Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lessons in Writing from...Marion Zimmer Bradley-Part the First

I never had a formal writing course. That is, I took creative writing in college, but to fulfill a requirement, not as a focus.Many of my lessons in writing came from paying attention to the general introductions and the mini-introductions to the short stories of the Sword and Sorceress anthologies edited by the late, great Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB).She was a prolific author who wrote in many genres at some point in her life. She lived very comfortably in fantasy. In addition to her Darkover novels (which also showed her sci-fi chops at times), she was well known for her retelling of the Arthurian Mythos from the female perspective in a book known as the 'Mists of Avalon.'I read the Sword and Sorceress (S&S) anthologies beginning in high school.

To this day, I must admit that my first reading of the anthologies were always of those introductions and then I would go back and read a story or two here and there. The mini-introductions reminded me of the irascible grandmother or grandfather, who knew their craft and didn't understand how these kids could get as far as they did without doing things proper.

Tips I picked up from these pages included:

  • Being able sum up a story and/or a novel in one sentence
  • Following the guidelines so that you are giving the editor what they are looking for
  • Working at it until you get it write
  • Watching that grammar

MZB died in September 1999. I found out first by looking at the S&S XVII and noticing that the copyright was in the name of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust. Then I found one of those retail bookstore newsletters that you usually ignore and I saw her picture and then that dreaded term-the 'late' Marion Zimmer Bradley.

There is a website for the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust:

If you don't happen to have the money or the time to collect the S&S anthologies, there is a section at the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust website that just happens to be called 'Articles on Writing,' which just happens to have an article entitled 'Advice for New Writers.' Each article is relevant and full of sound advice told in that MZB style. Definitely worth reading and worth coming back to for a refresher from time to time.

So thanks MZB, for inadvertantly teaching me useful things while I read about strong swordswomen and sorceresses.

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