Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

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By workshop member Jaime Lee Moyer

When I was a wee baby writer first starting out on OWW I heard a lot about "the rules" of writing. I was very serious about learning my craft, and about getting published, so I paid attention. And I did learn a lot about grammar, story structure, pacing, and the difference between an "idea" and a fully realized plot.  But I also learned that what many set down as hard and fast unbreakable "rules" about what POV to use and how many POVs were "allowed" in a story or novel, and the rule that you should never, ever, use present tense, aren't really rules and are far from unbreakable.

That might be the most important thing I learned from those mailing-list discussions and story crits -- that each one of these is a deliberate choice made in service to the story. Story is Queen, after all, and trumps all.

This is not to say that there aren't guidelines every writer should follow or universal truths they should know. There are a few.

I learned them all the hard way.

Someone, somewhere, is going to hate what you write or disagree with your choices.

Not every reader will read the story you thought you wrote. Some may scream you got romance in their scifi, or that your fantasy heroine should be a tad more docile to be believable. Each reader brings her own life experience and viewpoints to what they read. Don't let them throw you off your game. Others will see the story you see.

Write what you love.

And then pour your heart and soul into it. Your passion and commitment will show in your writing, and your story will be better for it. Also, try to have fun.

Don't chase the market; it won't be there in two years, or three.

'Nuff said. This goes with writing what you love.

Work hard. Learn to revise. Then work harder.

The only way to learn to write is to write as much as you can, and then write more. There is no magic formula, no cantrips to recite under the full moon or faerie roads to follow to being a professional writer. Writing is hard. It's work.

One of the hard lessons I learned is that not every word I write is golden. This is why the universe teaches us to revise. Don't be afraid to rip something apart, or toss it out completely, if it doesn't work. They are only words and you can always write more.

Tell a good story. Skip the boring parts.

Sounds simple enough, but this might be the hardest of all. Telling a good story involves so many things, from a kickass concept, to engaging characters, to a fresh view on tired old tropes, to that intangible "something" that none of us can name, but we all know when we see it.

Work hard to tell the best story you can.

Then tell another.

Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, two cats, three guitars, and a growing collection of books and music. Her first novel, Delia's Shadow, will be published by Tor Books on September 17, 2013. Two other books in the series, A Barricade in Hell and Against a Brightening Sky, will be published in 2014 and 2015. Her novels are represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Jaime has sold short fiction to Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and to the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies. She was poetry editor for Ideomancer Speculative Fiction for five years and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. A poet in her own right, she's sold more than her share of poetry.

She writes a lot. She reads as much as she can.