The following is a compilation of ideas I’ve had recently about how to write effective opening scenes for a novel or short story. The usual caveats apply: I’m an idiot, this is not a secret formula, a great writer can make anything work, etc. Use, ignore or argue with at your leisure.
Ah, big science fiction conventions. So exciting, so exhausting, overflowing with possibility and inevitable disappointment. Dragon Con 2014 is over, I’ve had a post-trip nap and several showers, and the feelings I’m left with are…mixed…
Random news items:
- I finished polishing Aetheria’s Daemon! Hooray! I can officially say I’ve written a 500+ page novel, and no matter what ends up happening with it, that still comes with a nice sense of accomplishment.
- I have two short stories finished and critiqued which could both theoretically be given a final draft and then sent around. I’m not in a particular rush to do this as I feel that writing more novels is what will help me accomplish my goals the fastest. Shorts can be a fun diversion, but they eat up time like crazy which could be better spent on…
- …a new novel project, tentatively titled Core Immersion. It’s sort of a post-apocalyptic meets cyberpunk. Outline is done, and I’m six chapters into the first draft as I write this. Aiming for around 100k words total, and since I know where I’m going with it (unlike when I started Aetheria’s Daemon), I’m hoping I will be able to get it done relatively quickly.
- Since WorldCon is in London this year and that’s a bit out of my price/time range for travel, I’m going to be at DragonCon on August 29-31st. Yes, there is NASFiC of course, but for me it’s just a lot easier logistically and financially to go to Atlanta than Detroit. I’ve never been to DragonCon before, so hopefully it will be a fun and productive weekend.
(note: if The Yardstick is no longer in the current issue when you read this, click the Archive link and search for Will Weisser to find it).
A little more background for those who are interested: during the very little downtime I had at Worldcon last year, I felt like I needed to write something, having been inspired by the presence of so many great creative types. I free-associated a bunch of random titles in my notebook, most of which will likely never amount to anything, but one that did catch my eye was “The Yardstick.” I have no idea why I wrote down those words, but the idea of a measuring device implied story possibilities to me. What if this yardstick wasn’t regular, but magical? What could it measure? A person? What about them? Perhaps if they were brave enough, strong enough, worthy of some title or distinction?
Over the next couple of weeks I fleshed out the rest of the story without any planning, just making it up as I went, which is not my usual M.O., especially since I rarely write short stories anyway (I’m not nearly brave enough to try and write an entire novel that way). I think it turned out pretty well, and although not everything I start ends up so good, after 4 years I feel like I’m definitely making progress at writing fiction thing, as evidenced by this, the first time someone has paid me up front for my work.
So, please enjoy, check out the other stories on the S&S site, and blog, tweet and otherwise share the fruits of Mr. Ellet’s (and the author’s) labor. Now I’m going back to work on some ideas for my third novel…
As of last night, the second draft of Aetheria’s Daemon is complete. Smug self-satisfaction levels are at an all-time high, though no other super powers have yet developed.
In all seriousness, I feel I’ve come out of a bit of a battle. This book did some serious ballooning in length from my original plan of 100k words, and ended up a bit over 152k. That might not be a lot for some people, but it was for me, and the sheer amount of work to get it into its proto-complete state was grueling and may have even left me with some lingering health issues.
But still, I finished the revision. The ending was even better than I remember when I first wrote it (of course, adding some foreshadowing and callbacks during the second draft may have helped with that). The book is ambitious, a sprawling but intimate adventure fantasy with elements of science fiction and steampunk, in a world unlike any you’ve seen before. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, though that could change depending on whether the early readers say I’m a deluded fool or not :-).
So, I’m handing off Aetheria’s Daemon to said beta readers for now, and turning my attention to other things until they’re done with it. I have a short story which needs polishing, and I need to help edit my father’s next book (you didn’t know my dad writes books too? And my mom also! What a family). I have some reading to do, including research which might influence which project I undertake next. And most of all I need to take it easy and recover from the pace of editing so many words in a relatively short time. And eat some celebratory cookies. Many, many cookies.
This blog has been pretty barren lately. Part of that is due to the lousy weather (see title)–lots of snow days means more time at home with the kids and less time to write, and what writing time I do have is devoted almost exclusively to finishing the 2nd draft of Aetheria’s Daemon, which given that I’ve been working on it since last summer combined with my legendary impatience is a much higher priority than anything else.
In the past two months I actually started writing up two long-form posts about various craft-related things, but couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to say and abandoned them. So it goes. The way I operate this blog is to only post when I feel like I have something substantial to say, as opposed to posting on a regular schedule. Not that the latter strategy is bad (in fact if you want people to actually read your blog it’s the better way to go), but it’s just not the way I’m approaching things right now. I reserve the right to change my mind on that later, though.
So, since I’m breaking my own rule here and posting about nothing, what exactly is going on so far in 2014? I have re-written the opening chapters of Aetheria’s Daemon a few times, and I’m pretty happy with their current state. In my opinion the book is shaping up to be pretty badass, but I still have around 50k words left to revise before I can send it to beta readers and they can shatter my illusions. Luckily, with Spring coming and a whole bunch of random household issues taken care of, there is little now preventing me from doing that (knock wood).
I got an Honorable Mention in the Q4 2013 Writers of the Future contest. They sent me a nice framed certificate. Very cool. I’m looking forward to reading the anthology when it comes out, especially since my acquaintance Megan O’Keefe won first place. Congratulations again, Megan.
I wrote another short story which turned into a medium-length story (what the Hugos call a “novelette,” though I don’t think they’ll be involved here). Originally I was planning on submitting it to WoTF again, but that would mean cutting all the profanity, and given the setting (some “bad” neighborhoods in NYC circa the mid-90’s) I’m not sure it would make sense to do that. In any case, the WoTF deadline isn’t until the end of March, so I’m in no big hurry to revise it, especially if I could finish Aetheria’s Daemon before then (haha…).
I’m trying to read more novels this year, with an emphasis on recent releases from active SF/F authors. The idea is to acquire a nearly complete picture of where the genre is headed at the moment, which will make it easier to relate to agents and editors since that’s the world they’re entrenched in. Reading a lot of books sounds like an easy thing to do, and a lot of people I know make it look easy, but it’s never come easily to me. One problem is that I’m picky, with a low tolerance for a book which is merely “good” as opposed to “great.” If I read through an Amazon sample and don’t find it engaging enough, I’ll just move on since I know there are so many other books out there which will definitely blow my mind (cough Mark Lawrence cough). Repeating this 3 or 4 times can seriously cut into my reading schedule. Now add in to that time spent critiquing other people’s work, or getting sucked into manga (I had a thing with Gantz for a while, and am now hooked on All-Rounder Meguru), not to mention non-fiction (Max Tegmark, whose ideas were influential in the creation of the Reintegrators, has a book out I’m dying to read)….oy.
In any case, that’s where I stand. I don’t know what 2014 will hold for me, but I’m writing, and I’m reading, so I think I’m on the right track. Let’s see where it leads me.
Before we get started, some terminology: My Little Pony (MLP), is, well, My Little Pony. You know, that show from the 80’s that your little sister was into before she moved on to twisting the heads off Ken dolls? Bronies are people (typically adult men, with a minority of younger and/or female participants) who constitute a My Little Pony fandom, which although it might nominally encompass all things Pony, is really only devoted to the 2010’s-era show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, aired principally on various kid-centric cable channels.
And when I say devoted, I really mean it. As fandoms go, Bronies are pretty intense, encompassing not only the typical viewing parties, fan art and fan fiction, collectibles, etc., but also an annual convention which puts them up with (though certainly not anywhere near eclipsing) that other great single-franchise fandom, the Trekkies.
Besides their devotion, the main thing that stands out about the Bronies is how reviled they are. A quick googling picks up many “anti-Brony” and “Brony H8″ groups online, and general trolling and harassment abound on every Brony discussion forum in existence. It’s not hard to see why–people tend to hate things they don’t understand, and it’s safe to say that, outside of the Brony community, very few people understand what the hell is going on with the Bronies. I mean, putting aside all the name-calling and the irony and various other distracting arguments, what we have is a rather large group of ostensible adults, spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over a show that is clearly made to appeal to pre-teen girls. Why? It’s a question that’s plagued the Internet since the show’s inception, and thus far (to my knowledge) eluded all attempts to answer it.
Well, I’m here today to tell you, fine netizens, that I have cracked the Brony code.