Guest Blogger: Brenda Cooper

Updated 3/16: Find Brenda’s Second Installment in the News Section

We are very pleased to announce that Brenda Cooper, author of Reading the Wind and The Silver Ship and the Sea, will be joining us for the next eight weeks as our first guest blogger. Brenda has some exciting topics to cover, particularly for writers interested in learning more about the craft. Without further rambling from me, allow me to introduce you to Brenda once again. And come back every week for new installments and the chance to win free books! For future installments, please see the News Section.

Adventures in Writing
by, Brenda Cooper

I’m really pleased to be able to do a blog series here at Adventures in SciFi Publishing. I listen to the podcast regularly; it’s the perfect length for walking my golden retriever, Nixie, at night.

Since this is the first blog post in a series, I’ll start with some background, and talk about what I’d like to accomplish.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer with three books out from Tor (one with Larry Niven) and a fourth book coming out this year. My solo books in the Silver Ship series explore two primary themes: conflict, and the fear that makes us hate others who are different. I believe genetics and nanotechnology will give us tools to design people with far more extreme differences than race or sexual preference. How will prejudices work when one set of humans is truly smarter or faster than another?

I’ve also written a lot of short stories: see for more information.

In my time here at AISFP, I want to do two things in each blog for the next eight weeks. The first few paragraphs will share my real-world adventures in writing. I’ll talk about where I am right then in my writing process – sort of way to give a picture window on the life of a fairly new, but published writer. My primary struggles are balance with life and the day job, marketing, and learning to write better. I figure that describes a lot of us. The last few paragraphs will be tips about writing. I’ll try to tie the tips into that week’s real-world adventures in writing.

This is a perfect week to start this blog. I’m at the Rainforest Writers Village retreat on Lake Quinault in Washington State. I have three full days ahead of me where I can just be a writer. There’s an oversized green post-it note on the hotel room wall that lists the things I want to get done. One of the most important is to design my next series of science fiction books. Even though there is one more book to write in the current series, this is good timing to daydream about next books.

I plan to flesh out at least two ideas. For one idea, I already have a character burning in my heart – a future version of Eva Peron. I’ve been studying her life for a few years. She was smart and driven and needy. She was sensual and saintly, ruthless and vulnerable. She also made a real difference in the world. I don’t have anything that clear for the second series idea, but it will be far-future space-based science fiction with real people in it. Since The Silver Ship and the Sea won an award and has sold well so far (but not burned its way up any lists), I feel like I should create something similar enough my readers will like it.

So what’s a good way to flesh out a new idea? When I’m starting either novels or stories, I start with a problem or a person. In this case, I’ll start with the idea of Evita in Space. I always write out at least ten possible stories, sketching each one out in a paragraph or two. Even if the ideas are bad, or idea number two is screaming to be fleshed out, I keep writing until I have at least ten. Then I reject the ones I don’t like. Sometimes that’s five, sometimes that’s nine, or sometimes I start over. Then, I go on to work on some of the others. Just this week, I ran across a blog entry by some friends of mine from Oregon. I printed out a copy (there’s no easy internet here), and I’m going to try to use it literally since it’s close to my own process. I think I’m going to like it. The list is posted at York Writers.

After I get a favored idea up to two or three pages, I begin to weave in the narrative voice I want for the novel or story, until that takes over. So if it’s going to be first person, I use “I” and the language cadence of the narrator. Even though details are pretty sketchy still at this phase, if the idea is going to work it starts to get interesting here. Then – if I have time – I let the idea sit for a day or two and then go back and see if I still like it. Each work is different, but a typical story gets about a page of narrative, and a novel gets about ten. Then I give myself permission to deviate from the narrative, and I start writing.

So what do you do when you’re starting a story?

I hope people comment and discuss. If so, I’ll pull a name of a reader that leaves contact information (email is plenty) once a month, and send them books.

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  1. Hi, Brenda!

    Welcome to AISFP. It’s exciting having you here, and I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say! I confess, I haven’t read your books yet, but they’re pretty high up on my list thanks to Shaun’s recommendations.

    For myself, I haven’t really come up with a good method for starting stories yet. I guess my usual method is just to let it sit in my mind until it reaches a kind of critical mass, then just sit down and start writing. I guess this kind of mental compost pile has its advantages, but more often than not it means I just never quite get around to working out all the details and actually writing something.

    I’ve been meaning to give the Snowflake Method a try, but I just haven’t sat down and applied myself to it yet.

    I’ll check out the one you linked, though. Can’t hurt!

    Thanks again,

    — Jason
    jramboz (at) gmail

  2. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the comment. To some extent, I just have to start. The brainstorming I do at first around an idea helps me flesh it out, or helps me get ideas when I have something to write – say for a themed anthology – and no ideas yet.

    But sometimes ideas do what it sounds like they do for you — just kind of start and grow and eventually want out. There isn’t any one way even for one writer to always do things. If every story was the saem, we’d get bored. The bits I’m going to share her are the ones I most often use, but nothing is carved in stone in my life.

    I’ll go off and look at the snowflake method.

    Thanks again,


  3. Rusty Webb says:

    Hi Brenda,

    How do I start a story? I have a premise in my head and I just start writing. I have no idea where the story is going or how its going to get there. I’ve found that my success rate for writing a good story is pretty low – but I usually have a good time getting there. It’s a small wonder I’ve not been more successful in my desire to become a published author. I’ve read enough from other writers about writing that the most important thing to to actually write. I figure the rest will sort of figure itself out.

    I’m pretty excited about your blog starting too, I’m very disappointed that the show is going on hiatus so I hope this will turn into a forum for me to go to on a regular basis.

    If I’m not mistaken, I’ve been hearing the promos for “Reading the Wind” for a while now on the Podcast. Seeing that you’re starting this blog gives me a good enough excuse to give your book a read.


    Rusty87d at gmail

  4. Hi Rusty,

    Writing is important – writers write. That’s the one single most important thing to do. I’ve heard we all have to write a million words of junk to get to the good words. I probably did. And if I can keep going, maybe I’ll find even better words. 🙂

    I also think that studying how to write matters…the rest won’t entirely take care of itself. Studying and not writing is a trap – but so is writing and not studying a little. But you can learn from other writers and from reading.

    Thanks for the comment!


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