Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Death of 'So What'

Like most people, I have a healthy sense of my own inadequacies. And when you put yourself on display as you do with writing, you have a heightened feeling of standing on a cliff waiting for a good gust of wind to knock you down.

While I was at LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything writing conference), two members of my writing group began asking me what was going on with my story. You see, my submissions dried up in mid-October. But it's not like I didn't have good excuses. Moving into our new home, Thanksgiving, unpacking (which is not done), followed closely by Christmas (which is definitely done), and overtime at the post office. All these things had me seriously busy, but the main result was that my writing suffered.

But it's February now, so why am I still not writing? At least like I use to...

So my group started quizzing me where I was stuck. Or at least what I was thinking about my plot. I rattled off my ideas for finishing Blood of Mars and some of my concerns. As I near the end of the rough draft, I feel like I'm coming up with several logic errors relating to the worldbuilding. Worst of all, I was beginning to doubt whether some of the ideas I had for creating the storyline were really viable.

In studying writing craft, I've learned that one of the three crucial 'things' your story has to deal with is the 'So What?' factor. In other words, why should readers care about your story?

I think that, in addition to being busy, I was losing my sense of wonder with elements of my story. My techie things weren't techie enough, the characters were cardboard, and the vampires were just lame. Then these thoughts fed their own fires. I mean, who really wants to read a vampire story anyway? They're over done!

But one of the most critical things a writing group can give you is feedback. Mine told me that everything was working and that ideas I had for continuity were fine. I just needed to get back to work. Any real problems I did have with the story, they helped me untangle. And in my head, sometimes those ideas are just like the tangled ball of Christmas lights I'll be untangling in November.

The result is that between the emotional boost I got from LTUE and my cheer-leading writing group, my writing is back on track. I've put a stake in the heart of my own 'So What?' and just started writing again. I began laying down new chapters and writing a few short stories for contests, always kicking myself in the head for forgetting that writers write.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hugo Nominations Time!

Just a heads up to all you Science Fiction fans. You are almost out of time to submit your 2012 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award Nominating Ballot.

To verify your eligibility to vote, please visit the Chicon7: Hugo Nomination page. If you're eligible, be sure to submit your nomination.

Your ballot must be submitted by Sunday, March 11, 2012, 11:59 p.m. PDT.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

They're Called Action Figures

I started playing BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic (TOR) just after Christmas. It almost took me back to the days when I would drag my Star Wars toys to my friend's houses in my little red wagon. And as MMOs go they've done some really cool things in addition to many tried and true MMO features. But one of my absolute favorites is the use of companions.

Players of the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) will remember that during the course of the game you pick up a handful of characters that help you with your adventure. And really, several RPGs do this: Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights, and others.
Imperial Agent with Droid Companion

What TOR does to sweeten this experience though is to take all the crafting that the player usually has to do (from making armor to cooking meat), and lets you assign it to up to three of your companions. In the early levels of the game when you only have one companion this isn't a big deal. But later when you get three or more companions and can send them to get things for you while you're off adventuring... well... that's awesome.

Throw in several customization kits for each companion so you can tweak their look and I'm having as much fun as I did playing with my Star Wars dolls!

"Did you see anything?"

"No sir! I did not see you playing with your dolls again."


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Slytherin Rules!

"You could be great, you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that."
The Sorting Hat
 So, I'm meandering around during one of the breaks at LTUE and I notice the Utah Valley University student association is having a Harry Potter party later that night. As part of the advertising, two young lasses were dispensing free samples of butter beer and offering participants to be sorted by the Sorting Hat.

Me, being the Potter fan that I am, I stifled my squee and sat promptly in the chair awaiting the wisdom of said hat. It was placed upon my waiting head (I just gotta say... that hat is not comfortable) and called out...


The two girls gave me a sympathetic, "Ooooooh!" and sent me on my way. Consoled only by my butter beer.

Slytherin? Really? I mean, everyone knows I should be a Gryffindor. Nearly Headless Nick is my homeboy!

Feeling completely dejected, I met up with Jo Ann from my writing group and unloaded my lament. She gave me an appropriate laugh and said, "Well, yeah. I mean, look what you do to your characters."

Hmmm. Lemme see. So far in Blood of Mars:
Death Count: 5 (Counting Backstory)
Humiliating Vampire Bites: 2
Complete Isolation from Friends: 4
Humiliating World Domination: 1 (That you know of...)

Holy crap on a crap cracker. I'm a Slytherin.

Granted I'm not the one actually committing murder and dominating worlds. But is Slytherin really so bad? I mean, Dumbledor himself said Salazar Slytherin chose students with cleverness, resourcefulness, determination, and "a certain disregard for the rules." Something Harry himself had in large quantities. Of course, Slytherins have earned their heavy handed reputation.

But there was something else Brandon Sanderson commented in the 'Writers on Writing' panel that made me feel like it was okay to wear the green and silver. Brandon said he's seen lots of writers with excellent ideas for stories, but very few of these potential writers had the determination to actually BE a writer.

So, I guess it's not too bad to be a Slytherin. After all, for a writer, if there is one Slytherin quality to want, determination is it.

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