in a crime, it is okay to use the brand name and type of a tire or an automobile or other items because it is unique to the situation.

What you must not do is use a brand name in a title. As we learned at the beginning of this discussion, algorithms exist to find such occurrences, and usage will be caught by the company or publisher through Internet searches.

There are times, however, when you can use brand names. If you mention that a character drove a Ford Thunderbird as a young man and loved the car, that is acceptable, but make sure it relates to the plot. The most important thing to remember is never to use a brand name in a derogatory way. Bad-mouthing a company or product is one quick way to receive a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney.

Another critical factor to remember is that brands are fleeting and can date your story quickly. That is why choosing the generic word for a product, if one exists, is essential. You want your reader to relate to the product more than the brand. The fact is using too many brands can lead to your story reading like a commercial. Brands can be distracting, so use them wisely and infrequently.

There is one other area where company names and brands are important. World building is not just a tool of the science-fiction or fantasy writer. All writers build their world, and it is essential to be accurate about location when setting your story in an existing town or city. Remember, some of your readers could live there, so be precise with places and street names, and especially business names. 

I tend to be quite careful about the names of individual businesses when I write. I often set my novels in New Orleans, and I will mention Jackson Square, Café du Monde, Preservation Hall, and other iconic landmarks or businesses but set the action of my story in fictitious locations. Again, this is to keep the possibility of any negative connotation being associated with a real business or brand. You should not, however, use the names of private companies. If your scene calls for action at a restaurant which is in a specific area and there is an actual restaurant there, make up a name for it.

Using the real names of well-known landmarks provides realism to your stories and enhances the reader’s experience. I once had a reader tell me that my description of a small town in California was exactly how she remembered it from growing up. She knew the town square, the ice cream shop I mentioned, and the corner drugstore, and said I must have spent a lot of time in her hometown. The fact is I had never been there, but I utilized Google Map’s street-level view to provide the ambiance and setting for that scene. Her reaction shows that an accurate representation to your reader brings them into your story.

Writing can be a challenge. With so many factors to consider, we must remain cognizant of the issues that can harm our stories. If you do, you will not have to worry about those pesky brand names.  

Resources:
http://accentuateservices.com/archives/567

Writers Unite! Tips on Writing: Grammar

WT- Improve Grammar

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

 

WRITING WRITING A NOVEL

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

It’s November! And for us writers that means it’s time to draft an entire novel at breakneck speed. Is the end result always great? Hell nah, it’s about as draft as a draft can be. But is it fun, productive, and an epic way to tell yourself the story that’s brewing in your mind? You can bet your arse it is! If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

Just Tell The Story

Encouraging NaNoWriMo survival guide badge, to help readers learn how to write a novel in a monthNaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself to get your story down on paper (or screen) as fast as possible. Unburden those epic characters from your mind, and bring them to life through words. It’s about breaking the barrier of the dreaded novel, getting the hardest part (finishing) out of the way, so it has no power left over you. 50000 words sounds intimidating, but its not a hell of a lot when you think about it. You’ve got a main character, a couple of side characters, an antagonist, a plot to unfold, multiple character arcs, all drawing to a final showdown. You’ve got this. You’ll hit 50k in no time.

The First Draft is For you

In Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ he talks about how you write the first draft with the door closed. It’s for you, and only you. The first draft is like a foundation, upon which you build your novel. You’re effectively telling yourself the story, with the intention to polish it up, catch plot holes, weave in a theme or moral, and all that other pretty stuff, throughout your second draft. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Start writing your story, and let the characters pull you through to the end. The hardest part of this novel writing mumbo-jumbo is telling the damn story, so rush it down! There’s time for making it cohesive, polished, and epic after.

Let’s Do The Math

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- Keep Calm and Write OnIt’s time to pull out the calculator folks, let’s dissect this baby and crunch some numbers. There are thirty days in November, that means, if we want to set ourselves a daily word count to achieve the goal, all we have to do is divide 50k by 30.

Run it through your calculator and you get 1,666.666 words per day. (Here we can see how the devil created this challenge and put his unique stamp on it.) So if you intend on writing every day of November, shoot for 1700 words per day. Simple.

But let’s be real here, are you really going to write every day? It’s unlikely. Whether you have work commitments, kids, blogs and social media to keep up with, or murders to go cover up, you’re gonna need some breathing room to deal with your personal shit. So let’s assume we can stick to a target of writing for twenty days out of the month.

50k divided by 20 is 2500

Now, 2500 words per day may seem a lot to some of you, but remember, that’s only twenty dedicated days to your NaNoWriMo challenge. While you’re pushing to write a novel in a month, it is only a draft. 2500 words of draft isn’t all that hard to get down once you get flowing, especially if you are following some kind of plot or structure. The trick is to write write write. Don’t keep checking your word count. Set an hour of dedicated, uninterrupted time, then check. If you’re done, then you’re done. If not, shoot for another hour, and go over if you can! You may save yourself another day of writing, or end up with an epic!

Remember Your ‘Why’

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the challenge aspect of it all. Such demands can be stilling for writers and creatives. But try to remember your ‘why’ for taking up with NaNoWriMo. It’s not to win, It’s not to show off, and it’s not to write the most amazing novel that’s ever been written. It’s to tell yourself a full, complete story, and to break through that ‘novel completion’ boundary before it ever gets ahold of us. It’s a creative exercise to show us what is capable, with a little determination and consistency.

Exercises like this are great for an individual’s psyche. To have a positive end result at the end of a periodical commitment, reminds us that gratification and success takes time and effort. We are often disappointed and sunk into ‘lows’ due to our minds being wired to instant gratification in the modern world. Getting fifty thousand (or even twenty thousand) words down throughout a set period of time, where you are pouring in your heart and soul, rewires the part of the brain that expects everything in the now.

Look, we all have different reasons for doing things, but storytelling is an art in and of itself. It’s a beautiful element of human nature that we could scarcely live without. It’s been here from the beginning of time, and it’ll be here ‘til the end. Let’s not get lost in the intricacies of it all. Just tell the story, build the characters and setting, and enjoy the process. You’re a story teller by nature. Bravo! Now go do your ‘thang. Come back to this NaNoWriMo survival guide whenever you need a little nudge in the right direction.

Plotting Tools

Save The Cat Writes a Novel- Click to purchaseClick to purchase from amazon.com

I’m personally not a plotter. My work is pretty much exclusively character driven, and a plot tends to still me and crush my creative flow. That said, for a challenge like this, it helps to have at least a timeline of events you’d like to happen, so that you can easily work from one to the next without too much difficulty. You can always go off track and your characters can still surprise you, but the briefest of brief outlines offer a little guidance when you may be lost. Equally, if you don’t fancy writing at the point you’re at, you can jump ahead and write a scene that strikes your fancy. Win/win. It’s all words!

If you’d like a real structured plot to guide you, I personally recommend looking up the snowflake method. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out Save The Cat Writes a Novel. Even for us non-plotters, this book is novel-writing gold. It provides a guide filled with beats and moments for within your story, without tacking a rigid structure around everything. Do yourself a favour writers, and pick up your copy today. It really will help turn your novels from good, to great.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

(This is an affiliate link. I only provide links to products that I have personally used, bought, and love. I will never endorse a product I have no experience with purely for monetary gain.)

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

All this aside, there are a few things we’re gonna need throughout November to keep us sane and on track. Us writers are a picky bunch, and we need a variety of items in order to complete our work. Below I’ve compiled a list of handy items to have on or around your desk at all times, and cues on how to use them.

  • A pad of Paper- for doodling on and scratching out notes.
  • A variety of pens- for even more epic doodles.
  • Tea & Coffee- because caffeine.
  • Coloured pencils or markers- to colour our doodles and highlight stuff.
  • A cat or other stroke-worthy cutie- because we’re writers. We’re lonely.
  • Alcohol (if of drinking age)- this helps…
  • Slippers and a Dressing Gown- comfort is key.
  • A chair cushion- once again, comfort is key.
  • A cuddly blanket- to hide from the screen when we’re stuck.
  • A teddy bear- to cuddle when times get hard. And to talk to…
  • An altar to the creative Gods- complete with candles, incense, frog eyes and snake skin, and blood for ritual sacrifice.

That should just about cover everything. Of course, bring yourself, your laptop, and your charger, and be sure to disconnect all your devices from the internet. We don’t need any distractions!

Well, that just about brings us to the conclusion of our NaNoWriMo survival guide! Doesn’t sound that hard, right? Seriously, as long as you set yourself a daily goal, and commit yourself to completing the challenge, you will succeed. It starts and ends with you. You can implement the above advice to streamline your experience, but ultimately it comes down to your dedication to getting your novel down on paper. You know you can do it, I know you can do it, so go do it! And if anyone asks you how to write a novel in a month, send them this way!

Share this post with your friends and writing groups, to help them achieve success in this amazing challenge right alongside you! And if you’d like to stay up to date with my NaNo activities and connect with me personally, head over to my Facebook. I’ll be posting daily NaNo tips and inspiration.

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

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Gary D. Holdaway from the Facebook group Fiction Writers Global has graciously shared this great article on how to survive NaNoWriMo! Read now for how to be successful as you write a novel in a month!

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

Also, check out Gary’s FB site: https://www.facebook.com/groups/490323944710900/

Good luck with NaNo!!!