Tag Archives: roundtable discussion

Resolutions (part 1)

Here at The Spectacle, we’re starting the new year with a discussion of New Year’s Resolutions as they relate to writing.

Do you set goals yearly, more often, less often, or not at all? Do you use “New Year’s Resolutions” as a motivational tool?

I don’t generally set goals for the New Year. I do like to stop and think about what the year might have in store for my writing projects, but I don’t make any firm deadlines or pressure myself to accomplish any certain amount of work.—Parker Peevyhouse, science fiction author.

There is nothing like an event to help kick my butt into setting goals. I’m a very goal oriented person, but having something like “The New Year” really reminds me to recheck where I am and make a new plan. But why stop at the New Year. Any event like a planned conference attendance, a birthday, anniversary, or release of a new book are great reasons to check where I am and reset those goals.—P. J. Hoover, author of The Forgotten Worlds trilogy, which includes THE EMERALD TABLET, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, and THE NECROPOLIS.

I love writing goals and have been surprised by how few of my writing friends set them (or take them seriously when they do). Maybe it’s too task/goal-oriented for many creative folks? I agree with Parker that pressure is not always helpful, but because I think it’s fun, I set annual writing goals for the year and then give myself interim goals such as finishing a revision by the end of a given month. I save official resolutions more for personal improvement—eat more salads, resist the urge to honk at annoying drivers, that sort of thing. ;) —Joni Sensel, author of THE FARWALKER’S QUEST and other middle-grade and YA fantasies.

It’s probably true that strict goals are too oppressive for some creative types. Good work doesn’t always result from organization, determination, pressure. For me, when I step back from trying to control the process, the writing seems to come more easily and be of better quality. When I pressure myself, I totally freeze up. I have to let practicality and flexibility share space in my office. I have to be firm about making time to work, but I also have to tell myself, Just do what you can.—Parker Peevyhouse, who writes science fiction for young readers.

I used to set monthly goals but these days I find myself dealing with things more as they come at me. When I was struggling to get into print, my New Year’s writing resolution was always some variation of “write two books and publish one,” which I fell short of every year but at least it gave me something to shoot for. I have two books under contract with 2011 deadlines, so my New Year’s resolution this year will involve putting my butt in the chair to write.—Greg R. Fishbone, author of the upcoming GALAXY GAMES series.

I think it’s a good idea to review where you are and where you’re headed regularly, at least once a year, and the change of years is a good reminder. It can happen at other times as well, such as when I’ve finished a major project and need to figure out what I should do next. This year, the two happen to coincide—I recently sent my latest manuscript, an adult suspense novel, to my agent. I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of series proposals and a middle grade boy suspense submission. So while I play the waiting game, what’s next? This involves not just the immediate question of what project comes next, but the larger question of where that project may take me in my career.—Chris Eboch, author of the middle grade HAUNTED series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show.

I give myself personal page goals if I’m working on a deadline. Mostly though I just strive to write at least 5 days a week. Recently I did start the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a book in a month just to see how much I would achieve. I started off great and for two weeks achieved a goal of 8 pages a day. I wrote 100 pages…but then had to stop for other obligations. Still that push to write fast proved to me that I could produce quickly when I set my mind to it. —Linda Joy Singleton, author of the DEAD GIRL and THE SEER series.

Readers, what are your thoughts?

Tomorrow:  writing-related goals for 2011

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Roundtable Discussion: Futuristic Novels (concluded)

We conclude our discussion on novels about future societies.

P. J. Hoover
My real first intro into future societies, particularly dystopic, was the awesome movie LOGAN’S RUN (which is a total classic, in my opinion). Sure, I was a kid when I watched it, but the things that stuck with me the most were (1) the images of Washington DC presented in total decay; and (2) the idea that people would be killed when they turned 30. It wasn’t the tube transportation or the fancy surgery techniques though these were cool. They were strictly sci-fi aspects. The fascination was in wondering about the answers to the “why” question. Why did DC get neglected? What so horrible could have happened to make people retreat into a bubble? Why did people get killed when they were 30? Were there too many? And after the why questions, the wondering if this type of thing ever really could happen in our society.

I love that we’re seeing so much dystopic these days. It makes me want to get out my LOGAN’S RUN DVD, make a bowl of popcorn, and watch it while thinking about how happy I am our society is not like Logan’s. Otherwise I wouldn’t be around to do the watching :)


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Roundtable Discussion: Futuristic Novels

We continue our discussion of novels about future societies.

Joni Sensel

I enjoy novels about futuristic societies in part because I’m hoping to read about things they’ve done better — so there’s hope we might improve — as well as, inevitably, things WE do better (or the unexpected dark side to what would seem like obvious improvements we could make now). That helps me to better appreciate what our current society has gotten right.

I’ve also lived long enough to hear past predictions about the future that have been wrong, wrong, wrong — from the impracticality of personal computers to the end of paper as we know it –  so I also get a big kick out of other sorts of predictions of all kinds. It’s fun to assess how likely I think any of the authors’ social or technical “predictions” may be.

Parker Peevyhouse

The “cool” aspect is a big one for me–as in, this setting is cool! I like the innovations authors come up with, the weird rules, the strange ways of doing things. I’m also amused by the way characters interpret “artifacts” from our own era–I’m thinking about how the characters in Mortal Engines figured Disney characters were ancient animal-headed gods.

I find it easier to think about flaws in our own society by seeing them pushed to the extreme in a future society. Certainly we tend to watch too much TV and spend too much time engrossed in empty entertainment, but we don’t take it quite to the dangerous levels you find in Fahrenheit 451. Still, Bradbury’s novel shows the importannce of novels and poetry and scripture, and the detriment of living room walls that serve as enormous TV screens.

But it’s not all about dystopias. Some great science fiction novels show future societies as places I would like to be. I’m intrigued by the meritocracy in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in which a person’s captial increases as he gains more respect and popularity. And the free energy source discovered at the end of Asimov’s The Gods Themselves would mean easy wealth for the entire world. I wish more YA and MG novels explored positive future societies.

We’d like to hear from you–why do you read novels about future societies? What are some of your favorites?


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Roundtable Discussion: Futuristic Novels

We continue our discussion of novels about future societies.

Chris Eboch with Haunted booksChris Eboch

I don’t read many futuristic books. My speculative fiction tastes run more to contemporary ghost stories and historical fantasy. This may be partly because a story set in a familiar setting (present or past) can spend less time on world building and more on the plot. I’m very plot oriented, as a writer and a reader.

I also tend to focus more on personal, smaller scale problems, rather than major political issues. The kids in my Haunted series are trying to help ghosts resolve their issues, and move on. They are working with one ghost at a time, not trying to save the whole world. I am interested in large-scale political issues; I just think individuals are usually better off working for change in their own families, schools, and neighborhoods. Charity starts at home, and so do promoting peace and saving the environment.

And finally, I like a happy ending. Dystopian novels may have a relatively happy ending in the book, but they still have an inherent unhappy ending for those of us who live today, if we let the world get like that.

K. A. Holt

Why do I read novels about future societies? I don’t know why this is such a difficult question for me to answer, but I’ve really been struggling with it. It could be that I enjoy allegory and metaphors and current events, so when I read a futuristic book that can somehow bring me out of my world and into another, but still address familiar fears and situations, I dig it. Or, it could be that I have always been fascinated with the idea of what the world might be like when the present is literally ancient history (as in being excavated and put in museums). Possibly, though, it all comes down to spaceships and shiny things. Huge fan of spaceships and shiny things.

We continue our discussion tomorrow…

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Roundtable Discussion: Futuristic Novels

For this week’s Roundtable Discussion, we answer the question Why do you read novels about future societies?

Nick James

I’m a big fan of cause and effect. I love seeing how things progress–small things, usually–and grow into a future society that’s on one hand recognizable and on the other, completely alien. I love when an author can take a current issue and have the freedom to blow it up to the extreme in a future society. Unlike straight-up fantasy, there’s a basis of reality in these kind of books that gives me something to latch onto as a reader. It still feels like fantasy, but there’s an undertone grounded in issues that exist today. It gives the story some urgency and definitely deepens my connection to the world and characters.

Linda Joy Singleton

I think the reason I enjoy them is because the main character is usually thrust into a dangerous situation that forces them to overcome impossible odds. The books I love (HUNGER GAMES, INCARCERON, THE COMPOUND, CITY OF EMBER) show a new version of a familiar world with characters that are called to action and they SURVIVE. It’s interesting and exciting to live the adventure along with them; knowing that they will most likely survive (and if they don’t…well that’s not a book I’m going to like). The  best written in this genre offer main characters that are likable, brave, loyal and sympathetic.

Despite deaths and destruction in these future societies, these books aren’t about tragedy- – they’re about (somewhat) ordinary teens called on a hero’s quest and struggling against impossible odds and SUCCEEDING. The themes are about humanity, love and hope.

Our discussion continues tomorrow…


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More Roundtable Discussion: Revisions

It wouldn’t quite fit in our last post, so here’s another viewpoint about revisions from Jo Whittemore, author of ESCAPE FROM ARYLON and other books in her trilogy, The Silverskin Legacy:

The most challenging editorial changes are still ongoing for a pet project of mine. It’s currently sitting on the backburner, however, while I work on other projects that I’ve already got hammered out. It’s caught somewhere between MG and YA, so I’m working to balance it out to be more MG. What makes it so difficult is that the original version/much of the character action was based on a YA world (driver’s ed, etc), so not only do I have to age down the characters and their language, but I have to alter their situations to suit a new set of circumstances.

(Whew, that DOES sound like a tough revision.)

How about you, readers? What have been your toughest revision challenges — and did you discover any secrets for completing them?

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