I’m really starting to like all these other people blogging for me! Especially when I have such talented clients to do it! Today’s guest blogger, Katherine Sparrow, writes speculative fiction for readers of all ages. She’s published short stories online and in various anthologies, including Fantasy Magazine and Escape Pod. She’s a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, as well as a social worker and advocate for mentally ill people. She is nominated for a 2011 Nebula Award for her story The Migratory Pattern of Dancers. Katherine blogs at and she was and you can find out more about her at katherinesparrow.net.
As writers we all have things we’re a natural at — plot and dialogue are easy for me — and things we’re naturally crappy at. I’m horrible at the dreaded action scene.
So why don’t I write stories without action scenes? Because my muse sucks. Because I’m not really in the drivers seat when it comes to the stories that poke me with a hard stick. Because I seem to have a need to write about revolutionary moments, and those tend to have action scenes.
So anyway, there I am, empty page, scared heart, unwritten action scene, feeling sick and like I should quit and go do anything else (such as writing a blog entry about what to do when you have to write the thing you really don’t want to write.) So anyway, here’s what I’ve found to be helpful when I’m staring at the dragon.
1. Don’t trust your instincts. My instincts are bad about action scenes. I know this, so whatever ideas first spring to mind? I don’t use them. I make myself imagine a couple more scenarios and think about it from different perspectives.
2. Find a writer who does what you want to do, and study the heck out of them. For me, Jonathan Stroud and Philip Pullman are the grand masters of awesome action scenes that somewhat resemble my style of writing. How can I tell what writer has a similar style to me? If I love the writing and it also fills me with dread and despair, it’s similar. If I love it to pieces and that’s all, then it’s not.
3. Remember that you can write and rewrite this thing to death.
4. Talk it out with someone. It doesn’t matter who, but someone who listens more than they talk is best. Dogs work.
5. Set goals with baked goods. Frex: I will get a chocolate éclair when I’ve written 2,000 words of this crappy action scene. I will get an almond croissant when the characters in this scene become less wooden and awkward.
6. Life is suffering. I don’t know why the basic tenet of Zen Buddhism always cheers me up when I’m in the writing weeds, but it does.
So that’s what helps me. What helps you?