Archive for December, 2011

Determining New Year’s Writing Goals

2012, it looms, Squiders.  Soon people will be after you for your new year resolutions, and perhaps you are thinking about changing up some of your writing goals or trying out some new habits.

It’s always tempting to start out the new year with high hopes.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year you lose 50 pounds, publish fifteen books and become a millionaire, and cure cancer.  But let’s be realistic.  Probably not.

Here’s a couple of suggestions for putting together some writing goals for the new year that you’re likely to keep:

1. Be realistic.
We have a tendency to get really enthusiastic about our goals, but realize that building new habits take times, and if you start out too strong, you may find yourself getting frustrated and giving up.  Instead of vowing to write 3,000 words every day, you’ll find more success if you start out just trying to write something (anything) on a daily basis.

2. Be flexible.
I’m not a huge fan of yearly goals for the simple reason of stagnation.  I believe your goals should be changeable depending on how things are going, and so I prefer monthly goals instead.  To go with the above, let’s say you’re having great success with the writing every day goal.  Perhaps starting in March, you modify your goal to be 500 words a day, and then perhaps in June, if things are still going well, you can up your goal to 1000 a day.

3. Add variety.
Let’s be honest.  Working on the same thing for a whole year can get boring.  Along with your writing goals, try out some editing and submitting.  Mix in some short stories, decide to attend a conference, or enter some contests.  Make sure you always have something to look forward to.

Hope the end of 2011 treats you well!


Happy Holidays! (Also, Landsquid.)

I hope your weekend treated you well, that you ate too much and spent too much time with those that you love, and that you got at least one thing that made your day.

My husband got me a Wacom tablet which I hope means more landsquid here on the blog.  There is a bit of a learning curve, however, as you will see below.

Regular schedule this week, and then we’ll ring in 2012.

Not as intuitive as I was led to believe...

Christmas: Fantasy?

Instead of our normal Friday subgenre study, I thought we’d take a look at Christmas stories and debate their genre.  Christmas stories tend to involve angels, ghosts, flying reindeer, elves, and an immortal who has the power to visit every household in the world in a very short time frame.  (Though, admittedly, if you take out the areas of the world that don’t believe in Santa, it’s less impressive.)  Oh, yeah, and frost demons, enchanted snowmen…

I mean, some Christmas stories are free of fantastical elements.  White Christmas, for example. But Christmas itself is filled with elements that, outside of the holidays, most of us do not believe in.  Yet there are religious subtext, and religion gets a bit grumpy if you associate it with mythology, so.

I’m really interested in how other people see this.  Do you consider Christmas and its elements to be a work of fantasy, or something else?


Christmas Movies

Well, my husband has driven into work like a crazy person (we’ve got about a foot of snow and it’s still coming down) and as we get closer and closer to Christmas, I find it harder and harder to get up the motivation to do anything that doesn’t involve cocoa and Christmas carols.  (I wish I could blame the dog this week for this being late.  I will blame the snow instead.)

So let’s give into the holiday cheer.  Christmas movies.  They’re everywhere this time of year, with their messages of family and love and peace on earth, goodwill to man.  Animated, live-action, black and white…

Which ones are your favorites?  Which ones do you watch every year?

Me, I’m partial to Muppet Christmas Carol.  My sister and I, until we were married, would do a marathon of Rudolph, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Frosty the Snowman, and A Muppet Family Christmas (which you cannot get on DVD and makes me terribly sad).  We rarely made it through all of them still awake, but every year, we tried.

I’ve only seen things like It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas a single time each.  I liked them all, but I guess I don’t search them out on a regular basis.

Are you ready for Christmas?  Feeling the holiday spirit?  Drinking enough eggnog?

I will try, in all good faith, to have a subgenre study up on Friday, but I’m not making any guarantees.

Productive Ways to Procrastinate Writing

Procrastination is generally bad, yes, but sometimes you can’t write for whatever reason.  You don’t have a large enough block of time, you’re waiting on feedback or something from someone else, you’re in need of inspiration, etc.

Here’s some things you can do that are useful for your writing projects so you can feel minorly productive:

1. Playlists
Actually what made me think of this blog.  I wrote a blog post earlier about how playlists can be beneficial for your writing.  For my trilogy, I have an entire playlist, with songs specific to characters, books, scenes, etc, and I’ve found that listening to my trilogy playlist while I’m writing or planning the trilogy actually will give me flashes of scenes and an idea of direction.  Some people can’t write to music, it’s true, but I strongly believe that there is the right music for every project; you just need to figure out what it is.  (I have spent some time today listening to songs by this band I was just introduced to, because they have a nice tribal sound that will be a perfect addition to the trilogy playlist.)

2. Character Pictures/Icons/Banners/Covers
While some people take their inspiration aurally (like me), a lot of other people work visually.  If you need some inspiration, why not see if you can’t find your characters’ pictures?  Personally, I like this website – there’s a ton of interesting portraits to look at for something that clicks.  You can draw your characters.  Or, if you know your characters inside or out, you could put together an icon, banner, or cover for your book.  It helps you focus on what the strongest plot points are when you’ve got a limited space to explore.

3. Mind Maps
A mind map is a visual representation of something, usually represented by circles connected by lines.  Usually there is a central concept that all other ideas branch off of.  You can use these for characterization, brainstorming, or plotting.  Just remember to let it flow without thinking about it too much.  Mind maps work as a free-thought activity.  Who knows?  Maybe your subconscious has the perfect solution to that ginormous plot hole.

4. Maps
It’s not just fantasy stories that can use a good map.  Where is your character’s house relative to the store they work at?  How close does that cute neighbor live?  Is there a coffee table in the middle of the living room to conveniently trip that would-be murderer?  Maps help you keep your facts straight.  It can be hard to keep everything in your head while you’re working on a story, and having an easy-to-reference map with the information can be easier than trying to find where you last talked about something in your manuscript or guessing and having to fix things in later drafts.

Hope your holidays plans are coming along swimmingly, Squiders!

Subgenre Study: Mythic Fantasy

Ah, mythic fantasy, where Gods walk the Earth (or…not-Earth), where heroes are born, and where magic imbues the world around us.

A simplistic definition is that mythic fantasy is fantasy that weaves mythology into the world.  Usually each story focuses on a single culture’s mythology, but nothing is ever a hard, fast rule in speculative fiction.  Mythic fantasy can be an updated retelling of a myth to a completely new story where elements of a myth or mythology are present.

Mythic fantasy incorporates all mythologies, from Native American (ala Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint) to Celtic to Arthurian to Japanese to Norse to a mythology that the author has completely made up.  Mythology is sometimes like porn – you know it when you see it.

While elements of mythic fantasy depend directly on the mythology involved, there does tend to be common elements in the subgenre.  Usually there are prophecies, and if not walking, talking, meddling gods, some sort of higher power.  Legends tend to be, at least in part, true.  Often a Hero’s Journey is involved in some manner.

Mythic fantasy can be mixed with other fantasy subgenres, such as epic or urban fantasy.  (Actually, I am terribly fond of urban mythic fantasy.  I like how ancient themes can mix with the modern world.)

How do you feel about mythic fantasy, Squiders?  Any mythologies that make you tingly?  Any recommendations?  (My friend just loaned me Guy Gavriel Kay’s entire Fionavar Tapestry.  I am excited.)


I Blame the Dog

If you pay any sort of attention to my blogging schedule, you know it typically follows a M/W/F schedule, and that I tend to warn you if there’s going to be complications or missed days.  If you’re that sort of person, you also realize that it is rather late on Thursday.

I blame the dog.

(Also, someone sent me to a cappella metal.  It is the best thing I have ever heard.  The only instrument this band has is a drum and the rest is done with voices.  It’s very tribal.  But anyway.)

But Kit, you say, I didn’t know you had a dog.

Well, I didn’t.  I’m not even terribly fond of dogs.  But for some reason over the past two weeks, my husband has decided that he is in need of a dog, one that he could take hiking and camping and what have you, and so Tuesday afternoon, I found myself a dog owner.

We have a cat.  The cat has never seen a dog in her life.  She is not so pleased with this change in her life, especially when she previously ruled the household.  It is a big dog.  It is, to her, a scary dog.  He gets too close, she runs, dog sees movement and gives chase.  It is bad all around, so the past few days have been stressful.

It is hard to get work done when you are attempting to acclimate pets to each other and teach the dog not to chase the cat.  So.  I apologize for the lateness of this post.  Tomorrow’s will be on time.


Writing Around the Holidays

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is stressful even in the best of times.  You’ve got to buy your presents, wrap them, make sure they get to the right recipient (and that’s assuming you aren’t making any).  There’s Christmas Cards to send out (oh why did I start doing that?), decorations to put up, and neighbors to compete against to see who can spend the most on their electricity bills.  One could argue that this is all another sign of the commercialization of the holidays, but I would argue that it’s because we want to make the ones we love happy that we pile so much on ourselves.

This is, of course, on top of your normal work, family, and household obligations.  And the fact that you want to spend as much time as possible with your friends and family.

With everything as crazy as it is, it can be a pain to fit in your normal writing.  Here are a couple of tips for trying to fit it in.

1. Use it to destress.
Let’s say you’ve spent the last three hours wrapping presents and writing cards.  It’s very tempting to leave the mess for the cat to play with and go veg in front of the television watching Unsolved Mysteries.  Resist this urge, and why not sit down and work on a story instead?  It’ll clear your mind and when you look back at your day, you’ll feel productive instead of like a lazy lump.

2. Get away from it all.
Your children are belting “Grandma got run-over by a reindeer” at the top of their lungs and your husband has abandoned his half-done job of hanging the lights over the garage to watch the football game.  Do not lock yourself in the bathroom and cry.  Instead, stand in front of your husband until he acknowledges your presence and tell him it’s on his head if anything gets destroyed while you’re gone, and leave.  Go to a coffee shop, the library, a friend’s…wherever you like to write that’s not at home.

3. Remember that people will not hate you if it doesn’t all get done.
If a couple of your cards go out a few days late, guess what?  No one’s really going to care.  They’re just glad to hear from you.  If half the ornaments don’t get on the tree, Santa won’t mind.  If the dog eats your fruitcake, well, it’s probably for the best.  Remember that it’s much easier to maintain a writing habit than to try to restart one come January when the tree goes to the grinder.  So set aside a little time each day to get things done.  It’s okay.  No one will hate you.  (Give them bubble wrap to distract them while you make your escape.)

Good luck to you, Squiders!

Subgenre Study: Comedic Fantasy

Like we talked about a few weeks ago, comedic fantasy is a subgenre that can be combined with other subgenres.  It defines the tone, not the setting, location, etc.  You can have comedic epic fantasy, comedic urban fantasy, or even comedic fantasy romance.

The biggest defining trait of comedic fantasy is that its intent is to be funny.  It may be a direct parody of a well-known fantasy book or may be an original word that’s meant to make you laugh as much as to tell a story.

Examples of well-known (and loved) comedic fantasy includes Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, Terry Pratchett’s Discword books, and Robert Asprin’s MythAdventures series.  You can also find examples in visual media, such as the webcomic the Order of the Stick, Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and even the TV show I Dream of Jeannie.

Again, intent is important here.  Many books/movies/etc. will have funny moments without being comedic fantasy.  If the creator’s intent is to be funny at a good majority of times, then it counts.  Otherwise, not so much.  I guess someone could be unintentionally hilarious, but that’s a whole other problem.

How do you feel about Comedic Fantasy?  Does it tickle your funny bone, or do you prefer more serious tomes?  Any recommendations?

Ode to the Oxford Comma

Oh, Oxford comma, how I adore you, even though some styles call you obsolete.  It’s actually one of the hardest things to remember about being a freelance editor – Chicago, for example, strongly recommends using the Oxford comma, but AP says not to unless it’s a complex list.  But I think it adds clarity and completeness, and I always use it given the chance.

What is an Oxford comma?  It is also known as a serial comma.  It’s the comma that goes before “and” in a list.  Coffee, cheese, and cookies.  As opposed to coffee, cheese and cookies.  Boo.  See how much more pretty it is with the comma?  When you speak, you pause after each item, so why leave out the comma?

Anyway, because we haven’t done any bad poetry in a while, here’s an ode to the Oxford comma.

Oh, give praise to the Oxford Comma
It helps us to avoid such drama
It divides a list
So why resist
And it’s more useful than a llama