Seven Point Story Structure

Philip HarrisRunning, Stories, Writing, Writing Advice0 Comments

Fantastic run yesterday. Our route took us from False Creek, along English Bay, up through a fog shrouded Stanley Park, across the Lions Gate Bridge, back down to the seawall to the little pier at Dundarave and back again. The weather was perfect for running and I wish I’d had a camera with me. If I had I would have got some fantastic shots of the mountains rising up out of a layer of very low cloud. That’s a long way though, either 28 or 29km depending on which gadget you believe so I spent the afternoon alternately reading Justin Cronin’s vampire apocalypse novel, The Passage, and lying on the bed thinking about the plot of The Ghost Smuggler. I’ve been gearing up to restart my rewrite and last week I decided to try the Seven Point Story Structure that’s often talked about by Dan Wells. The results I got by going through that exercise have made a huge difference and reignited my enthusiasm for the rewrite. I heard about this system on an episode of Writing Excuses and followed that up by watching the YouTube videos of a presentation Dan gave about the system at Life, the Universe, and Everything (you can find the first video here). … Read More

Too Much Fun with Writing

Philip HarrisThe Ghost Smuggler, Writing, Writing Advice0 Comments

The new draft of The Ghost Smuggler that I’m writing at the moment is definitely a very different beast – hopefully a better beast. There’s the switch from third person to first person which is obviously a significant change but there’s other things as well. There’s less traveling for a start. I noticed during the first draft (and this was reinforced by some of Jeff VanderMeer’s feedback) that I have a tendency to fill in all the gaps in a timeline. If characters need to get from A to B, well, I need to talk about that and all that travelling gets boring very quickly. That’s not happening any more. I’ve also moved some of the scenes to different locations so that there isn’t any travelling in the first place. In the book, our hero, Kaei, is hired to find someone in the mines under the desert city of Karabar. Originally Kaei travelled across the city to accept the job, then travelled to meet another character that was going to help him, then walked back across the city again to get to the mines. Now, everyone meets up in one place and heads out to the mines from there. Much better. The … Read More

Heinlein’s Writing Rules

Philip HarrisMeaty Mondays, Writing Advice0 Comments

This is the third in a series of Meaty Monday posts – longer posts where I ramble on about writing related topics. You can find the first Meaty Monday post here. This time I’m talking about Robert A. Heinlein’s five writing rules. I first heard Robert A. Heinlein’s writing rules quoted by Neil Gaiman when he was in Vancouver promoting Anansi Boys and they’ve stuck with me ever since. They were originally published in Heinlein’s 1947 essay On the Writing of Speculative Fiction (republished in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, among other places). The bulk of the essay is about the types of science fiction stories (human interest or gadget-centric) and the three plots that human interest stories can have – “boy meets girl”, “the Little Tailor” (the little guy who becomes a big shot or vice versa) and “the man who learned better”. It’s Heinlein’s five rules or “business habits” as he calls them that have gained the most attention though. 1. You must write This one is obvious really, let’s face it, but all around the world there are people that would like to be writers but aren’t actually doing any writing. 2. You must finish what you start More good, solid advice. This is one I follow … Read More

McSweeney’s Writing Advice

Philip HarrisChatter, Stories, Writing Advice0 Comments

Just a quick update today – I’m full of butter chicken, we’re about to watch Where The Wild Things Are and I have a story to edit – but I wanted to pass on this link to The Ultimate Guide To Writing Better Than You Normally Do on the McSweeney’s website; well worth a read. The last few days have been pretty successful writing wise, I’ve finished the final drafts of Rainshine, Artificial Wife and In His Tomb of Books which leaves one more story – Fresh Things – to edit tonight. That will leave my unfinished folder empty so that I can finally start on the rewrite of The Ghost Smuggler. At some point over the last few days I broke through 100,000 words of short fiction (ignoring my abandoned stories) which is pretty cool. I’ve also discovered that I’m missing the files for one or two stories (strangely, ones that have been published). I’ll have to dig around in my backups and see if I can find them. I also have some old stories that I may resurrect in the near future and start getting them out into the world. Anyway, time to work on Fresh Things.

Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing

Philip HarrisAuthors, Links, Podcasts, Writing, Writing Advice0 Comments

I’ve been listening to the Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing podcast for quite a while now and it’s usually good but the latest episode (168) is one of their best and really struck a chord with me. The podcast covers a mix of publishing chatter and author interviews – they’ve had people like Michael Moorcock, Patrick Rothfuss and Elizabeth Bear on in the past and I’ve discovered a lot of good writers by listening to the show. Each episode is around an hour or so and will usually get me through a visit to the gym quite nicely. Episode 168 features an interview with Jennifer Brozek, Mark Teppo and Mary Robinette Kowal recorded by Sandra Wickham at the Rainforest Writer’s Retreat. There’s lots of talk about the process of writing and some excellent no nonsense advice and I found it very inspiring. Highly recommended.  

Nurture Your Rabbits

Philip HarrisMeaty Mondays, Writing Advice0 Comments

This is the second in a series of Meaty Monday posts – longer posts where I ramble on about writing related topics. You can find the first Meaty Monday post here. Today, I’m talking about ideas. You’re probably familiar with this quote. “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner Or this one. “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.” – Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch Or how about this?  “Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Samuel Johnson They’re all variations on a theme – if you think a scene or a sentence or even a whole subplot is the most wonderful piece of writing in the world, you should cut it. Some people take this literally and remove their favourite bits from their work just because they like them so much – apparently director Danny Boyle always cuts the single best shot from his movies. I take it more as encouragement to examine those “particularly fine” pieces of writing and consider whether they might be too … Read More

Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

Philip HarrisWriting Advice0 Comments

James Beamon posted a link to an old, but very interesting article on rejection by Marion Zimmer Bradley – Why Did My Story Get Rejected?. Well worth a read if your feeling the pain of rejection. Coincidentally, I got my first rejection of the year today – for Backwards Boy. Not terribly surprising, I think it’s going to be a tricky story to sell.

NaNoWriMo – The End

Philip HarrisNaNoWriMo, Writing Advice0 Comments

Okay, NaNoWriMo is over. If you completed your 50,000 words (and if the Twitterverse is anything to go by, a lot of people did), congratulations. If you didn’t…don’t give up. Think back to the beginning of NaNoWriMo and the fresh faced young author eager to prove to the world that their story was worth telling, worth reading, maybe even worth publishing. If that enthusiasm is still there keep hold of it. If it’s gone or life has worn it down to a less exuberant level, nurture it. Think about what you love about writing and what prompted you to attempt NaNoWriMo in the first place and try to rekindle that spirit. Imagine your story out there in the world being read by thousands of people. Imagine the joy you’ll bring. Imagine the huge advances if you like (although I hope there’s more to your interest in writing than money). Whatever it takes, don’t stop writing. What THEY Don’t Want You To Know I’ll let you into a secret…There’s actually no rule that says you can only commit to writing during November. Shocking, I know. And guess what, even if you did complete your NaNoWriMo novel (and congratulations again by the way), … Read More

Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Philip HarrisAuthors, Writing Advice1 Comment

I was very sad to hear that Anne McCaffrey died on Monday. As you would expect, there are lots of great tributes across the web. Random House Locus Obituary Geek Out! Girl Meets Lightsaber io9 Author Chris F. Holm For my part, I grew up reading the Dragon stories. Inspired perhaps by my brother’s suggestion that I was a bit too young to read them, I devoured them all as quickly as I could. Even now, many years later, they still hold a special place in my memories and I’ll never forget the world of Pern. My wife was equally entranced by Anne’s books and I think she’s read them all, including the spin offs, the non Dragon stories and those written with her son Todd and other collaborators. I remember reading some writing advice from Anne McCaffrey that really stuck with me. I’m not able to find the full quote anymore because the original website is no longer available but I’ll paraphrase here. She suggested that if you were writing a scene with a chest of drawers in it, you should know what was inside it. Not that you had to tell the reader, just that you, as the … Read More