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For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

This is a two-way blog. Your comments on the blogs are welcome, as are your questions. Comments on blogs can be made directly on each blog entry. For questions and comments not related to specific blogs, use the eMail link below.


Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.

FOR WRITERS

A Place Where Writers Talk Writing

June 18, 2014

Tags: Readercon, talking writing

Next month (July 10-13) is Readercon, the SF and fantasy con for writers, artists, and fans whose lips don't move when they read (but do move when they write dialog). If you write, or hope to write, and live in the Northeast, Readercon is not necessarily a "must," but it is definitely a "probably should be." The main attraction for me is other writers and my annual opportunity to talk writing with my fellow wizards, grand masters and apprentices both.

This year, the panel and workshop proposal train missed me, so for the first time in a decade or more, I will not be conducting one of my writing workshop/lecture thingies. There are some writing panels of interest, and for those who want to talk storytelling, I will be doing one of the kaffeeklatsch things. Recently Readercon has been teaming me up with another writer at kaffeeklatsches, and last year it worked out really well. As a general rule, writers like talking about writing. The point being, if you want to get together and compare semicolons, attend Readercon and sign up for my kaffeeklatsch. I will also be doing a reading from my new novel as well as wandering the halls. As soon as the final schedule for program participants is made available, I'll post the dates and times.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATION. Late this month I'm getting a rather substantial surgical operation on my back. Recovery, rate of, is something of a question at this stage, which could either have me staggering around the halls on pain killers (which could be amusing) or canceling out altogether. I will make every effort to warn you all in advance.

Whether I'm there or not, Readercon is a great place for you to talk writing and storytelling, and to listen to some old established and brand new pro writers discuss in panels various aspects of the art such that one cannot return home from this con without at least three new ideas for you to try. Actually, it is possible to return home empty handed if you spend the con drunk or high. If this is your approach, you may as well stay home. For the rest of you, I hope to see you there.

Click the Readercon icon for the con's website.

Growing Up With Thomas

June 4, 2014

Tags: Characterization, story fix, writers block

The story doesn't "feel right"? Not going anywhere? You're wallowing in doubts and can't even seem to get that first page going? Characters seem wooden? Storytelling not fun? Rethinking that job at Burger King? Try this:

Do this for all of your major characters (defined as anyone who helps move the story forward): On a separate document, slip your feet inside your character's baby shoes, and using first person POV have that baby, child, young person, young adult tell the story of his or her life up until they enter your story. It will cure all of the problems listed above in the first paragraph. In addition it will add reality (depth, texture, feelings, events, pimples) to your characters, and provide you with a wealth of background material for whenever your characters get introspective.

No need to include each and every diaper load. For a cue regarding what to include, use your own memory of your own past as a guide: earliest memory, the people you remember, your interactions with them, how you felt about them, first love, first hate, fights, celebrations, whatever was important and revealing.

Why the title, "Growing Up With Thomas?" The first time I did this full bore was with my novel Sea of Glass, whose POV character was Thomas Windom. He is still more real to me than most of the persons I have known for decades. I've also done this with my entire Joe Torio Mystery Series, beginning with The Hangman's Son.

If you haven't grown up with your characters, you don't know them very well. Not knowing your characters is a terrible platform from which to try telling their stories.

Try it out and see the difference it makes both in your story and in your writing day. Yeah, it involves extra writing. But, if you don't like writing you'd best nail down that Burger King gig.

In The Zone - The War Whisperer

May 22, 2014

Tags: Getting Started

5/22/2014 It has been a long time coming, but the writing of The War Whisperer has gotten under way. When I write a novel, there is a period of groping around, doubt, a generally foggy conception of where I might like to see the story go and accomplish. This is especially true with this work because it jumps into a pool in which I have avoided swimming up until now: The background is politics, "libertarian" theories, and changing a world that has been fairly resistant to altering its downward spiral into unworkable economics and necessarily broken promises. Stories are about people, and the storyteller's job (at least, this story teller's) is to write down what the people in the story do without sticking the storyteller's own politics in the reader's face. Something new for me requires growth, growth requires change, and the acid-stomach doubts generated by the beginnings of such an enterprise is what I least like about the writing process. (more…)

Why Do I Do This?

January 20, 2014

Tags: Writing Life

Been having a tough time getting started on my new novel, a blatantly libertarian science fiction tale that essentially shows a new way to solve a very old problem. So what's the writing problem?

After more than two years of dodging health bullets and writing and restarting again and rewriting again my Joe Torio Mystery ROPE PAPER SCISSORS, I ended that particular 340K marathon flat-out exhausted. I'd bore you with all the medical/migraine/ADD crap, but it bores me. Suffice it to say, if I owned a car with as many mechanical problems as I have health issues, I'd junk the damned thing. It would embarrass me to try and sell it.
(more…)

Blurbophobia

November 19, 2013

Tags: blurbs, favors, writing tips

Years ago, I was asked by a friend to come up with a blurb on his soon to be released science fiction novel. I hate doing these things. Throw friendship, honesty, and my own peculiarities concerning what constitutes good storytelling into the mix, and unmindful of my agonies of effort and decision in coming up with said blurb, certain things are guaranteed to happen: (1) I am going to lose a lot of time; (2) I am going to be emotionally torn seven ways from Sunday as integrity and honesty come up against a tale that essentially doesn't fit my pistol; and last, but by no means least, (3) I am going to lose a friend.

(more…)

WIGGLE ROOM

October 1, 2013

Wiggle room: It has a lot to do with getting the story finished.

Okay, in Twelve Step programs they have a bit of advice that goes like this: Live in the solution, not the problem. So, what does this have to do with getting the words into the manuscript?

List your reasons for not writing. Go on. We'll wait for you, and here are a few to get you started.
Nobody believes in me.
I just can't get started.
There are too many demands on my time.
I just can't seem to sell a word.
My ideas don't seem to go anywhere.
No support from my family (friends, parents, spouse, partner, bartender, etc.)
Poor health, low energy, can't concentrate, the neighbor's dog keeps barking, my dealer really wants to get paid, it all seems so hopeless.

Here is an example of living in the problem: "Look at what's happening to me; I just can't win! Boo hoo!"

Here is an example of living in the solution: "This is standing in my way; Now, what can I do about it?"
(more…)

Authors: Why Attend Conventions?

March 21, 2012

Tags: Conventions, publicity, ideas, writer's block, fear

A fellow writer, thoroughly jammed with writer's block, shared with me that he never attends genre conventions (mystery, SF, fantasy) because, "It's just not his cup of tea." After a few minutes of additional probing, it turned out he was afraid of meeting new people. Those he had never met before hadn't been vetted, hence, might commit one of the following errors:

1. The person in question might impart that he never cared much for that writer's works.
2. He or she may not have even heard of that writer.
3. The bothersome attendees might besiege him for autographs.
4. During the autograph session, no one might show up.

(more…)

FATAL ERROR Number One

March 8, 2012

Tags: Mistakes

I really enjoyed this guy's first book. Fresh, racy, on the edge, I didn't know from one page to the next where the story was going. I seemed to be able to count on it, though, being outrageously unexpected. Just couldn't wait for his second book.

I should have.

In his second book the author committed the Big Crime. I can forgive almost any error except for bumping me out of the story to deliver a political message. What is perplexing with this book is that it's only the fellow's second. Usually, a mystery writer has to have several tomes and at least a decade of a well-established publishing career before the author becomes dotty enough to think that stopping his tale to deliver a political message or to spleen vent all over some disliked politician is a good idea. (more…)

What In The Hell Do I have To Put On The Paper To Make A Sale?

February 21, 2012

In your writing career, if you have never uttered sentiments similar to the title of this post, you are either a famously successful and fabulouly wealthy wordsmith or you just don't give a flying crap. In either case, this posting is not for you. The big sellers in writing, for the most part, believe they have all the answers. "Just look at my checkbook," or, "Count my followers on Twitter." Those who don't give a flying crap as to what happens to their writing, well I don't give a flying crap either.

The rest of us are staring at a shrinking market, an increase in the number of writers, and in an economy in which more of us will be flipping burgers and greeting folks at Walmart than had planned to do so. The ticket into the literary life, we are told, is a sale. Survival requires more sales. A writing career requires even more sales and for big bucks.

Yet, in the midst of this economic disaster, there are any number of writers who go out of their way to teach the art of writing to aspiring key-ticklers, and are very free with their experiences and hard-won bits of knowledge. By so doing, they increase the number of manuscripts competing against their own (more…)

DA NIGHT BEFORE XMAS by Louie

December 24, 2011

Tags: Xmas

DA NIGHT BEFORE XMAS
by Louie (Barry Longyear, really)
A Tale of Redemption

It's da night before Xmas, and on da cell block ,

Da lights was shut down, da screws checkin' da locks.

Bernie 'n' me, shut up high on third tier,

Da same as we been for t'ree friggin' years,

Da rest a da cons was passed out in dere racks

Blasted out on pruno, smack, oxy, 'n' blacks.

And Bernie wit' his ear plugs, in da top bunk

An' me down below gettin' into a funk,

When from da air vent dere arose such a grumble,

I pulled out my shank and got ready to rumble.
(more…)