You should really command-q your browser and go back to writing.
Writing on the Right Side of the Brain,
Or, Whate Harley Daydreams About on the Drive Home
One of the exercises in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”* is standing a chair upside down and then drawing the chair. At work here is the idea that if asked to draw a still life of a chair, normal schmoes like you and me draw our memory of what a chair looks like, rather than drawing what we actually are seeing. When a chair is set upside down the artist is forced to look at, and refer to, the thing itself, not his or her memory.
As a result, through forced “seeing,” the renderings of the chairs are usually quite remarkable. Non "artists" produce incredible work. It follows then for more difficult subjects – portraits, for example – if you can force yourself to see, your drawings will improve.
Now one reason that fantasy and science fiction is typically frowned upon in college creative writing classes is because too often the novice writer (like myself) reverts to genre clichés and stereotypes (pointy-eared elves, hairy-footed hobbits) instead of actually writing the thing itself.
This is true of all genre fiction, but fantasy and science fiction get picked on more often that the rest because, likely, there just aren’t that many would-be western novelists showing up in college creative writing classes. But do away with the genre assumptions, and suddenly a story is a story.
Put another way, aspiring artists often have lazy eyes. Aspiring writers often have lazy imaginations.
So we turn a chair upside down, in order to see it accurately. What would it mean to do the same with a genre? What would this “look” like? (And perhaps: Does this defeat the purpose of a genre? Maybe the point of people reading westerns is because they know what they are going to get.)
Anyhow. Just some thoughts from an amateur looking to improve his craft.
*If memory serves. I haven’t looked at this book in ages.
Saga of the Witch Queen, Goodman Games' GenCon special, is now up for sale in the online store. Saga was a joint project between myself and Jon Hershberger, and I'm happy to say that the adventure is much stronger for his contributions.
If first edition is your thing, this might be worth checking out. Here's a review for your consideration:
And a long overdue Deathy welcome to...
Vicki, aka Cassandra. Vicki is another example of a brilliant parent/writer, much like Marce, EC and Paul Kemp. I don't know how they pull it off.
Click on over to her blog to say hi and ask if she needs any freelance writers. >:)
The 7th grade has asked me to accompany them up Mount Sopris this coming week. Sopris is a big mother of a mountain that looms over Carbondale. Sorta like Lonely Mountain and Lake Town, minus the lake. Ripped out of an Elmore painting, Sopris tops out at 12,965 feet. But more important than total height, is relative rise. Sopris climbs 6,250 ft above the valley floor in only 2.5 miles; that's some serious stair-climbing action.
And yeah, I have a crush on this mountain. Something about Sopris is captivating.
When I go on hikes, I can't help but translate the environs to fantasy settings. As in, *huff* Dude, if there were orcs here, *huff* we'd all be toast. *huff* Not terribly sophisticated, but with 50 lbs. on your back, the idea of outrunning violent humanoids is a stretch.
(I'm such a geek. Especially when you consider that both the "dude" and the "speaker" are one and the same.)
Heather and I went up just before the start of school to avoid the snow. So far it's only frosted, but the last 2 years Sopris got its first snowfall on this coming weekend.
Pack your winter sleeping bags, kids, we're going in.
Edit: Sopris has snow.
Skate or Die for the Literati
While I was working the booth at GenCon, a dear friend pulled me aside and told me that a cabal of friends was concerned if I was still writing. Now, with rough math, one might point out that 200,000 or so of Harley’s words debuted at Gennie, so of course Harley is still writing. Writing, and editing, and developing, and proofing maps, and the dozen other odd tasks called for by heading up the DCC line.
But what he really meant was: am I still writing fiction for publication? Given my spectacular near misses with Wizards and then White Wolf, it’s a fair question. As my dear friends march ever onward into the annals of authorship, they can be forgiven for suspecting that I had given up the ghost.
Quick answer: Of course not. Writing is what I do.
So where are the blurbs about the mystery project? What’s the novel about? Where’s my word count meter? For this project, the usual metrics and teasers aren’t terribly important. It might take me 5 months or 5 years to finish this bugger off --- not due to word count, but to smithing. I’ve been under one deadline or another for the last 3 years, and so the chance to craft a project sans deadline is a blessing. How many projects have I turned in that could have used another month’s worth of rewriting? I’m too afraid to begin to number them.
Even better, with the advent of 4e, I have a little bit of a lull. Yes, there’s a 90k Stroh project coming out in 2 months, and 3 other projects that I need to get in before May, but nothing breathing down my back.
And best of all, since it isn’t slated for a shared world line, it gets to be uniquely mine. This is what I’ve been itching to do ever since Realms of the Dragons II.
Ah, the pleasures of being without a contract. Who’d have guessed it?
So, dear readers, hopefully some among you are camped along with me, atop that same precipice of “would-be novelist.” Is it a long shot that we’ll ever get our books published? Of course. But there are also key opportunities that, if we do succeed, we might never enjoy again.
Take your time. Write a great book. You’ll have the rest of your life to be under deadline.