Header Image - Getting the words out by any means possible.

What Makes a Good Story?

Amazing freehand art by Gao Guangyan

Amazing freehand art by Gao Guangyan

Drifting through the ether of the interwebs, I’ve come across numerous accounts of what makes a good story. Here. Here. And here, for example. Commentors weave common answers related to plot, characterization, diction and so forth into the ongoing discussion. Along with techniques, style and the story itself, the reader’s predilections also determine what makes a good story. Those who devour mysteries have different criteria than consumers of inspirational writing whose criteria differ from fans of pulp fiction. And that’s okay. In fact, it is better than okay. I think that’s the part I love about reading. I have a pretty good handle on what I like – characters that surprise, world building with depth of time and geography, action, to name a few – but I also find that my willingness to try new works in different genres is exciting in its own right.

I commented earlier in Writing Standards, my post about my perception that it can be difficult to feel like your writing, your story, is different from others when you start using the conventional wisdoms of writing as your guide more than the story itself. I’ve read thrillers by many different authors and, after a while, they do start to run together. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading those, it just means I just don’t hunger for those kinds of books like I do for books such as Blade of Tyshalle, or Game of Thrones, or The Darkness that Comes Before. And there it is: I like fantasy of the epic sort. So not only do I need a good story, but also I need a certain elements that resonate long after I’ve finished the book. What makes a good story for you, the reader?

Though I’ve run off on a bit of a tangent here, my takeaway as a writer is to keep the audience in mind (in this case, it’s me). If I’m not enjoying what I’m writing, then my ideal reader probably won’t either.

Figurative Inspirational Espresso

by Jonathan 0 Comments
Sometimes I just skip the water.

Sometimes I just skip the water.

I read a fair amount of writing-related blogs and websites to help keep me going. There’s tons of good stuff out there and today I found Bibliophile Stalker’s links and plugs post to be an especially nice melange of good stuff. I went from there to John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, where I dug into his Big Idea series of posts from other authors. I have to confess, I was drawn by China MiĆ©ville‘s cover for The City and The City. Each author provides some insight for how they develop story ideas in general or how they developed specific story ideas. Good stuff. If you need a boost today, check these out.

80k Must Be the Breaking Point

by Jonathan 6 Comments
A Stylized Interpretation of Me Wrangling with My Laptop

A Stylized Interpretation of Me Wrangling with My Laptop

I hit 80k words last Friday – it felt damn good. I added a little sumpin’ to the word pile on Sat, knocking out 1000 words in an hour. I am set to finish up within the deadline I set in April – the end of August for my first draft.

My laptop has other ideas. It crapped the bed, so to speak, yesterday. I headed down to the shed to get another stolen hour of writing in before we headed to a going away party for a friend of ours. I plugged everything in, got my writing mix rolling on the ipod, and hit the on button. Nothing. No lights, no familiar whir of the fan, no glowing reassurance from the LCD screen. Maybe it felt overworked or maybe it just didn’t like my work.

I check a bunch of stuff. I took the thing apart (I only had three screws left over once I put it back together!). I tested the AC adapter. It would seem the problem is in the box itself. Good times.

Plan B – I dragged down our 10-year-old desktop (Dell Dimension XPS T500 – phat.) from the attic after much searching and help from my wife. She has a knack for finding lost things. I got everything up and running by 12:30 AM and went to bed.

Turns out I lost my last thousand words, as I had not backed them up on my external hard drive. I’ve surpassed Google Docs allowance for document size and have not broken the writing up to submit in smaller chunks. I’m hoping I can retrieve it from my laptop, but in the meantime, upward and onward.

P.S. I’m considering dumping Windows XP for an open source operating system. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to comment.

Goals

by Jonathan 1 Comment
I much prefer the stationary grindstone for nasal contact

I much prefer the stationary grindstone for nasal contact

I managed to reach my 10k word count last week. The 2k per day goal seemed to work out pretty well as far as getting deeper into the story as a writer and establishing a flow. Therefore, I’m continuing with that goal for the foreseeable future. Last night I was up until about midnight – 3 hours in the shack – grinding out the words to reach my goal. It was probably not my finest effort, but I did manage to get some story bones down. I’ll rely on the second run to flesh out things where necessary and prune the deadwood.

I’ve enjoyed a number of great posts this week concerning writer topics such as motivation, looking to unconventional sources for ideas, dealing with the “Am-I-Crazies”, not sweating genre, and improving your odds of publication. As always, there are tons more items out there, but I enjoyed these the most. Oh yeah, I enjoyed the New Yorker interview with Ursula K. Le Guin as well. Thanks to jlake and bibliophile stalker for the near-simultaneous linkage.

What I Did Last Night

by Jonathan 6 Comments
Grab your boiled leather and prepare for intrigue.

Grab your boiled leather and prepare for intrigue.

My brother and his wife came over and the four of us delved into A Game of Thrones board game. This was the second time we played since I got it for Christmas. The rules take a while to get down, but once we got rolling, good stuff. If you like games, especially ones with a little meat on the bones, check this out.