Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Begin at the Beginning

So NaNoWriMo is coming up quick, and I'm much better prepared this year than I was the last two - and especially last year. I've settled on the Steampunk genre, and I've got a fairly good plot outline. The YA aspect is a bit sketchy, but that's because I'm very new to the arena, and some of it is self-doubt. I'm sure I'll get over that.

One of the threads on the NaNo forum asks for a 20-word plot summary, which I decided to do, because I think that a one-sentence concept is always a good place to start (mine is a little over - but no worries). It's what I have my students start with when I teach the mechanics of a short story; it's what producers will ask for if you ever submit a screenplay (though that call it your log line).

So here's mine (please give some thoughts/comments): A young boy is thrown into a world of political under-dealings when he begins to question the death of his inventor uncle.

More next time. Cheers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stroking the Muse

Someone recently asked me whether I thought "The Muse" was fact or fiction. Being a writer, other writers consistently ask what my muse is, where it comes from, how I react to it; at the same time, non-writers ask me what I think it is. Quite plainly - after years of frustration, story after story written, and time spent supporting other writers - I think The Muse is an excuse.

What are you talking about? you say.

Too often, the muse is a good thing when you produce and a bad thing when you can't. Thus, to me, it's a "Fair weather Johnson" kind of effect. It's like writer's block. The best way to get rid of either is to just write. Sit down; get your thoughts out; eventually, you will produce something. Waiting for the Muse to hit or claiming that you have writer's block is a way to say "I don't really have time for this."

Granted, even the most prolific, dedicated writer needs a break from writing, and it's OK to admit that. To use the muse as an excuse as to why you haven't written anything, though, isn't productive. When you've written something truly great, that's precisely what it is: don't give credit to some unseen entity; take pride in your hard work that's paid off. And when you can't get something out, just say so. You'll be able to produce something soon enough when you sit down and get your thoughts out of your head.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ideology, Pt. 2

I've been discussing the nature of ideology and steampunk a lot over on the Brass Goggles forums lately. Even after a few posts, it has become very clear to me that my vision of the genre is completely different from most of those who frequent the forums. I have always been one to take a serious approach to literature. As I've mentioned before, I feel like fiction ought to have a purpose: whether that purpose is to entertain or enlighten is entirely up to the author. For me, I want my readers to walk away having gained something more than just a fun story to add to their list of "have reads."

In light of the discussion, I began to think very specifically about the nature of genre and its meaning to people. So I've added to my list of tasks to research a number of others' views on genre and genre theory as it pertains to speculative fiction and begin to formulate my own ideas to either grow out of those thoughts or stand in opposition to them.

In general, I believe genre fiction has a unique place in the repertoire of literature because it has the ability to speak towards topics untouchable by mainstream fiction by placing them in a context that is either foreign or futuristic (or some other conception). It has the potential to talk about things in a way that other authors might be shunned by the general populace for bringing up. With that in mind, I think that there is something to be said for some of the movement towards strictly embracing a particular movement's aesthetic aspect only. To disregard ideology is to lose part of what makes a particular genre or sub-genre stand out and bring home its message.

I invite you to join in on the discussion over at the forums if you're keen on discussing steampunk. Otherwise, your thoughts here are always welcome.