what are your primary forms of research? To be specific, do you look at scientific journals, speak with people who specialize in the field, watch videos, etc? And if you go for that personal meeting with a person, how do you approach them (through email? Setup face to face meetings)? Are people in a university setting usually open to these encounters? Thank you so much for your time!
Yes. All of that.
Do you remember the opera house in Omaha that’s featured in Magic Breaks? We actually called there to find out what color ceiling it had, because it looked ivory in some shots and yellow in others. I found an old post about it and unlocked it for you.
In my experience, people are very receptive to talking about something they love enough to choose it as their career. Most of the time email is the preferred mode of communication because they can respond to it at their leisure and you’re not interrupting anything on their end with an email like you can sometimes interrupt with a phone call.
More recently, we consulted Professor Bronwyn H. Bleakley, whom we thanked here. That conversation greatly enhanced our understanding of people’s motivations.
But the primary sources of research are always books and internet. If you want a solid foundation to understand something, try to find a children’s book about it. They are usually clearly written, have illustrations, and assume zero familiarity with the subject. Google is very useful, specifically google maps.
Please don’t feel compelled to get every possible detail right. You will drive yourself batty.
For example, we are writing a scene involving Houston’s Institute of Forensic Sciences. We google-drove around it. We looked at the pictures. But we don’t know its exact layout. We are not sure that the autopsy suite we are describing is on the floor we are describing. We can spend several hours verifying this or we can move on with writing the story. In the grand scheme of things, the exact floor isn’t important. So pick your battles. Research isn’t writing. Only writing is writing.
How do y’all work out the fight sequences? Watch videos or movies, sword fight in the living room or just wrangle it out in your mind? I’m sorry if this has been asked before. I’ve only lately realized you address process.
See the answer above. Lots and lots of martial art video viewing. And yes, if possible, you should try to actually work through the martial arts moves you are describing.
For example, I read a book where the character is knocked flat on his back by a werewolf, who is now on top of him. The character bends his legs and dramatically kicks the werewolf off. This isn’t going to work. When someone of significant weight and size is on top of you, you can’t bend your knees to work your feet under them. Try it. The only way this would work would be if the werewolf deliberately lifted his hind end to allow for the legs to be bent. Neither dogs nor humans fight that way. We always instinctively try to pin our opponent with our weight.
So make sure it makes sense. Also, keep in mind that martial arts in competition are different than actual fighting. In a real fight, when you got your opponent on the ground, you’re not going to use a fancy submission hold. You’re going to smash his head against the pavement until he stops struggling.
Do you ever read someone else’s stuff and think “oh Kate would have done it this way” or then think “I could have done that better?” – then fight yourself not to use the idea? I never want to borrow someone else’s idea but sometimes what is in a story is similar to what I was thinking.
Ideas can’t be copyrighted. Only words can be copyrighted. Given the same idea, 10 writers will write 10 different books.
There is a difference between writing fanfiction, a direct rip off, and developing your own story based on a previous used premise.
Fanfiction plays in the world of another author. It is done for the love. No money exchanges hands, although fanfic writers often go on to have successful careers, because it’s a good way to hone your skills.
A direct rip-off is someone who take another writer’s idea and writes a very similar, often an inferior work. It’s basically bad fanfic with names changed and written for profit. We’ve had a couple of instances of people doing it to us. In both cases, their books sucked. Deep inside they know it’s not their world. It didn’t come from their influences and experiences and so the end product is a clumsy, pale imitation.
An original work developed on familiar ideas is transformative by nature. It’s an author’s interpretation of a theme. These books can be wildly successful. For example, Eragon. If you are older than 15, you can literally pick out where the ideas in it came from. It isn’t doing anything new, but it does what it does in an engaging way and kids who are new to heroic fantasy love it.
Without imitation, we would never have D&D (Tolkien,) Green Arrow (Robin Hood,) Batman (Zorro,) and Star Wars (Seven Samurai.) Zorro isn’t diminished by Batman’s existence and you shouldn’t be afraid to draw inspiration. If you think you can do something better, do it. But do it through the prism of your own influences and experiences. Make it your own.
Does it ever worry you when other writers say negative things about your work? … I’m scared that someone I admire will hate my book.
There is a certain etiquette among writers. You don’t generally trash a book written by a peer simply because the world is trashing everyone’s work already and it’s polite not to add to it unless some egregious wrong has occurred in the book and you just can’t help yourself.
Not all writers adhere to this established behavior. For example, there is a writer on Twitter who sits there and retweets a negative review of one of our books. Over and over and over. Sometimes twice a day. She isn’t doing it because she hated it. She is doing it because she has nothing original to say, so her entire feed consists of retweets. Someone must’ve told her at some point that she has to maintain social media presence, so she is heroically maintaining it.
So it does happen occasionally. But the more prominent is the writer, the less likely they are to trash anyone’s book. Look at it this way: between all the social media accounts, blog, newsletter, etc, we are reaching roughly 50,000 people a day. If I pick a book at random and say, “I hated this book,” a bunch of people will run over and look at it. Some people will buy it. This is simply statistics at this point. If I dislike a book, I will never mention it because I don’t believe it deserves that boost. So I don’t think you have to worry about reading someone you admire criticizing your work.
But let’s say the worst has occurred, and your peer rips your book to pieces. You have to remember that reviews are subjective and writers are no better at being objective than anyone else. Often, if they choose to review, they do it for their own reasons and at the end, it doesn’t really matter. Did you write the book you wanted to write? Did it make you happy? Well, then all is good.
It’s hard but try to stop worrying about it. Write for yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Hi, I’d like to know how you both got feedback as a beginning writer. Two years ago I finished my first novel, and wanted to get feedback to do edits, etc. I asked all my friends and family. Even some strangers. Only one person read a significant portion. I’ve honestly been writing much less since then because it was so disheartening when even the people closest to me didn’t have the time or interest. While I was thankful to that person, and their input was helpful, I would have liked more direction. Is that a realistic goal, or do I need to accept I’m my own editor until I write something interesting enough to score an agent’s attention?
I have a link for you: Online Workshop for SF, F, and Horror. It really helped Gordon and me when started out. The way it worked back then is that you would have 3 crit points when you joined. Three points allowed you to post a chapter of your work. To get more points, you had to critique 3 chapters by someone else.
I haven’t been a member in years and I’m not affiliated with it in any way, but it was very beneficial. It is a trial by fire though, because complete strangers will rip your fiction to shreds trying to be helpful and you have to be ok with that.
Try it out. Might be just what the doctor ordered.
I was cleaning out my email box, and found this.
Thank you for asking how things are going. So far so good. Dad has arrived. He likes his room. A TV was installed and a bundle of Russian channels was ordered for him on Roku. A tablet was provided for his convenience so he could Skype my stepmom.
I have made an apple and strawberry crumble and he has eaten some of it, so dessert was a success. He also complimented baked potatoes, which I had nuked for five minute in the microwave, and declined the carefully stuffed salmon. 🙂
The house is completely clean. We’ve had a sharp drop in temperature, from low 90’s to 40’s with a very cold nasty rain. Yesterday, a short while after I walked away to work, I heard a squeaking noise. My father, having been denied the opportunity to repair or clean something in the house, was outside. In the cold rain. Washing windows.
I’m waiting to see if he develops a fever. Hopefully not. Fingers crossed.