First and last sentences
I am never happy with a story until I know the first and last sentence. The in-between can be hazy, but as long as I know where it begins and where it ends, I know I’ll get the middle eventually. The first sentence of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, from the very first draft, was ‘He was taking me to the machine.’ That sentence shaped everything that was to follow, most importantly (as anyone who has read it will know) the point at which I began the story.
Okay, ‘write what you know’ might sound like weird advice coming from a speculative fiction writer. My novel is set hundreds of years into the future – what exactly do I know about that? But unless you really are writing from the perspective of an alien race, human beings are still human beings. And in an imperfect future world – a dystopia, which is what I write about – the problems that trouble humanity are drawn from the imperfections of the present day.
Everyone asks writers where do we get our ideas, which is kind of a weird question for a couple of reasons. First, if there’s one thing writers never seem to run out of, it’s ideas; we find them everywhere. Second, we could have as many ideas as we like, and still not have a novel. As the previous writer-in-residence Garth Nix commented in one of his posts, ideas alone are not enough. If you want to be a writer, you have to bridge the gap between having an idea, and turning it into a story.
A lot of this lies in the craft of writing, in understanding words and how they should be put together and in trying to continually improve how you write. Many of the portions of my novel that I’ve worked the hardest on are the bits no one notices – and that’s the point, if they’re written right, you shouldn’t notice them. These are some of the descriptive portions when something needs to be said well but said quickly in order to move the action along. For example, there’s one scene where two characters are looking through windows in houses that face each other. Both windows have blinds, and one character unlocks their window, climbs out, and climbs into the other window. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, not so much. Because, you try writing that sequence without saying the words ‘window’, ‘blind’, ‘open’ and ‘close’ three hundred million times.
Hello all and this week I’m doing writing tips for my posts. Since I don’t have any suitable photos I’m decorating my posts with snippets of artwork from some of my picture books instead (I am an illustrator as well as a writer).
What is a typical writing day? I don’t have one. I have a job and I have family commitments; I write whenever and wherever I can. The picture below shows my chair in my study, this is where I like to write, if it’s possible. But I’ll write anywhere, I am rarely without my computer, or failing that my iphone which I make notes on, or failing that a pen and notebook. I steal time from the rest of my life for writing; I hoard seconds and minutes and hours like a miser hoards gold. I am accustomed to working right through the night; often my story and I watch the dawn together.
What makes a hero of a speculative fiction novel? Is it the amazing cosmic powers? Or is it something else?
Hello all and I’m so thrilled to be here on Inside A Dog especially after being part of the fabulous Reading Matters conference (Best. Conference. Ever!)
I am in Melbourne for the 10th annual Reading Matters conference, the 20th year it has been held. I was at one of the earliest conferences, perhaps the third or fourth, but as usual I can't remember exactly which one.
I meant to take a photo of dinner on Saturday, with a Chapter of YA authors, or possibly a Convocation, or a Wonder, or whatever seems most appropriate for a gathering that included Libba Bray, Margo Lanagan, Justine Larbalestier, Jaclyn Moriarty, Scott Westerfeld and myself, plus associated family members who are variously agents, publishers, photographers, scientists etc . But I forgot, so this post will have to make do with a photo of my office, which bady needs tidying up. As you can see.
I wonder what the collective noun is for a gathering of YA novelists? A "Wonder", perhaps? Hopefully not a "Murder", as with crows. Nor something as disappointing as a "Parliament", though I suspect a Parliament of owls would have more meaningful discussions than many human parliaments.