In How to Write a Great Novel authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Hilary Mantel, Orhan Pamuk, Junot Díaz and Margaret Atwood speak about their writing process. If you want your thoughts on writing in a longer format, you could do a lot worse than The New York Times' Writers on Writing series, which features short essays by, for example, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Louise Erdrich and Annie Proulx. Should you thirst for meditations longer yet, Barbara Demarco-Barrett has on her Writers on Writing radio show interviewed a boatload of authors and it is available as a podcast [iTunes link]
Bank Notes - a collection of bank robbery notes, successful and otherwise.
Widely regarded as the greatest Chinese writer of the twentieth century, Lu Xun was so deeply unimpressed by the Chinese character-based writing system that he is reported to have said "if Chinese characters do not fade away, China will perish!". In his 1934 "An outsider's chats about written language" (menwai wentan）, he discussed the matter using the pseudonym Hua Yu, which means both "China's Prison" and "China's Language". [more inside]
Lovecraft 101: Get To Know The Master of Scifi-Horror. For more detailed insights into each of Lovecraft's tales in publication order you might want to follow the H.P.Lovecraft Literary Podcast. For another story-by-story guide to Lovecraft you might want to check out Kenneth Hite's Tour De Lovecraft (also available in expanded form as a book). China Mieville on Lovecraft and racism and a lecture at Treadwells by Archaeologist James Holloway which delves deep into Lovecraft and identity. The making of the Call of Cthulhu RPG. The making of Cthulhu (Hipsters! Ego! Madness!). Happy Halloween with H.P. Lovecraft!
You have a great idea for a novel and it's almost November, so you think now is the time to get cracking. You've decided that hiring a ghostwriter is too easy, but you don't have 100 days to write your novel and the snowflake method seems too frilly. Snowflakes, those delicate little monsters that papered your car when you were stranded on the road in Minnesota. A single snowflake is beautiful, but millions make an avalanche. You were cold, so cold, yet you survived. You're not sure if you have time to read a book on what not to do (UK edition), and the search results are daunting. Forget all that, because you already know how to write, right? Embrace your awesome, magnificent, spellbinding abilities, go forward but never back, ever spinning, shake the rain off your bedspread, and now that you have brewed a delicious pot of steamy, hot, life-giving coffee, you can learn how to write badly well. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
"Captain, the tech is overteching" - Ron Moore confirms everything you suspected about the Star Trek TNG approach to writing.
Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. — Clive Thompson describes the results of the Stanford Study of Writing, mainly that young people today write far more than any generation before them.
Charlotte and Branwell Brontë wrote many of their stories of Angria on tiny sheets of paper in nearly microscopic handwriting. This particular example consists of four sheets of notepaper folded into sixteen pages. The individual sheets are approximately 4 ½ inches long and 3 5/8 inches wide, and the entire text contains about nineteen thousand words.
"Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow." Dan Brown's 20 Worst Sentences
Who Goes There - the John W. Campbell short story which inspired the movies The Thing from Another World and, closer to the original, The Thing (which, apparently, was horribly critically mauled upon release but has since become as much as a classic as the 50s film). The story is now being reprinted alongside a treatment by Logan's Run author William F. Nolan for an unmade 1978 screen version.
The usual summary of comic book artist Will Eisner’s career follows the formula that he drew the Spirit all through the 1940s except for the war years and a bunch of ‘graphic novels’ from 1978 till the end of his life in 2005. There’s a long missing period between 1951 and 1978 during which he packaged and adapted cartoon art to commercial purposes, which has not been readily available for our scrutiny or pleasure. It is sometimes summarily dismissed as being of little interest. - Artist Eddie Campbell reappraises Will Eisner's missing years.
The Warrior Writers Project brings together recent veterans and current service members to be in creative community and utilize art-making processes to express themselves. There is a deep necessity for veterans to create when so much has been shattered and stolen. A profound sense of hope comes from the ability to rebuild and transform.
Joshua Green Allen, who has been posting great internet for more than 15 years, if not longer, merges seamlessly with a new technology. If any twitter account is worth being renowned far and wide for hilarity: His Is. [more inside]
The 2009 Hugo awards have been announced at Worldcon. Winners include Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book for best novel, Ted Chiang getting best short story and Elizabeth Bear getting best novelette. Best Related Book was snagged by MeFi's own jscalzi. The award for best semiprozine, which was to be scrapped, has been saved, this year being won by Weird Tales - a surprise upsets as it's main problem was that it had essentially become the Locus magazine award for best Locus Magazine. As well as the Hugos other awards such as the Prix Aurora award for best Canadian SF and the Chesley Awards for SF art have been announced, and Cory Doctorow accepted the Prometheus award for Libertarian SF. Convention reporter provides continuing coverage (the convention still has another day to run) and Starshipsofa spin-off Sofanauts has an excellent series of podcasts with regular Amy H. Sturgis and others reporting from the con.
Vampires are over, argues Neil Gaiman. (Via the Guardian, who rather oddly suggest the similarly over-exposed zombies as a replacement)
Janet Reid is a literary agent who helps aspiring fiction writers pitch their work in a public forum. Her feedback can be kind of brutal, but there are a few winning queries in there and it illuminates a part of the writing process that we civilians don't often get to see.
The New York Times profiles Jack Vance (but fails to mention Vancian Magic. (Curse you Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition!)
WritingFilter: Got the urge to write, but not sure what to write about? Want to practice your freewriting skills? Try these short story idea generators. [more inside]
The results of the 2009 Lyttle Lytton Contest are in. The Contest rewards unintentionally funny lines in writing. [more inside]
"Necronomicons: The Scariest Book in the World" - A talk given by Daniel Harms, author of the Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, on the history of the Necronomicon(s) - taking in Abdul Alhazred, John Dee, assorted aquaintences of HP Lovecraft, some rather dodgy sounding occultists from the 70s and a man known only as Simon. Previously.
The Missive Maven. Extolling the virtues of snail mail: old-fashioned postal letter-writing and all of its yummy accoutrements
Djuna Barnes (12 June, 1892 – 18 June, 1982) was an American writer who played an important part in the development of 20th century English language modernist writing and was one of the key figures in 1920s and 30s bohemian Paris after filling a similar role in the Greenwich Village of the teens. Her novel Nightwood became a cult work of modern fiction, helped by an introduction by T. S. Eliot. It stands out today for its portrayal of lesbian themes and its distinctive writing style. - Wikipedia [more inside]
Editor Marty Halpern looks back at the career of George Alec Effinger (part 1, part 2, part 3), a prolific author best known for his work set in the Budayeen, a walled city in a future Islamic state, teeming with gangsters, hustlers and transsexual prostitutes, many of them habitual users of plug in personality modules. The noirish tone and exotic technology of the Marîd Audran books (When Gravity Fails, A Fire In The Sun, The Exile Kiss) made Effinger one of the leading lights in the cyberpunk movie, and spawned a videogame - a rare attempt at a graphical adventure from Infocom - and an RPG setting. Sadly Effinger faded from prominence after that, and he suffered from a number of health and financial setbacks before passing away in 2002. His work has had somewhat of a resurgence in popularity of late, with the Marîd Audran books coming back into print in 2007, a long with a collection containing The Wolves of Memory, Effinger's personal favourite amongst his novels.
For Graham Greene he was "unquestionably our best thriller writer". John le Carré once called him "the source on which we all draw". With the six novels he wrote in the years leading up to the second world war - five of which have just been reissued by Penguin Modern Classics - Eric Ambler revitalised the British thriller, rescuing the genre from the jingoistic clutches of third-rate imitators of John Buchan, and recasting it in a more realist, nuanced and leftishly intelligent - not to mention exciting - mould. - The writing of Eric Ambler
Louis Menand in The New Yorker surveys American creative writing education, past and present, and asks whether it should still be taught. (via) [more inside]
Isaac Asimov on how to be a dirty old man.
As a belated tribute (of sorts) to Victoria Day, may you find interest in a variety of Victorina era literature, short and long. In the short category, there is Chit-Chat of Humor, Wit, and Anecdote (Edited by Pierce Pungent; New York: Stringer & Townsend (1857), who has written quite a bit of such work) [via mefi projects], and Conundrums New and Old (Collected by John Ray Frederick; J. Drake & Company Publishers Chicago, 1902) [via mefi projects] This publishing house also published The Art of Characturing, copyright 1941. If you prefer your antiquated humor with a twist, take a gander at bizarro version of Conundrums New and Old [via mefi projects]. In the category of longer works, behold the The Lost Novels of Victorian New Zealand [via an older mefi projects]. [more inside]
It’s only natural that if you wish to present yourself as a well-read person, a certain degree of complete bullshit is required. There’s no shame in lying about what you’ve read. There’s only shame in getting caught. Then you look like a doofus, and an illiterate one at that... How to lie about books.
“Until the recent Great Rebellion, the Jedi Bendu were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of Jedi perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible Imperial Space Force which expanded the Empire across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the Great Rift. Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the New Empire by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, the Knights of Sith.” - The first draft of Star Wars... was awful.
Marguerite Young - whom Kurt Vonnegut called "unquestionably a genius" - first achieved success with a study of the utopian commune at New Harmony, Indiana called Angel in the Forest. She then spent 18 years writing Miss Macintosh, My Darling - a 1,198 page novel that William Goyen praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a masterwork". She spent the last 30 years of her life writing an unfinished biography of Eugene V. Debs that was posthumously published, in heavily edited form, as Harp Song for a Radical. [more inside]
Dreams With Sharp Teeth – clips from a Sundance Channel documentary on science fiction writer (and somewhat litigious colourful character) Harlan Ellison. Harlan says pay the writer. (via)
As I read Incest, I realized that something which I had always taken to be unique, the voice of Myra Breckinridge, was actually that of Anaïs in all the flowing megalomania of the diaries. - Gore Vidal, Palimpsest - pg. 108 [more inside]
The SF Signal Mind Meld feature poses science fiction related questions to a number of SF luminaries and the scientist, science writer or blogger. Subjects have included the best women writers in SF, taboo topics in SF, underated authors and the most controversial SF novels of the past and present. The also cover lighter topics, such the role of media tie-ins, how Battlestar Galactica could have ended better (bonus Geoff Ryman) and the realistic (or otherwise) use of science on TV SF shows.
James Wallace Harris on Variable Star, Spider Robinson's posthumous collaboration with Robert A Heinlein, the elements that make up a Heinlein juvenile and what the equivalent might be today.
It's been only two years since the writer Jo Walton proposed a day for authors to post their writing for free online. This was in response to the resignation speech of Howard Hendrix, former V.P. of the Science Fiction Writers of America, which turned into a rant on the evil of giving away work for free on the internet. [more inside]
A LECTURE DELIVERED BY THE SHORT-STORY WRITER GARY LUTZ TO THE STUDENTS OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S WRITING PROGRAM IN NEW YORK
The sentence is a lonely place. "The sentence, with its narrow typographical confines, is a lonely place, the loneliest place for a writer, and the temptation for the writer to get out of one sentence as soon as possible and get going on the next sentence is entirely understandable. In fact, the conditions in just about any sentence soon enough become (shall we admit it?) claustrophobic, inhospitable, even hellish. But too often our habitual and hasty breaking away from one sentence to another results in sentences that remain undeveloped parcels of literary real estate, sentences that do not feel fully inhabitated and settled in by language. So many of the sentences we confront in books and magazines look unfinished and provisional, and start to go to pieces as soon as we gawk at and stare into them. They don’t hold up. Their diction is often not just spare and stark but bare and miserly."
Name Your Tale. Submit a title, and and one of the authors of Name Your Tale will write a 100-word short story based on the submitted title. For example, "Andrew Received Cancer."[via mefi projects]
What is a lipogram? It's a book or short work of fiction that omits a particular scriptural symbol, commonly a vocalic sign, as a stylistic ploy to amplify a motif, or simply as a stimulating bit of wordplay. Skilful application of this form is shown in US and Gallic publications such as Gadsby: Champion of Youth and La Disparition (also known, in an award-winning translation, as A Void). [more inside]
StarshipSofa has podcasted all of the Nebula Best Short Story Nominees for 2008, following on from podcasting all but one of the 2008 BSFA short story nominees. Previous StarshipSofa.
In 1919 while at Cornell University future children's author, essayist and New Yorker magazine editor Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White took heed of the advice of his English professor, William Strunk, Jr., to "omit needless words" in his writing. Strunk advised such -- and more -- to his students in a self-published compositional guide known on campus as "the Little Book." In 1935 his pamphlet was revised and published under the title The Elements and Practice of Composition. In 1957, 11 years after Strunk's death, White wrote a nostalgic article about his professor and his grammar and style guide for the New Yorker. Persuaded two years later by Macmillan editor Jack Case to revise and expand Strunk's manual, White co-authored the book The Elements of Style (New York Times review, June 9, 1959] often referred to as Strunk and White. Since its publication the book has sold more than 10 million copies. The literary world is now celebrating the book's golden anniversary.> [more inside]