... Jacqueline Lichtenberg on Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Sime~Gen
: On the Twitter #scifichat I usually introduce myself as a widely published professional writer of science fiction/fantasy/romance/ genre mixtures & a professional SF/F Reviewer. But I will bring up other credentials depending on the topic at hand. On various social networking "profiles" that want a 100 word biography I generally put the following:
Jacqueline Lichtenberg is creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, primary author of Star Trek Lives!, founder of the Star Trek Welcommittee, creator of the term Intimate Adventure, winner of the Galaxy Award for Spirituality in Science Fiction and one of the first Romantic Times Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel. Her work is now in e-book form, audio-dramatization and on XM Satellite Radio. She has been sf/f reviewer for The Monthly Aspectarian for 16 years. With Professor Jean Lorrah, she teaches sf/f writing online via Tarot and Astrology. Currently, new and old Sime~Gen plus other novels are in e-book, Kindle, and print from Wildside Press. See Amazon.com/simegen-20 Bio and Bibliography at Simegen.com or jacquelinelichtenberg.com
But some profiles want more, or publications often want a more personal slant, so I put something like the following:
I became hooked on SF in 6th grade when my mother snuck me a book from the "adult" library. I fought with my High School English teachers about the superiority of the Lensman Series and E. E. Smith's "writing" over that of the "Classics" we were forced to read. I avoided all English courses in college because I was determined to become an SF writer -- so like many SF writers I knew, I majored in Chemistry. I've been a member of the N3F since 7th grade, and a member of SFWA since 1969. You'll find me on Linkedin.com, Facebook, digg.com, livejournal, blogspot, Google+ and Goodreads.com, Youtube.com/SimeGen plus a few other social networking sites.
INTERESTS: From the forefront of nano-technology to the depths of archeology. From the business of the fiction delivery system to the psychology of audience response. From the farflung limits of Kabalah to the most personal spiritual experiences. Jacqueline Lichtenberg novels are known for combining action, adventure, romance, and philosophy into a seamless whole.
: Well, I'm not sure how many others she did this for (though many of her students went from hopeless fumbling to prolific selling writers), but when she took me on I had sold a short story and completed a novel which she made only a few minor editorial suggestions for.
That was my "first novel" (first professionally published, not first written), House of Zeor, now called Sime~Gen #1 in its Wildside Press/ Borgo Imprint edition. It had been rejected by almost every SF publisher in Manhattan when Marion took it to DAW (which was just starting up) and recommended it.
Don Wollheim (founder of DAW and father of the current owner) rejected it, but said that Doubleday was publishing books like this, and recommended I send it to them. I did that, and after a year in the slushpile, it was accepted and published in Hardcover by the publisher of Isaac Asimov!
Much later, Don Wollheim said he regretted rejecting that book (I suppose he'd heard of how it attracted and energized Star Trek fans) and he bought a couple of the Sime~Gen books for Mass Market originals, which was a career first for me.
Meanwhile, I was nursing STAR TREK LIVES! through the barriers to selling anything, even non-fiction, connected with Star Trek. (that's a long story posted on Simegen.com) forging the connection with Jean Lorrah (who eventually became co-author of a lot of Sime~Gen), and working on the second Sime~Gen novel, my first award winner, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER (labeled by Wildside as Sime~Gen #2).
Here's where Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me the majority of what I learned from her -- the real breakthrough lessons I try to teach on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com and editingcircle.blogspot.com.
UNTO was a much more ambitious piece of writing than House of Zeor which is essentially an 85,000 word short story. UNTO is much longer, structured differently, with internal climaxes I just couldn't make land in the right spots for that size novel. To sell a longer novel into that market, I had to get those climaxes at just exactly the correct places and I couldn't DO IT.
I knew what I had to do, but not how.
So after much explaining -- by snailmail -- which just didn't work, she took the hands-on approach that I now take with some of my students. Let me tell you that is the creepiest feeling in the world, an absolute HEADSPINNING, total reality adjustment when a really strong, polished, talented, major force in the writing craft business takes up your words and reshapes characters, scenes, paragraphs, re-chooses words, re-creates the entire imagined world without changing the actual world-building.
After she rewrote a couple of the scenes to make those climactic moments the right "size" and in the right places, I was able to see and understand what she was doing -- in fact, she seemed to feel I understood how she did what she did better than she did.
But it was still only a preliminary breakthrough in technique.
For several more novels in Sime~Gen, and in step with her novels (you can figure this out by checking the pub dates in my bibliography which desperately needs updating with my newest publications) we exchanged "dailies" by snailmail. Each day she would write a chapter in whatever she was writing (usually Darkover) and I'd write a chapter in what I was writing. We'd each make an extra carbon copy (yes Selectric typewriter, carbon copies, snailmail) and mail it each day.
Each day I would get a chapter from her -- (in an envelope with a chapter of mine that I had sent her the week before replete with her scribbed commentary). I'd scribble comments in the margin of her chapter about the crafting of the dialogue, development of the story, spot lagging moments, wordy constructions, suggest what I thought the plot-direction she was going to take would be, and what I thought it should be, the nitty-gritty of milling a first draft into usable copy -- then I'd mail it back to her, together with MY chapter that I wrote that day.
We exchanged raw, first draft, and exchanged commentary on what had to be changed or fixed to raise the raw material to publishable levels.
Sometimes we'd include long letters of discussion of plot direction, character development, dramatic possibilities untouched that needed treatment, etc.
Each workday also included rewriting the chapter that had just arrived with commentary, then writing the new chapter.
Marion was known in the industry as one of the most prolific writers, under various pen names, in various genres. She never missed a beat, and productivity was achieved by this daily discipline. When she got stuck on a chapter, she'd chuck it all and go to a movie or out for a walk. She'd work out plot-problems and character-directions while doing laundry, ironing, cooking -- she was raising kids, being supermom as I was.
The productivity was achieved by producing words at a typist's fastest speed during the few hours at the typewriter. The real work - the head work - was done while doing chores or sleeping. This is my main beef with the current USA tax system. A writer should be able to deduct from income tax the cost of the entire house because it's ALL OFFICE - as is the car, no matter if you're driving around on what other businesses call business. If you are a writer, you are always writing, especially while asleep.
But that's how I learned under a hands-on tutor. Eventually, Marion said that she admired my plotting. And during her struggling with several of her novels, later in this process (I'm not going to tell you which titles), I helped her break her logjam by rewriting some of her scenes. None of my work made it into print under her name, BUT what did get printed was sufficiently different from first draft that I could see the difference I had made.
Since then I've done this with some writing students with varying results. Most writers just can't STAND IT -- for good reason. But others have acquired that "breakthrough" moment where they come to understand this lesson on a non-verbal level.
Oddly enough, writing, which is all about words, actually occurs on a deep, subconscious, non-verbal level of cognition. Sometimes it's not possible to learn what you need to master by simply thinking about it, or reading about it. Sometimes, as in lessons in cursive writing, the teacher has to put her hand over your hand and guide your moves. Just watching the teacher scribe perfect circles doesn't get your own hand to be able to make those lovely circles.
: I did not create Sime~Gen in a writing seminar.
In fact, I've never been in a writing seminar except as a teacher.
However, you might be referring to the fact that the first Sime~Gen stories ever written were done as excersizes for a correspondence course in writing that I did when I finally came to where I had to begin selling. I had a husband, a kid and another on the way, and financial issues, so I knew I had to jumpstart my writing career. I signed up for the overpriced correspondence course in writing and screenwriting, which purported to pertain to science fiction, but actually did not.
The salesman (very different sort of people from those who administered the school or those working writers who moonlighted "teaching" in the school) promised you'd sell your first story after the 4th lesson (lessons were one a month over 2 years I think it was). NOBODY did that, and the school was sued and eventually I think either went out of business or got sold to someother owners.
I, however, did sell my first story which was the homework for the 4th lesson.
That happened because I knew more about writing than the instructors and I knew my market, my field of science fiction (that the teachers thought was just like any other genre which it is not and was not).
I had already done professional level, advanced, and detailed worldbuilding for Sime~Gen. I had the characters down pat. I knew the conflicts, the long-range (thousands of years) future-history I wanted to construct, and I had the theory of reincarnation designed so that I could tell that multi-generation saga.
But there was a very important thing that I needed to learn. I knew that I had to do it, I knew what it was (because I'd been reading books on how to write since High School), I had been trying to duplicate the effect I could see in stories I admired, and I had trained myself to do it -- but I just couldn't get it RIGHT.
How had I trained other than reading books on how to write a stage play, a TV screenplay, a filmscript, a short story, and a novel? (I'd read every book in my local public library on this topic, plus several years worth of issues of The Writer magazine). Reading about it, and trying to do it, just didn't get it to work for me.
Other than reading about writing, I had also (quite by accident) stumbled into a marvelous training method. When I was 10 years old, my father bought the family our first (manual) typewriter. He was a professional teletype operator, and he taught me to touch type in the same way professionals had trained him. That's why I could type all day at Marion Zimmer Bradley speeds, and to this day type all day on the computer, and never suffer carpal tunnel syndrom. It's all in your wrist position -- and it's all in that very first moment you sit down facing a keyboard. It's in the discipline, the smacks and verbal demands - sit up, hands just so, head just so.
As with a ballet dancer, it's traiining that does it, not reading about it. And the training has to soak in so deep it's subconscious. You never know you're doing it if it's trained in.
If you have to FORCE yourself to do it, the tension will give you carpal tunnel. You get the same effect in learning long-range driving. If you sit tensed at the wheel constantly forcing yourself into "the" position, you'll be groggy and swerving all over the road after 500 miles in one day.
Writing is the same way. You can't do it at commercial speeds if you're tensed up trying to "do it right." "Right" has to be trained in so it functions beneath awareness.
I trained in writing on that first typewriter by copy-typing several of my most favorite novels. A. E. Van Vogt's SLAN, and Andre Norton's STAR RANGERS were among them. I later did the same with some of Marion's work. I have found this to be the MOST essential training in writing craft it is possible to find anywhere. And today it doesn't even cost paper and ink to do it.
So that's what I brought to the correspondence course. I had the universe, the characters, the STYLE (from copy-typing), and the knowledge of my field of science fiction from having read everything published in the field from long before I was born to that current day. Until the late 1960's it was possible to read everything published in science fiction each month, and have lots of time left over!
Not only that, but I had studied the editors working in the science fiction field. I sliced-n-diced every editorial in the SF magazines. I understood the people, and I was in touch with their circles via science fiction fandom (a social network functioning by snailmail). I knew both the editors and the readers, personally and in depth.
So what did I learn from the correspondence course? I learned the single most important thing that differentiates the amateur from the professional writer, scene structure.
It's scene structure as a building block for story structure.
I had already learned the importance of pacing, and by direct correspondense with A. E. Van Vogt, I learned (he taught me) the rule that he had always followed that worked. 7 line paragraphs, 700 word scenes.
It sounds simple, but it isn't easy to do.
The correspondence course gave me the clues I needed to master "The Scene" -- and so combining that with everything else I'd learned, I was able to sell my first story to Fred Pohl at WORLDS OF IF MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION. (Fred later moved to Bantam and bought STAR TREK LIVES! -- it's not so much about who you know as it is about who knows you.)
Lesson 4 was to study a magazine market and write for that magazine, to write a story like other stories they'd published.
Since I wasn't starting from scratch, I KNEW my magazines, I was able to think like Fred Pohl and write a story in my universe which exemplified one of his editorials on a deep thematic level.
I can easily understand how someone who "wants to be a writer" could never do that. In order to do it, you must already "be" a write -- i.e. to have studied, read about writing, tried it, failed, trained in various ways such as copy-typing favorite material, taken acting courses, whatever works for you.
Then a course like that can put the finishing touch on your training.
There's one other thing I learned later in that correspondence course that I've passed on in aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com -- and it's laced through many of my posts there. THEMATIC STRUCTURE. (search on theme or thematic and you probably will find most of my posts on the subject).
Having grasped the secrets of thematic structure (I already understood theme, though they don't teach that so much in High School anymore), I redesigned the future-history structure of Sime~Gen to the current wheels-within-wheels symmetry that I've been using.
So, no, Sime~Gen did not originate within any kind of seminar.
At the time I took the correspondence course, I had developed and fleshed out several major "worlds" for SF series, and to date of that group I've only used 1 - Sime~Gen (and it's not finished).