Writer Workshop

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!


18 thoughts on “Writer Workshop

  1. depizan October 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

    CN: mention of violence and torture (also mental illness, mine)

    I’m not sure if this is a rant, a whine, or a desire for advice…probably mostly a desire for reassurance, actually. In any event, I’m having trouble (again) with the fact that I’m a writer of optimistic fluff. However much I remind myself that optimistic fluff can make a huge difference in people’s lives, or at least can be a bright spot in them, there’s also the downside that adventure optimistic fluff makes light of bad things. 😦

    I sought out – perhaps a mistake – the fandom for what I write fanfic in (Star Wars, more specifically SW:TOR), and, while there are a few other people who take things lightly, for the most part, fandom takes the whole thing very seriously and are big on drama and tragedy. All of which reminds me that I’m once again writing fiction that makes light of serious things. Does it do any good to restrict doing bad things to the villains if the heroes just bounce back from whatever happens to them? Isn’t that still making bad things seem inconsequential? And just leaving out bad things doesn’t really work, either, since it’s really damn hard to write adventure fiction without violence and the stories that come to me have bad things in them. (Whatever that may say about me/my imagination. 😦 *sigh*)

    I should probably define “bad things” since that’s a rather broad and vague category. You know, violence, torture, things like that. Which you could’ve guessed from the content note. I’m mostly just suffering from brain weasels, aren’t I? *bangs head on desk*

    Also, my issues don’t apply to what anyone else does. I look at other writers of optimistic fluff with enthusiasm because that means fiction I can read, and I don’t worry that there’s something wrong with _other people_ who write fiction with violence in it, just me.


  2. elliemurasaki October 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    depizan: sympathies.

    I’m trying to write a short story wherein the main character loses and regains her soul, as metaphor for my experience with depression. Difficulty being, if she can mislay her soul, then souls can also be stolen and/or sold. Which I want to explore. Except that breaks my metaphor.

  3. Ana Mardoll (@AnaMardoll) October 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Ellie, does it break the metaphor? My first ever bout with depression was definitely sort of pushed onto me by someone else. I mean, which isn’t to tell you how to write, but that I think it could work at least one way that resonates with my own experience.

    Depizan, fwiw, and I know I’ve said this before, but I think you’re too hard on yourself. I don’t think resilient heroes are unrealistic or making light of the bad things that happen to them; everyone reacts to traumatic events differently, and some people genuinely aren’t deeply fazed by things. There’s nothing wrong in portraying a lighter version of fantasy fare, in my opinion. 🙂

  4. Lonespark October 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I’m pretty sure that metaphor could be made to work. Cuz yeah, people can do things that make you lose your soul. Sometimes mutually within a relationship. …and stuff.

    Depizan, your post makes me a bit sad, in a way that should make you feel good. I am sad that I am not in your fandom and therefore can’t enjoy your fun-sounding fic. Grimdark isn’t better. When you write things in a fandom that entertain other people, you are doing good in the world.

  5. elliemurasaki October 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    It could be made to work for someone else’s experiences with depression, maybe. Not sure it can be made to work with mine.

    A friend has suggested the possibility that souls are more fluid than solid and can therefore be portioned out: sell a pint here, sell a quart there, or have an incident that cracks the container and leak soul all over the place. One could refill, in fact in most cases it probably refills itself, but meanwhile… Ponder ponder.

  6. depizan October 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Ellie, thanks for the sympathies. I third the idea that that metaphor could still work. I’ve certainly known people who made my issues worse and/or felt like they were sucking out my soul.

    Ana, the logical part of me recognizes that I’m being too hard on myself. Unfortunately brain weasels. (Hell, I probably write fairly resilient heroes because damn near everything reduces me to a useless lump, at least internally. You’d think I could learn from my own creations, who firmly believe in making a difference “for that one.” While I look at all the starfish and collapse from the impossibility of the task, or the fear that I’m just making a difference for the same ones other people are making a difference for, when I should be making a difference for other ones, or maybe I’m stepping on ones while trying to get to the one I think I’ll make a difference for, and… *vanishes under brain weasels*) Though what makes me feel better might make other people feel better. Logic!

    Lonespark, I’ll try to keep that in mind. 🙂 (And if you weren’t just being nice, you really don’t need more than to have watched the Star Wars movies to make sense of my fic…at least my parents read the first one and it made sense to them. I’m on AO3. If you were just being nice, thank you. 🙂 )

    I’ll try to drive out the brain weasels with music and write more of the adventures of people who help people and run away from Sith Lords.

  7. depizan October 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Though the fluid souls idea is even better. For one thing, it’s unusual.

  8. Lonespark October 10, 2013 at 4:47 am

    Fluid souls! I like it lots!

    No, I wasn’t just being nice. Possibly on the weekend I will have time to read.

    I am allegedly working on a story related to the Tam Lin legend. Thus far I wrote some notes, and then…stopped. Ooops.

  9. depizan October 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    *tries not to have further moodswings in the poor writing thread*

  10. chris the cynic October 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    @Ellie, my position is always that if you’ve got decent bit of world-building from a metaphor for something but then that implies things that don’t actually go with the metaphor, go with the world building over the metaphor. The parts that are supposed to match the metaphor still will, assuming the metaphor worked in the first place, and the other parts will fill out the word in realistic (I use the term loosely) ways that make it seem like this is a fully formed world and not just something created to be a metaphor for something else.

    That said, I know a lot of people don’t agree with this position.

  11. elliemurasaki October 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Chris: Thanks.

  12. froborr October 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

    The fluid souls thing reminds me of one of my favorite minor setting details of The Dresden Files (which is a deeply problematic series that I nonetheless enjoy as a guilty pleasure), namely how Soulfire works. Soulfire is a power possessed by wizards who have the favor of angels (that’s what I read the implication as being, anyway), and is more or less what it sounds like: the wizard can burn part of their soul to supercharge a spell. What I love about it is that, when the character who has it panics on learning they’ve been burning their soul, they’re reassured that it can be recovered in “the usual way”: listening to music, spending time with friends and loved ones, doing meaningful work well, meditating, that kind of thing. It’s the “usual way” part that I love–implies people are losing bits of their souls and growing them back all the time. (It’s also one of several places where I read Butcher as explicitly rebuking that other series about a modern-day wizard named Harry…)

    And honestly, I think it’s grimdark that more often makes light of terrible things, since it piles them onto characters willy-nilly. IIRC you’re an FMA fan, depizan, so I’d point to Brotherhood as a good example of a work that takes terrible things seriously (for example, Nina: in a lesser work (such as the first anime) that would happen, advance the protagonists’ character arc, and never be brought up again, while in Brotherhood she is never forgotten and never stops mattering, right up to the end of the series) yet never loses its optimistic tone.

    The way I look at it, the real world is grimdark enough. Why not put some light in our fiction? And I don’t think saying “maybe X can be overcome” is necessarily making light of X or saying that X isn’t a big deal. If nothing else, I have to believe there is genuine value to whistling in the dark.

  13. froborr October 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

    As for me, I’m not working on anything at the moment fiction-wise, but I think it’s important to change that, because I’m reaching the end of the boredom phase of furlough and entering the depression phase. Going to try to work on my long-fallow MLP fanfic this afternoon, and then if I can finish the next chapter of that I’ll either go back to the Xenosaga fic or start work on the idea I had for an original SF novel, tentatively titled Cozy Catastrophe, about an assortment of otherwise unrelated characters living their lives while humanity’s first contact with hostile aliens (there has been occasional contact with friendly aliens before) unfolds on the far side of the planet.

    As for non-fiction, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a roll lately. The first of my Kickstarter backer reward articles was very well received, I’ve been having a blast exploring the themes of time and love in the second season of MLP:FIM, and I’m planning on writing both the next article on Nintendo princesses and something about Breaking Bad and hegemonic masculinity in the very near future.

  14. ZMiles October 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Cracked 70,000 words on my novel draft last night. I’ve written 38/39 scenes, so I just have one to go. Hoping to wrap that one, the epilogue, up tonight. After that… I want to edit a couple of short stories and then send them out again. Once those are done I’ll take another pass at rewriting the novel.

  15. ZMiles October 12, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Draft done at about 71,800 words. Woo!

  16. Brin October 12, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Draft done at about 71,800 words.


  17. depizan October 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Seconding the \o/ for everyone who’s having a good writing week. (And for those who aren’t, though there should probably be pompoms in there somewhere for that. *\o/* You can do it!)

  18. depizan October 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    IIRC you’re an FMA fan, depizan, so I’d point to Brotherhood as a good example of a work that takes terrible things seriously

    That’s a good point. It isn’t as though it’s necessarily one or the other – one can have work that’s overall optimistic and fun, but still takes things past a certain level of horrible quite seriously. *nods*

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