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Writing Tip: Using Wordle to highlight overused words

Jacey Bedford

Wordle used to be a web-based utility, a web toy that allowed you to paste in a piece of writing to make a word cloud. The more frequently a word appeared in your text, the bigger it appeared in the word cloud. Yes, it’s a pretty utility, but also massively useful for a writer. We all tend to have words that we overuse, but we don’t always recognise them. Cut and paste your text into Wordle and your overused words stand out like a rhinoceros in a flock of sheep. Frequently used common words like ‘the’, ‘and’, or ‘but’ don’t show up, of course.

Wordle is a Java applet. Because web design and technology moves on, the online Wordle web toy no longer works for most people, so the Wordle folks have offered a desktop version for both Windows and Mac. You can download it here http://www.wordle.net/. I’m running…

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Riding (and Writing) the Frontier by Laura Anne Gilman

milfordsfwriters

Research – good, solid, grounding research -is essential for any book, but doubly so for a historical fantasy – and thrice that when you’re using extant and still in-use locations for your setting!

Silver-comp-1j-264x400The Devil’s West books are set in the American West, the land that in our timeline was the Louisiana Purchase.  I’d taken a major on American social and political history in college, so the bones of What If were already set: what if our exploration into the West had gone differently?  What if, instead of a Gold Rush and a Land Rush, instead of Manifest Destiny, we’d been forced to slow down, to consider the territory west of the Mississippi a sovereign land, to be wooed and negotiated with rather than colonized?  What if magic resisted “civilization?”

But writing about the Territory brought up a significant problem:  North America is vast.  The continental US alone is nearly…

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Everything You Didn’t Know to Ask About Milford by Anthony Francis

Big fan of Milford. Have attended a few times and can’t wait to go back!

milfordsfwriters

Are you interested in the Milford SF Writer’s Conference? A year ago, I definitely was! I was in the middle of the Taos Toolbox Writer’s Workshop and couldn’t get enough of its “Milford-Style Critique” – a collaborative process in which a dozen or so writers critique each other’s stories in a circle of peers. For each story, every attendee offers 2-3 minutes of commentary (timed) to which the writer listens (quietly), at which point they may respond, followed by open discussion.

VLUU P1200  / Samsung P1200 Milford Group 2018

Taos Toolbox tweaks this a little bit by having two experienced authors – Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress – moderate the critiques. They follow student critiques with free-form critiques of their own, giving the students a role model to follow. But I still wanted to be prepared, so I looked up what Milford-Style Critique was and how to do it constructively – and while I…

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The Art of Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan

milfordsfwriters

So you’re working on a story, and it really ought to have a fight scene. But you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m not a martial artist! I’m not a member of the SCA! I have no idea how to fight!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Fight scenes are so boring. I’d rather skip over this and get back to the actual story.” Or something else that makes you dread writing that scene, rather than looking forward to it with anticipation.

To the first group, I say: the details of how to fight are possibly the least important component of a fight scene. The crucial components are the same ones you’re already grappling with in the rest of your writing—description, pacing, characterization, all that good stuff.

To the second group, I say: it’s only boring if the author does it wrong.

A fight is part of the story. Just like any other scene…

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First Chapter Checklist by Ed McDonald

Great advice!

milfordsfwriters

Typewriter 3The first chapter of your book needs to be a bit special. All of the chapters need to be special, but Chapter 1 needs to be extra special. This is your agent-catcher. It’s the chapter where you need to hook that agent’s attention – or reader’s attention – and then keep them going. Your first chapter should be so polished that water can’t even settle on it, it just slides right off without any friction at all.

So, without further ado, here’s a checklist for your own first chapter that you might find useful to work through, to see if you’re doing common things that generally don’t work. This comes with the usual caveat that everybody’s writing process is different, and what works for me may not work for you etc… but I’d be willing to bet that if (like me with my previous 1.5 million words of novels!) you’ve…

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Writing as Drawing by David Gullen

milfordsfwriters

We all have our ways of doing things. When I’m plotting out a novel or a longer story I always start with pen and paper. I like to use my favourite fountain pen, and quartered sheets of A4.  I do something similar with a short story too, though I’ll probably just write down a few key things that anchor it. I’ll always use pen and paper.

DSCN4169There’s something about the process that works well for me, though I don’t know why. All I can say is there’s a connection between mind and eye and hand so they feel like three parts of one thing. Pen and paper stimulates and focusses my imagination and lets the ideas flow ­– though not in any order. I’ll brainstorm everything in a few sessions, one plot point, or scene, or character, or piece of dialogue per piece of paper.  I’ve found this much more…

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Constraints Are Your Friends by Sue Oke

milfordsfwriters

image collage writingHave you ever noticed that the more constraints you face in your writing, the more creative you become? I used to write a collage piece with a group of writers—just for fun, you understand. This involved the giving and receiving of short phrases from everyone in the group, so that you end up with perhaps six unrelated phrases to work with. If working alone, you can choose random words/phrases from the book you are currently reading. The challenge then is to write a piece that incorporates all the phrases within ten minutes. As an additional constraint pick one of the phrases to start and finish the piece with.

The key to this exercise is NOT TO THINK. Put pen to paper and let the words flow. DO NOT STOP WRITING during the ten minutes. Grammar and spelling are not important. You can write a load of nonsense, at this point…

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My Week at Milford

Jacey Bedford

My writing week The view from the window of my little room.

Many thanks to last week’s guest blogger Joshua Palmatier for doing a post for me while I was away at Milford SF Writers’ week in Snowdonia at the lovely Trigonos, Though they do have wi-fi there now, it tends to be intermittent, so I wasn’t sure how much connectivity I would have. Also I was working on my little Dell laptop, bought (reconditioned) for travelling. It’s nowhere near as convenient as my desktop machine which has a 23 inch monitor and a lovely clicky keyboard.

What’s Milford?

Milford is  practically an institution in it’s own right. It was started by a bunch of well known, well respected professional SF writers in Milford Pennsylvania in 1956. Damon Knight being one of the prime movers. James and Judy Blish brought it to the UK in 1972 and with only a couple of…

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Guest Blog From Joshua Palmatier

Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford graciously invited me to guest here at her blog today so that I could talk about the small press Zombies Need Brains and our current Kickstarter (check out tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) attempting to fund three brand new SF&F anthologies.  I thought it might be nice to explain where the themes for these three anthologies came from.

PORTALSsmallFirst, the lead anthology, which is really my own little baby.  I grew up reading fantasy novels in the 80s, which means I read a ton of novels with characters from our world transported to another world.  Books like Andre Norton’s WITCH WORLD or Stephen Donaldson’s CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT.  There were many, many others, but I noticed that I hadn’t seen or read many “portal novels” in either fantasy or sci-fi recently.  I loved those stories, so thought, “Why not do an anthology with portals as the theme?”  Hence, PORTALS was born (although…

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