Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Writing Advice

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

And encouragement!

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, you should be four days into your book today. But, maybe you’re cocky and are really just going to get started tonight after work. Either way, you can still do it! Fantastically prolific authors, especially some of the more well-known pulp writers, churned out books in very short amounts of time. For instance, Michael Moorcock, creator of the infamous Elric series of books, is rather infamous for regularly cranking out books in as little as three days. Yes, he had to do it by a formula, but, honestly, considering what he created, is that so bad? And, more importantly, do you want to know how he did it? Then hop over and read How To Write A Book In Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock over at Wet Asphalt.
Basically, he uses the same formula that Lester Dent used to great effect writing, among others, the Doc Savage series. Basically, he breaks up the work into four parts and then breaks that down into smaller parts, each designed to ratchet up the tension at every step of the way. Moorcock takes Dent’s formula and stretches it a bit, taking it from a story formula to a book formula. Either way, it sure worked for them. Between the two of them, those guys cranked out a hundreds of books, so, say what you will about the formula, but it seems to be effective.
Also, if you decide to use one of the tools I shared last week, Scrivener, you can download a Scrivener template specifically designed around the Lester Dent Master Formula. It’s worth a look for Scrivener users!

And, if you’re already writing and just need some encouragement to keep going, or get some momentum built up, you can check out some slightly harsh, but funny advice from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds.

This post originally appeared on Diary of a Network Geek.


Actual Writing Tools

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Now, you’ve got your setting, characters and story, so all you have to do is write it. Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much, but still totally doable, so don’t despair.
This week I’m going to talk exclusively about tools to do the actual writing with.  There are a lot of fancy software packages for this out there and what you choose to use is a personal choice based on who you are and how you write.  That said, let me share some of the more popular programs and tools to go with them.  First off, I would imagine a majority of people use Microsoft Word, because they have it available to them.  It’s not a bad way to go, actually, because you’re probably already familiar with it via school or work, so it won’t get in the way.  If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format.  If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead.  It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer.  And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo.  And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator.  I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text.  I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools.  I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs.  I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one.  Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level.  So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers.  Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

So, now, finally, you should have all the characters, setting, plot ideas and writing tools you need to get started with National Novel Writing Month.


Happy Birthday, Bill.

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Today is William S. Burroughs‘ birthday.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri on this day in 1914, he is best known for having written Naked Lunch, which was later turned into a movie that starred Peter Weller. Burroughs started writing while attending Harvard, but when a piece of his was rejected by Esquire magazine, he was so disappointed that he didn’t write again for six years. He tried to enlist in the military, but he was turned down by the Navy,and when he got into the Army infantry, his mother arranged for him to be given a psychiatric discharge.
So, at 30 years old, he moved to New York City and got involved in a bohemian scene. It was there that he was introduced to two younger men, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He also got addicted to heroin, and wrote his first book about it, a memoir called Junky. It came out in 1953.
Burroughs is known for his somewhat random method of writing inspiration, which he called the “cut up technique“, though he was certainly not the only writer at the time to make use of the method.
Burroughs is also famous for having accidentally shot his wife at a party while recreating the infamous “William Tell scene.”


Fantasy Writers

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Full Moon

Looking for a free forum for fantasy writers?

Well, I don’t have one here, yet, but there is one at As always with writers, there’s a lot here to read through, but it all seems to be worth it. Of course, I think that anything which helps me get more creative or more inspired to write is worth the effort to slog through, even if some of it is shlock or doesn’t apply to me or my work. Inspiration can take many forms and find its way into my head by strange paths, so I’m always willing to look at another possible inroad to creativity.

Hopefully, you’ll find this site worth the read, too.


Articles on Writing

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, not too long ago, I brought you a link to an on-line course in writing.

But, by now, I’m betting you’re ready for more stuff on writing science fiction and fantasy. Well, even if you’re not, I found a table of contents on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website that has all kinds of great articles about writing. Now, obviously, many of these are geared toward fantasy and science fiction, but some are just general advice about writing and, in any case, they’re all helpful to writers. At least, all the ones I’ve read so far have been helpfull to me! And, as always, this is a free resource, this time, brought to you by the SFWA.

So, go read some inspirational articles and then, get back to writing!


Plot Condensed

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Or, why I like comic books and cartoons.

To put it quite simply, I like the way these two art-forms condense and compress plot. Think about it for a minute. A comic book, or graphic novel, has considerably less room to develop a deep, complex plot than, say, a literary work because a lot of space that could be used to develop plot via text is taken up with art. Also, there are generally fewer pages in a comic book than a novel, of any significant length, at any rate. The writer, therefore, has less space, or literary “time”, if you will, to develop a lengthy plot, so it usually is condensed down to its tightest form, its most simple aspect. It makes comics the perfect medium for examining plot to see how it works, really.

The same is true of cartoons. Now, I’ll admit that other regular shows can condense plot fairly well, too, but nothing seems to do it as well as kid’s cartoons. Take anything from Bugs Bunny to Sponge Bob Square Pants to G. I. Joe to Batman and you’ll find plot in its simplest form. Two, or more, characters in conflict struggling toward a resolution and, of course, finding one, all in 30 minutes or less. Now, one might argue that the sitcoms do the same thing, and they do, to an extent, but not with the same simplicity that cartoons manage. There’s rarely call for complicated subplots in a child’s mind. Oh, sure, the more adult “cartoons”, or animation, might have this, but how many Cowboy Bebops or Full Metal Alchemists or Ghost in the Shells are there running around out there? Right. (And, two of those three were manga, Japanese comic books, first.)

So, if you’re a writer who struggles with plot the way I do, check out a comic book. Find the plot. Identify the elements of it. Find the starting state, the conflict and trace it through to the resolution. Don’t be put off by the threads they leave open for the next book in the series. Just remember, each little plot is like a chapter in a larger book. Besides, there are worse ways to look at plotting a longer piece of work than to treat each chapter as a short story.

Oh, and I read them for the pictures, too. 😉


Write SF & Fantasy

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Ever wanted to write science-fiction and fantasy fiction but didn’t know where to start?

Well, there’s hope. While wasting time at work the other day, I found a free on-line course in writing science-fiction called, oddly enough, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. This website is an entire course on writing in the genre available for no charge via the web. They cover everything from the basics of fiction writing to world creation to… Well, just about everything that a begining writer might want to know about writing science fiction and fantasy literature. They even have some topics that go into more depth for those of us who’ve been banging away at it for a little bit.

It looks fairly good and comprehensive. Besides, the price is right: Free!



Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I know why I have such trouble starting stories.
The answer came to me while reading someone else’s blog: Chad Fowler. He was talking about the book he’s working on and his observations of other people who want to write books. His observation, which I thought was dead on accurate, was that most people wanted to have written a book, not to go through the process of writing a book. I think many people dream of being a writer, but few dream of the work involved in writing. There are times that I can sympathize with that.
But, my problem tends to be indecision. I have a hard time picking which story is worth writing. Or, which story is most worth writing. So, I fret over which one to start until it just doesn’t interest me any more, or until I come up with enough pre-writing requirements, so that I never actually get to the writing part. Hmm, that therapy stuff must be making me more insightfull or something. Damn. One less excuse.

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