Randomness is Random

Barack Obama is Luke Skywalker courtesy of Jon Stewart.

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A well-tempered consideration of the clean-up of Huck Finn from Jim Hines.

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Kirkwood is delving into the world of writing scholarships for creative writing outreach. More on this when it actually occurs next month. Also begun the planning of Cat and my Scandinavian research trip. I’m learning a lot about Oslo right now.

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Life is a little turvey at the moment. Bryon and I are surrounded by a sea of grim, mishaps happening to our family and friends. His dad’s condition is eroding the tiny little island we’re on. I have one hand firmly wrapped around the island’s one palm tree, and the other clutching onto him, but he’s still attracted by the glimmering waters. And then I watch our friends also drift off the shore, but I’m out of hands.

Hiding this under a cut, because this smacks a bit of emo. In general, I know more than a few people who could use your good thoughts.

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The God Engines and the Old Testament God

I finished The God Engines by John Scalzi over Christmas break. It was a short read. At first, I didn’t like it, but I myself returning to it in a thinky sort of way. And here we are.

Scalzi’s book isn’t a pleasant read. The book is set in a faith-based society where one god has usurped and enslaved all other gods. The people in the society are ethnocentric. There actions are justified quite literally because God is on their side. When the machinations of the church become involved in conversion for the god’s personal purposes, and when our protagonist discovers that his god isn’t what he though it was, events unravel. We have a skillful tale of cultural examination, faith disillusionment, and at what cost belief is bought.

I’m not sure how much of this Scalzi set out to do on purpose. I’d love to ask him how and why this book came about, and what he is trying to say. What I’d really love is to have him come and sit in one of our Disciple Groups discussions about Old Testament God and add to it.

I’m in the most intellectual Disciple group. We’re liberal Christians. We don’t believe in hell. We do believe in evolution. And when we study the Bible, we have lots of questions about who wrote it and to what end. This semester’s course is an overview, and we’ve been looking at Old Testament Jehovah. He’s one contrary dude.

I’ll warn you that there might be some God Engines spoilers under here, and there are certainly some Bible spoilers. Also, if you tend toward a literal interpretation of the Bible, you probably don’t want to look under here.

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I Never Eat December Snowflakes. They’re Not Ripe Yet.

I have finished reviewing a novel for a friend, and one of the questions she asked me is whether I thought she should work on her novel before sending it out, or if she should send it out anyway. That’s a really good question. It is, in fact, a question I’ve been pondering for myself.

Back when I was a baby writer my first draft was the coup-de-grace. It had taken me all that time to write a book, and of course I wanted to get it out into the world. Yes, I would have others look at my work. Generally, these were folks at the same baby writer level as me, or interested readers. I would also proof my work, and off it would go.

Now that I’m a toddler writer, I send out my books after multiple drafts and multiple viewings. They get rejected, I revise them substantially, if I decide they are salvageable. Eventually they’ll go out again. This is the strategy I wonder about. It seems a reasonable strategy from the perspective that while I am getting rejected, I am also getting asked for partials and fulls. I am also learning about rejection and developing a thicker skin. Some writers of my acquaintance tell me that this phase is vital. You have to begin sending work out and getting rejected. It’s an important part of writing.

That said, I never send out a work when I think that I could do better. Perhaps as I am sending out the work and I begin to get the feedback, I think I can do better. However, I never send out a work with the idea that it’s not the best I can do with the time and resources I have. The scenario I really want to avoid is that of the person who works on one work over and over, trying to turn it into a masterpiece in a vacuum.

There is one other piece of the puzzle. What if someone publishes something of mine that isn’t very good? You may scoff at this, but publishing is not the vanguard some propose it to be. Writers who are fortunate to work with good editors, agents, and publishers can put together a great book, but writers aren’t always well-edited. I know the difference between a book that I don’t like which is well-crafted, and a book that has issues with technique. I think it terribly natural that writers may be underwhelmed by their early works when they look at them through a later lens. I am already experiencing this.

I guess the short answer is this: I do think there is some value in sending your work out sooner rather than later. It gives you a chance to build your skills and get feedback about what is successful. I do think that as you progress as a writer, sooner doesn’t mean right now. It might mean after your second or third draft that has been read by several friends. I am also a fan of re-tooling, and I think that if you’re going to be successful, you can’t write in a vacuum, whether you are pre-famous or are currently published.

I think I might actually be learning patience. I plan to take a long time to work on the Klarion books and let lots of eyes see them. I have a different concept of what a manuscript can and should be when I started out.

Expect this to change. Change is the only constant as we learn more about the game.

Catherine

Learning about Writing Style

I’m back at work. So far my major endeavor has been being on hold with Barnes and Noble. That’s what I get for ordering the new testament…BUT that’s been straightened out.

I don’t get to write or exercise for the next two days. I have an online meeting tonight, and a board meeting tomorrow, and putting in the full day of administration beforehand makes it awfully hard to squeeze anything in. I’m glad I planned ahead this week for such an emergency.

All the writing time is about discovery, and I’m reinforcing something I suspected. I hit a two-hour wall. That’s the place where my ideas are pumped up and flowing, but my fingers and my thoughts turn to mush. So, it’ll be hard to get any concrete writing down after two hours, but there’s lots of images and thoughts about stories in my head after those two hours are through.

It would be cool if one of you out there could invent a head camera, and then I could take the snapshots to remind myself of what I was thinking later.

I also come back to a writing session the next time and find myself thinking–wow. I wrote that, huh? So, it’s a good thing to have those breaks, because at the end of two hours, I’m not even finishing words sometimes!

I’m also finding that I am more productive away from home. It makes my writing feel more like a job, and I am less likely to get distracted by all the cool things I have at home.

I’m very curious about your writing habits. Here’s a short poll.

1. How often do you write during the week?
2. How long do you write for a typical session?
3. Do you have a time of day you prefer to write?
4. Do you write best at home or away from home?
5. Do you have any favorite objects that you write with?
6. Do you have any particular programs you like, or strategies you use?

I’ll be interested in your answers.

Catherine

Humdedumdedoo

You wouldn’t think I could find an hour of writer administrivia to do, but I have. Still, that’s a legit hour of author time. It’s just not the kind of kewl productivity that we imagined for today.

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Smart and skilled writer Ekaterina Sedia’s new book The House of Discarded Dreams needs a little more traction. Do you remember how I was whining about unskillful writing recently? Sedia is the opposite end of the spectrum. Her work makes you think and opens you up.

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So far, cats and kittens, I have put in 19 hours of professional writing time. What have I learned?

1. It’s hell getting started.
2. It feels good when you do.
3. Character analyses are good filler when you are stumped with a plot.

I must needs have me some lunch, and then I must actually put some words down on paper. I have 5600 words ready, more or less, for the Vegas Workshop, and I need about 4400 more with a spit and a polish.

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I am ready for communications, publishing world. Whatever you got. Limbo isn’t a fun place to spend your vacation.

Yet Another Hello 2011 Post!

We USAians like a clean start, don’t we? Culturally, we like the chance to pretend that all our previous efforts were rubbish, but this time, this time for sure!

Welcome, 2011! This year, no rubbish. No, I mean it. Rilly.

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The concise version of my resolutions.

1. Write at least 12 hours a week (research, draft, plan my own stuff) for a total of 624 this year (or more?)
2. Lose 15 pounds (or more?)
3. See my writing journey as more about being who I am, and less about being a goal-oriented freak.

All the usual stuff applies. You know, hang out with the people I love, continue to teach to make a difference in the world, relax when I need to. It’s a good life. I hope to continue it.

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Now the sheep part of the post:

10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t.

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