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Blustery morning...

We have some serious weather sweeping across Connecticut towards us. The wind outside is wonderful. I have the office window open just a crack, letting in the fresh, storm-scented air.

Yesterday was a good writing day, just not as good as the three days before it, those three rather exceptional days. Yesterday, I did 1,052 words, and each one seemed to come with great difficulty. I was too easily distracted yesterday. Bits of research that needed doing as I was writing —— because I always research as I write what needs researching. In fact, often I don't know what will need researching until I'm writing. That was the case yesterday. So, a couple of hours were lost to researching various subjects, which, of course, means they weren't lost at all, as the research is part of the writing. It did not help that yesterday was "the sex scene," the mechanics of which inevitably slow me down a little.

I puzzled over what, at first, seemed like an apparent paradox yesterday. I maintain there is no correct way to write a novel (or short story), and yet most novels are badly written, which seems to imply that there's a wrong way to write a novel, which would demand that there also be a correct way. However, after a little pondering, I saw that the paradox is only apparent. In fact, there is no right way and no wrong way to do this —— no objectively valid, demonstrably infallible set of rules —— and those multitudinous examples of bad writing do not result from those who do not know or will not follow the "rules," but from those who simply cannot write. It's terribly anti-egalitarian of me, I know, to claim that most people cannot write, and that most people cannot be taught to write, and it goes against the grain of the whole "writing as craft" camp, but there you go. Oh, you can learn grammar. You can learn literature. You can learn literary theory and spelling and even the mechanics of storytelling. All of these things may even be necessary, but they surely are not sufficient. So, no paradox.

Please have a look at the new eBay auctions. Also, subpress is now taking pre-orders for A is for Alien. You may also now find the new mass-market paperback edition of Daughter of Hounds in bookshops or order it from Amazon.com. Thanks. The books must roll.

Anything else interesting about yesterday? Not much. For dinner, Spooky added eggplant to the Chinese leftovers from Sunday (beef lo mein, beef fried rice, and pork dumplings), stir fried it all together in the wok, and something yummy came out. I spent an hour and a half after dinner editing, uploading, and posting photographs from our most recent trip to Point Judith. Most of the rest of the evening was spent reading. I got about seven hours sleep, but woke to my dratted aching mouth and a mild Lortab hangover.

And that's far too much to type before breakfast. I think I'm just going to sit here for a while and watch the storm's approach....

Comments

( 17 comments — Have your say! )
robyn_ma
Sep. 9th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
'We have some serious weather sweeping across Connecticut towards us.'

At least your weather will be serious. We'll be getting the silly weather (Tropical Storm Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel).
sovay
Sep. 9th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
We'll be getting the silly weather (Tropical Storm Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel).

Don't forget Hurricane Where-the-hell-is-Bermuda.
corucia
Sep. 9th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
FYI, here's a nice little science article about one of my favorite organisms - the waterbear. In a hibernation state, it can survive vacuum and hard radiation.

http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080908/full/news.2008.1087.html

Thought you might find it interesting,

David
maetrics
Sep. 9th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
hmm...2 replies in as many days...not a good sign...

Just my observations, not speaking from experience.

I believe it's not about the right way of writing a book, but more about quality. Quality, however is subjective, so I'll retreat back to my perfect mathematical world and let someone else worry about that one :)

Sadly people are distracted by money and success, which often requires one to cater to the lowest common denominator, to think about quality.

Should you be able to be able to gain success, money, and quality in the same book. Then you truly are gifted. I think though, most people start with money, then go for success, and then sometime before they die create their Magnum Opus.
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Sadly people are distracted by money and success, which often requires one to cater to the lowest common denominator, to think about quality.

I would say this diverges into an entirely different issue, which would be motivation. Motivation is not necessarily tied to the issue of good writing vs. bad writing, and certainly not to the issue of whether good writing can be learned. Yes, lots of people set out for success and money and so write lousy books, but...the problem is compounded by the fact that sometimes people set out for success and money and write good books. Also, we must not assume motivation. Unless it has been plainly stated by an author, the issue of an author's motivation is very difficult to treat. Unless Author X specifically tells us sheheit is merely gold-digging, we can, at best, extrapolate for the available evidence (as I sometimes do) and devise an hypothesis regarding motivation.

Edited at 2008-09-09 05:32 pm (UTC)
maetrics
Sep. 9th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Well, I didn't mean it negatively. I would hate to think anyone would do anything, especially write a novel, for money and money alone. But the reality of the matter, is we all have rent/mortgages to pay. So, unless the person is a starving artist or leisurely wealthy, I would say that survival is an implicit motivation.

That said... What I was speaking about how money distracts. A person could do better, but often its balanced against doing enough to survive. Once survival is no longer an issue, then usually the person has enough notoriety that they push for success. Once all that is behind them, they're able to focus on just creating from their heart. Or they commit strong armed robbery for sports memorabilia.

Then again, my field is one which people do just for the paycheck, and annoy the rest of us who love what we do :D

The point is, I (a self professed romantic) believe if people didn't have to waste most of their life earning it. They would create quality....or get the f#ck out of the way of the rest of us, probably stuck in front of the TV.
jtglover
Sep. 9th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
It's terribly anti-egalitarian of me, I know, to claim that most people cannot write, and that most people cannot be taught to write, and it goes against the grain of the whole "writing as craft" camp, but there you go.

...but who says the "writing as craft" camp is right? :) If they were, America's bookstores would be stuffed to the brim with the output of a zillion MFA-spawned geniuses. Of late I tend to think about the question of excellence in writing (...the question of such annoying details as value judgments in writing aside...) as "what kind of excellence." Many books I enjoy in their own right as fine representatives of their type, but which don't hold a candle to [X FAMOUS BOOK].
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)

...but who says the "writing as craft" camp is right?

Not me. I thought that was a matter of public record.
jtglover
Sep. 10th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
I don't remember you talking about it per se, but that, uh, would seem to be in line with the general gist of your journal.
stsisyphus
Sep. 9th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
Not that you need the trouble, but I made a brief comment of "The Z Word" today.
greygirlbeast
Sep. 9th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)

Not that you need the trouble, but I made a brief comment of "The Z Word" today.

Rather interesting, all in all. But I think the thing with "The Z Word" is that, had it gone on much longer than it did, it would quickly have become tiresome. Or that's how I felt about it.
stsisyphus
Sep. 10th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
...had it gone on much longer than it did, it would quickly have become tiresome.

Hmm. That's quite possible. The ABBA bit couldn't have carried much farther, thats for sure. I didn't mean to suggest that there was anything wrong with the characterization, btb; just that I sort of wanted more. I couldn't see this going novella length or anything like that, maybe just a few more days of writing on it is all.
reverendcrofoot
Sep. 10th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
I maintain there is no correct way to write a novel (or short story)<\i>

I agree with you that there are no set of rules that someone can give you, that tell you how to write a novel, each novel is different.

But if you can complete the process and are left with a beginning, middle and an end, you have succeeded in writing a novel. Whether it is good or bad is not up to the author to decide, only the reader can make that decision.

The wrong way to write a novel is one that leads to not completing it.

and yet most novels are badly written <\i>

How are you defining "badly written?" The term is nebulous. Having not read even one tenth of one percent of all the books out there, I couldn't even say a good portion of books are not worth my time. I will say that only a small percentage of the books I've read are great though.

What is the purpose of writing?

To me, it is simply to tell a story in a clear manner as possible, so as to not lose the reader, and if possible get the reader to see something in a new light.


It's terribly anti-egalitarian of me, I know, to claim that most people cannot write, and that most people cannot be taught to write, and it goes against the grain of the whole "writing as craft" camp, but there you go.

I think everyone can agree that GREAT writers are born not made, and that there are terrible writers who show no aptitude (But unless they are famous I don't believe these people get published), but there is that middle ground of everyone else that perseverance and practice can only help.

But something you said a while ago about all writing being noise did drive home a point. That none of it matters, in fifty years no one will remember what an author once toiled so hard over.
greygirlbeast
Sep. 10th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Whether it is good or bad is not up to the author to decide, only the reader can make that decision.

With all due respect, this assertion is not only ludicrous on face value, it's an insult to authors.

so as to not lose the reader,

It is the reader's job to keep up with me, not my job to walk slowly so the reader may keep up.

By the way, have I mentioned that I do not argue in this journal?

Edited at 2008-09-10 02:51 pm (UTC)
reverendcrofoot
Sep. 10th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I promise I am not trying to start an argument with you. That is not my point in being here. If I wanted to troll there is always Craigslist.

It just that you said some interesting things in this post. Things that I just don't agree with, (like saying that Most Authors Suck) though I can see your point.

But to Clarify myself.

It is the reader's job to keep up with me, not my job to walk slowly so the reader may keep up.

I agree with this but I was speaking more about punctuation, grammar, spelling, and avoiding confusing language. To allow the reader to keep up with you the path you build should be clean and free of debris. That's not to say a writer can't or shouldn't throw a few hurdles down every know and then.




reverendcrofoot
Sep. 11th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
Whether it is good or bad is not up to the author to decide, only the reader can make that decision.

With all due respect, this assertion is not only ludicrous on face value, it's an insult to authors.

Yeah I have to agree the assertion is not well reasoned. I know it makes me naive, but I'm assuming an author wouldn't give a reader a novel they didn't think was good. To me it'd be simple pride in craftsmanship, I wrote this and its good. (Because if it was bad, I wouldn't have finished it.)
jacobluest
Sep. 11th, 2008 05:29 am (UTC)
We'll have a storm now. And an earthquake, if you like.


~Jacob
( 17 comments — Have your say! )