This week: Reflecting on the Past YearEdited by: Satuawany
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I've been doing this a year and no one's fired me yet!
The past year has been full of incredible learning experiences for me, and having a regular newsletter to keep up has probably been the biggest learning experience of all. Attempting to put my knowledge, opinions, and experiences into words others can understand has frustrated me, excited me, pushed me and, at times, driven me to the brink of madness.
I wouldn't trade a minute of the adventure.
What you may not know is that I love to indulge in reminiscence now and then. It has shown up in my newsletters, and we'll get to those, but the main thing is that I'd love to take this opportunity to look back on the past year of my Fantasy newsletters.
I started my official stint with one of my greatest passions around this site, peer-review groups. On June 29th of last year I talked about the benefits of joining a peer-review group and implored you to tell me about great ones you knew in "Calling All Peer-Review Groups" . The next month, I shared what I'd learned about my favorites, some of them new favorites, in "Peer-Review Groups in the Spotlight" .
To this day, I'd love to get links to new peer-review groups on the site. It's best to get those links from a member who has a heartfelt blurb to go with it, but it's almost as good to get that link from the group's leader(s).
The next couple of newsletters focused on details that had been on my mind for some time, but came to the forefront by way of an inspiring book in August and a conversation I had in September.
"Unusual Eyes" focused on how the human eye sees only certain wavelengths of light, and looked at the inspiration to be had in species that could possibly see in other wavelengths.
"You're Not That Sick" dealt with questions I've had often. Namely, "Why don't more characters just get a cold? Does it always have to be a major conflict?" Could you guess I had a cold at the time? That's real, feeling miserable and still having to get all the usual things done. We've all had to go through that at one point or another, so it's a great untapped way to garner some reader sympathy.
Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love the kind of inspiration it gives me for writing Fantasy, so I couldn't wait to get to work on "Halloween Inspiration" . What kind of ghost stories might exist in my fantasy-genre worlds is still one of my favorite things to ponder. A close second is pondering what Halloween-like holidays they might have. That newsletter gave me the opportunity to share those ponderings with others, which fulfilled a sad little dream of mine.
I picked up an orphan newsletter slot in November, along with my regularly scheduled roll with y'all. For that one, I wanted to share what I've learned through research about creation myths in speculative fiction worlds. I, perhaps, titled it poorly. "Does God Exist?" I say that because I got a few comments in a vein I never intended---that of religion in our world. I even got a comment from a member who seemed to have read nothing of the newsletter but the title.
Entertaining for me, but not exactly useful for what was really going on. This may be a good time, too, to point out that I don't include personal emails in the "Ask & Answer" portion of my newsletters. I love all forms of feedback, but when you send your comment in an email, instead of via the "Submit Your Feedback to This Newsletter" box at the bottom, that generally tells me you didn't want to share it with other newsletter readers.
I understand that, and I'm cool with it. I just want to make sure you see why your feedback may not have made it to the next newsletter.
My regular November slot brought about one of my favorite newsletters of the year, "Switching Genders" . It was a spin-off of a For Authors newsletter that came out the same day, "Changing Roles" and I greatly enjoyed playing the two off of one another. It also gave me the chance to reminisce about the roots of my own writing. Those newsletters let me talk about one of my favorite and most useful character exercises, which the titles sum up nicely.
My final newsletter of 2011 focused on something I see a lot of, and have struggled with extensively in my own work, "Audience Intrusion" . The goal wasn't to undermine the importance of knowing your audience, but to present the negative aspects of focusing so hard on "what the audience might say" that you lose or destroy the story.
I wanted to start 2012 off with something inspiring and encouraging, rather than writing instructions or suggestions. That's why I started the new year with a "Roar" . It felt like just the right time to remember our writing roots, and why we started writing in the first place. Those things are easier to forget than I like to admit.
"What Do They Read?" was inspired by the question that makes up the title. It evolved from a conversation I had with a friend. It was similar to a conversation I had with the same friend in the previous September, when we were wondering why we didn't see more characters with colds.
We realized how we tend to categorize people by how much and what they read, while in fiction it seems this concept is never fully explored. Yeah, there are a lot of characters who read, but the more general and more specific aspects are rarely plumped to their full potential. Hopefully, the newsletter gives some inspiration for doing that.
March gave me my favorite newsletter of the past year and, if I go on view counts alone, it was the most popular one. "Here There Be Magic?" let me reminisce about conversations, it let me tell a couple of stories I loved, and I got to share the way my mind applied it all to writing fantasy.
The newsletter was, for me, magical. It's the standard I hope to be able to meet again someday.
With "Descriptions" in April, I got more technical with things, to show how the writing creates the tone of a scene, character, and even the whole story. I'm glad my neighbors never came out of their house while I was writing it. The way I was staring so intently at the details of their windows and the shadows of their tree probably would've made them nervous.
Recently I came across a Horror/Scary newsletter I thought did an excellent job on the same kind of thing. LJPC - the tortoise 's "Setting Pt 2: Atmosphere" made me say out loud, "Atmosphere!" Atmosphere, tone---they aren't the same thing, but they're related and intertwined and, in some cases, synonyms. I saw this newsletter and wished I'd written it, so it's going on this list. And I tip my hat to you, Laura.
An official newsletter editor's deadlines come up every four weeks, so every once in a while you hit a month where you'll have two due. May was such a month for me. At the beginning of the month, I'd recently read a couple of speculative fiction novels geared toward a young adult audience. They got me to thinking of other such novels I read in the past couple of years, how the majority of them were in present tense, and how they seemed to be breaking all these ease-of-reading rules I spend a lot of time trying to make sure my present tense writing follows.
"Writing in Present Tense" came from that experience.
At the end of the month, "Economic Hygiene" came about from a reminiscence of last year's camping trip with friends, and looking forward to this year's repeat performance. And the fact that I hadn't shaved in a few days and had chosen to wear shorts. (Oh, the background information on newsletters is so interesting. So interesting you're probably wishing I'll never share the background information again.)
That brings us to now, where I'm getting ready to march into my second year as official Fantasy newsletter editor. I have ideas stirring around, half-finished thoughts jotted down in my "idea" file, and two pages of notes on a "Letter from the Editor" I hope I can get done sometime before next June.
I've had a great year and I hope I've brought at least a little inspiration into your mailboxes, even if it wasn't the kind of inspiration I intended. Here's to the next year, Fantasy fans!
For this first item, the excerpt is from "June 19, 2001: irrelevance" , the third issue of the twenty-two-issue run of the official WdC Sci-Fi newsletter. You can see all twenty-two in the archives, "Newsletters: Sci-fi" .
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Feedback on my previous newsletter, "Economic Hygiene" :
Hi Satuawany. Great news letter, good solid information. I occasionally address hygiene, but It is so easy to forget. Thank you, for one more addition to the revision list. Jim
Don't I know it, about it being easy to forget. It's on my revision list as well, always.
BBWOLF Turns 24 on 6/3 writes:
In my Planet Animalus series, the technology tends to be similar, yet more advanced, than our own- though given as to how most of the population on Animalus is part animal, shampoo and conditioner has to come at a higher demand. Of course, out in the Wilds, things are more Primitive...
Now, the next time I read a story with hairy characters, I'm going to be thinking about how much conditioner they have to use if they're described as "so soft." Definitely a cool application of the idea, BBW.
LJPC - the tortoise writes:
This was a terrific NL about a facet of world-building so often overlooked. I think the examples you gave were excellent. I love reading SF and am always interested in how they solve the showering-on-a-spaceship problem. My novels are usually set in Egypt, and I always include details about the difference in hygiene over here. Weird-but-believable details are crucial to good fantasy writing. Thanks for the great NL!
Weird-but-believable details are crucial. I love reading about them, and every little bit that adds believability to a fantasy tale makes it come alive. I love it when you write in, Laura. You always give me another angle to ponder.
Great, you are right sometimes missing out the little details makes a character, unreal. Thanks. I'm definitely looking up some of these things.
Awesome! I hope they help and inspire you.
Okay, so this is going to sound strange; the way I write, I prefer 1st person. But I also like to change my points of view. I'm not sure if this is confusing to readers--I've heard it sometimes is. Usually I'm okay with reading it, and I like to write like it. Do people not like it? Is it okay?
I can't think of any writing techniques that are "bad" across the board. There are always exceptions. There is always someone who comes along and takes a confusing method and makes it perfect for the particular story they're writing.
Personally, I've read a few items that changed first-person narrators, and enjoyed them. I can imagine it getting confusing, but there are ways of either using that confusion or clearing it up. It's just a matter of finding the method that's right for your story. It's hard to give any solid advice, because this kind of thing is usually so specific to each story. It doesn't look like the item in your portfolio is the one you're talking about, but let me know if you post the item in question. I'd be happy to take a look at it!
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