Wednesday, 7 February 2018

My top 10 writing articles from last year

Being super on the ball, I decided that towards after the end of January is about the right time to get my top 10 9 10 lists from last year out. I could defend this on grounds of belief that the process of judging should only occur once the very last day of the year has gone and that it takes time to judge properly. Sadly, this is more a case of extreme untogetherness.

But all good things in all good time and hopefully this is good. In a year full of seeking enlightenment as to writing better stories, I've read a lot of articles, a lot of tips. These are the ones that I've gone "huh" at, reread, pondered. The ones I've taken things from and think have something others can take from as well.

With no further ado, and with only the loosest order:

When We Try to Sort Writers Into ‘Plotter’ or ‘Pantser’ by Ada Palmer

This one has been pivotal to me. The order is loose but it's no accident this one ended up on top. People go on about the idea of a toolbox (as advanced by King) but not many talk about what it should contain. Palmer does a fantastic job of telling me about the tools I always had without knowing - and also needed without knowing.

Death To Readers by Terry Rossio

Rossio's site is jampacked with useful advice for storytellers but this is the article of his I read first and took most from. Writing often becomes complex because we are juggling so many tasks, but most of the tasks are quite simple. Death To Readers is the best reminder of that I've found and the best aide memoire for whether you're getting that right or missing the details in the big picture.

Screenplay Techniques by M.D. Presley

The man who introduced me to Rossio. There's a lot of screenplay writing advice thrown about in the fantasy community (see above) but Presley is the only one I've seen so far that treats that advice in terms of what is applicable to literature and what is not. The result is a lot of solid pragmatic advice on story structure.

Seventeen important things I've learned about writing and publishing by Teresa Edgerton

So far I haven't taken that much from Edgerton's article in terms of writing - although it is clear and intelligent there - or the writing industry, which I have yet to properly encounter. But in terms of why people write and whether we should or shouldn't, I find it incredibly reassuring and wise. Its something that rewards me every time I come back.

Five Thoughts About Beginnings by Toby Frost

Sometimes I feel like I think about beginnings too much. As such, I like articles about them. Admitedly, sometimes I like them mainly because I can argue with them. Frost's article is a bit of both for me. It pinpoints some of the common elements of a good traditional opening - good to absorb, good to also try and avoid.

Michael Moorcock's Rules for Writers by Michael Moorcock

Moorcock's advice is very succinct and personally, very good. It is particularly relevant for a writer seeking to build their style and storytelling chops. A good one to revisit for grounding.

How to Write a Story by Gav Thorpe

A long history of GW fanboyism left me somewhat disinclined to listen to what Thorpe had to say, but I liked the way he makes the case for theme here. Some people see it as the enemy of action fiction; Thorpe sees it as the basis. I'm inclined to agree.

Jade City, An Anti-Nanowrimo Case Study by Fonda Lee

I found the link to this on the Writing Process thread on SFFWorld. Its one of my favourite threads ever and this is my favourite link from there because it provides a great counterbalance to the write fast then edit orthodoxy out there. Other methods work too and this is one case of how.

"Infodump," "Mary Sue" And Other Words That Authors Are Sick Of Hearing by Charlie Jane Anders

Speaking of counter balance, the world is full of advice on why not to use commonly derided and seemingly outdated techniques. A lot of its good. But its not the whole of the story and here's a lot of spot on words about why its not the whole story and why these techniques still have their place. I don't agree with all of them - Kushner in particular seems to didactic - but they all provoke thought.

Philip Pullman: Rules of writing from man behind His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I'm not sure having a favourite pen is going to help me and I definitely favour music over white noise. But his words on tone reinforced what I read in Palmer's article and helped get me thinking about writing in a new way. I like the relatively unstructured way he approaches the craft.

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