Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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Stargate Monuments

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mahoni asked: How do you psych yourself up to keep going through the middle? Or, just, how do you keep going?

I think that's one of those things that gets easier after you've finished more long stories or novels. Since the middle can be the part where the excitement is fading, the writing is more work than fun, and it just takes commitment and a belief in yourself that the final product will be worth reading -- even if you think you're the only one who's going to read it.

Also, you have to learn the difference between feeling like writing is work (which it is) and just not wanting to do it, and feeling like you don't want to do it because something might be wrong with your plot. If you feel a serious reluctance to write a section, it might be because somewhere in your writing backbrain, you know that section doesn't work, and you need to do something different with it. Another bad sign is feeling bored by the scene you're writing. If it's boring to you, it's probably boring to the reader, so that's another good sign the scene might need to be reworked or cut.

Pushing through and doing the work is great, but you also need to learn to listen to your instincts.

And out of curiosity, do you ever slog your way through the middle, and then get to the end and go, 'argh, it has taken me a million years to get here, why can't the ending just write itself'?

Oh, yeah! Pretty much every time.

lanerobins said: You write gorgeous, instantly interesting beginnings. In fact, the sentence that begins The Wizard Hunters is one of my favorites, one of the beginnings I hold up as an example to myself. I am a terrible beginner of books, always end up lopping off chapters worth of walking to the story. How do you find the right place to start? Is it instinctive, learned, or do you also have pages of discarded material that didn't make it to the next draft? It just seems like such a tricky thing, getting in the setting, character, events in all at once as you do.

First off, thank you very much! I was just talking to someone in email this morning about how few comments you get for published work. For my first books, before the internet was so available, I'd get a letter or two sent through the publisher. Now I get more comments in email, but it's still very easy to fall into the habit of feeling like nobody in the world has read your book (except your friends) and if people have read the book they don't like it. So I really appreciate your comment. :)

With beginnings, sometimes I just hit it lucky and find the right place to start relatively quickly. Other times, I'll end up switching chapters around, adding a chapter to the beginning, lopping off several chapters and moving forward, etc. The Wizard Hunters was one of the toughest ones. I think I had about eight different beginnings before I settled on that one.

As to getting in the setting, character, etc, one of the things I try to be very aware of is that the reader is starting with a completely blank page, and I want to give them an idea of the setting as the character is seeing and feeling it as soon as possible. If it's night or day, if we're outside or inside, if this is the real modern world or some other place, and the hard part is trying to juggle this without bogging down with static description. (In reality the reader isn't going to be starting from zero, since they'll at least have the book cover and a descriptive blurb. But since the cover may be incredibly misleading and the blurb may bear no resemblance to what happens in your book, that may be more hindrance than help.) With me it helps to think about what would be most noticeable and immediate to the viewpoint character at that moment.

I think workshopping your beginning with beta readers can really help. Getting them to read your first few pages and then tell you what they think the setting, situation, etc is can really help you pinpoint problems. The reader doesn't need to have the exact same mental image of the scene that you have, but they should be making the right assumptions, so the scene doesn't feel disjointed when they get more information later.

Still taking writing questions here. I think I've answered all of them up to belleps' question, which I'll do tomorrow.


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