Some Thoughts Scribbled Down or Mentally Noted During Worldcon
Print out the first draft of your novel or story, and mark any spots where you’re able to stop reading, or where you stumble, with post-it notes; keep reading on; then, when you come back to the manuscript to begin a second draft, these sticky notes will show you where polishing or revision is necessary.
George R. R. Martin believes that magic must be both rare and dangerous in the realm of fantasy, because if it were either common or easily used, then sorcerers would rule the kingdom(s), not historically-based “royalty”; the game of power and politics would be rendered meaningless in the face of true invincibility. He explains that many fantasy worlds “just make no f—ing sense to me.”
Connie Willis argues that writing doesn’t necessarily have to be approached as a do-or-die, for-a-living vocation, but can rather be viewed as something done merely for the sake of the thing, out of love for the craft of storytelling.
Willis also contends that “a story takes as long as it takes, be it days, weeks, or many years.”
When your moderator interrupts you, shut up and let them steer the conversation back on track. No one wants to hear you shamelessly tout your novel while pretending to know your science better than Geoffrey A. Landis, formerly of NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts.
Philip K. Dick is perhaps the only science fiction writer to have “achieved literature,” according to at least one passionate writer and critic, who also came of age in Berkeley, California in the 1960s.
Fantasy likely dominates science fiction in terms of broad market growth—according to Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who comprise the pseudonym James S. A. Corey, author of Leviathan Wakes), Scott Lynch, and others—because of the tendency of SF to rely on intertextuality, in-jokes, and a general sense of literary and intellectual elitism over a compelling narrative. I took their point to be that science fiction writers first developed an emphasis on both a well-read audience and a sophisticated familiarity with scientific concepts on the part of their peers; and then later, as with the cyberpunk movement’s idea-rich, “dense” style, a deemphasizing of plot mechanics.
A writer is a writer is a writer; in the end, they’re all just like us. Styx’s prog-rock anthem “The Grand Illusion” is a worthy illustration of how, despite how much we may come to worship our literary exemplars, they’re first and foremost fans and readers of the genre that they themselves enrich through their own work. Treat them as equals, and they’ll return the favor.
Monica Valentinelli reminds us to “forgive yourself for wanting to have a life.”
Gene Wolfe says that whenever confronted with writer’s block, we ought to take a few days and remove ourselves from the language in all its forms—stop reading, stop writing, and go do something physical in the outside world. After a walk, painting a room, or doing a little recreational gardening, the words are likely to flow more freely in the first-draft stage.
“The measure of how human you are, is how kind you are.” — Guy H. Lillian III, on the overarching themes throughout Philip K. Dick’s enormous body of work.
Geoffrey A. Landis argues that cerebral upload is made plausible by the fact that “You can simulate the way [neurons] fire—it’s what computers are good at.” But notes that “Nanotechnology really does have problems with the laws of thermodynamics.”
Alec Nevala-Lee believes that the more excited you are by an idea for a story, the more suspicious of it you should be. In other words, sometimes simpler or less obvious premises more readily lend themselves to storytelling.
Jamie Todd Rubin contends that there are some ideas that should be discarded, because a good idea will generally begin to suggest a narrative of some sort, whereas others are only half-formed, or require a second idea with which to fuse into a complete story premise.