Gather ’round and saddle up kids, it’s time I shared my dirty little secret: I love craft books. While this may not sound like such a strange thing to the uninitiated, trust me when I say that books that purport to teach people how to write often take lots of flack on author’s forums. Some will say that they’re no substitute for getting your work critiqued by peers, or that they will use up time that would better be spent writing. Others will point to the fact that writing ostensibly has no “rules,” and worry that such guides will turn their beautifully artistic Garfield slash fiction into robotic, paint-by-numbers prose.
But personally, I’ve never ran with the “just write, write, write,” crowd. In my experience, most craft books read very quickly; I can usually polish one off in a day or two, and I’m not a particularly fast reader. They make an excellent diversion when waiting for a manuscript to cool, and they can help give you a fresh perspective when you do go back to attack that eighth revision. Of course, not all craft books are created equal, and that’s where the Craft Book Round-Up comes in: sorting out the good, the bad, and the ugly for your studying pleasure. Because hey, writing craft books is a craft unto itself, right?
For the first entry, I’ve chosen a book that falls squarely into the “good” column: Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. To be honest, one doesn’t really need to “find” this book; it’s sure to be handed to you sooner or later, because it comes up on every single Amazon frequently purchased list ever. And not without good reason: Browne and King have written an extremely helpful guide to self-editing, one which I wish I had read years before I “found” it.
Continue reading Craft Book Round-Up: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
In multiplayer online roleplaying games, designers and players often make a distinction between two modes of interaction:
- Player vs. Environment, or PvE. In this mode, a player must overcome challenges posed by the environment in order to progress. This can mean “static” obstacles such as terrain, weather, hunger and thirst, etc., but is more often used to describe encounters with computer-controlled entities, such as monsters and NPCs (non-player characters). Players choose to team up with each other or go alone, and get enjoyment by exploring the world, collecting items, defeating particularly difficult monsters, etc.
- Player vs. Player, or PvP. Players in this mode (usually) face the same challenges present in PvE mode, but with the additional caveat that other players in the game may be hostile, and they must be prepared to defend themselves from attack (or perhaps to initiate attacks, if the mood strikes them). Even if there are few or no secondary rewards to be gained from such an attack, some players will invariably choose this mode of play and spend lots of time and effort on the “meta game” of figuring out the best way of ambushing others, leveling up their fighting techniques, etc.
It so happens that in fiction writing, we can make a similar distinction between two types of conflict, sometimes called “man vs nature” and “man vs man.” It should be easy to guess what these terms mean: in man vs man, two or more characters are in conflict with each other. Each of them have their own goals or values, and when brought into contact with one another they will clash until their issues are somehow resolved (note: the “clash” here is usually figurative; wars of words or wills are often more interesting than physical battles). In man vs nature, a character (or group of characters) struggle against something in their environment: pits full of spikes, the vacuum of space, man-eating sharks—pretty much anything without a brain.
Continue reading When It Comes to Conflict, PvP Beats PvE
Title: The Haunted Horn
Author: Edward Willett (Blog, Facebook)
Length: Approximately 40,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon
The Haunted Horn is an entertaining, sharp ghost story with a setting and characters that many kids will easily relate to. Although the target audience is a bit young for my tastes, I would recommend it to any middle school reader who enjoys modern adventure with a bit of spookiness mixed in.
Continue reading Book Review – The Haunted Horn by Edward Willett