Things I learned about writing in 2012

Okay, so I just wrote a post in which I explained why I did not write in 2012. This is the other part of that post, the “things I learned about writing in 2012”. Surprisingly, despite not doing any, I actually did learn about writing. This is because I can’t stop thinking about story. Everything that goes through my head is run through a “how does this work with writing” filter. In about August, I figured that my failure to write meant that I couldn’t call myself a writer any more. I’m still not sure that I should be introducing myself as such, but I did realize that I’m still very interested in the creation of books. So I shan’t give up yet.

Without further ado, the grand list of things I learned about writing in 2012, set down here for the sake of my memory and perhaps for your enjoyment. (These are all personal notes, they may or may not work for you, ifiwms, ymmv, etc.)

  • From The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: Be honest. Be honest enough you can make a person cry on the bus or in the kitchen because you are writing a true thing.
  • From traveling in Asia: Remember the difference between being a visitor to a culture and being a native, in terms of subversion, ability to critique and how you rebel. Don’t write another culture as though they are visitors to it, who can’t judge or rebel.
  • From writing a textbook: I write too slow and too painful to write what I don’t like. Unless I am being paid by the hour, it’s not worth it. Love your work or go play minecraft.
  • From the reading I did over Christmas, where I devoured 15 books in ten days: Characters are what make stories live in your memory and make you love them. Characters should shape your story, not your Big Idea shape your characters. And I need a group of main characters if not an ensemble cast.
  • From Rae Carson, who is an aethist and a humanist and manages to write the most graceful portraits of people of faith in fantasy that I have read in a long, long, LONG time: Grace. Be graceful. Be gracious. Remember people you don’t agree with are human too.
  • From Blues music: Mean it. Maybe not when writing the first draft, but at some point in the writing or editing process, you’ve got to mean it, love.
  • From a Fortune magazine interview with Cassandra Clare and her dad about the business of writing: There is a difference between a strategy and a goal. Know the difference. Learn it. Love it. Live it.
  • From minecraft: If you can’t put in the time mining and enjoy the grind (at least a little) perhaps you should not play this game. There are other games. Perhaps knitting?
  • From many instances with social justice bloggers culminating in a thread where everyone tore intoJohn Green for not being sufficiently everything in The Fault In Our Stars: A.) Judging your worth by what people think of your work is a path with madness at the end. B.) Don’t judge social justice by tumblr. C.) People will hate you for representing or not representing what they see as the real world. At the end of the day, maybe just strive to live with yourself.
  • From reading torture scenes that now play behind my eyes when I am tired: You have have to live in your own head. Don’t push yourself past your comfort zone just because you want to impress people or you think you “should”. Examine your “should” before you follow it.
  • From my dad, talking about music performance: People go to art for the experience it gives them. Reading is a performance, an experience. What experience are you delivering? Why? What if what you want to express is different from what people are telling you they see?
  • From a fabulous bookstore in Malaysia: North America both is and is not the centre of the world. The reach of Western publishers is extensive! Malaysia has some of the best bookstores I’ve ever been in. But all the books were about an american life, or a european-influenced fantasy world. Even just thinking of the english-speaking world, there are are lots of people around the globe who do not have an American OR European experience of life. Be conscious of that.
  • From reading ARCs, and browsing in dealer’s rooms at cons: Beginnings matter. Seriously, if I don’t know you personally, my life is too short to go further than two pages if you haven’t hooked me already. This applies both on a quality level and on an establishing your audience level. As a voracious reader, I know what I want and what kind of reader I am. When I start browsing a book. I’m looking for you to tell me that you’re looking for me as a reader. If you can’t grab me within two paragraphs, I assume you don’t want me. Some books I can tell within two sentences that I’m not your type. And that’s fine, there’s a lot of books out there. But this also applies as a reader. NO PRESSURE.
  • From Lois McMaster Bujold, and Diana Wynne Jones and Sarah Rees Brennan: Middles matter. Sometimes I can’t read an entire book in one sitting, and you have to hook me again when I get back. But even if my audience does read everything in one sitting, if I leave all of my emotional moments in the first and last chapter, what is the rest of it? Setup?
  • From E. Lily Yu’s fabulous short story The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, and from short stories by my clarion classmates which still haunt me: Endings matter. Endings will leave the strongest aftertaste. Endings are probably what is going to stick in a reader’s mind. So are you ending the story at the the place where it just stops, or are you ENDING it with a glorious final piece of the story? The moment that just feels right, though goodness knows I don’t now how they do it?
  • From a Readercon Panel talking about magic in cities: What is the difference between magic in a city or a rural setting? Architecture influences what stories we tell and how we live. You navigate a city like a Shared World. There are secondary cities and primary cities. So when you are using a real place, USE it! Make the city a character too. Everyone has a different Toronto. You write a love letter. Or a rage letter. But you have the subjectivity of a lover.
  • From another Readercon Panel featuring Veronica Schanoes: “You are always existing at the same time as other poets. They live in your head.”
  • From yet another Readercon Panel: A good portion of SF is about dyktic (dyadic) paradox. Who am I? Who are you? Am I you?
  • From Elizabeth Bear: There are three responses you do not want from your readers when they finish a book. 1) I don’t care about these people. 2) I don’t care about this story. 3) f*** you.
  • From a dinner at Readercon where we talked about magic a lot: What is your magic system like? Is it friendly, wild, trickster, bound by rules, bound by blood, something you can meet face to face or a firestorm? Magic says what you value. Is magic it learned or innate? From your family or your rebellious friend? Old or new? Established in society or used to overthrow power? Is it from home or is it come from away?
  • From a panel on crime in Fantasy at Worldcon: You can tell a lot about a society by what they consider a crime A crime is a crime because it hurts someone. So you have to know how it hurts.
  • From listening to people tell jokes while I traveled: People tell jokes about things that have an element of truth in them. They either believe that you believe it, or they believe it themselves. This can be incredibly revealing. “If you tell enough half-truths you can build the whole thing.”– Madi Smith

8 thoughts on “Things I learned about writing in 2012

    1. Snazel Post author

      Thank you! 😀

      *beams, beams*

      And next year maybe you can blow me out of the water with your list?

      Reply

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