I’ve recently read a couple of drafts written by more-or-less novice writers who had asked me for feedback, and as a result I’m now contemplating the best way to write tight, compelling movement into a story without making it too action-driven. The first recommendation I’ll always have is ‘don’t listen to me. Go read a book you really like that does it well, and pay attention to it.’ A good story will catch you up in the world and you’ll miss the way the writer pulls you in and hooks you. Also… style is very much A Thing. Different writers are going to do this in different ways, so read several good stories, and make notes, and then go back and look at your draft. Me? I tend to be wordy. I need to literally tighten up my sentences. Other people? Might want to consider condensing their introduction of character and setting into something more cohesive and perhaps even have it happen alongside plot. Sprinkle it in like stage setting with dialogue. But not too much! Read more
Posts by Cedar Sanderson
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.—Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar, Mark Twain
While we were on our trip to Washington DC there was one museum my son really wanted to go see, but I had been told it was very difficult to get into, so we left it off the itinerary. It was only when I made a remark to a friend who lives there that I discovered it was no longer timed, ticketed, and waiting-room-only to see the Holocaust Museum. So, as the final stop while in the city, that was our choice. It’s difficult to describe it, so I’m not going to entirely try. Suffice it to say that in a city where we saw several museums out of the lifetime’s worth you could see, this was the one that was hushed, beautiful in design, and utterly austere in message. Humanity is capable of the divine, and the most terrible things we can see on the face of this earth and beyond. Fiction writers can try to encapsulate evil in their villains, but nothing touches reality. Nor, perhaps, should we even try. Read more
I write to you from a hotel just outside my nation’s Capitol, dear readers. As part of my son’s education, we arranged with his aunt, my sister, to meet here and tour the many sites and memorials herein. The plunge back in time began Friday morning, with some time spent in the forests and fields of Gettysburg, PA, where the men of our nation were once pitted against one another in bitter struggle. It was a fitting beginning to our day, to remind us of what once was, before we drove on to Washington DC and first glimpsed the bustle of the city. Read more
The Mad Genius Club has been awarded with a Neffy.
I realize I may be biased, but as I sit here and contemplate the folks who write for this site – I am the least of them – I think it’s well-deserved. For over a decade, over four thousand posts, this blog has existed to help writers. By writers, for writers. Sure, we all cover a lot more ground than that, but it’s the driving force behind the continued existence. I can’t speak for anyone else, but even when I struggle to maintain my own blog, I make darn sure I’m writing here, because it’s a joy to give back to the community that supported me as I struggled to break into the writing world. Read more
When I started thinking about writing this post I was torn between two topics: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and Conan the Barbarian not-the-story-but-the-movie. I’m not going to try and analyze the latter based off the former, as tempting as the ridiculousness of that is. I’m not, because I haven’t finished the movie. I was watching it as homework for a short I should be writing. I actually bought a DVD player (we had never needed one before as we don’t really consume film type media), and my dear First Reader and I cuddled on the couch (also a first, we tend to abandon the living room to the teens who take up every available square inch of flat space) and we turned on the flick. We expected cheesy, corny, all the tropes of B movies. What we didn’t expect was that about half-way through (Conan and his sidekick are about to find the temple of the two-headed snake) we’d get bored, really bored, and wander off to do something else. We’ll come back to it. It’s homework for me, after all. It’s just that, on that hierarchy of needs, it’s not even on the scale. Read more
Most weeks I don’t have a lot of time to read. At least, that’s been the case recently. Work, life, writing. The writing is a very good thing. Ok, all of it is good. Reading has been ranking way down there, I’m afraid. I’ve fit in a fair amount of research reading, and one pleasure read (I do love our own Alma Boykin’s Familiar tales!). What I have also been doing, to give my brain crunchy little granola nibbles while my hands are busy at work, is listening to podcasts. I know they aren’t for everyone – especially not my peculiar blend, I suspect – but there are times something really catches my mind and gets it going. Read more
I started reading Jirel of Joiry a while back, and got distracted from it – easy enough to do, as it’s a series of loosely connected short stories, rather than one novel – but came back to it again as this time I needed to absorb some of the flavor of sword and sorcery for an upcoming project. I can recall reading this genre many times in the past, with Edgar Rice Burrough‘s John Carter of Mars, some of the later Tarzan books, the Pellucidar stories. I also read Robert E Howard, and not just the Conan stories. H Rider Haggard’s tales of barbarism and romance (and not in the sense of finding a romantic partner) color my past reading as well. I asked, as I do, for suggestions of good Sword and Sorcery titles to read and deepen my experience… and promptly realized that how I define the genre is not how others define it. There is a book list of crowd-sourced recommendations on my blog, but this post is my thoughts on what the genre is.