Ravelry review

This week I investigated Ravelry.  This is an online social network for knitters and crocheters (is that a word? it doesn’t look right- people who crochet, let me know what the right term is!).  It’s also a way of organizing your yarn hobby.  You can make an inventory of your yarn, make a queue of projects you would like to do and keep track of the patterns you have.

The social aspect of the site is impressive as well, though I have yet to dip my toe in.  There are groups you can join, you can show off pictures of your projects, comment on other people’s projects and participate in forums.  You can search thousands of patterns, some free for download, others for sale, and even more out of pattern books.  I found a great pattern for a dragon that was in a library book, one I would not have taken out from the cover.

So far I am very impressed by their site.  They have a help page that includes a video introduction to the site and mini lessons in doing different things.  You do have to sign up to use the site, but there is no charge for use.  If you are a pattern designer, I think you can sell your patterns on this site- please check with the site to confirm.  I am encouraged and inspired to knit more after exploring Ravelry.  I just finished a hat for my son and now I’m challenging myself with a project I’ve never done before, using fine yarn instead of my usual thick acrylic.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So I have finished Brandon Sanderson’s 1,001 page opus, “The Way of Kings”.  He has begun his story.  This man is a world-builder and a character creator.  If I was gaming with him, he’d have a different character at each gaming session and would be begging the GM to let him use 3 at a time.  If he was a GM, we’d not get very far down the corridor, but we would know all about it and have a great time.

I wish I was as… verbose.  I have a tendency for brevity.  I put down a skeleton of a story and then feel I am done.  I stick to one or two characters.  I catch myself using cliched tropes, derivative reworkings.  This man created a whole different world, an alien place, not some slightly skewed mirror.  Magical storms rage across it, so the plants have adapted, drawing themselves in to shells to avoid damage.  The main creatures are shelled monsters.  The magical storms infuse magic into gemstones, which are used as both currency and as a light source.  The ultimate warriors of the world use shardblades, which cut through souls and through inanimate objects like butter.  He crafted several cultures and included fascinating details, such as a way of controlling women that is worse than a burka- showing your left hand is considered indecent.

He touches on themes of war and peace, of the dichotomy between the thrill and horror of battle.  He explores the nature of fate, religion and honor.  As with his other works I’ve read- very few people are truly good, and those who are don’t think they are.

He introduces four main characters with three main story lines- a slave who becomes a hero, a “mad king”, an assasin under a geis, and a young scholar with a secret.  I tried to go through to figure out how many characters there are- not walk throughs, mind you, characters, and lost count at about twenty. In one chapter he introduces a character that he never mentions again!  It is a testimony to his skill as a writer that I kept on reading- while the scale was epic, he cares about every one of those characters.

Should I touch on the author’s presumed religion (he teaches at Brigham Young in Utah) or would that be dangerous ground?  From what I know, they encourage creative thought over there, let’s just leave it at that.

Overall, I’d recommend the book, but I think it could have stood pairing down by about 500 pages.

Stephen King- On Writing

I was halfway through the book before I realized that Stephen King’s On Writing is basically an auto-biography (the copy I have has been labeled Dewey Decimal 92, instead of 808 for writing).  I was beginning to despair when on page 122 he starts giving some advice.

I don’t think that anyone else could have gotten away with this book, but then maybe that’s the point.  He dares to be himself.  The first part is a biography, the second part is advice on writing, and the third part an account of being run down by a car and his continuing struggle to recover.

I have never been a horror buff, but I have great respect for someone who has written so much that has been transferred to movies and television.  To me that shows that his base ideas and characters have a strong foundation.  It shows that he has a gift for storytelling, one I want.  So I leaned forward to listen, metaphorically, as he imparted his wisdom.

He spoke of writing with the door closed and the door open.  With the door closed, you throw the story on the page, full speed.  With the door open, you invite trusted readers to give their opinion, you ask your inner ideal reader to tell you the flaws.

More gems:

  • “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
  • avoid passive voice
  • the adverb is not your friend
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
  • the story exists already, you are just releasing it
  • write for your ideal writer (his is his wife)
  • get feedback- if everyone complains about one thing, fix it, if they all have different opinions, it’s a wash.
  • writing classes could drain your muse by questioning the work in progress
  • get an agent by sending a letter about yourself (this one seems a bit ..off).

 

Be a lit Star…

Book review:

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print, Your Name in Lights by Ariel Gore.

Becoming a famous writer isn’t about selling celebrity secrets or field-tackling literary agents at conventions.  Reading this book was like having a wild, shameless writer grab you by the hand and run into the world of being published.  Continue reading