I'm seeking inspiration for writing stuff, and I am curious - what are people's favourite examples of really off-the-wall fantastical landscapes? Islands on the backs of giant turtles, cities made of cake, forests made of glass, mountain ranges that are also sculpture gardens (plus everything else about the Little Talks video because oh my zod you guys THAT VIDEO)? What worlds delight you?
When Kit Whitfield referenced Irish Travellers the other day I remembered an interest I had in learning about traveller folklore. Anyone know of a good place to start looking?
Fantastical landscapes, eh? I really enjoyed the Forbidden Forest of the Coldfire Trilogy - the trees had been forced by a sorcerer to evolve such that they trapped their own leaves, barring all light from passing the canopy. The ecosystem had been tweaked an organism at a time to exist without sunlight, with everything from bacteria to the plants themselves living on traces of heat, chemical reactions, and the occasional breaker of the Forest's boundaries.Warning: body horror.The same series featured the Wasting, a cracked lava plain many miles wide, studded with white, skeletal trees that lured scavengers to rest against them, then introduced tendrils into their bodies and sucked out their life force. White trees growing from nests of bone, on swirling and cracked lava rock; very few predators in that one, as the trees ate them too. Surreal, beautiful nightmare fuel.That trilogy really has a thing for "the landscape will eat you," come to think of it./warningI am considering doing a close reading of that trilogy, but am not sure I can sustain the work needed to get it done on any sort of schedule. Thoughts, anyone? Is it worth doing even if I'm not sure I can/will finish or post on time? Is it less fun if I honestly love the books?
How can you find out if you suck at writing? I have a feeling my friends and family wouldn't say anything bad just because they wouldn't want to hurt my feelings, and the internet would say it sucked no matter what.
You might be able to find a good beta reader or a writers' group you can trust? There's whole fora out there (I think Ana may even be part of one?) and some of them have excellent reputations.If you're writing inside a fandom, there are often people who will beta for the sheer fun of it, but I don't know if that applies in your situation.
1) Your can probably get your most honest criticism from fellow writers whom you trust - they might be friends or they might just be general comrades. Such people can be tricky to find outside of established communities, but depending on how much material you'd like someone to check over, you can probably find volunteers on boards/forums (the NaNoWriMo forums are especially vast and pretty friendly by nature) or, if exceptionally lucky, in writing groups in your actual region of residence.2) Everyone starts out sucking at writing. Not-sucking at writing is an ongoing and indefinite process. It's like any other skill that way. (For some reason, phrases like 'born with the muses' gift for hydroelectric infrastructure repair' and 'only a True Lawyer may ride the pegasus' have not been established in our culture, possibly because phrases like that are usually written by writers.) I'm sure that there are people for which the maximum aptitude they can achieve is inadequate to be 'publishable', but I suspect that many people simply become discouraged early on because they have been told it's all supposed to happen automagically if you are a True Artist. So, even if you find someone whom you feel is an objectively reliable critic who reads your work and says it sucks, I would encourage you not to think of that as a life sentence, but as a snapshot observation that lets you know what baseline you're building from.
The thing about writing is that what "sucks" and what is "genius" are purely subjective, once you've reached a baseline level of writing skill. By that I mean that you have a honed grasp of the rules of grammar, you're not an atrocious speller (or at least have a good editor), and you have a good grasp of story-telling.One thing that really bumped my fiction writing up to the next level was reading the book On Writing by Stephen King. It's half autobiography and half writing advice, and the whole book is worth a read. Whether you love or hate Stephen King, he's an extremely accomplished writer, and he's a very vivid storyteller. His advice will really teach you to cut the unneeded portions from your story, and to trim your writing down to make it more concise and more accurately say what you want it to say.As for having your friends read it to tell you whether it was good or not, the measure of their objectivity is you. If they think they can tell you the truth, then they will. If they think that you won't take it well, then they won't. You'll have to use your judgment on that.If you're willing to pony up the $10 to do it, I would suggest getting a membership on the Something Awful forums. Yes, it's a website who's goal is making fun of terrible stuff on the internet, but their forums are huge (they have something like 100,000 active users), and their writing forum is active and full of published authors who are willing to give free advice. They're jerks sometimes, to be sure, but if you can take their extremely well informed criticism and grow from it, you'll be a better writer.Mostly, though, I look at writing the same way I look at music: just do it if it makes you happy. Don't worry too much about what other people have to say if you're happy with the end result. A lot of people want to tell you what you can and can't do, and why you're not good enough. If you love writing, then ignore them. Who knows what will happen. I'm fairly sure that the majority of famous artists never expected to be famous.
Probably my absolute favourite landscape ever is C.S.Lewis's from Perelandra (Voyage to Venus). The whole passage, from Ransom's first arrival on what Lewis visoned as an ocean with floating islands,to the line "He saw reality, and thought it was a dream" after he wakes. Of course Lewis is deliberately trying to envisage a Garden of Eden that bears no resemblance to the Earth-myth and that fits with what he thought he knew about Venus, but the result is... well, I always wanted to go there. Unrelated to alien landscapes, I have just written a blogpost about how an oil billionaire was frustrated in his plans to concrete over a public park in Aberdeen, and how (I'm fascinated) this is being taken up by one party (and not a particularly right-wing one) as "Riding roughshod over the will of the people!" It's realy a nasty twist on what "will of the people" means, or ought to mean.
Any ideas where I can find beta editing opportunities (for lack of another term)? I've been editing everything I see that looks like it could use it, but that's largely for the practice; I haven't contacted the authors to offer my suggestions. I'd like to find somewhere/somehow to interact with author(s) who are interested in being edited, so I can get a better sense of how that part works, before I'm charging money for my services.
For SF/fantasy/horror writers critters.org is worth considering. It's a critique site at which you need to critique a certain number of others' stories in order to get critiques of your own. I found the critiques of my stories only mildly useful, but critiquing other peoples' stories, and reading other peoples' critiques of stories I had also critiqued, was much more useful. There is also a collection of how-to-critique articles on the site. (And now I have typed "critique" so many times it no longer looks like a word!)The stories are all over the place from rank beginner quality to publication quality. More of the former, of course, but I read at least three stories there that have stuck with me.
I wanted to drop a thank you to the people who have been tapping the like button on my comments. It helps to stave off the idea that your writing is unread and pointless when the blog is not generating commentary. (I can also tell that feeling is a facet of Depression Brain because I was convinced for quite a while that the word "people" in the top sentence should be "person" before logic intervened and said that it's possible more than one person could have found the comments interesting.)I am also most fascinated by the landscape of a multidimensional spacecraft that can fold itself into the shape of a police call box, and whether such a pave could be accurately mapped, out whether the connecting corridors would act more like the moving staircases of Hogwarts Castle.As for writing skill - the more you do it, the better a feel you get for it. The more you read it, the more you recognize which elements are good and which are laughable. And if you call find a board or trusted set of friends or other writers, you can share a lot of laughs and encouragement as you all get better.I've been blogging for [REDACTED] years now, and while I might not yet be to the Ana Mardoll or Doctorow level, I know that I'm better now than I was when I stated, at least for my own format.
I think someone posted a link to an on-line depression diary-treatment thing here: does anyone know of any equivalent resource for specific phobias? I've developed a pretty classic phobia of large wasps/anything winged and aggressive, including, to my shame, hummingbirds (they buzz in a threatening manner and zoom, okay?) and it's having an unpleasant impact on my life. Like, I don't go outside during daylight if I can possibly help it, and then I check myself all over for freeloading hornets. I've been cobbling together my own attempt at exposure therapy, but it's not helping and I really do have to go out sometimes. Amusingly enough, I haven't actually been stung by a hornet (though if I keep panicking at them I know that *will* change), but I have been stung by yellow-jackets and don't have a phobic reaction to them at all. Some day, but not soon enough, a hard feeze will come. But then, eventually, spring will come, too. >.> #moving to antarctica forever
I could actually use a beta-editor, if you are interested... Most of my work is extremely rough, though...
For whatever reason, seeing "like" on my comments makes it feel like I am a contributor to an area, rather than just a consumer. So I too share your joy of "likes".
I am also most fascinated by the landscape of a multidimensional spacecraft that can fold itself into the shape of a police call box, and whether such a pave could be accurately mapped, out whether the connecting corridors would act more like the moving staircases of Hogwarts Castle.Well, there's this map. "Accurately" is another matter entirely.
Ice, does that mean you're interested in a developmental editor (collaborative help with structure, theme, etc.)? Or just a copyeditor (fixing grammar, spelling, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, etc.)?
A bit of both, actually. :)
I'm kind of struggling (read completely stalled out like a chump) with my glorious literary project, so both the technical 'you spelled stuff wrong' as well as developmental 'let's talk about themes and story and plot and stuff' would be something I'm interested in. :D
graylor: That sounds terrible. I'm sorry I don't have any practical help to offer, just encouraging hugs if you want them.
@Brin - Fantastic. That's quite nice.@Antigone10 - Then we'll both do the happy dance together on our likes.
As long as this is a completely open thread, I'm feeling broker than usual. Anyway, I've got a couple of personal books I'd like to get rid of. Well, actually, I've got a lot of stuff I'd like to sell, but most of it's inventory from a failed business, and I'd frankly like to start with personal stuff. When I get my own blog set up, I'll use that to sell the inventory. First up: http://www.amazon.com/Bead-Wire-Making-Handcrafted-Jewelry/dp/1581806507/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345934456&sr=1-1&keywords=bead+on+a+wire, a jewelry making book that I somehow ended up with two copies of, so I'm getting rid of the extra copy. List price: $22.99Next: The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook. Since I got it, I was diagnosed with diabetes. The book runs to high carb recipes, so I'm getting rid of it. List price: $17.95I also have a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I kinda figure anyone on this blog who's interested in it already owns it. If I'm wrong, well, it's available too. All books are half off list plus shipping. If you're interested, email me at rhoadan at gmail dot com. I can take Paypal, but you have objections to them, you can send me a check or money order, or tell me what payment processor you do use, and if it's available in the US, I'll sign up for it.
If the others can't help you, I should be help with copy editing type stuff. I don't see that many misspellings these days, but word substitutions have become rampant since the advent of spelling checkers. "Prescribe"/"proscribe" particularly drives me nuts because a sentence with one typically makes as much sense as a sentence with the other in the absence of context, but they have opposite meanings.
For some reason, phrases like 'born with the muses' gift for hydroelectric infrastructure repair' and 'only a True Lawyer may ride the pegasus' have not been established in our culture, possibly because phrases like that are usually written by writers.I vote we start a movement to change this. That first one, especially, really sings.
Thank you. Hugs are always welcome. I made myself do laundry today, which meant walking by bushes the EvilBigGiantYellow Hornets (ie, English hornets, that will run away from a fight if they possibly can, unlike their malice-filled death kin the bald-faced hornets) like. Yay for teeth-gritting, I guess.
@Ice and @JonathanPelikan,I have a few questions before I commit myself to anything.1) How many pieces of writing are we talking about?2) How many words in each? Rough estimates will work, but I need to know if I'm looking at a time commitment to 10,000 words . . . or 100,000. 3) Do the works fit into a genre?
I'm talking a novel-length project. Not sure about exact length since my creative output varries wildly sometimes, but it's novel-length sci-fi, mostly military sci-fi. If you're cool with it I wouldn't necessarily demand a 'you must commit to x and y', especially considering the project is still very, very WIP and basically laying bare-bones in the yards.
Thank you for the offer! We'll see what shakes out, and if nothing else, more people glancing at one's stuff can help prevent some big, unseen, catastrophic error making it all the way to the final draft.
I could also perhaps assist - I like military sci-fi, so I may be interested...
And of course, per internet law, my own post could've used some copy editing. Figures, right?
Eh, everybody fraks up. Catching it and doing better is really what matters. I don't know when I'll have even a full manuscript done, really; it's still in the first draft/composition/ideas/concepts phase, nebulously floating around somewhere south of actually written down.
Awesome. Do you have Skype or other IM software? It's a bit more convenient than blogs or forums or e-mails, IMO. At least for just talking.
@JonathanPelikan, I'd be willing to copyedit. And perhaps be a beta reader, if you're interested. I've been reading sci-fi all my life, but I don't much care for military sci-fi, so I don't think I'm a good fit as a developmental editor.
I have a Windows Live Messenger Account, but no Skype. I think you just need my email to access it, do you want that/have some way to potentially send it privately? Bit of a catch-22, I guess?
As mentioned, I have MSN Messenger, and I'm pretty sure Skype is easily available. I don't want to post my main email address for all and sundry, though, so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred method if you're still interested.
Thanks for the reply! I messaged you with my gmail account.
Thank you! I already got spam so I don't mind so much saying my main email address out loud; email@example.com. I've had that so long it's passed into the 'I'm embarrassed by the name' sort of thing but on another level, eh. At least five-plus years.More beta readers are pretty much always a good thing, as far as I can tell. :D
Random musings about the different cultures' approach to small talk, which I would like to discuss someplace intelligent but not sure where and how. I can't see it as anything other but fluff - ok at times, but if all the discussion is small talk, to me it's an indicator that there's either nothing of weight to speak of, or the things that would have weight can't be talked about, and neither situation sounds appealing. I don't do the patriotism thing, but in some ways I very strongly identify as a Finn... and we are very much not small talk people.Also, followed a friend's link to a blog to a blog post that discusses US approach to foraging. http://foragersharvest.com/into-the-wild-and-other-poisonous-plant-fables/ I found this to be interesting, and might interest Ana in regards to Poison Plant Fable cropping up in Hunger Games. (Also, re HG, if one berry is so dangerous and looks just like this other berry, why didn't Katniss originally identify the edible one as inedible.)
Interesting article. Thanks for the link.(Though being prosopagnosic, the claim that distinguishing plants you have a few weeks' experience with is as easy as distinguishing your girlfriend is not a comparison I find encouraging.)
Yeah, that was pretty eyeroll worthy simile. If you look at things frequently while looking for those differences you do learn them surprisingly fast though. I am lazy with learning plants (baaad me) but I tend to learn the "look" of new mushrooms pretty fast.But overall it's interesting poking at how different cultures have different attitude to things. Over here foraging and wild plants are starting to become a big hit. Although most people still don't go out and forage much, other than berries and mushrooms. It may be because of different legal rights to land use? Foraging, as long as it's not on a nature reserve, you don't go into someone's yard or damage the plants is protected by law, no matter who owns the land. I think the laws are different in the USA?I have some excellent books (for their time) written in WWII era and alterwards about collecting, storing and using edible and medicinal flora. It's astonishing how wide range of stuff is usable. The books also go into stuff like what's good animal fodder and what can be extracted from plant X to substitute for stuff Y that's unavailable due to war. Not exactly the most useful in current world situation but...
I have some excellent books (for their time) written in WWII era and alterwards about collecting, storing and using edible and medicinal flora.That sounds fascinating for all sorts of reasons - if you've got time, what are these books, and do you know how difficult they are to find?
Unfortunately they haven't been translated into English, and are out of print even in Finnish, I got two from my parents and am looking for the third (although the stuff in that one is mostly covered in a later one which I do have, but the recipes and postwar shortage advice is fascinating by itself). The author is Toivo Rautavaara, the books are called "Mihin kasvimme kelpaavat" i.e. "What can our plants be used for", earlier two dating in 40s and divided to spring & summer, and autumn plants, and the latter version was published in 70s or so and combines the two, removes some stuff and adds pictures of the plants.