Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology
Writing tip #1: Start in the middle of the action.
“Hey!” Kathy shouted. Her clear voice cut through the traffic noise and the oblivious guy ahead turned, saw her coming at speed, and slammed his car door shut just in time. The guy’s head spun watching her pass, barely six inches between him and the right handlebar of Kathy’s bike.
No time to look back. Kathy had to get there quick or all the copies would be gone.
Writing tip #2: Show, don’t tell.
3 am. There was no getting around it, sleep was not happening. Just one more story, Kathy thought as she took the book from the nightstand and clicked on the LED bookmark. The white glow reflecting from the turning pages gave her face the look of a ghost, an apparition.
The story ended and still not sleepy. Well then, one more. Then another, and then she reaches the end and still not sleepy. I’ll go back, I want to read some again. But which? The robot story? The troll-ship story? Then she realizes, no need to choose. I’ll just re-read them all …
Writing tip #3: Revise, revise, revise.
“Hey!” Kathy shouted. Her clear voice cut through the traffic noise just in time for the oblivious guy ahead to hear, turn, and slam shut his car door; the right handlebar of Kathy’s bike nearly grazed him as she leaned into the pedals for yet more speed. In her wake the oblivious guy cast angry shouts characteristic of oblivious guys everywhere.
These and a great many other tips come from the Ultimate Science Fiction Workshop, which I attended in 2008. Why, you might ask? The short answer is, I want to be a writer and despite dinking around with it ever since college and producing some bits which I rather like – amidst much larger volumes of utter junk – it was clear to me I needed some basics and some examples. Run by Jeff Carver and Craig Shaw Gardner, the USFW was exactly the right thing. The workshop, which ran each Fall from 2006 to 2011, is on a break just now, while Jeff and Craig do actual writing. If like me you have the writing bug, look for the USFW when it comes back.
I’m afraid I have ignored writing tip #4: Get To The Point. Here it is:
Neat cover, huh? Through mailing lists, FB, etc. alumni of USFW maintain a loose level of communication. About a year go the idea came up of an anthology of USFW graduates’ stories. There was also quick consensus on what to do with the proceeds of any such work: All would go to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund, which helps SFWA members facing unexpected medical expenses.
The result is Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, just now available at Amazon and other outlets:
The story from yours truly is a short one, loosely inspired by some experiences I have had in India. But all the stories here are great. I particularly like the ones from my fellow attendees in the 2008 session. The workshop experience is quite personal – you’re sharing and critiquing each other’s thoughts, after all – and hearing the voices that I recall as tentative and new back then, now coming up with these confident, creative and cool stories is just great, and gives me hope for my own work.
So, good stories, good cause – catch a copy of Pen-Ultimate. And it really will be at Readercon, July 11-14. Like the Kathy in my mini-story, if you get there quick you can snag what I’m sure will someday be a valuable first edition!
I’ll end with, Writing tip #5: Finish with the reader wanting more.
Fundra put the thunderbird to sleep, her tips pressing the two-meter wings into hundred-fold angles. Bird bone spines and feathers fused into layers, the whole animal sliding paper thin and easily rolled into her community pocket. She made a gesture of sixteen tips because she felt sad, because she had fallen in love with the bird’s eyes, glassy dark and wise.
If you want to find out what happens next, get Pen-Ultimate.