Author has written 8 stories for Evangelion, Battle Angel, Gunnm/Battle Angel, and Wheel of Time.
Currently, I'm a fifth year Physics graduate student, so my time to write has been very limited. (Hee hee, I'm a published author; I will be second author on a paper coming out in 'Nature Communications.' Okay, yeah, this is like my fourth or fifth paper... but, 'Nature!')
Whoever you are, thank you very much for reading my work!
(6-28-12)- Work on fanfic has been regrettably slow; I've actually been focusing on an entirely original piece. My own world, my own characters. I want badly someday to publish a story of my own, but that will never ever happen if all my effort is directed at works owned by others. I'm decent, I see no reason to do anything but try. I do intend to continue my efforts on "Youngest Channeler" if only when there's spare time.
If you're a fic writer, keep it forever in mind that the goodwill you earn from 'your' readership is actually the fruit of someone else's labor. It isn't really your work people love, it's the work your work is based on.
I'm confused about my interests here a little bit; I like making people happy with what I've written and I know people will read my fanfic if I continue to write it, but I'll never be recognized for my own talent if I waste my time living in the shadows of someone like Robert Jordan. But, I may never be able to sell a work of my own, so it's appealing to write fic. It's gratifying that YC routinely floats in the top ten of the lists in the WOT category even though it is an original character fic --fanfic doesn't win audience for being truly original, hence the word fanfic.
(1-8-13)- "A Memory of Light" is out today. Guess what I'll be reading tonight.
(10-22-13)- I've seen a few comments over the years about my depiction of the character Ghedlyn that have had me thinking. People love to use the words "non-neurotypical" and "non-standard character" in their compliments/criticisms. I am not fond of these words. If you are thinking in terms of "neurotypical" versus "non-neurotypical," you automatically lose what makes a character unique as an individual as opposed to a stereotype. Every character you write should be "non-standard" if you're writing character correctly. While I know that Ghedlyn is autistic-like, remember always that the reasons for her illness are entirely fantastical --I don't know that this can be more clearly spelled out in the story than the number of sections devoted to spelling it out, but there you have it. Somebody somewhere is bound to not get that. There is exactly no reason for this illness to parallel the DSMV and I made no effort trying to be completely real-to-life with it. While the character was inspired by autism and savants, her illness isn't autism.
(2-4-15)- Thoughts about the right way to (learn to) write:
I had an incident that has reminded me again how hard it is for people to talk to each other about writing when a prized story is on the line. As an author, you invest yourself in your work, usually; any author reading this who has any level of skill will understand what I mean. It becomes your baby.
I've thought for a long time about the 'right way' and here are my current beliefs about what can make an amateur into a good writer. Much of it is based on experience, including the recent incident I just mentioned:
1.) Read broadly. If you intend to write, you should be reading a lot. Further, you shouldn't be reading routinely below the level of your aspiration. I think this is important: you are what you eat and if you consume amateur fiction rife with crap, you are going to come to assume that that's the 'correct' way to do it! There are many correct ways to write a story, but there are also many ways to clash with the audience and consign your work to the dumpster --to know the difference, you have to have examples of quality to draw from. So, stick to filet mignon whenever possible. Don't confuse yourself as to the nature of your competition; you aren't competing against the people in your writing group, you're competing against the people who have already succeeded in the industry. Knowing how the latter group operates is what success is all about.
2.) Pre-readers can be helpful, but don't overdo it. You need people looking at your work that can help you and, in order to have that, you need people who are as good or, preferably, better than you. If you're aspiring toward cream-of-the-crop, commentary from Joe Shmoe D-student will take you in the wrong direction. You need someone who is clear-thinking and scathingly critical, someone with taste and skill who can tell you things you don't want to hear. I've done hundreds of thousands of words of rewriting based on what a pre-reader has said and I can tell you from experience that you have to be absolutely certain you've picked the right person to listen to. You simply can't change such large amounts for just anybody. There are several important facets to this:
a.) I think your pre-reader group should be small enough that you can't pick and choose too much of what you listen to. Story writing has a subjective component when it comes to 'like' and 'dislike' and certain opinions can provide input forcing you in directions you may not need to visit. It's important for me to assume that my taste is imperfect and that I'm not biasing the statistical pool of my readers with people of no particular skill telling me I'm doing a good job. My vanity can blind me to criticism that I don't like hearing. So, I limit the number of people I use as pre-readers in order to limit my wiggle room when choosing to ignore criticism I don't like. A part of this is finding the best way to separate your emotional response to criticism from your investment in producing a quality piece of work. You may ultimately find it impossible to publish a piece of work that everybody you listened to told you they enjoyed and the reason might be a bias in which advice you sought --maybe these people aren't actually giving good advice and you're not skilled enough to know it! I've found that trying to listen to too many people, even when they're telling me they 'like' what I'm doing, can lead me on a wild goose chase through contradictory advice since some people will love things that other people hate. So, assume the audience is fickle and try to structure pre-reading opportunities so that the flaws in your work are not hidden behind your own emotional bias toward picking out opinions you want to hear.
b.) You have to have someone that can smack you upside the head and tell you you're being delusional. This is one particular necessary relationship. If you've jumped the shark, which you can't always see when you're doing it, you need someone who can drag you back to Earth. It's difficult to admit to your own shortcomings and doubly so when you're actually weak where you believe yourself strong. Have a friend standing by with a 2"x4" to help troubleshoot your hubris.
c.) You should be autonomous enough from your pre-reader group that you aren't averaging yourself with how they think. One experience of mine was with a group of pre-readers where some of them possessed very strong voices, but modest skill and dubious taste, who were actually completely unable to separate their own voice from what they were reading. I think all writers have this handicap from time to time, but the way criticism was dolled out in this group tended to favor neutral changes that averaged all the voices in the group toward an ephemeral standard voice. You can't know you're facing this if you don't read broadly enough to know you're being told garbage, so I refer ye again to point 1.).
3.) Related to pre-readers, don't use them too much. They should have dim or nonexistent memories of what you're trying to show them. You want their responses to be based on what you don't know rather than what you've discussed with them six hundred times already. When you start explaining to them how a story should work, they'll remember that explanation in place of your story and they won't necessarily be responding to what you think they're responding too. If you've explained your work to them, they can no longer tell you what you truly want to know. Worse, if they're growing bored with rereading something you've given them too many times, they may start skipping things you actually need help with. You want to keep contaminating information out of their hands. This is the fiction-writing equivalent of a blind trial (you can't double-blind because, obviously, you have to know your own work).
4.) Related to picking pre-readers, if you're picking fellow authors, make certain you understand the kind of work they produce. If they are crappy or producing work that is nothing like where you want to go, keep in mind that they will probably make recommendations based on that aesthetic sense. Read what they've produced if possible and decide whether you really want this person to tell you what to do. If you're picking someone who isn't a writer, try to pick someone who reads a lot in your genre of focus; preferably read something that they've read so that you know what sense they'll use when comparing you to published work.
5.) Read broadly. If you skipped 1.), go back there and read it. Better yet, just go back there and read it again.
6.) I've considered the utility of writing groups before. If their idea of editing is sitting around and debating the most valid method for installing a vagina metaphor in a description of the decor of some character's car, run away fast, these people are going to waste your time. Otherwise, I suppose it can be a good place to screen for potential pre-readers. I'm not sure I would just up and offer them what I'm interested in revising because I would want to see what they're capable of first.
7.) Do more than just write and read. I think it's true that you write what you know, so you should aspire to understand as much beyond writing as you can. This is a complement to point 5.) and point 1.)... you need to know what to write about in addition to how to write it. I think there are many ways to accomplish this, but keep in mind that you need a better grasp of what you're writing about than your average audience. I think many modern professional authors fail at point 7.) and, from my background as a scientist, it generally means they have pretty words draped over a foundation made of crap.
8.) Be completely willing to do deep rewrites. Many times, revision involves changing cosmetic features and diddling with word play; this can make something you've written more fluid and readable. Often, it seems like this is the extent of editing that people are willing to do --as if the idea in their heads is already good enough following its immaculate conception. So, what do you do if there are fundamental problems with what you're writing about? Maybe your characters have spent a couple sections on an action that is almost completely trivial to the point of your story: your audience can sometimes look at your work and say, "Well, why did they waste so much time doing this when they could've just opened the door and walked out?" And, sometimes they're right! You have to be willing to do the sometimes huge leg work to fix these problems and there are potentially many different kinds. In my own experience, these sorts of deep rewrites are intimidating because they're usually big and not always foreseeable, but they can also be very satisfying because they can improve a work dramatically. In my experience, a work is often better the second time I've written it, but I would never know it if I wasn't willing to trash huge portions of my earlier effort! (and, no, I don't mean just "rewrite"... I'm mean the labor implied by "written a second time.")
9.) Take writing 'how-to' manuals to be worth not more than a cent. I'm aware that this suggestion is the same as saying that you should ignore what I'm saying, but I feel there's a deeper meaning here. If you're reading as much quality literature as you should, you will encounter demonstrations of every recommendation a how-to manual can possibly make, as well as every variation. A writing how-to should serve as confirmation for what you've already seen. The point is, no matter whose tutorial you're reading, don't just take their word for it and especially don't elevate that word above the study you should be making of first-hand literature.
10.) Develop your own methods of behind the scenes organization. I debated somewhat whether to include this, but decided that it is pretty important and demands some attention. I've met and read about a lot of people who are all bangers on outlining, even read an outline written by J.K. Rowling for one of her books. In a complicated work the quality of writing can depend fairly strongly on organization maintained by the author necessary to keep track of details and plot structure. I outline, I construct trees of a sort, I write extensive lists and I write background. Consider what keeps you consistent when you're writing and try to be sensitive to what features of your creation you may forget or lose track of somewhere down the line. Lists and outlines can be very useful to this, but you must understand well enough about yourself to know what you may need. As a secondary recommendation, I've found that working complicated mathematical problems by hand can be a wonderful training aid for the task of learning to keep track of details and remembering and analyzing logical structures --when I say 'do hard math' I'm talking about problems that need more than a line or two; I mean math that takes pages and demands large amounts of scratch work. Being able to juggle details and remembering far removed components of a logical structure will pay dividends when writing an involved story. I'm not suggesting that you need to take high-level physics in order to learn how to write, but consider that buying a brain teaser book may have payoffs you didn't expect. All that said, I feel that you shouldn't be such a slave to a priori organization that you can't jump free out in the middle if you discover something new that makes the work more fascinating; don't be afraid to deviate from the plan.
11.) Be willing to play the long game. If you're an amateur writer, like me, you must keep what you're trying to do in perspective. If your goal is to get published, you can't just drop everything and write the way a professional writer does, but you have to absorb some of the same lessons a professional writer must, meaning that you have no choice but to embark on some sort of growth curve. Amateur writers are going to have difficulty competing with the experience of professional writers in the professional marketplace. We simply have not performed the act of writing enough. Your habits must permit growth; which is why I've repeatedly suggested making an obligation out of reading high quality work. It takes a lot of time to gain the knowledge your competitors may already possess and you have to be willing to put in that time learning! If you're impatient to be done immediately, you need to put on the brakes and stop yourself before you burn out in a puff of narcissistic insanity. It's easy for an amateur to get obsessed with the particular story you're working on right now and hard to see that if you put that story down for a year and come back later, you'll find you were wasting your time on a piece of crap --you have to be willing to apply growth attained through the course of your writing to what was produced when you began, which means that maybe the thing you care about is full of garbage that you should take the time to remove. The thing you shop to the publishers should not be the thing you wrote while you were still learning how! For perspective on what it takes to produce an iconic work: Ray Bradbury took some part of six years to craft the final version of "Fahrenheit 451," including five versions of the story which are basically totally different from each other; Robert Heinlein supposedly took from 1948 to 1961 to produce "Stranger in a Strange Land." Certainly, lots of people jump through the hoop in less than a year, but they are often writing dreck.
(Addendum to 11.) Signs that you've fallen off your rocking chair and have no perspective on what you've produced:
12.) And finally, lest I need to say it again. Read broadly.
A Layer of Dust: Written circa 1995 just after I first discovered Gunnm. Not quite my oldest fanfic.
The Hunter Warrior Killer: Written 1996-1997 in several large pushes. Started as a textural experiment, but mutated when I discovered that I really loved the villain. An inverse marysue?
Hidden Virtues: My first uber Marysue, written during the height of my Evangelion obsession in about 1998. Subsequently rewritten about four times and coming to include some of my thoughts about martial arts at that time. The formatting of this story has suffered through the upgrades and alterations to this site: it no longer looks quite like I intended. But, that's okay... I detest this story and keep it around more or less as a reminder of what I won't write again.
Serpent at the Window: My last Eva fic. Not a terrific piece of work, but written in the days preceding and following September 11 2001. This story contains my emotional response to the events of that day. I will not write an Eva fic again and almost decided not to write fanfic anymore after a confrontation with a friend based on criticism of this story. Criticism can be hard and is best not leveled by people you care about.
Self Assembler Saga: High concept science fiction that ended up crossed with an impression of "Calvin and Hobbs." This story died in my brain when the original creator of Gunnm began to write "Last Order" and totally trashed my perspective on the main character: she wasn't supposed to be a Playboy Bunny dammit!
Weaving Luck: Written 2005. This work contains the genesis of my current marysue Ghedlyn. There are actually several characters here that I really liked, including the protagonist Aes Sedai, her Warder and the character/s about which the story was originally named. No, the story was not named for Ghedlyn. This story stalled because I realized that it was going to be prohibitively difficult to write it and keep it perfectly true to RJ's original series, which is a fairly large requirement that I impose upon myself when writing fanfic.
Youngest Channeler: 2006 to present. This is my current focus when I have time to devote to fanfic. It was written as a substitute for a blog when I realized I liked the writing experience that blogging provides, but don't like talking about my own life a la journal-open-to-the-world. This story was for fun. I am still working on this, but my time has been divided lately and work is progressing slowly. The writing strategy here was slightly different than I would prefer if I were writing something like a full novel and I think it diminishes the quality of the work: the chapters are written and presented in an episodic fashion, meaning that there is little editorial interaction between the beginning of the story and the current section. This is disadvantageous because it means I can't correct for drift or strengthen/support new ideas had in the process of writing and it means that far reaching plot points are less structured than I would prefer. The block-at-a-time style does have the advantage that it gives immediate feedback, but I think the whole thing is less than it could be.
Desertion of Reason: Written 2009. I stopped "Youngest Channeler" long enough to write this story. It chases a strange psychological idea that I wanted to explore after reading some Philip K. Dick which I decided was uniquely possible within the WOT universe. This story is pretty dark and uninviting, but it is the first fanfic in recent history that I've written to completion prior to beginning to post it. There is an old theme of familial tragedy in here that I've explored in some of my other work and somehow it matched with the feelings of loss and loneliness existent in my life while I was writing it. I have a proclivity for insane characters and this story followed with that. I have no idea whether people will like reading it or not, but I guess that didn't matter while I was working on it.
Unsafe External Link