Monthly Archives: May 2013

How writing deliberately bad stories has made me a better writer

Reddit is a massive anarchic community where there’s a forum (or subreddit) for pretty much everything. Recently I came across /r/worststory, where members post prompts designed to inspire awful stories, and respondents reply with short, deliberately bad stories that are often funny and thought-provoking. Clichés, repetition, awkward prose, beginner mistakes, typos and repetition are encouraged.

After reading a few sniggeringly good/bad stories, I started submitting a few of my own. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about Winston Churchill’s death in Nazi-zombie-occupied Paris (prompt: write a horribly inaccurate piece on the death of a significant historical figure), and an ignorant 13-year-old’s anarchist manifesto (Anarchy rulez!!!). I don’t claim they’re good or funny, but it did get me thinking about writing.

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Amazon’s Kindle Worlds – the fanfic that pays

Amazon have announced Kindle Worlds, a new scheme whereby they intend to publish fanfiction in the Kindle marketplace for money. This will be with the agreement of the owners of the intellectual property, who will also get some of the royalties, but it means that for the first time fans can publish fanfiction and get paid for it, without having to either change all the names to make it look like original fiction, wait a few decades for copyright to run out, or make a deal directly with the rights holder.

Authors will have to meet content guidelines, such as a ban on pornography, extreme violence, and crossovers, and a requirement that the work does not give a “poor customer experience”. There is also a minimum word limit works under 5,000 will not be accepted, and those under 10,000 will receive a reduced royalty rate.

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Your book is not a movie

There is a book which I bought in February, when it was released, with the intention of reviewing it shortly afterwards. I didn’t get very far in it. I did, however, make some notes. I thought characterisation was lacking – the reader is told what the characters feel, but it feels shallow, forced, like a stick man with facial expressions drawn on. By comparison, the world was very well developed, and described well. It has a sense of wonder, and some strong visuals.

The author was treating the book like a movie – strong on what would be special effects, but relying on very visual representations of emotions, without giving the characters any depth or subtlety.

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Review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of Thorns is the second in Mark Lawrence‘s Broken Empire Series, following on from Prince of Thorns (which I reviewed here). It tells the continuing story of Jorg, now a king as the title implies, showing two stories running parallel – one set only months after the end of the preceding book, where Jorg sets out once more on a quest for answers and hope, and finds more than he bargained for; the other about four years later, and centres around a battle in which one of Jorg’s rivals for the Empire’s throne seeks to defeat Jorg at his castle, and Jorg and his followers do their darndest to stop them.

King of Thorns

Like its predecessor, this is not a book for the faint of heart, or those who believe that protagonists should be towards the white end of the shades of grey spectrum.

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Language Efficiency

When writing a novel, language is important. You need to portray the right actions and emotions so that the reader understands what is going on. For that, you need accurate language.

Immersion is also important: it keeps the reader reading. Immersion is about keeping the reader focused on the events of the story, and not distracting them with unbelievable actions, unrealistic use of resources (I recently read a book in which the writer implies that a palace has been built of obsidian – a material wholly unsuitable for construction) or language.

If you don’t want your reader to think about the language you’re using, you need to use it well, in an unobtrusive manner. The best way to do this is to use the most efficient language. Efficiency in language is about conveying an idea accurately to the largest proportion of readers in the fewest words, using the shortest words available.

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