Category archive: Writing

On the difficulty of recognizing one's own biases

Another lesson for me on the difficulty of seeing outside your own cultural context: In Delany's City of a Thousand... (More...)

Trope: The Singular Woman

I seem to be focused on tropes today. I just read a 1972 science fiction story, by a male author,... (More...)

Truth-tellers in sf

I encounter this idea regularly in stories, both submissions and published: A character is bound (by a vow, by brain... (More...)

"I want to hear it in your own words"

Another writing trope that bugs me, this time one I've seen as often in published fiction (and on TV shows)... (More...)

As a famous ancient human once wrote

Back in 2003, I noted that when future-setting sf characters refer to “an ancient Terran word,” they nearly always mean... (More...)

On leave

My company doesn't have sabbaticals per se any more, but they do allow people to take extended unpaid leave, with... (More...)

Randomized Dystopias

Want to write a dystopia, but you're tired of dystopias that abrogate the same old rights that dystopias always abrogate?... (More...)

Good weekend

This weekend went surprisingly well in various ways: I completed something like a dozen to-do items that I had been... (More...)

Horror, joy, and other non-genres

I've seen various horror writers note that, in the words of author Douglas Winter, “Horror is not a genre, like... (More...)

How to write a first act the Pixar way

On the Toy Story 3 extras disc, there's a segment called “Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion,” in which the... (More...)

First-person plural, indeterminate

I've now encountered this interesting and unusual PoV in multiple works of fiction: The narration is in first-person plural. It... (More...)

Techno-renewal and other life updates

Last week was fairly difficult for a variety of reasons, but it ended pretty well. After difficult-family-anniversary stress on Tuesday,... (More...)

State of the Jed

I meant to write a bunch of long-delayed blog entries while on vacation last week, but it somehow never happened,... (More...)

Writing update

In late July, I started working on a pass through my novel to clean up what I called the “mood... (More...)

The "I want" song and the operational theme

I recently encountered, in two very different contexts, the idea that near the beginning of most or all Disney animated... (More...)

My fiction writing in March

For the month of March, I promised myself that I would write fiction every day. And I did. This is... (More...)

Some notes on writing mysteries

I was going through some old email, and found some notes to myself about how to write a mystery, derived... (More...)

RIP, Lucius Shepard

I just learned that Lucius Shepard died two days ago. I haven't had much contact with him in a long... (More...)

Assorted updates

I feel like I haven't posted a general life update here in ages. Partly that's because I have half a... (More...)

Double rejection

Received two (friendly) rejections in the past 26 hours, for the only two stories I had out. I gotta say,... (More...)

Weekend plan

For once, I have no social plans at all this weekend. So I'm gonna stay home and try to make... (More...)

Assorted updates

A few assorted life updates: Day job I've been at my current day job for nine years as of today.... (More...)

In the wilds of the North Bay

Starting today, I'm at a writing retreat on the Russian River. I'm hoping to get some fiction written over the... (More...)

Showing vulnerability

I noticed this pattern in myself a few years ago: I'll say something in email, or in a public post,... (More...)

In fiction: Planning for things to go wrong

Here's something I see a lot in submissions: The protagonist is a member of, or working with, an organization that's... (More...)

Scattered WisCon notes

WisCon ended only a few hours ago, but it's already something of a blur, so I'm gonna take a few... (More...)

Trust the strength of your material

Sometimes, it seems to me, writers don't really believe that their plot and characters and settings and ideas are strong... (More...)

Vacation so far

Yesterday morning, finished packing and got in cab to airport. Trying new cab company whose office is a couple blocks... (More...)

First draft (approximately)

Had a writing day on Sunday afternoon. Half a dozen people came over, and we sat quietly and working on... (More...)

Writing: Character explanation failure

I see exchanges like this in stories all the time: “You'll have to come down to the station with us,”... (More...)

Writing advice of the day

This morning's net-browsing brings two sources of advice for writers (and, probably, other creators) that I thought were worth linking... (More...)

Biggest time-sink ever

I have been meaning for years to link to TV Tropes, a wiki that provides a vast and entertaining and... (More...)

Un-acted-upon mutual attraction in fiction

Here's a situation I almost never see in fiction: Two people who are friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, find... (More...)

Some guidelines for good critiquing

I took a couple of writing-workshop classes in college, and then I went to Clarion West, and then I participated... (More...)

Writing progress

Sat in a cafe with Mary Anne and wrote for a couple hours yesterday. On the way there, I was... (More...)

Nifty new hypertext/Interactive Fiction authoring system

I recently encountered a cool system called Undum for creating hypertext stories, semi-interactive text-based games, and Interactive Fiction. On the... (More...)


Thanks to MyS for letting me know I've been quoted in a book: This is the reason why, as blogger... (More...)

Who takes simultaneous submissions?

Yet another author just sent us an annoyed note about how awful we are for not taking simultaneous submissions. In... (More...)

What I should've said to the Clarion West students

On June 27th, 2008, the first Friday night of that year's Clarion West, Debby B and I stopped by the... (More...)

Story/novel progress

Had a couple of fiction-writing sessions with Mary Anne today. (In the sense that we were sitting in a cafe... (More...)

Speculative Ramayana anthology

Been meaning to link to this for ages: Anil Menon and Vandana Singh are putting together a Speculative Ramayana anthology.... (More...)

Berlioz on writing

Cute quote: When I talk of my laziness, it only applies to the writing of prose. I have often sat... (More...)

Putting characters in moral danger

I was talking with Mary Anne last week about my story-or-novel-in-progress, and I mentioned that it's feeling somehow thin to... (More...)

Writing update

At my writing day last weekend, I wrote somewhere around 3000 to 3500 words of fiction in four hours. I've... (More...)

Writing day

Every so often, I invite local writer friends over for a writing day. I tend not to write fiction unless... (More...)

Where protags have no names

Have you ever written fiction in which the protagonist doesn't have a name, and/or in which the protagonist's name doesn't... (More...)

Today's half-baked idea: Submitbot

Another in a series of ideas I've had while half-awake: As more publishing venues turn toward online submissions, it may... (More...)

What site am I on?

I often find myself reading a web page with no conscious idea of what site it's on or who the... (More...)

Withdrawing stories

In the past year or so, we've received a surprising number of notes from authors that say something like this:... (More...)

Describing characters of color

I've been aware for a while now of the penchant that many white writers have for using food metaphors to... (More...)

Some writing, some reading/listening

Took a break from magazine stuff to wander over to the East Bay for a writing-in-a-café afternoon. Wrote 1600+ words... (More...)

Emotional consequences in fiction

Something I see fairly often in stories: Some huge life-changing event has happened—whether to the protagonist, to someone close to... (More...)

Mary Anne on fiction-writing and race

An awful lot of us white sf writers, when we run into issues and arguments about race, give various reasons... (More...)

Adding new things that have been there all along

I've rarely been fond of reading stories written in collaboration by authors who took turns alternating sections. It often seems... (More...)

Person name or place name?

Something I see fairly often in submissions: The first paragraph or so contains a capitalized word that, in context, could... (More...)

Exercise: Boy meets girl

Here's a writing exercise: Write a story in which a male human meets a female human, and neither one falls... (More...)

Thoughtcrime Experiments submission deadline impending

Sumana mentioned Thoughtcrime Experiments in a comment this evening. I hadn't previously heard of it--I'm a little out of touch--but... (More...)


I mentioned a few weeks ago that during my Thanksgiving trip to Chicago, I finally made some progress on the... (More...)

Mary Anne's online writing classes start tomorrow

Mary Anne is running three different three-week online writing workshops this month: one for beginners (both fiction and nonfiction), one... (More...)

Chicago trip

Wrote most of this entry a week ago, but failed to finish and post it. Headed off to Chicago midday... (More...)

~Gasp! It's ... REAL!~

I've seen a bunch of stories in the last couple of weeks that boil down to this quasi-plot: Someone encounters... (More...)

Writing challenge/exercise: Unamerican

These exercises are particularly aimed at writers who are white Americans; most of them may not seem especially unusual for... (More...)

Benchley on Great Literature

As Robert Benchley once said: Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is... (More...)

More on female characters in fiction

A couple of weeks ago, I read a particularly long run of submissions with particularly unfortunate anti-woman aspects. All sorts... (More...)

Unfamiliar words

A common problem in fantasy and science fiction stories is drowning the reader in made-up words at the start of... (More...)

What kind of world is your story set in?

Here's something I see often in stories: The story appears to be set on modern Earth. Everyone looks and acts... (More...)

For writers researching little details

Just happened across the LJ community called little_details, which provides a place for writers to ask questions to help make... (More...)

A few notes on women in fiction

tacityhydra just mentioned the Mo Movie Measure in passing; I was going to post this comment in response to that... (More...)

Song chorus progression

One of the things I like about some country songs is the way the choruses work. For example, there seems... (More...)

Tiptree on genius

David M recently mentioned ambition and genius, among other things. I've recently finally gotten back to reading Julie P's Tiptree... (More...)

Plotting at the keyboard

I mentioned to Mary Anne this afternoon that I pretty much can't plot (whether fiction or games) unless I'm sitting... (More...)

Pet peeve: The future of evil

(Warning: this entry contains gross imagery.) We see this kind of story fairly often: First the author postulates a future... (More...)

Complete your changes

Advice to anyone who writes anything on a computer: Say you've written the line "The men ran down the hill."... (More...)


Been seeing a fair number of submissions lately in which Something Mysterious Is Going On--and by two-thirds of the way... (More...)

Dead narrators aren't much fun

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a very popular movie that had a surprise twist... (More...)

Giveaway titles

Say you've written a story in which a driver picks up a mysterious hitchhiker, and in the end there's a... (More...)

Writing challenge/exercise: long titles

Not sure what to write next? Here's a challenge: Come up with a title that's at least seven words long... (More...)

Throwing in the hat

The discussion has taken its toll, and I've decided: I'm declaring myself to be a write-in candidate for the SFWA... (More...)

Women on the Hugo ballot

As has been widely noted, on this year's Hugo ballot there's only one work by a woman among the twenty... (More...)

Pirate antho deadline imminent

I've been meaning to post for months about Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's forthcoming pirate anthology, Fast Ships, Black Sails, but... (More...)

Separating form from content

Some thoughts on form, style, and content, in various kinds of writing. (More...)

Double spacing

During the past year, three different authors have submitted stories to us in which there were two spaces after every... (More...)

What do you want in a writing tool?

I've been asked to relay the following question to y'all writers: What would you want in the ultimate writer tool?... (More...)

Genre conventions

I read some romance recently--a Crusie novel (reissue) I hadn't previously encountered, and then a set of three novellas by... (More...)

Items: Writing advice

In the past few days, I keep coming across various items of advice and commentary about writing. (The focus here... (More...)

Unusual points of view

Some notes on point-of-view handling in works by three authors: One idiosyncrasy of H. Beam Piper's writing, at least in the... (More...)

Posting stories online before publication

I'm pretty sure most of y'all regular readers know this, but I figure it can't hurt to say it again... (More...)

Reprints, quoting, transclusion, and Creative Commons

It seems like a bunch of stuff related to reusing material has been coming up lately. For example, various people... (More...)

Birthdays and anniversary

More and more, lately, it seems like I have both happy and sad things to post about on the same... (More...)

Market listing/submission tracker

I just found out about Duotrope's Digest, a site that's a combined market list and submission tracking system. (It's been... (More...)

Assumptions and queries

Say you're a writer, and you want to submit to a magazine. Say you've actually read their submission guidelines, but there was something in them that you think the editors can't possibly have meant. (More...)

Ones and zeroes and copies

It's fairly common in science fiction these days to see sentient beings in electronic form--whether artificial intelligences or uploaded human... (More...)

Assorted congratulations

Congratulations are in order to: Mary Anne, who's going to teach at Clarion next year! Tim, who sold two novels... (More...)

Call for subs: Men Speak Out

Shira Tarrant is editing an anthology of essays titled Men Speak Out: ProFeminist Views on Gender, Sex and Power; below... (More...)

Mother's Day and birthdays and such

Belated happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers reading this! I'm always impressed by y'all. And, more generally, yay... (More...)

Becoming what they oppose

There's a trope I like a lot in fiction when it's done well: characters who are so ardent in their... (More...)

Surprise mini-check

I was on my way to sleep, but I just remembered to mention a recent event, and if I don't... (More...)

Long week

Assorted bits and pieces from the past week or so (some good, some not): (More...)

Quick note on cover letters

I've been seeing this a fair bit lately: cover letters in which authors explain that they haven't been published, but... (More...)

Genre levels

Some thoughts on plausibility and genre conventions. (More...)

Curly quotes

There continues to be tremendous confusion among some SH submitters over the distinction between curved (or slanted) quotation marks and... (More...)

Africa, the Other, and sf

Some items that may or may not add up to more than the sum of their parts: Okay, so there's... (More...)

Economy and efficiency as motivations in fiction

Something I see quite often in both submissions and published fiction (including movies) is plots that hinge on people taking... (More...)

Poignant documentation

I'm still not awake enough to post a more substantive entry, but as I was on my way to bed... (More...)

Word-processor paragraphing

I've had occasion recently to see a couple of authors' word-processor documents, and I've noticed that some authors are using... (More...)

Outline of Narnian history, plus nitpicking

I'm continuing to re-read the Narnia books. Will have more to say about that sooner or later, but for now,... (More...)

Items: Fanfic

A couple of notes on fanfic: Kathleen on Why fanfic? And why Final Fantasy fanfic in particular? First chapter of... (More...)

Beagle tonight in SF

Peter S. Beagle will be reading tonight in San Francisco, at the Make-Out Room, as part of Charlie Anders's "Writers... (More...)

Dark side of the Plot

About halfway through reading the Slate article "Star Wars: Episodes I-VI: The greatest postmodern art film ever," by Aidan Wasley,... (More...)

Don't spam the editors

Here's another piece of advice for writers. (Or anyone else, but writers are who I see doing this.) When you're... (More...)


This occurred to me, more or less irrelevantly, while I was reading a story in Asimov's recently: Fiction is often... (More...)

Zeppelin backstory

Back when I was writing my zeppelin story, I said that I would talk about its origins at some point.... (More...)

Where to submit

A conversation with a certain neopro author (hope you don't mind that characterization) at WisCon made me think there ought... (More...)

Opportunity for self-promotion

I was in a bookstore the other evening; bought a recently published first novel by someone who I think is... (More...)


I gather that in a certain period of European history, it was common for men holding forth about their lady-loves... (More...)

Nonpolitical (personal, minor) good news

Some things that've made me happy lately: At World Fantasy Con this past weekend, half a dozen people I didn't... (More...)

What not to put in a cover letter

We've been getting a lot of submissions lately that have detailed summaries and/or discussions of the story in the cover... (More...)

Fictional translation

A friend of mine used to do something interesting when running roleplaying games: he'd use real-world historical names for famous... (More...)

Planetary intelligences and surprise twist endings

Just once, I'd like to see a story in which there's a planet-wide network of interlinked computational elements and/or life... (More...)

Two Le Guin quotations

I see no reason not to use a journal as, among other things, a commonplace book. So I'll quote two... (More...)

The story of my weekend (II)

Friday through Sunday, we discussed various aspects of the craft of writing, critiqued stories, ate well (thanks largely to Mary... (More...)

Leonard I

I said, "They ended up watching Get Shorty. I've seen it twice, but I stayed for the opening. Ten minutes,... (More...)