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This week the blog chain's topic is...genres! It's my responsibility to get the ball rolling, but make sure you check out the blogger who comes next to see her take on things, and then the blogger after her, and so on...

It's not hard for me to identify the overarching genres my writing falls into: science fiction and fantasy. What I have trouble with are the subgenres. I worry a lot about how urban fantasy is different from contemporary fantasy is different from science fantasy...?

There are several things I can blame for my love of sf/f. Gatchaman may be the first. When I was little, my friends and I religiously watched an Americanized sci-fi henshin anime. The Americanized version, Battle of the Planets, took the scifi even farther than the original, adding space travel, anthropomorphized robots, and aliens.

It also didn't hurt that there was always science fiction around the house when I was growing up. I was raised around iconic blockbusters like Dr. Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek. That stuff sinks in. (The original Star Wars films are still some of my favorite movies ever. And...Han shot first!)

Though the novels I read early on were mostly Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (who were way cooler than Nancy), I soon discovered Madeleine L'Engle and CS Lewis. As I got older, I fell in love with Piers Anthony, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and later still, with Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I love that both sf and f deal with the fantastic, with what could be if only modern physics would agree. Time travel, multiverses, cybernetics, and light-speed travel all fascinate me as much as sorcery and swordplay.
I hope this post is semi-coherent. I just got back from the ultimate sf/f geekfest, the San Diego Comicon. I'm still a little tired!

Writing Methods: Why (and How) I Write

Yeah, so I got bored with the old template. Google needs some spiffy new templates, IMHO, but nobody actually asked me.

Remember that great site I told you about? Some of the members decided to do a writing-themed blog chain, and since I never use my blog properly, I figured this might help me out.

Ideally, you follow the chain and visit the other posters' entries. Since I'm the second one to brave this first go-round, that means you should stop by the blog before mine and the blog after mine, and so on. (You can also use the Blogroll links to your right.)

On to the topic at hand: writing methods.

When I was about 11 years old, I had an English book that contained blurbs describing different novels. For some strange reason, it wasn't clear what the names of the books in question were.

I happened upon one blurb that I found particularly intriguing, and because I couldn't figure out what the book was, I decided to write my own. I'm too embarrassed to tell you what it was called, but I wrote it in bubbly blue ballpoint letters. I still have it somewhere, I'm pretty sure. If I weren't too embarrassed to show it to you, I'd dig it out and post some of it here.

After that, a friend and I decided we were going to write a novel together. We didn't get all that far before she decided she had better things to do. Like chase boys. I was a late bloomer, so the boys weren't interested in me. So I kept writing.

Writing became my haven, and all of my teenage angst went not into a journal, but into the lives of these characters who had become as real to me as real people.

I wrote my first few novels in spiral-bound notebooks. In blue (and often black) ballpoint pen. And I didn't just write, I edited the living you-know-what out of them. Since I believe that the brilliance is 90% in the editing, that's important.

Later I graduated to a word processor, and finally to a computer.

So what kept me writing?

I couldn't not write. In some ways being able to lose myself in my stories was asylum from my problems. And now, even though I don't have the same problems (mostly), I still feel compelled to write. It keeps me sane, which is sayin' something.

If I'm not writing something new, I work on old stories that need work. That disaster I posted above has an idea worth saving in it, so from time to time I go back and write a little bit more of a new novel stemming from that gem. (I think I just mixed my metaphors in a seriously bad way.)

I write mostly on the computer, though I find when I get stuck the best thing to do is pull out the old spiral-bound notebook and work there. Sometimes I only write a few pages that way; sometimes I end up with scene after scene written longhand.

For a long time, as I was learning to write, I'd note lines and paragraphs in books I was reading that really moved me. I'd fold the page down so I could find it later, then copy it into a new notebook to be analyzed at length. I never really picked up anyone else's style, but it did help me understand how the people I admired did what they did. If I come across something truly astounding now, I do the very same thing. (I also do it for factoids I find intriguing.)

I work on my writing almost every day. I climb into bed with my laptop and work for however long the muse whispers in my ear...and often when she's nowhere in sight. People who are close to me know that "I'm going to bed" doesn't mean I'll be sleeping anytime soon.

Some days I don't feel like writing, and I have to admit that this wireless internet thing hasn't been much help...but I still do it.

Fortunately, it's fairly easy for me to get into a flow state , which makes me want to write more. Based on the research Susan K. Perry did in Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity, setting aside writing time and simply sticking with it makes reaching flow easier over time.

When I'm working on a new story, my brain is constantly working in the background. If I have a flash of what should happen next, or even a line some character must say, I grab the closest scrap of paper and writing utensil and scribble it down. Even if I'm in the car. Or the shower.

Fortunately, I can read my own handwriting.

Tag, Elana, you're it!

New article: Gathering Information from Characters: Types of Questions
Summary: Former military interrogator JJ Cooper teaches you how to construct questions that get the answers you want from your characters!

The 5-Step Secret To Great Fiction

New Article: The 5-Step Secret To Great Fiction
Summary: Stephen King says he starts his novels with a "What if?" question. And I have heard others say they just saw an image in their mind, or had a persistent sentence knocking on the inside of their brains, and they just followed that to where it lead them. And while their insight and tutelage is invaluable, when I was a budding writer it left me with another question: What's next?

The Six Writing Hats

New Article: The Six Writing Hats
Summary: Over the years I have studied the great storytellers, in an attempt to ascertain what sets them apart from others and sees their books sell in the millions, while tens of thousands of manuscripts never see the light of day. In an attempt to find an answer to this question I turned to one of the pioneers of thinking, Edward de Bono, and found that his seminal work on the Six Thinking Hats® applies perfectly to the art and craft of writing. So here is my version of the Six Writing Hats.

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