marthawells: (Stargate)
* The True Queen by Zen Cho (Sorcerer to the Crown) came out yesterday, and she has a great post here about her experience writing it: My Publishing Journey: How to Write Second Book. I think it will resonate with a lot of writers.

I had second book syndrome in spades. Two things contributed to this. The revision process for my first novel Sorcerer to the Crown had been extensive and emotionally challenging. Now, I have absolutely no doubt it improved the book, and it also developed writing muscles I hadn’t even known existed. But by the time I was done with the book — or by the time it was done with me, which is more how it felt — I had spent so long considering external feedback, working in a way that I found quite counter-intuitive, that it was very hard to find my way back to the inner voice that tells you what you want in your writing, what you are trying to achieve.

The second thing was the attention. Sorcerer wasn’t a huge bestseller or anything like that, but it did receive a measure of buzz and it led to far more people reading my work than ever before. This was great and what I’d been working towards, of course, but it was also stressful. Suddenly I had to contend with the pressure of reader expectations. I really, really wanted to get the second book right. I was terrified of putting a foot wrong, and that’s death to creativity.


I think it helps me to remember, when I'm buried neck-deep in the writing process, that everything about writing is stressful. Failure is stressful, success is stressful, even the fun parts are stressful. Writing is about making decisions, and pursuing a career in a creative field is about change, and decisions and changes are inherently stressful. As humans we can get decision fatigue just by going to the grocery store, and a novel is nothing but a series of hours, days, months, and sometimes years of nothing but decisions.

I'm working on the last third of Network Effect, the Murderbot novel, and the whole process has been very slow. Murderbot's ability to have multiple physical perspectives on a situation (its own eyes, security cameras, drones, other systems it has access to) all bring it information that has to be acted on and it makes the logistics and action scenes very complicated. I'm not a writer who outlines and I like to build my plots organically, so I'm used to a lot of revising as I go along. But with the Murderbot novellas and the book I've been writing 20,000 words, then cutting back to around 5,000 and starting over again, over and over.

I'm basically chasing that little feeling in the back of my head that says yes, this bit is right. (The little feeling only tells you when it's right, it doesn't tell you why things are wrong or how to fix them. It's like walking barefoot in the dark over a giant floor covered with legos, trying to feel for a lost marble.) Now that I'm on the last third of the book and the first two/thirds feels pretty solid, I'm hoping I'm on the right track. (knock on wood)

So this is a long way of saying that if I'm distracted or unable to make decisions about very simple things, that's why.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
Sorry it's taken me so long to start getting to these, I've just been really distracted lately. Also, I went ahead and deleted my tumblr last night.

[personal profile] bravolimapoppa3 asked The Three Worlds is one of my favorite fantasy settings - largely because it's got such mind blowing scenery (a graphic novel or coffee table book would be amazing). Are there any landscapes or scenes that you didn't get a chance to use?

I always wanted to do more with the shallow seas, like having someone travel across one by wading from sandbars to islands to weird floating platforms. I never got to really go anywhere alone or explore much when I was a kid, so I guess I've been fascinated by being able to go someplace interesting by just walking through it.

[personal profile] ecmwrites asked I am working on the 2nd draft of my own first novel. I have shifted the POV from 1st person to 3rd because of world building issues. I am finding it harder to write the characters in 3rd - less intimate and more exposition required.

Could you comment on your approach to this? I was engaged by both Moon and Murderbot but must admit to feeling closer to Murderbot. (LOL where but here would I get to write that sentence? )

When I was first working on my first novel (The Element of Fire) which was in third person, I felt like I was having a lot of trouble really getting into the characters, like it was much less intimate and distancing. But I really didn't like writing in first person, because I didn't feel I was getting the character voices right and I guess at the time it was too intimate for me. What I've evolved into is what's usually called "third person personal" where you stay very tight in the characters point of view, and color your third person prose so it sounds like that character's thoughts, even though it's not in first person.

Before Murderbot, I'd experimented a bit with first person but had only published one story in it, back in 1995. I'm not sure why I did Murderbot in first person -- I think it was just the whole structure of the stories needed that extra level of intimacy.

I think it just takes a lot of writing and experience to find a style that works for you.

[profile] playswithworm I'm fascinated by the idea of the Aeriat and Arbora being a blended species (reminds me of some of the research on human evolution and evidence that early human branched out into different species and then interbred again, more a braided stream than a branching tree) and was wondering if you have anything worked out on how that went down originally?

I haven't really come up with any story scenarios, but I do kind of imagine that the Arbora were native to the Reaches, and the Aeriat actually traveled there from somewhere else and encountered them.

[personal profile] mizstorge My husband used to be a security consultant, and he loves your Murberbot books. You got the details right, and he's very curious as to where you learned the business so well...?

Oh cool, I'm glad he thought so! I haven't worked in security, but I have worked in software development and computer support back in the 90s and early 2000s, and had to deal with security for computer systems online and also in physical spaces, and that probably helped a lot.


[personal profile] spatz asked Feel free not to answer if spoilery, of course, but do you know how old Murderbot is? I imagine even it doesn't know with the memory wipe(s), but the way it talks about SecUnits being expensive and the equipment descriptions and stuff, it could be decades old? It's so cynical and jaded, of course, but I can't tell if that's 'I've seen too much shit over the years' old hand style, or young, hollow-eyed, jaded veteran style.

I haven't worked it out exactly, but I think it would have to be at least two to three decades old. The memory wipes really do confuse the issue. But I imagine SecUnits, especially ones that have built up a lot of client experience, as being really expensive and hard to replace so the company would go to a lot of effort to keep them operational. And the longer Murderbot had been part of the company system, the more chances it would have had to pick up the code that would eventually allow it to hack itself.
marthawells: (Stargate)
[profile] kjbooklog asked: It seems that Arbora are very curious about the outside world, but are almost never allowed to leave their court. Do they ever run away?

No, because they aren't human, and don't think/feel about it like humans would. They live in a very hostile environment, and they would find being alone outside a court terrifying and exhausting, partly because of their subliminal mental connections to the court and the queens. Living in tightly knit groups is part of their evolution and culture, even pre-Aeriat.

And now that they're trading with groundlings who make flying boats, will we start to see small groups of Raksura (Aeriat and Arbora) running around having adventures?

There were always small groups of Raksura who had adventures. The first contact with the Golden Isles was made by Solace and Sable, a queen and consort pair who led explorations for long distances around Indigo Cloud's eastern colony, which was how Stone knew to send Jade and the others there to get help. It's not uncommon, particularly in large healthy courts.

[personal profile] dranon asked: The probably silly one first. I love the Raksura (and will eventually figure out how to make a good costume wing), but I've never quite been able to get a feel for their size. Are the Raksura (and other races) more or less human sized, and the colony trees absolutely enormous, or are the colony trees about the size of large redwoods and the Raksura scaled to match?

Ooh, I hope you can make a costume because that would be awesome.

They're more or less human-sized, and the mountain-trees are that enormous. Think about an average big city skyscraper, but maybe three to four times as wide, and that's what the trunks are like.

The writing-related one, which I hope I haven't asked too badly. You've commented that Murderbot was rough going for you to write. Are you happy with the stories and the novel deal in spite of that? I, and many others, think the results were well worth it (and your Hugo looks very festive in the picture you posted the other day), but writing is hard enough already.

I'm actually very happy. When All Systems Red came out, I was completely not expecting my weird little robot novella would take off like this. At most I've hoping it would get some more attention and readers for the Raksura series. This has been a wild ride and I am dealing with some anxiety issues because I'm used to a certain level of attention as a writer and it's going to take some time to get used to more. But while the writing is hard, it's very rewarding in a lot of ways. I'm happy with the result, even when it's take two to three times the work to get there.


If you have any questions, general questions about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
[personal profile] bedlamsbard asked I'm on a Raksura reread (which I do at least twice a year!), and one thing I've been wondering is if queens mate with Arbora? I know we mostly get Moon's POV on consorts and Arbora (and producing mentors and warriors), but is it equally common for queens and Arbora, or is that something much rarer?

It's not common, but it would happen, if the Arbora ended up with a bloodline that needed to be combined back into the royal Aeriat bloodline. And a queen mating with a mentor would probably be more likely to produce queens or consorts than a queen mating with a regular Arbora.

[personal profile] nenya_kanadka asked Was there anything that struck you as different about the process of writing and/or publishing YA vs adult SFF?

I think YA is a lot bigger and produces a lot more income for publishers than people outside publishing realize. I still have people telling me confidently "kids don't read anymore" when anybody who's seen a library (or been to the ALA) knows this absolutely is not true. School and public libraries buy tons of books, and if I'm remembering right, YA and other books for younger readers tend to sell more in hardcover than ebook and audio. (Audio is much bigger than it used to be, now that you can get audiobooks on your phone or MP3 player, but it trends more for adults who can now listen to books while doing other things.) Libraries tend to buy truckloads of YA, sometimes 3-5 copies of a book per library. (Not for the whole library system, but for each individual library.)

With adult books, you can have any age range of character from babies to ancient, but in YA publishers usually want a character who's an older teenager. Also some publishers really want you to hit a particular tone: not too young (which puts the book back a few years into middle grade) and not too old (which might put it forward into adult). But you do see a lot of YA books that have crossover with middle grade and vice verse, and a lot of adult and YA crossover. (There's an attempt to categorize the last one by calling it New Adult, but it doesn't take in the number of books with older characters that are still popular in the YA market.)

I think the interesting thing about YA is a lot of it is hard to characterize, which goes back to its origin of librarians pulling adult books for readers who had aged out of the children's section. It can be any genre, literary, romance, SF/F, mystery, or combination of genre. It's very unique in commercial publishing and I think that's why there's so many attempts to categorize it very specifically, and then YA books that don't fit those specific characterizations will pop up and become bestsellers.

This is very rambly, but basically YA can be more difficult to succeed in than adult books, not because the audience is difficult, but because publishers often have very different ideas of what YA is and what YA needs to be popular.


If you have any questions, general questions about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: Atlantis in fog (Atlantis)
[personal profile] muccamukk asked If the Fell wanted to live like Raksura, could they?

Let's see, I'll try not to be spoilery with this answer.

I think they could. There's really no biological reasons that they live the way they do, so they could settle down somewhere, if the progenitors wanted to. Moon speculates at one point that there are Fell who left their flights and were living hidden away somewhere. We don't know if there are entire flights who decided to settle somewhere isolated.

I don't think the Fell who come to the Reaches will want to live exactly like Raksura, but living in a colony tree, even without any luxuries, is going to be way more comfortable for the dakti and kethel than moving around constantly. I think they would probably evolve into a culture that was similar to the Raksura but not a copy of it.


If you have any questions, general questions about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.


Dec. 12th, 2018 07:35 am
marthawells: (Miko)
I haven't done this in a while (according to the tag, since 2017!) so:

If you have any questions, general questions about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (Miko)
This has been a week of extreme highs and lows. The high points were awesome but the low points are...low.

I've got news I can't share yet so this is kind of a boring post. I need to get back to my book rec posts but Fridays are kind of a bad day for them.

We were supposed to have a hurricane but it turned and is now torturing a different part of the country.

Oh, I did a Reddit r/Fantasy AMA yesterday, and got a great question on Worldbuilding:

Question: One of my favorite things about your books is the incredible detail and authenticity to the cultures and societies you create. I've read City Of Bones and your Raksura books and I am always immediately engaged when the characters travel to a new city. The residents, architecture, customs, languages, and overall presentation feel well rooted and historical. It really adds an incredible flavor to your writing and inspires me to improve my own.

Are you willing to describe the process in which you develop a new city? When you sit down to create a new location, how you start the vision and do you have a system in how you begin to add layers of detail until the city/town/society feels authentic?

Me: Thank you so much!

I use different methods for different types of book. For the Ile-Rien books, where the locations are based more on real-world places, I did a lot of research into cities in similar cultures, climates, environments as my imaginary city. For the Raksura books, I tried to think of a neat setting for a city, then tried to make it as weird and extreme as possible. Like the Turning City, Keres-gedon, which started out as just a camp in the mountains.

Basically it's a process of coming up with an element you want in your city, like canals. You look at cities with canals, like Venice, and maybe Angkor Wat. What are the canals used for? Transportation, a reservoir, entertainment, defense, etc. You think about how the environment and climate of your city is going to affect your canals. Can they freeze over? Are they affected by drought? Sewage? Plant growth? Underwater monster issues? Etc. Why or why not are they affected by these things? Once you make all those decisions, you decide how they affect the inhabitants of the city, their culture, their everyday life. It can be simple or complicated, and ideally, it leads to ideas that can further characterization and plot. And the big thing to remember is that the reader doesn't need to know everything you know about your canal system. They'll be able to infer a lot from the bits and pieces they see as your characters move through the story, and the sense that the city is operating by a logical system is more important than knowing the exact details.

I also don't usually figure out too many of the details of my settings in advance, since I'm going to concentrate mainly on the parts my characters are interacting with. Like most of the city may be sketched in, but the characters are going to need this little train system and this temple hospital, so those bits are going to get more attention and development. Also keep in mind that cities change over time, with new buildings, new roads, and what stays in place and what gets built over or torn down all say things about the people who live there.

It also helps not to set too many boundaries. You never want to tell readers that there's nothing over the mountains, because it's going to make the world feel closed in, like a puddle instead of a huge mysterious ocean. And if you keep writing in this setting, you may eventually need those empty places to put things in.

I hope that helps!



I have a signed copy of The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red in the Authors for Grenfell Tower Auction:

There are tons of other great items up for auction to benefit the tower fire victims. Please check it out or pass it on.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
Every time I've done a panel that gets into the topic of finding time for writing, there's always somebody who asks what to do if someone they know actively discourages their writing, or goes out of the way to interrupt or stop them while they're doing it.

Everyone's situation is different, so it's hard to give an answer to that. Hopefully it helps to know that this happens a lot, to a lot of writers.

(I had an ex-friend/roommate once who tried off and on to stop me from writing. She wanted to write movie and TV scripts, and that was great, but me wanting to write novels not so much. It was okay if I wrote fanfic, but not original fiction. Once when I was at home working on The Element of Fire, she saw what I was doing and said, "Oh, you know you'll never finish that."

Well, I did, and it was published in 1993 by Tor Books.)

Another question that's impossible to answer is why do people do that?

It's hard to answer because it's all different reasons.

Some people probably don't know they're doing it and/or couldn't explain why if you asked them. Some people might feel jealousy that you're writing, annoyance that you're paying attention to a screen or a piece of paper rather than them, or they're uneasy because they don't understand your desire to write.

Sometimes it's about power and control. Stop doing what you're doing and do what I want you to do. Stop writing what you're writing and write what I want you to write. Or else.

Sometimes it's about the type of writing you're doing. Writing literary fiction is great, but people will try to discourage or stop you from writing SF/F or mystery or romance or fanfic. I've had that happen to me. Or writing fanfic is great, but people will turn abusive if they catch you writing original stories. I've had that one happen too.

(Your fanfic is great but your original writing is worthless. Original writing makes you a hack, you're a bad person, you're disrespecting other fanfic writers who don't want to write original fiction. Stop, just stop. Or else.)

If you're a woman, sometimes people just want you to stop.

Sometimes it's concern. If you write, you'll be rejected and it will hurt so just stop. Sometimes it's concern trolling. Oh, I know you'll be rejected and you just won't be able to handle it, you're weak because I tell you you're weak, so just stop.

There are a lot of reasons for this and sometimes even if you know the person very well, you can't tell what their reason is. But sometimes there's only one thing you can do about it.

Don't stop.
marthawells: (Teyla)
winged_kame asked I am definitely interested in a Selis update story sometime!

Unrelated Raksura question, has it/ will it be explained why Stone can't speak in his winged-form? Has he never been able to, or is it something that developed as he got older, along with getting bigger/stronger? Is not being able to speak in their other form a normal variation for Raksura, or it rare/ unique to Stone?

It has to do with his age and is unique to line-grandfathers. It has to do with the way the shapeshifting works and how Raksura basically exist in both forms simultaneously, and move between one and the other. (This comes up a bit in The Dark Earth Below, when Elastan is able to see both their forms simultaneously.) At Stone's age, the barrier between his forms is less substantial, so his shifting is different from the other Raksura, and not being able to talk in his scaled form is one of the effects of it.

Otterb asked You may have answered this already somewhere, but what's a normal Raksura lifespan (if you're not a line-grandfather), and how long are they normally fledglings before they leave the nurseries?

I'm pretty sure I have answered this before, but I looked back through the tag and can't find it, so it's been at least a couple of years! I want to wait on exact numbers, because I'm pretty sure I've worked that out before, and I don't want to contradict myself. It is different for Royal Aeriat, Aeriat, and Arbora, with Aeriat (warriors) having shorter lifespans. They're fledglings for at least twenty to twenty-five turns, depending on when the Arbora decide they've reached physical maturity.

I was thinking about Shade and Moon being considered young consorts. Obviously Shade was born after Moon was separated from the colony in the Fell attack some 40 turns ago. Moon was a fledgling at the time. So how much older is he than Shade?

Moon is only maybe five or six turns older. Moon was considered as fully mature after he fathered a clutch.

And is a "turn" of the Three Worlds roughly equal to an Earth year?

No, it's somewhat longer, maybe more like a year and a half.


Audible is doing an MP3-CD set for The Cloud Roads to be released in May. I don't know yet if they're doing an audio version of The Edge of Worlds. It depends on a couple of factors, including sales of the audio version of previous books in the series (Stories of the Raksura I and Stories of the Raksura II) and sales of the hardcover and ebook of The Edge of Worlds.


Signed Books: if you want a complete-so-far signed Raksura set, I have a signing for The Edge of Worlds at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX, on Saturday April 9 at 4:30, where I'll be co-signing with J. Kathleen Cheney whose new fantasy is Dreaming Death. You can preorder our books (including all the previous Raksura books and Kathleen's Shores of Spain trilogy) at that link and get them signed and personalized, and then shipped to you.


PSA for Reviews: If you liked a book or didn't like it, it really does help to leave reviews. This is especially important on Amazon where the number of reviews control how often the book shows up in searches and suggestions. Reviews on Barnes and Noble, other retailers, and GoodReads and LibraryThing, or just on your own blog, twitter, FB, tumblr, etc help too and are much. much appreciated. (Or if you want to take a picture of the book with your cat or something and post it, that's just cool for me to see.)

PSA for Libraries: You can also look for my books at your local library, and if they don't have a book, request that they buy it for their collection, or see if they can get it through interlibrary loan. (Remember that many libraries have ebooks now too.)
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
lukamender from Tumblr asked:

I love your books, especially the Raksura series. If you're still taking writing/publishing questions, I wanted to ask you about any advice you might have on writing non-human/animal-ish-people, with more unique social structures, as the central characters in the story. Are there any special tricks that really make this work? Are there challenges in pitching material like this (they're not human, they have different than normal genders, etc.) to publishers?

Thank you!

Are there any special tricks that really make this work?

Point of view is incredibly important anyway, but I think when writing from the perspective of non-human characters it's super-duper incredibly important. You have to think about how the physical attributes you've given them will affect their culture, social structure, interactions with each other, interactions with other groups. The culture and social structure is going to inform the choices they make, the way they feel about the things that happen. You need to try to be as consistent as you can, and try to get into the characters' heads and see your world through their eyes.

Sympathizing with a non-human character is usually not a problem. (For most readers, anyway. Some people just won't do it but they aren't your audience so forget them.) You can sympathize with an amorphous blob as long as it has issues that engage you. When I'm talking about this, as an example, I bring up the first Pixar trailer with the desk lamp. It turns to look at you, and suddenly it's a person. It's easier to do that with text, since we have the option of showing the audience the living desk lamp from its own perspective.

Are there challenges in pitching material like this (they're not human, they have different than normal genders, etc.) to publishers?

For a novel, usually it's an agent who you'll be pitching to. The right agent for you will be the one who will get what you're trying to do and like it, and she'll be the one pitching to a publisher on your behalf. Whether the agent likes it or not is going to depend more on your writing ability, your story-telling, how compelling the story was. (If it's your first book it should be complete before you start querying agents. Lots of people have great ideas and can write first chapters, but the only way you can prove you're one of the people who can finish a book is by finishing a book.)

You don't usually pitch short stories, so you'd just be submitting the complete story to the magazine and hoping they like it.

I hope that helps!

I'm still taking questions, general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
I haven't done this in forever, but if anyone has a question, a general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (Zoe)
Michael Mock said: Heh. I've got a different problem: I can't find my opening. I know the characters, I have (I think) a pretty good feel for the world, I know what I want to have happen, or at least a loose sequence of events. I know my antagonists, I know how they connect to the characters, I know how they fit into the larger world. I'm pretty excited about the journey, and I feel like if I can just get it started it'll go pretty smoothly. (I could always be wrong about that, of course.) I just... can't seem to get myself onboard the train, so to speak.

I realize there are people who write the opening last, and at this point I totally understand that. I don't think I can do it, but I totally understand it.

There's a lot of reasons why this can happen. There may be something about the story you haven't figured out yet, and your subconscious brain is dragging your conscious brain's feet until you realize. Or you may just not have come up with the right point of attack yet. (Point of attack = point where the story starts.)

I would try focusing in on your main point of view character. Try to get into their head and think about when the story starts for them. The moment where things change, or when they notice something strange is happening. There are writing advice books that say you always need to open with an action scene, and this is not true. You need to open with something happening, but it certainly doesn't have to be action. (Like the way the Lord of the Rings starts with Bilbo's birthday party, even though Frodo doesn't leave the Shire until much later. Bilbo acting on the decision he's made to leave and not take the Ring is the start of the story, even though Frodo doesn't know it yet.)

A good place to start is often with the character leaving a familiar place and arriving at a strange one. (This also gives you a lot of opportunity to describe your world, since your character will definitely be noticing things that are different compared to what they're familiar with.) The arrival of a stranger is also a good start, or a friend or enemy returning. But you need to think about what begins the story for your POV character.

Sometimes it helps to just start freewriting scenes you know you want to have happen and see if that jogs anything loose. I've had books where the first scene I wrote, intending it to be the beginning, actually ended up in chapter eight.

Previous Post: The Writing Middle-Slump
marthawells: (Reading)
(I'm going to try to do more posts about writing, so here's some thoughts on the difficulties of middles.)

I wanted to do a blog post about getting through writing slumps, because of something someone said on Twitter. (I can't remember what it was now, but that's how my brain rolls lately.)

A lot of people talk about the mid-book slump. Writing the beginning of a book is exciting, everything is new, you're creating the world, meeting the characters for the first time. The end is also exciting, because all the plot threads are tying up and you should be done soon.

The middle is the hard part, where you have to make the magic happen and start pulling things together, increasing the complication but starting to find answers to mysteries. You have to make all the cool stuff you came up with in the beginning make sense. You have to set up the end. The story engine has to be fully engaged, etc.

Sometimes it feels like a slog, and that's when you want to quit and go write something else. You want that really, really bad sometimes. If you do that with every book you write, it's going to be a problem and end up getting you zero finished books. (This, by the way, is why agents, and publishers who take unagented submissions, only want to see finished books from new authors. It's a lot easier to start a book than to finish it, and they want to make sure you can finish. A lot of people are certain they can, and then don't.)

So if your book-middle feels like a horrible slog and you'd rather go out and shovel snow or haul rocks or dig holes in the back yard, it isn't necessarily a problem. It's just that middles are hard.

But one thing I've noticed about myself is that if the writing doesn't come easily (and it's not just because I'm tired or unwell or stressed) then the chances are good that there's a problem that part of my brain is aware of even though the rest of me is willfully trying to ignore it. Figuring out what that problem is can be tricky, but first you have to figure out whether it's actually a problem.

I think you do need to ask yourself some questions. Is the book-middle like climbing a mountain backwards through a mud storm because you're tired and need to just keep going? Or is there an actual problem? Is it a pacing issue, are things moving too slowly? Are the characters still in character, are you making them act in ways you kind of know they wouldn't just to make your plot work? Is there something you're trying to do now that needs more setup earlier in the book? Did you forget to put in something you know you really needed?

Or are you actually getting bored with your plot? Because if you're bored with your plot, readers may be bored with it too.

If you're saying: "I have to write this part and I don't want to." Ask yourself: Do you really have to? Is it necessary for the plot, characterization, the story? Why don't you want to? Is it not right for the pacing, slowing things down when it should be speeding things up? Maybe it doesn't need to be there.

If you don't like it anymore, it's okay to make something else happen instead.

You can always take a step back and re-imagine your plot. You should know the characters better at this point; maybe your plot needs to change to accommodate that. (It's often hard for some writers to create a character in a vacuum. It's only when I write characters interacting with other characters and facing situations that I start to get a real sense of who they are and how they behave under stress.)

What is the coolest, most exciting thing that could happen here that will still fit the story you want to tell? Maybe you should be writing that instead.

Your plot is not carved in stone, even if you did an outline. One thing I've found out over and over again is that plot points can sound great in the outline and it's only when you start actually writing those scenes that you see the flaws.

This is where experience and understanding how your own writing brain works is important. The only way to get experience is of course to keep writing through those middles, no matter what you have to do to get to the end.
marthawells: (Default)
This is a Raksura question and bit of discussion on consort sexual politics over on tumblr

notahyper-specific asked:

It hadn't occurred to me until I read your last post, but now I have a question about queens and consorts. Consorts are almost as physically powerful as queens, but their role in the court is almost completely passive. Is that an attitude queens deliberately encourage to keep their consorts "docile", a consequence of how important they are to the survival of the court, or a combination of the two?

marthawells answered:

Originally, it was probably mostly the second reason, that they are important to the court’s survival, with a bit of the first mixed in. It’s definitely a cultural construct, but also figures into the way Raksura manage their bloodlines. Queens wouldn’t want other courts to steal consorts and get access to their court’s royal bloodline without permission. Consorts are also a status symbol. Allowing the consort out to fight for the court, or to do anything that a queen or a warrior would normally do, would also lessen the court’s status, since if you have to resort to using your consorts that way, your court must be up shit creek. Having consorts who don’t have to do anything except make and raise babies is a sign that the court is rich, well-defended, and comfortable.

Though for small courts like Indigo Cloud that tried to establish colonies outside the Reaches, there probably were quite a few consorts that ended up fighting for the court or going on more exploring and trading visits than would have been seen as acceptable in the Reaches. (I think Jade tells Moon at one point that consorts have fought for Indigo Cloud in the past. (Though Indigo Cloud had pretty much been living on shit creek for most of Jade’s life.) They have the ideal of how consorts are supposed to be passive and protected, but don’t always have the resources to live up to it.

1houreveryday said

I think my favorite thing about the Raksura books is Moon coming into this and being like “you may be physically stronger than me and faster than me and look down on me for not fitting you ideals but I’ve been kicking ass for a long time and I’m not gonna just stop now, obviously”.

notahyper-specific said

One of the things I =love= in the Raksura books is Indigo Cloud interacting with courts that are used to consorts who won’t even go to the bathroom unless they check with their queens first, and then they end up having to deal with Moon and Stone taking the Look at all the Fucks I Don’t Give revue on tour.
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)

* Some thoughts about Tragic Queer Narratives
And we go downhill from here. The tragic queer narrative? Widely available. Very, very, very common. Arguably more common than positive depictions of queer characters and relationships. Books by LGBTQ authors with LGBTQ protagonists who are not tragic queers? Much less common and much harder to find.

* Writing Wednesday: Putting Handles on the Cups by C.E. Murphy

This is reality-based writing advice. I said on Twitter: I've seen writing advice that said unless you do 2000+ words every day you aren't a real writer/are a bad person etc. That's bullshit. How I write has changed a lot over time, as I've gotten more experience and tried different things. Writing media tie-ins to tight schedules taught me a lot, writing fanfic let me explore new ways of storytelling, helped my fantasy writing. I write faster now than I did 20 years ago, but I still can't hit 2000 words in a day more than a few times a month, if that. I have days where my brain just doesn't work, or all I can do is figure out plot. I had a day like that yesterday, and did not get 2000 words of anything written, but I do know how to restructure the end of the book now. That's just how my process works, and everybody's process is different, and will often change over time as you keep writing. There is no right way to do it, there's just the way that allows you to produce a finished piece of work.

Raksura questions

J. L. asked: Okay, I have a Raksura question: will we be seeing Opal Night again? I have an ultimate soft-spot for Moon's interaction with Opal Night, and I can never get enough of it.

In The Edge of Worlds there are some of the characters from Opal Night, but Moon and the others don't go back to the colony. I may do a novella or short story where they go back to visit Opal Night again at some point, because I enjoyed those interactions too.

Darrell asked: I have tons of questions, but I'll try to stick to a few. 1) Since Raksura are usual born in clutches of 5, what happened to Jade's and Balm's clutchmates? Were they stillborn or did they die later? 2) In The Edge of Worlds, will we get to see more of the social dynamic in a Raksura colony (like faction, clutches, family relationships, etc)? Really can't wait for the new book! Thanks for writing such incredible books!

1) The other three were stillborn. This was basically the first incident that started the court's slow decline, though they wouldn't have realized that at the time. In the turns after that, Pearl's next clutch was stillborn, and there were a lot of deaths among the Aeriat, and then some time after that was when the sister queen Amber had a clutch where only two warriors survived, Spring and Snow, and them Amber died.

2) Yes, definitely! Though they do leave the court for the most of the story, I try to show as much of the social dynamic as I can, because I really enjoy writing it.

And thank you for reading them!
marthawells: (Default)
I'm behind on everything. I've been busy working on the revision for The Edge of Worlds, plus my husband's been sick with a bad cough and off and on fever. All I've made time for is revisioning and laundry. I am looking forward to new Doctor Who this weekend.

I answered this question on tumblr, and wanted to copy it here:

punkranger asked: Do you use music for inspiration? If so what do you listen to? :) Also, have you heard of Ayreon? They do a lot of sci-fi/fantasy-inspired music and all their albums are very intricate stories.

I do, and it’s kind of a weird mix. Here’s one of my playlists for the Raksura books (don’t judge me).

Did Anyone Approach You a-ha
Apple Cibo Matto
Life’s What You Make It Talk Talk
Loneliest Star Seal
[ Untitled ] VAST
Sugar Water Cibo Matto
Show Me What I’m Looking for Carolina Liar
Under The Milky Way Sia
Where Has Everybody Gone? The Pretenders
Night of the Hunter 30 Seconds to Mars
Bedroom Hymns Florence + The Machine
Tell Me Billie Myers
Forever May Not Be Long Enough Live
Silence Delerium & Sarah McLachlan
Calm the Storm Graffiti6
Afreen A. R. Rahman, Nakash Aziz & KM Sufi Ensemble
Inside Moby
Under the Influence Elle King

I add songs whenever I hear something that just strikes a chord. I haven’t heard of Ayreon, but they sound cool. I’ll have to check them out.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)

* Six of the Weirdest Fantasy Worlds Ever Created The Cloud Roads is on this list.

* For Books' Sake: For Books' Sake Talks to Martha Wells

* Cushing Library Releases Digitized Media Fanzine Collection
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives is pleased to announce that it is now able to offer free, limited online public access to select titles in the Sandy Hereld Memorial Digitized Media Fanzine Collection. Since the collection was first initiated in 2013, access to its materials was previously restricted to only those with a Texas A&M-approved ID until additional permissions could be obtained from the fanzine creators who contributed to the collection.

New Books

* Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due, a winner of the American Book Award and an Essence and Los Angeles Times bestselling author, brings you her debut short fiction collection! The title novella, Ghost Summer, won a Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society (originally published in The Ancestors). This collection includes Patient Zero, The Lake, The Knowing, Herd Immunity, and many other stories.

* Temporally Out of Order edited by Joshua Palmatier
In this collection, seventeen leading science fiction authors share their take on what happens when gadgets run temporally amok. From past to future, humor to horror, there's something for everyone. Join Seanan McGuire, Elektra Hammond, David B. Coe, Chuck Rothman, Faith Hunter, Edmund R. Schubert, Steve Ruskin, Sofie Bird, Laura Resnick, Amy Griswold, Laura Anne Gilman, Susan Jett, Gini Koch, Christopher Barili, Stephen Leigh, Juliet E. McKenna, and Jeremy Sim as they investigate how ordinary objects behaving temporally out of order can change our everyday lives.

Raksura Questions

[personal profile] nthngtoseehere asked:

1. Raksuran naming habits: generally Raksura like to give their clutches names that share a theme, but Jade and Moon gave their clutch generally unrelated names. Is it a 'rule' that doesn't apply to royal clutches? How did Jade come up with the names she chose?

It's not really a rule, it's more of a just a thing that's done sometimes. All the names Jade chose were from past queens and consorts of the court, except for Fern, who was the female Arbora baby that Sorrow saved along with Moon, and who he thought was his sister.

2. Are Pearl and Ember expected to have a clutch? There's been no mention of it, so I was wondering if they're waiting until he's a bit older, or if she's SO DONE with kids and doesn't want more, or they just haven't gotten around to it...?

They probably will, once Ember's a bit older. For one thing, they'll want to bring Ember's Emerald Twilight bloodline into the court.

3. Presuming at least one of Jade & Moon's boys is a consort, has Frost decided which one she wants yet? (I just imagined her hearing that there were two males in the clutch and going "FINALLY. I'VE BEEN WAITING FOREVER." And being very impatient while waiting to find out if one or both would be consorts because, like, really, why must they keep her in suspense?? Rude.)

That will probably be a whole story in itself! Though right now I think Frost is still at the age where she's not going to be too interested in them until they're old enough to play.

4. Flower mentioned, regarding the way past mentors caused the mountain tree to grow in certain ways, that their court had lost so much knowledge. Do Raskura do any kind away type of thing? Would Heart or Merit go to Emerald Twilight, for example, to learn from their mentors how to manipulate the mountain tree? Or would another mentor come to them? Or is that just done via book exchange?

I think for that to happen the courts would have to very close allies. That might be something I'd address in a future story.
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[profile] pilgrim3 asked: tool use by the Aeriat. I know that the Arbora use tools (anvils, etc., have been mentioned), but it seems rare that the Aeriat use tools at all. Is not using tools the norm for them? Or are there exceptions lurking in future books?

And an odd question - what is your next favorite race to write about in the 3 Worlds setting?

They do when they need to, but it's more from necessity, where the Arbora always used tools for things like making their living spaces more comfortable, making art, etc. The Arbora make all the material goods for the colony because they put a high priority on both having those things and the effort and talent it takes to make them. Without the Arbora, the Aeriat probably would only bother with the minimum they needed to survive.

Favorite race other than the Raksura: it might be the Kek, because they're a lot of fun to work with, because they're very different from the Raksura, and they're very different from humans, too. I ought to do a short story from the Kek's perspective, at some point.
marthawells: (Default)
YAY!!!! I just got a great Publishers Weekly review for Stories of the Raksura: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below! "The Raksura world features innovative and alien creatures; Wells thinks far outside the humanoid fantasy box. The line between animal and person is drawn extremely thin, and the power structure among the races resembles nature more than it resembles any human civilization. With a strong sense of adventure, horror, and mystery, this is an enjoyable read for fantasy fans seeking a new series to sample."

I also got an invite to be on the WorldCon program, so I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and go. (Bite the bank account, actually, because the hotels are hella expensive this year.) I have a roommate so it shouldn't be too bad.

Writing ramble

One thing I've noticed is I still have an occasional plotting problem which I think of as getting ahead of myself and leaving the characters behind. When I trying to move the characters through a sequence of events because that's what I need to have happen, and it's just not working, because I'm not considering whether 1) the characters are actually going to want to do these things at this point 2) these things are or are not priorities for them at this point. These things have to happen, I just have to make sure the characters' motivations are lined up first and that there's space to deal with the stuff that they see as more important. It's a POV issue, which I tend to think lies at the root of most of the roadblocks and problems in writing. You have to see things from the characters' viewpoint at all times.
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
I was answering Raksura and Three Worlds-related questions back in February, then something happened and I dropped the ball. I have a couple of unanswered questions left, but if you have an old question or a new question I didn't answer, feel free to comment with it.

[personal profile] nthngtoseehere said Can I ask, roughly how many years/turns comprise a Raksuran generation? And how old is Stone? I've been thinking he's going on at least a couple hundred turns, but I have no idea if that's even close....

I'm thinking a generation would be around forty turns, but I haven't worked that out yet on paper, so I reserve the right to change it. :) Turns are also longer than years, and may be measured slightly differently by different cultures

Stone is at least a couple of hundred turns, and probably closer to three hundred.

(I am very bad at both math and dates, so I always have trouble working these things out.)


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