Archive for the ‘ramblings’ Category

Write the next line…

June 2, 2014

Desert 03One of my writing mentors often says that the way to get past writer’s block, is just to  write the next line, even if you don’t know where it will take you. I often think of it as just taking the next step while staring out across the trackless desert sands from atop a camel’s back, but that’s just the image I’ve created for myself.

When I wrote Synth: Gold Record, the first 20K words and basic story arc leapt onto the page in two sittings. Then I putzed and frittered my way around through the next 15K words, kicking through the rocks and weeds at the edge of the desert for a v-e-r-y long time, staring out across the empty sands and letting them intimidate me. I had no idea where the story was going, other than one or two of the scenes that ended up near the end of the book. But how to get there…???

And then I tried just writing the next line. It sucked, and I later went back and changed it, but at the moment when I took that first hesitant step into the desert of the blank page, it didn’t feel so bad. So I took another step, and then another, and the story started telling itself again.

“Writing the next line” became “writing the next scene.”
“Writing one page a day” became days where I’d look up and realize I’d written entire chapters.

Yes, there were days during that journey across the desert of the book that I hesitated, looked back at the single line of footprints stretching behind me into the distance and forward at the drifts and dunes and blowing sand ahead and wondered where the story was taking me – and I left Brianna stranded in an avalanche or floating through space in a cargo ship full of screaming herdbeasts or lounging around in her mentor’s safe-house while I wrestled my doubts back into submission – and then I took the next step, wrote the next line, the next scene, the next chapter.

And six months after I wandered into the wilderness, I found my way out of it. The book was finished – another 105K words added to the 35K I’d started with, with twists and turns and situations and characters I’d never imagined.

Because I set the goal of “write the next line.”

MDesert 02y goal is more lofty now – it’s “one page a day” – and some days it’s difficult to find the time to write that single page. But if I meet that goal, I’ll have a book finished in a year, which isn’t too shabby when it comes to squeezing in writing time around the demands of a job and a life – demands I’ve let get the better of me in the last year or so.

Write the next line.
Write the next scene.
Write one page a day.

Odds are, meeting easily achievable goals like these just won’t be enough, and you’ll find yourself writing two lines, or three, or finishing a chapter instead of just a scene. Because storytelling is addictive, and once you let a story take root in your mind, it will keep dragging you back to the chair until it’s finished with you.

And, odds are, by the time the book is finished, you’ll look up to discover that other stories have taken root in the fertile ground of your imagination and are just waiting for their turn to take control of your fingers at the keyboard……….

Write on!

L

p.s. In case you were wondering, this little essay is just over 600 words long, slightly over two pages in manuscript format. It took me 25 minutes to write. And there’s still 23 hours and 35 minutes left of my day, some of which is unscheduled…

—–

p.s. 2 The article (below) is what got me thinking about this whole idea again today. It’s from a business perspective, not writing-focused at all, but applies to pretty much any type of goal you may find yourself struggling with.

Why You Should Set Goals So Simple They’re Laughable
Laura Montini | Inc. | Apr 15, 2014
http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/why-you-should-set-goals-so-simple-that-they-re-laughable.html
   …pledging to do something manageable is counterintuitive to most high-achievers. Instead, individuals are more likely to set [less-manageable] goals. “We create a situation somehow where A) failure is likely and B) failure is terribly, terribly devastating,” Forte said. But there’s an easy solution. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy…

It’s all about perception

April 30, 2013

So I saw this delightful article about a photographer who takes creative pictures of the moon, and was reminded that so much in our experience of life, the world, or even a story is all about our perception of it.

A fairytale I read as a child illustrates the point: Once upon a time there was a spoiled princess (at least, that’s how I remember her). The one thing she wanted most in all the world was the moon. Obviously, no one could give it to her – deeds drawn up by the king’s solicitor didn’t satisfy, nor did any of the creative efforts of the rest of the court. It wasn’t until one insightful courtier actually had the bright idea of asking the princess what *exactly* it was that she wanted that the dilemma was resolved – to her, the moon was a tiny, silver disk, no larger than a penny, floating through the sky. So the courtier gave her a pendant with a tiny moon on it. The princess was delighted. Then the courtier asked what the rest of the world would do, now that there was no moon to light up the night sky. The princess laughed at him. “Silly man,” she said (or something like that), “A new one will grow, just like it always does each month.”

My perceptions of the world may color my stories, but my stories don’t generally reflect how I see the world, just some possible variations. Like the photographer playing with his moon photos, I just like to have fun with ideas, turning them upside-down and inside-out, and often being very surprised with just how the resulting stories turn out.

Where did the year go?

December 12, 2012

It seems like I just *blinked* and the fall was over and the snow was falling, leaving me wondering what on Earth happened to the last three months.

Of course, like any good science fiction writer, I suppose I should just accept the fact that those days slipped into an alternate universe (or maybe I did), got swallowed up by a wormhole, or eaten by a Targ. As I attempt to make my living in this world, however (it was a nice alternate universe!), I must acknowledge that I blew most of the last quarter… working.

And not on the fun stuff  🙁

But have no fear! My whiteboard is now loaded with notes for the stories I’ll be writing – and posting – over the coming quarter, probably well into the new year. Some of them will be stand-alone shorts, others will be… somewhat longer (I never know how long until the word “end” miraculously appears at the bottom of a page). I’m planning additional stories in both the Synth and Rhysian universes, and have sketched the political complexities of what will probably become a set of medieval fantasies.

So even though it’s only the beginning of December, I’m looking forward to the new year I’m just starting on – after all, what’s the fun of being a SF writer if I don’t create my own calendar along with creating my own worlds!

 

#RandomNovelResearch – Dark Fireworks

November 11, 2012

NASA Science News - frame from ultraviolet movie of the explosion shows a 'solar tsunami' wave

You have to visit this NASA Science News page – and watch the videos.

They’re awesome, just awesome.

Trust me on this. Have I ever led you astray?

 

 

This is going into a story… not sure when or how, but wow, how could I not use it?

 

 

Run for cover!

August 1, 2012

Mount Pinatubo - photo by Alberto Garcia/CorbisWatched a fascinating video recently – In the Path of a Killer Volcano, a NOVA special about the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. Not only was it simply spectacular to watch (safely, from a distance of many years and many thousands of miles), but it also put me in mind of the scenario I’d envisioned when writing Memory at Lascaux, and the world-altering events in that story.

We live on an amazing planet, with forces we cannot begin to control. I am in awe…

End of an Era

July 8, 2011

The last space shuttle blasted off today.

I’m sad about that, and not just because I’m a science fiction writer. I know there are those who complain about the cost of sending people out into space, and who will argue about the overall ROI until the sun goes nova, but I see our reach for the stars as something more than just a scientific/economic/military/political venture.

In ancient days, we looked up at the night sky and created stories to explain those pinpricks of light; today we still look into the sky, only now we’re trying to understand the stars, to go out and learn more about what they’re about, discover who or what else might be out there, grasp our role in an ever-changing universe.

The space shuttle program is ending. I hope something equally filled with the hope and wonder of that program will soon take its place.

Shuttle launch banner - KUED.ORG

To The Stars: Utah and the Space Shuttle - KUED.org

The best-laid plans…

June 16, 2011

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you plan, how thoroughly you examine your strategy, things just don’t turn out as you expect.

Writing is that way – at least for me. Of course, I don’t generally strategize all that much before I sit down to write. I usually start with a general idea in mind, something like “I think I’ll travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” but I don’t plan out the route in much detail, other than identifying a vague desire to pass through a few major cities along the way. Then I close my eyes, throw a rock and write my way to wherever it landed. When I get there, I pick up the rock, close my eyes, throw it again, and write my way to the next event/destination, even if it was someplace I’d never imagined going.


What does that do for me? It keeps the story from becoming so pre-planned and overly-thought-0ut that I’m not interested in it any more. It gives me a sense of discovering the events along with my characters – hopefully, in much the same way my readers will.

I love this job!

 

I put the paper in the typewriter…and I bleed

May 14, 2011

In 1972, Rod Serling sat down with a small group of students and talked with them, on-camera, about writing for television. Portions of these conversations are currently up on YouTube. Much of what he was saying then is just as true today for those of us writing fiction – whether that’s for television, the stage, or print. It’s worth taking the time to watch the entire series.

“It’s story that counts…it’s heart, it’s feeling, it’s reality, it’s legitimacy, it’s authenticity, it’s honesty, it’s the capacity for the printed word or the spoken word to move you. These are the key things.”
          – Rod Serling

Rod Serling talks about Writing for Television

part 1 – Where do ideas come from? 
part 2 – Writing to please an audience
part 3 – Does espousing a cause lose character credibility?
part 4 – Discussing “The Silence”
part 5 – Would you inject your philosophy into a piece of work?
part 6 – Do you just take off and write?
part 7 – Is there any kind of therapy that helps characterization?
part 8 – All writers are born
part 9 – I wish more good writers would put themselves to the test
part 10 – On time travel
part 11 – On story climaxes
part 12 – On government versus the individual
part 13 – I was traumatized into writing by war events
part 14 – The instinct of creativity must be followed by the act
part 15 – On character motivation
part 16 – On creativity

Expect the unexpected…

April 9, 2011

I was very happy a few days ago when I read the NASA report that the Voyager spacecraft are at the edge of the solar system, and about to enter interstellar space.

Why?

Because I remember when they took off – I was in high school, and wrote a report for my English class. My report would have been much better if I’d had access to resources like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Voyager mission page; I had to rely on newspaper reports and what I could glean from faithfully watching NOVA on telelvision, hosted by Carl Sagan.

NASA_Voyager Golden Record CoverOf course, now reports of the Voyager missions make me happy for another reason. I’m a science fiction writer. And what’s cooler than to incorporate something real into a science fiction story? Well, that’s exactly what I’ve done – and it’s been a blast. (And no, I’m not taunting you – the novel, Synth: Gold Record,  will be coming out soon, so check back for the announcement!)

In the meantime, I loved the closing passage from the NASA report so much that I wanted to repost it here (but really, click on the links above and read the whole report for yourself – it’s “way cool!” as we used to say in the seventies):

“A billion years from now, when everything on Earth we’ve ever made has crumbled into dust, when the continents have changed beyond recognition and our species is unimaginably altered or extinct, the Voyager record will speak for us,” wrote Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan in an introduction to a CD version of the record.

Some people note that the chance of aliens finding the Golden Record is fantastically remote. The Voyager probes won’t come within a few light years of another star for some 40,000 years. What are the odds of making contact under such circumstances?

On the other hand, what are the odds of a race of primates evolving to sentience, developing spaceflight, and sending the sound of barking dogs into the cosmos?

Expect the unexpected, indeed.

Welcome to My World!

March 15, 2011

In the beginning….

…an author stared at a blank page and wondered what to put on it.

And then she closed her eyes, put her fingers on the keyboard, and was just as surprised as everyone else when actual words started appearing on the page!

Hi, I’m Leigh Saunders, author of science fiction and fantasy stories, and now, it appears, this blog 🙂

Welcome to my (little corner of the) world!

Here, I’ll talk about writing (and not writing) and tell you some of the “stories behind the stories.” Like my occasional #RandomNovelResearch posts on Twitter (you can follow me at @NoteFromLeigh), from time-to-time, I’ll talk about some cool bit of info I discovered while doing a bit of research for a story — I do lots of research (and I write lots of stories!). Hopefully, you’ll find some of this as interesting as I do.

On my Assorted Short Fiction page, you’ll find covers and short blurbs for the stories currently available, along with links to retailer sites where you can buy them — and yes, this is a shameless plug, but it’s your purchases that fund the writing of the next story, so we’re really helping each other along here!

So, welcome aboard, and thanks for joining me on the journey!

     – Leigh