Sunday, August 31, 2014

Be careful out there.

Grant Snider looks at errors and perfectionism.  Here are four of twelve panels.
Follow the link to see the rest.
Be careful in your writing.  "Write about what you know"  But if you do, the man may come knocking.

A Dorchester County, Maryland, teacher was taken in for an "emergency medical evaluation," suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. Authorities searched his school, Mace's Lane Middle School in Cambridge, for weapons. As classes resumed, parents worried that their children were in danger, so police decided to remain on the premises to watch over them.What happened? The teacher, Patrick McLaw, published a fiction novel. Under a pen name. About a made-up school shooting. Set in the year 2902.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quora on writing and links aplenty on outlines

A recent Quora question: What should everyone know about writing?  Zachary Norman offered his father's advice:
It's a full time job.  To be successful you must be disciplined.  You do it from nine to five, five days a week.  Focus on your work for forty hours and put it away at night and on the weekends.  When you're blocked write something else, sonnets, poems, the "other novel", love letters.  The point is you must write full-time.  A writer's talent is a muscle that must be worked out, and like a bicep it will strengthen with use.
Writers write alone, in quiet.  Writers don't write in coffee-shops.  Silence is the blank canvas onto which the world of the work is drawn.
Personally, I think the bit about silence is more of a individual preference, but I like the rest.

Stan Hayward says:
Writing effectively clears the brain.
It is a form of talking to oneself.
When you write your thoughts down you find it easier to see alternatives to ideas.
Writing a shopping list will encourage you to check what else you might need while shopping
Writing a diary gives you a sense of how you spend your time, and to plan.
Writing letters makes you focus on what you feel is important.
Writing out lessons - even those already printed - helps to reinforce the ideas in your mind.
Writing and checking what you have written improves your ability to express yourself.
Writing gives others a good idea of how you comprehend things.
The physical act of writing is a eye-to-hand skill that improves your motor control of your body.
I should write more by hand.  Or even print more (by hand) as I desperately need to maintain the minimal hand-eye coordination I currently have.  Of course, I also need to type more carefully so as to stop using 'teh' as an article.

The link above also includes a list of similar topics: creative writing, freelance writing, grammar and more.
Nanowrimo is coming round again soon.  Last year, I finished the month in style, with two thousand words over the minimum.  The story I wrote had been a sort of daydream of mine for years and I had worked out a lot of details in my head before I started typing.  The story still surprised me and went places I hadn't anticipated but I had ten or so plot points in mind and their order.  This let me jump around in time.  When I couldn't think of where to go next in the first chapter, I jumped to the fourth chapter and started in.  When I ran out of literary steam there, I went to chapter 2 and so on.  Once place I was particularly weak on was character.  I had to invent character tics, flaws and general individuality on the fly.  I want to be more formally prepared this time.

Nanowrimo used to have an outline planner that you could print out.  I guess they still do but I can no longer find it.

Writer's Digest has one.  Well, many, printouts to guide you.
Necessary Writer has an outline.
Creative Writing Now has three: Novel Outline, Character Outline and Scene Outline.
Many seem to love Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. See here (from here), here, and here.
One of the above links is from Belinda Crawford who also links to more templates, including some for Scrivener, which professional writers seem to love.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lev Grossman on becoming a fantasy writer

Lev Grossman on becoming a fantasy writer

The New York Times website doesn't permit copy-n-paste so here's a fragment of a screenshot.  Probably, if you click on it, it will embiggen so you can read it.
Another quote can be found at Boingboing.
Bonus: I've never been a doodler.  Anytime I attempt a drawing, I already have an idea in mind.  Or, when I make an unintelligible mess on the page, I know what it is a mess of.  Shoebedoodling's work is therefore as fascinating to me as that of gymnasts or people speaking languages I'd never even heard the name of before.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's not just about the margins, man.

Let's talk about the margins is about far more and is about the things I need to think more deeply about.  I'm the type to finish the text, the ideas, then let it go.  Often, this means I haven't proofed the text.  Spell-check gets a lot but when I'm typing quickly, their are a few airs that spell-check won't catch.

On a recent text science book I wrote*,  I had set the margins in Google Docs but the printer probably used Word.  Whatever, I had left underscores for students to fill words in and this happened _________
Ah, anyway, back to the 'margins' article.
Reach for a book. The dedication and earnestness of those who made it is revealed immediately in the margins. If the margins feel questionable, be suspicious. Other corners were likely cut. All authors should have a Margin Clause in their contracts. Objection, your honor. Never be fooled by a fancy cover. Always remember: Covers are just there to protect pages with beautiful margins.

The layout of this essay will change in time. If we return to in a few weeks or months or years, the margins will be different, the block quote styling a darker grey, the headers a new font. We will read it on new devices, bigger and smaller phablets, goggles, contact lenses, windshields. Nothing is fixed.
Do not dismiss the fixed page. Margins on the screen are necessary, but margins on paper have the power to affect.

Fifty per cent of the character and integrity of a printed page lies in its letterforms.Much of the other fifty per cent resides in its margins, says Bringhurst.
Yes, look here — perfect dictionary paper sticks to the fingers but doesn’t stick to the other pages, says the Dictionary Man.
Make an object that lives forever, says our ghost of George Nakashima.
WE WILL TRY HARDER, says the Paper Man.
I'm a content over style man but the style isn't nothing and I really need to work on the finishing touches.
*16 or so pages and mostly a guideline for the material I would use in class.  'Book' might be overstating the product.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Creationism mocking contest going on

The Sensuous Curmudgeon has announced a creativity challenge - my two favorite subjects in one!

"Something even more illogical and contrary to reality than creationism is ________________."

Let's see:

  1. Fan death (Wikipedia link)
  2. open doors in South Korea but 'energy-saving regulations' focused only on minimum and maximum temperatures.  (hmm.  Not as funny as #1) (Gangwon Notes link)
  3. _________________________

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Amazon is getting nervous, mental illness claims another creative, and more

A North Korean architect who has never left N Korea imagines the future.  It's a little like the Jetsons.  I'd kinda like to live there.
This blog has touched on the issue of creative people having a higher rate of depression or other mental illness.  Robin Williams passed away today.
Saladin Ahmed will critique your novel.
Why hire me? I hold an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English, and I’ve taught creative writing courses at colleges and universities for ten years. My first novel, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, praised by George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and NPR, was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, and British Fantasy Awards, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. My short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, have been reprinted in numerous anthologies, including THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, and have been translated into a half-dozen languages. I’ve also written on geek culture for NPR Books, Salon, Buzzfeed, and The Escapist.
I wonder what pays better, writing or critiquing writing.
Amazon is getting nervous.
Amazon is not in the least bit happy about the full-page ad some authors have placed into the New York Times this weekend, complaining about its tactics in its negotiations with Hachette, so it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that this weekend Amazon is trying a new tactic: Trying to convince readers that it is intheir best interest to favor Amazon’s business needs and desires.
Thus, which posts a letter from Amazon to eBook readers. Go ahead and take a moment to read it (another version, almost word for word, went out to Kindle Direct authors this morning as well), and then come back.
Back? Okay. Points:
1. First, as an interesting bit of trivia, was registered 18 months ago, which does suggest that Amazon’s been sitting on it for a while, waiting for the right moment to deploy it, which is apparently now.
But as a propaganda move, it’s puzzling. A domain like “ReadersUnited” implies, and would be more effective as, a grassroots reader initiative, or at the very least a subtle astroturf campaign meant to look like a grassroots reader initiative, rather than what it is, i.e., a bald attempt by Amazon to sway readers to its own financial benefit. Amazon isn’t trying to hide its association with the domain — it’s got an Amazon icon right up there in tab — so one wonders why Amazon didn’t just simply post it on its own site, to reinforce its own brand identity. The short answer is likely this: It’s just a really clumsy attempt to reinforce the idea that Amazon is doing this for readers, rather than for its own business purposes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

More from the New Yorker

I know the New Yorker has great articles but I really think first of the cartoons on those occasions I think of the New Yorker at all.  I think somewhere on this blog is a TED talk on the proper level of weird for their cartoons.
On the creative life cycle of a cartoonist:
I think cartoonists harbor the notion that artists, writers, and scientists aren’t all that creative. Not when they’re matched up against cartoonists. Smarter? Yes. As creative? No. If a scientist comes up with one new idea a year, he’s a genius. If a cartoonist comes up with one new idea a day, he or she better start looking for other work. When people in these other fields do get a new idea, they often take a few years to perfect it, and then a few more to ruin it.
Magazine cartoonists don’t have that luxury. The core prerequisite for the occupation is creativity. They get paid for their ideas, and they have to come up with bunches of them every week, because nine out of ten will get turned down by fussy editors like me.
Remember, this article is freely available for the summer...whenever they decide that ends, so read the rest soon.
The author of that piece also wrote a book and was interviewed by his magazine.  Here is more on cartoons and creativity from that interview:
Ideas come from the unconscious, the part of our mind that dreams. You have to be able to dream while you're awake. There's always that moment where those deep, hidden brain processes push the magma up to the surface of consciousness and out erupts the thing that the conscious mind recognizes as an idea. The conscious mind then acts like a secretary, sorting, filing, and tweaking those ideas.
How can you tell a good idea from a bad idea?
With your own material, that's very difficult. The process of creating often obscures and contaminates the ability to evaluate. By the same token, though, the process of evaluating often contaminates the ability to create. The best way is to generate ideas and then wait. With distance and time, you are able to gradually see what's there that shouldn't be.
So how important is discipline and editing?

Well, we're talking about two separate processes. When it comes to generating ideas, editing isn't important at all. You want to have as many ideas as you can, knowing that most of them will be worthless. In the material universe, you can't actually make more matter, so you have to be prudent about how you use the matter that you have. But there's no need to conserve ideas. In the idea universe, every idea leads to more ideas.
In the creativity class I recently took, lessons included a virtual tour of various offices famed for their creative output.  The offices looked like playrooms with vibrant colours and nothing was fixed in place.  The New Yorker tears up that concept in The Open Office Trap.
In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared.