I wrote this course in compliance with Eastern Maine Community College's requirements as a Liberal Arts elective for second-year students who had already completed a composition course and a general literature course. I am providing this information for those educators who want to add Science Fiction and Fantasy literature to their curricula or to expand existing curricula to include such literature. All downloadable files on this page are compiled in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format, and you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view them.
Course Proposal & Syllabus
(Right click and choose "Save Link As" to download these files and stay on this page at the same time.)
I've just finished a paper read (as opposed to a screen read) of TWSP Part 1 and learned some valuable lessons. It has taken me a year to write the 160-odd pages I've just read, and that's far too long for anyone hoping to earn a living as a writer. That time wasn't entirely spent in drafting though. I draft at a respectable pace; I can put down 1000 words a day easily, and that's a sustainable level of work for a novelist. The problem has been the amount of time I've spent editing the manuscript along the way.
First, there was the initial edit of the previous day's work. Then there was the edit I did at the end of each chapter scene. After that came the chapter edit and the final edit I did of Part 1 over the last two weeks. Each of these entailed a plotting component to ferret out story problems and a mechanics component to look for sentence-level issues. Honestly, for every hour I spent putting words on the page, I spent another six to ten looking back at them.
Over time, I've developed a suite of tools I use to craft fiction and keep a web presence. At the same time, I've been developing my technical skills, so I've been able to leverage more powerful technologies, which has in turn increased my productivity. This article is an effort to bring some of these tools, both low-tech and intermediate/high-tech, to your attention in the hope they help you become a better, more productive writer as well.
I've participated in a number of group critiquing experiences and find them all to be somewhat lacking in efficacy, for different reasons. Primary among these is that each of them has suffered from competitive subtext, so that one could never be certain whether or not the critiques one received were motivated by a genuine desire to be helpful. Therefore, I don't usually recommend them to others, since a good degree in any subject from a reputable college or university, an earnest level of investment in the study and practice of the writing craft and a tenacious commitment to selling ones work suffice for most people interested in writing professionally.
Yesterday, I sat down at my laptop at roughly nine in the morning, and with the exception of periodic washroom breaks, hummus and toast at lunchtime and take-out Thai for dinner, I stayed behind my laptop until nearly midnight. In the interim, I came within spitting distance of the Chapter 1 rewrite, which I finished this morning. More importantly though, I redefined the two POV characters and the primary non-POV character in my novel. In doing so, I realized what does and does not work for me with regard to character construction in a novel, and I thought I'd share that information with you.
It is a commonly-held belief among speculative fiction writers that somewhere, out there in the great, dark heaven of the multiverse, there is a god who hands out apostrophes on big, pink memos and that when the writer in question has received said memo, her or his constructed language is, at last, complete.
Allow me to illustrate:
Sp’thra: Beggars in Spain (all props to Nancy Kress)
F’lar: Dragonriders of Pern (all props to Anne McCaffrey)
Dra'Azon: Consider Phlebas (all props to Iain M. Banks)
Everything I know about world-building and conlangs I am teaching myself, and that's no small task for someone who isn't a scientist but who writes speculative fiction. In the beginning, I was hoping for the One True Guide that would lead me on to the promised land of easy, accurate, and organized back-story creation, but I have since realized what all successful writers in the genre figured out long before I did.
I highly recommend the poet study Beowulf and other Old English poems before attempting work in this form. All of my examples are in Modern English, since that is the language I write in, and I presume it is the language my readers write in as well. I have included resources at the end of the article for those who want to know more about the form and/or hear Old English poetry read aloud. Finally, I should add that I am somewhat new to this form myself, so if any heads wiser than mine find themselves here, I would appreciate comments, corrections and suggestions.
A note to guests who have found this page using the links on various eHow articles: I have not given my consent to the authors of these articles to list my work as source material, nor have I approved the content of these articles. In particular, I find the plagiarism of Jessica Cook's article obnoxious and the content of Kelly Sundstrom's article offensive.
A note to Ms. Cook: You claim to be a writer. You should know better than to plagiarize other writers to earn an income. Go write your own damn articles, and stop using my freely-offered work to make money.
A note to Ms. Sundstrom: ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? "How to Write a Name on a Black Candle With a Nail?" Is that where you're at? If you had read my web site, you'd already know I'm Pagan, so I sure as shit know what you're trying to teach in that article, and I wholeheartedly disapprove. How can you call yourself a Reiki master? Who the fuck do you practice on, Darth Vader? May you receive three-fold what you send out in the world, and may it teach you not to teach others how to hurt people.
My husband Sean has been sensitive to chemicals his entire life, and this sensitivity most often manifests in an aversion to non-natural smells. Everything from perfume to glue makes him ill, and the longer he's exposed to it, the sicker he gets. For many years, I limited the burning of candles in our home for this reason, until it occurred to me that since he kept bees as a child, he might not react badly to burning beeswax.
According to The Open Source Initiative, "Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in." In lay terms, open source software is community-collaborative, which makes the code stronger and safer. Because of this, it's usually either free to individual users or much lower in cost than closed source products like Microsoft Windows, Office or FrontPage.