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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Oh Why Not (Writing M-Thing)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Oh Why Not (Writing M-Thing)

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As seen at heartofoshun's LJ and apparently done by half of everyone ... I have been working hard during the day to get ready for the school year but all work and no play makes Dawn a dull girl, right?

Pick the number(s) of the questions you'd like me to answer about my writing. (Like Oshun, I love talking about writing. Most writers do, I think!)

I will try to likewise be good about striking off numbers as I answer them.

1) is there a story you're holding off on writing for some reason?

2) what work of yours, if any, are you the most embarrassed about existing?


3) what order do you write in? front of book to back? chronological? favourite scenes first? something else?

4) favourite character you've written

5) character you were most surprised to end up writing

6) something you would go back and change in your writing that it's too late/complicated to change now

7) when asked, are you embarrassed or enthusiastic to tell people that you write?

8) favourite genre to write

9) what, if anything, do you do for inspiration?


10) write in silence or with background noise? with people or alone?

11) what aspect of your writing do you think has most improved since you started writing?

12) your weaknesses as an author

13) your strengths as an author


14) do you make playlists for your current wips?

15) why did you start writing?

16) are there any characters who haunt you?

17) if you could give your fledgling author self any advice, what would it be?


18) were there any works you read that affected you so much that it influenced your writing style? what were they?

19) when it comes to more complicated narratives, how do you keep track of outlines, characters, development, timeline, etc.?

20) do you write in long sit-down sessions or in little spurts?

21) what do you think when you read over your older work?

22) are there any subjects that make you uncomfortable to write?

23) any obscure life experiences that you feel have helped your writing?

24) have you ever become an expert on something you previously knew nothing about, in order to better a scene or a story?

25) copy/paste a few sentences or a short paragraph that you’re particularly proud of




This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/386575.html
  • 5, 6, 7, pls.
    • 5) character you were most surprised to end up writing

      Boromir. I have always written 99% Silmfic, and when I write LotR, it tends to be Elf-based. I never had any urge to write about Gondor.

      Then last year, during MPTT's Yule Fic Exchange, there was a participant who had claimed a prompt by keiliss but appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth, missing check-ins and failing to reply to messages from the mods. This was not the only instance of this happening, and we were facing a possible FOUR (!!) missing stories, including this one. (It turned out that most of those authors turned their work in on time. But there was part of a day when things got pretty scary.) We mods were scrambling to see who could pinch-hit at the last minute, and when I read Kei's prompt, it just clicked. It was an amazing prompt, the kind that can get you interested in part of the story you'd never been compelled to think much about before. I was quite pleased with how the resulting story Víressë turned out, and it was the most fun I'd had writing a story in a long time.

      6) something you would go back and change in your writing that it's too late/complicated to change now

      OMG there's so many things! AMC being one of my first stories and without a doubt my most popular has had the effect of making me feel like certain aspects of my verse are carved in stone. But that story is so long, and I vowed that I was done messing with it, so I'm stuck with some of those things.

      I was relatively new to the fandom when I wrote AMC. I didn't quite understand fully the nuances of the canon. If I wrote it today, it would be far less L&C-compliant. There was enormous pressure then to treat that document like a rulebook for writing Elves, and I didn't have a firm grasp on the arguments against that. (I didn't push the boundaries a little but would push them a lot more now.) I would scrap the whole idea of Nerdanel becoming exhausted with each childbirth; I detest that, even though it's from L&C. I would include the daughters of Finwe; I didn't know then that their elimination from the published Silm was less based on a firm decision by JRRT than an editorial decision by Christopher.

      Some of these things I may be able to ease into changing in future stories.

      I would write Indis and Fingolfin with more justice. As a relatively young writer, I still felt the need to have a villain in a story, and this is a major weakness of the story. This is something that I can remedy in future works, however (and have in fact begun to do ...)

      7) when asked, are you embarrassed or enthusiastic to tell people that you write?

      Somewhere in the middle. I've never hidden that I'm a writer, and I've started to be open about writing fan fiction even outside of "safe" groups of people (mostly because Googling my name makes it pretty obvious pretty fast! And I'm proud of the work I've done in the Tolkien fandom, as a website admin, author, and researcher.)

      At the same time, I find that most non-writers show interest in my writing for the same reason that I show interest in pictures of their babies. Neither of us are truly interested but feel the need to be polite by pretending we are. And it's not particularly rewarding to talk to non-writers about writing. The questions I get most often: 1) Are you published? (Yes, but I find my traditionally published work to be less meaningful and defining of me as a writer than much of my fanfic so ...) 2) What is your novel about? (As though I could actually answer that in the 20 seconds it would take before the person would start to check out. I'm convinced that there is nothing more boring than hearing someone describe a story they are writing but you can't actually read. It's like the crust without the bread: missing all the characterization and language and suspense that makes a story fun to read.)
  • 16, 23 & 25 please. :)
    • 16) are there any characters who haunt you?

      Not really. I was very afraid of writing Feanor when I was a new writer. For one ... wow, what a powerful voice I needed to do him justice! But this wasn't helped by the fact that every time I embarked on writing him, something weird and disastrous happened to the chapter.

      Nowadays, I've mostly abandoned the practice (so common in my early fandom days) of treating "muses" like real people who become angry and withhold their help, etc.

      23) any obscure life experiences that you feel have helped your writing?

      I've drawn a lot on my experience/knowledge as a calligrapher and illuminator in writing Tolkienfic. Some of it is just having the kinds of minute knowledge that adds a touch of realism to writing: how inks and paints are made, the proper terms for various materials, the process by which books and manuscripts are made. A lot of it is experiential, though, things that one only knows when one spends a lot of time playing with paint and ink! :) Details like Maedhros licking his quills and having ink and paint on his lips are based on, for example, my tendency to do the same. The smells and tastes of inks and paints, the way it feels to work a long time on a piece, the kinds of things I think about when designing a piece or working with a new script ... I've pulled on these experiences for the entirety of my Tolkienfic career.

      ETA ... I answered the wrong question! Here is the answer to the question you actually requested. :)

      25) copy/paste a few sentences or a short paragraph that you’re particularly proud of

      I have always loved the ending of By the Light of Roses; it is one of my favorite things that I have ever written, although I don't know if it works out of context of the rest of the story:

      (next comment, ran out of room!)

      Edited at 2016-08-14 06:50 pm (UTC)
    • From the darkness at the end of the path, a shape emerged; the shape had broad shoulders and a wide, beautiful face with amber-colored eyes. There was dirt on his hands, for he’d been sowing new life within the earth even as his husband had been taking it within the forest: Nandolin. He carried an old tin lamp, the kind that held a candle quivering within it. All of the lamps of the house had been smashed and their stones taken, and we blinked in surprise at the light.

      No one paid him any mind, least of all the sons of Fëanáro. Telvo’s face was buried in his twin’s shoulder; his back heaved with gulping sobs and grief that had no voice. And Nandolin, incredibly, did not heed the sons of Fëanáro either but came to us: Terentaulë, Vingarië, and me.

      “We must take the road with greatest haste to Tirion,” he said. “My father will lend us horses, and if we do not sleep, we shall make it by--” he hesitated, for none of us knew the time of day, not without the Trees. “We shall make it by tomorrow.”

      None of us answered him. Vingarië was gently rocking Terentaulë in her arms. I looked at the ground.

      “Do you see them?” Nandolin asked, pointing to the sons of Fëanáro. He spoke awkwardly, always as though there was a chunk of granite beneath his tongue. “Do you see their unquestioning solidarity? Why is it that we--the ones they love--stand aside? Is it because they can smell our doubt upon us like blood?”

      “We cannot--” Terentaulë began, her voice like a cracking whip, but Nandolin interrupted her. “We can. And will. How dare we call ourselves family if we forsake them now? Our family?” His voice was driving like a fist, and we all winced.
      Our doubt: it reeked upon us like blood.

      “We will make our excuses in the years to come, that it was for the best, that we lacked the strength for what is to come … or maybe we will put the fault on them, on fights that we had and pain that they gave us. But really, it is simple: We are family, and we must go with them.”

      He turned then and strode into the insular cluster of Fëanáro’s sons. He went to Telvo and stroked his back while Pityo held his twin in his arms.

      Vingarië’s arm slipped from Terentaulë’s shoulders.
      She nodded at me as she passed. “Eressetor. If I do not--” Smiling to cover her fear. “Best wishes.” And she went to slip her hand into Macalaurë’s, the hand that was not consoling Carnistir.

      And from the path then came a surprising sight: the pretty, impatient face of Pityo’s betrothed eased into focus from the shadows. She paused and looked upon us--Terentaulë and me--before moving to stand solidly at Pityo’s side. In a reflection of Nandolin, her hand lifted to rest upon his shoulder, and she looked at us no more.

      Curufinwë stood alone in the circle of brothers and Terentaulë also. She bounced Tyelperinquar and wept without end--but her feet slowly carried her to him, and he alone of the brothers caught his wife into his embrace, and the wept together, with Tyelperinquar held between them.

      They began to move toward the path, and I watched them go. Nandolin was speaking again of horses in a voice awkward but strong, leading with the battered tin lamp held high in his hand as a beacon, and Maitimo was nodding through his tears. Amid the chaos, frail order was beginning to take hold.

      I waited for Nandolin to turn back, to beckon me one last time to follow. I watched his lamp dancing down the path, growing smaller as he moved from me and left me in the darkness.
      We are their family …

      But it was Telvo, his gray eyes bright in the darkness, red-rimmed and swollen with tears, his hand caught in his brother’s on one side and his husband’s on the other, who turned and looked back at me. Eressetor?

      Jogging to catch up with them, together, we began the walk to Tirion with the lamp held high, the tiny twist of fire striving bravely against the darkness.
  • 1, 18, 24
    • 1) is there a story you're holding off on writing for some reason?

      I have multiple stories more or less written in my head (or at least with enough strong images and emotions that I could write them easily in a sitting) from later in the First Age. The problem is that I haven't gotten through parts of the First Age yet where important things happen that I don't want to spoil later on down the line! Which means I really need to get my butt in gear in picking up the AMC series, I know ...

      18) were there any works you read that affected you so much that it influenced your writing style? what were they?

      Writers who are masterful in their use of imagery and language always inspire me and make me want to write. I can often tell the quality of a story (in my opinion) by whether or not it makes me want to write my own.

      As a young 20-something, my favorite authors were Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. I still adore Atwood's work, although Oates is starting to wear on me a bit (her newer stuff anyway. I think she's an example of an author too productive for her own good.) They had a way with language that made it seem like their words contained more than the sum of their meanings: I first realized the importance of the different layers of meaning of a word and the rhythm of syntax, which was hugely influential to my own work.

      As far as fantasy authors, Ursula LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, and Peter S. Beagle had similar effects on me, as well as quite a few short story authors archived in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series that I used to devour while it was still being produced. They inspired me to take a very literary style of writing, with layers of meaning to both story and language, and apply it to speculative fiction. They taught me that fantasy can be serious art, no matter what my professors said, and encouraged by example to take my own writing seriously no matter what I did.

      As for nonfiction: Tom Shippey and ... Tolkien! :) They both write almost conversationally and are fearless of using artistry even in scholarly work. After trudging through too many pompous and overblown articles in both the social sciences and humanities, they were a breath of fresh air that encouraged me not to abandon beauty and art just because the subject wasn't fiction.

      24) have you ever become an expert on something you previously knew nothing about, in order to better a scene or a story?

      I tend to be lazy when it comes to story research and, like the answer above to Sam, fall back on what I know. I admire people (like you!) who can spend days researching the exact kinds of ships or bows or horses a particular character or group would have used, but that kind of research rarely holds my attention long. Writing is such a visceral thing for me, and by the time I'm in a scene where I'd need that kind of knowledge, I either have to plunge ahead or risk losing it. So I often pull from my own knowledge base in such moments rather than stop to do the kind of research needed to expand my horizons.
  • #15!
    • 15) why did you start writing?

      I think the time I tried to stop writing illustrates better the answer to this! :) I honestly cannot remember beginning to write. I always made up stories, and once I learned to write, putting them on paper was so seamless that I don't remember starting to do it, although I remember some of the stories still. I have always made up stories in my mind, playacted them with anyone I trusted enough to allow into that part of my head (mostly my sister and my husband at this point), and sometimes written them down.

      I tried to stop writing once in my mid-20s, disillusioned by trying to write literary fiction (when I was always pulled more toward speculative but explicitly told by teachers and mentors that this was a waste of my talents!) and trying to publish this half-assed stuff I was writing. Unsuccessfully, of course; my heart wasn't in it.

      The drive to eventually write based on The Silmarillion once I read it a couple of years later was almost a compulsion, and I started writing what I would later learn was called fan fiction, very much in secret and "just for myself." That didn't last either, obviously. :) The more fanfic I read, the more convinced that I could share mine too, which was probably one the most life-changing decisions I made. But at no point do I feel like I chose to write. The stories were there no matter what I did; I can no more stop making them than I can stop breathing air and grow gills and live in the ocean.

      I chose this icon (which comes from the title sequence for the TV series Black Sails) because it always reminds me of me. The woman looks a bit like me. The skeleton is my creative drive, which is often dark and strange and always looking right over my shoulder.
  • 2, 9, and 11.
    • 2) what work of yours, if any, are you the most embarrassed about existing?

      Pretty much everything I wrote before I started writing fanfic! I still have a lot of it, either in the quintessential notebooks maintained by our generation of young writers or on server backups of my files made by my dad. I don't quite have the courage to read any of them and hope I'm never famous enough that anyone wants to! :D

      It was typical awkward young-woman writing: often romantic with fumbling sex scenes and some very overblown language. (Which is saying something since my language still tends toward "overblown.")

      9) what, if anything, do you do for inspiration?

      Art and solitude inspire me.

      Art is anything that is beautiful and reaches me on an emotional level, usually with at least a touch of darkness to it. I am inspired mostly by other writing or by music. Films and visual art inspire me less; I think they are too external and don't allow me enough space to make my own images.

      Solitude lets me write in my head, which is the way that I "write" primarily. (Putting it down onto paper or pixels is a formality.) I love solo outdoor activities like snowshoeing or riding my bike because I fall into a rhythm that lets me live almost entirely inside my own mind and own imagined worlds. I write a lot in these states.

      11) what aspect of your writing do you think has most improved since you started writing?

      I think I have developed more nuance in characterization. I no longer think of things in terms of good guys and bad guys but see everyone as a person just trying their best to get along.

      I think I'm far less purple in my writing without reason. I think there is room for purple writing! But I used to write down everything that came to my head and now control that a little more. What advances the story, whether the plot, characterization, mood, or theme? What do I NEED my readers to see (that I don't want them to make up on their own)?

      I think I'm also better at seeing my stories as coherent wholes: less drifting along and doing whatever. Now I generally have a purpose in what I want to accomplish and direct my writing to serve that purpose. Sometimes new ideas spring up that surprise me and I still go with them! :) But there is less of the fumbling around, trying to find my way, or so I hope.
  • (no subject) - metamorphage
    • 12) your weaknesses as an author

      PLOT. You can ask me what happens in certain stories I've written, and I can't tell you. I have to reread my own work all the time so that I don't make mistakes in later stories. I can't tell you the plot of movies I've watched a dozen times or books I've read a half-dozen. I still forget the order things happen in The Silmarillion and have to look stuff up so embarrassing that I don't even want to mention it here! For whatever reason, my brain does not retain that information.

      Likewise, I rarely plan the plot of a story. I might know that I want certain key events to happen and might even write an outline of a couple dozen words so that I don't forget my own sequence! But stories to me are about people, and plot generally grows out of characters. Imposing characters onto a plot doesn't work for me. It's like saying, "Noah goes to walk-on tryouts for the Baltimore Ravens." That doesn't fit the person/character I know you to be AT ALL, so it doesn't make sense to impose it on your character; it breaks the story. And characters often reveal themselves as I write, despite my best efforts to figure them out ahead of time, so even prewriting isn't much help there.

      13) your strengths as an author

      Characterization. People are the heart of the story for me, and much of my writing is interested in how people navigate situations (plot) from within themselves. I sometimes say that a tightly plotted story where you care nothing for the people it's happening too means less than a story about people you love--or at least believe in--who drop the groceries after a hard day at work. It's probably not a surprise I was a psychology major. :) Figuring out how people tick is a huge part of why I love to write; stories let me occupy existences other than my own, even if just imaginatively.

      I'm also strong with language. I overheard someone once call me the "most literary Tolkien fanfic writer." I don't know if that's true, but it pleased me! :) That's because my training, so to speak, was as a literary writer; I just always felt the urge to reach beyond what literary fiction offered. To me, words have multiple levels of function and meaning, from the denotation to the connotation, the symbolism and the sound. When all of these things work perfectly together, it creates the closest thing to magic I have experienced: plain words in the same language I speak to order french fries or navigate a phone tree, and yet those words create an emotional or imaginative experience so deep that it even defies analysis. The best writers can do that; I aspire to do so.
  • What about 8, 17 and 22?
    • 8) favourite genre to write

      If we go with fanfic genres, I am mostly a genfic writer, although I've written all of them (slash/femslash, het, and gen) and enjoy all of them. Most of the questions/issues I want to explore in Tolkienfic, though, lends itself to genfic.

      As far as more traditional genres go, I love writing horror. In even my non-horror stories, I tend to work in darker or horror elements whenever I can. Exploring the darker or more frightening side of human existence is interesting to me.

      17) if you could give your fledgling author self any advice, what would it be?

      As odd as this sounds, I actually wouldn't.

      I've made mistakes as a writer (and a human), and I certainly have my regrets and think, "If I could go back and do that again, I would ..." But then I realize that what I learned from those mistakes shaped the writer/person that I am today, and it's possible that without those experiences, I wouldn't be the person I am now.

      The one thing I might say would be not to take writing advice. Which would defeat the advice if heeded! :) I used to waste a lot of time reading famous authors' prescriptions for writing success (write early in the morning! work on fiction for at least 15 minutes a day!) and angst over the fact that I was a night owl who wrote in cyclical spurts. So what. It's the writer I am.

      But again, that angst led me to understanding better who I was as a writer so ...

      22) are there any subjects that make you uncomfortable to write?

      Not really. There are certainly very personal topics that I work though in my writing, but you'd have to know me really, REALLY well to pick up on the personal connections. That would be uncomfortable otherwise.

      Otherwise, I tend to approach most writing like an assignment. I suppose this is an advantage of having made my living as a freelancer for a year: I started each day with assignments that, most of the time, I didn't particularly want to write. Writing uncomfortable topics in fiction is inevitably more fun than writing about most of those topics so I just do my best to push ahead and do the best justice to the story that I can.
  • 4, 16, 14!
    • 4) favourite character you've written

      Probably Caranthir, and that was a complete surprise because, when I first started writing him, Maedhros was my favorite character (still is), and I didn't think much about Caranthir at all. Central to my characterization of him was the question of why he felt such antipathy to the children of Earwen and Finarfin, and in the course of thinking what set that particular group apart (they are blond??), I thought it might have to do with the strong abilities in mindspeak that seem to run in that family and decided that Caranthir was likewise gifted, allowing for this conflict and story to run beneath the surface of the more visible narrative of The Silmarillion.

      Writing how Caranthir experienced his "gift" was a really fun imaginative exercise, and this particular characterization of him has garnered more comments (most of it positive!) than probably any of my characterizations. In the course of it, too, I came to like a character quite a bit who had previously evaded my notice, and I jump to the chance to write him now.

      14) do you make playlists for your current wips?

      I don't. I have songs--instrumental and popular--that have inspired scenes and parts of stories, where the scene is essentially choreographed to them, and the music evokes the imagery that I use in the scene. This is true of both o-fic and fanfic (I have o-fic stories that are written to encompass a song and am planning a novel that will touch on all of the songs of my favorite album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. But that's as far as I can go with music. Writing is such a raw and utterly unpredictable experience for me (in the moment), and doing something like this for a finished scene wouldn't be something I'd want to take the time to do. (I'd rather be writing the next scene!)

      #16 I answered above, so here is the answer for that one:

      16) are there any characters who haunt you?

      Not really. I was very afraid of writing Feanor when I was a new writer. For one ... wow, what a powerful voice I needed to do him justice! But this wasn't helped by the fact that every time I embarked on writing him, something weird and disastrous happened to the chapter.

      Nowadays, I've mostly abandoned the practice (so common in my early fandom days) of treating "muses" like real people who become angry and withhold their help, etc.
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