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1. Yesterday, I did 1,014 words on the new vignette, which, it turns out, will be named "Apsinthion." Though I am tempted to name it "αψίνθιον," but fear the Greek letters would give thingunderthest fits when it came time to translate it all into the PDF for #51. Spooky read the first 2,000+ words back to me yesterday, and she likes it a lot. And I like it, so now all I have to do is find THE END today. I'm thinking Sirenia Digest #51 will go out to subscribers on Saturday, but Sunday at the latest.

2. Last night, I got the rough sketch for Vince's illustration for "The Eighth Veil," and it's looking awesome. I have to write him back this morning, to answer a question or two, but it's going to be perfect for the story.

3. Greer Gilman (nineweaving) brought this bit of anti-intellectual claptrap to my attention last night: "A reader's advice to writers - A word to the novelist on how to write better books," by someone named Laura Miller. Never mind the highly dubious conceit of the title, that readers are qualified to tell authors how to write (I say that's very like me advising a dance choreographer or a cameraman or a cellist). Once again, we are told that style is a no-no. Voice is bad. Just hand out story, please. To quote the passage that Greer has already quoted:

4. Remember that nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is and most readers either can't recognize "good writing" or don't value it that much. Believe me, I wish this were otherwise, and I do urge all readers to polish their prose and avoid clichés. However, I've seen as many books ruined by too much emphasis on style as by too little. As Leonard himself notes at the end of his list, most of his advice can be summed up as, 'if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.' Or, as playwright David Hare put it in his list, 'Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.' But whether you write lush or (please!) transparent prose, keep in mind that in most cases, style is largely a technical matter appreciated by specialists. You probably don't go to movies to see the lighting and photography, and most readers don't come to books in search of breathtaking sentences.

*blink blink*

Actually, I do go to movies to see lighting and photography, very much so. And costume design. And to admire well-written screenplays. So, it should come as no surprise that my favorite directors are not bland facilitators of unremarkable cinematography. They are people like Wes Anderson, Jane Campion, David Lynch, Tim Burton, the Coen Bros., Werner Herzog, Martin Scorcese, and so forth — directors whose vision of a story is as important as the story itself, who are visible on every frame of film. And the same is true of the books I most love. I need to hear the voice of the author, and it must be a compelling voice. People like Ms. Miller, well, I'll be kind and say I find them utterly fucking unfathomable. If you ever asked me for writing advice, and I ever refused to give it (because that's not something I make a habit of doing), I'll give you a little now: ignore this sort of nonsense. Good prose isn't transparent. It's not a clear window, but, rather, something more akin to stained glass. The trick is not to be "accessible" to as many people as possible, but to find your voice, whether or not anyone will ever listen.

5. After long a month in Insilico, a month of extremely heavy rp that has, among other good things, inspired a couple of nice short stories, I'm stepping back from Second Life a bit. Again. Mainly, I don't have the time to keep up with all four characters that setting out to rp one character somehow spawned. I will, for now, continue to play the part of Xiang 1.5, currently known as "Victoria," but that's really all that I can handle. I find myself fretting over those characters when I ought to be fretting over my fiction. No, the other fiction, the stuff that pays the bills. Last night, no SL for the first time in a couple of weeks. Instead, I played WoW with Spooky, and, unexpectedly, had quite a lot of fun. I think that was my first WoW in five or six weeks.

6. Last night, Spooky made meatloaf and we watched Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in Howard Hawks's delightful Ball of Fire (1941), an old favorite.

7. And now, the third set of photos from Sunday's trip to Conanicut Island. These were taken after we left Beavertail and drove east, to West Cove at Fort Wetherill:





West Cove (view to the west), a wonderful place to find beach glass.



West Cove (view to the south).



West Cove, eastern shore (view to the southwest).



Nah, they only look like shuggoths coming ashore. West Cove, on the western shore (view to the southeast).



West Cove (view to the east).

All photographs Copyright © 2010 by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Comments

( 33 comments — Have your say! )
myownpetard
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
anti-intellectual claptrap
translation:
"i notice it, but i don't get it, so no one should do it."

*facepalm*
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Re: anti-intellectual claptrap

"i notice it, but i don't get it, so no one should do it."

Pretty much. I think, in the end, this is mostly about lowering the bar so the under-achievers won't feel left out. Whatever.
Re: anti-intellectual claptrap - txtriffidranch - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
elmocho
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
I was wondering what you'd say about the Salon article. I have muddled, half-considered thoughts on some of the advice, given a problematic relationship I have with "story."

I agree with you about movies, though. I went through a period of watching silent cinema, where one has to pay attention to the screen, because all the information gets conveyed visually. I've noticed in sound features or television, you can look away for a few moments and really not miss much. Then I started watching some modern movies, and realized I wasn't actually missing anything, because a lot of modern films don't do anything with the camera.

Now they strike me when I see something well done-- the odder moment was Return From Witch Mountain (1978). Despite whatever cheesiness the story held, the direction and cinematography held a panache I just don't see in a lot of movies. I kept saying "Did you see that cut? See how it followed that tracking shot? See how it moves everything along? Brilliant!"

And that causes trouble, because articles like the one cited say that thing "Gets in the way" or "Makes the artist too visible" or makes one realize the artificiality of the subject-- all of which you've written about.

The only thing I've seen regarding bad visual style-- as opposed to just dull-- was a bad disaster movie on the nameless SF network. They emphasized every shot. The camera didn't just reverse angles for dialog, it pulled back to medium shot and swooped in for each speaker. I'm not sure what to call it, but it's not style. Maybe frenzied, pointless techniques.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure what to call it, but it's not style. Maybe frenzied, pointless techniques.

There is such a thing as incompetence, and the issue of "style vs. no style" really doesn't enter into the equation.
jtglover
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
... whose vision of a story is as important as the story itself, who are visible on every frame of film. And the same is true of the books I most love. I need to hear the voice of the author, and it must be a compelling voice.

Great Scott. It's... it's almost as if you're saying the style is part of the substance of a piece of art! Something essential and inseparable from the story!

It's not a clear window, but, rather, something more akin to stained glass.

That's a very effective metaphor.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)

Great Scott. It's... it's almost as if you're saying the style is part of the substance of a piece of art! Something essential and inseparable from the story!

Does this mean I've earned my burning at the stake?

That's a very effective metaphor.

Thank you.
(no subject) - jtglover - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
txtriffidranch
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. It's been six months since Salon.com ran its last idiotic article on writing, intended to rack up hit counts from understandably outraged pro writers, so it's about time for a new one. I sure hope it works, because now that Salon's dropped "The K Chronicles" comic strip, there's no damn reason to visit the site any more.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)

Hmmm. It's been six months since Salon.com ran its last idiotic article on writing, intended to rack up hit counts from understandably outraged pro writers, so it's about time for a new one. I sure hope it works, because now that Salon's dropped "The K Chronicles" comic strip, there's no damn reason to visit the site any more.

I only read this because Greer brought it up and linked to it. But, yeah...it seems like they're just trying to generate hits by pissing off pro writers who will then link to the article.
salon - myownpetard - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
salon - myownpetard - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: salon - greygirlbeast - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Feb. 25th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
robyn_ma
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see how far you'd get into B.R. Myers' A Reader's Manifesto before hurling it across the room.

Style is great if it truly comes from within, communicates something an artist can't get across any other way. It is possible for it to get in the way, though. I think mainly in the realm of film, if something is too hectically edited. It's a style, I guess, but I hate it. I don't think that's analogous to any other art, though, since editing is what distinguishes movies from other art forms.* That's about all I can think of. Oh, and if the damn thing's so dimly lit I can't see anything. Basically if I can't tell what's going on, and I'm supposed to be able to (i.e., it isn't obfuscated for artistic/narrative effect, etc.), you lost me. I guess that could apply to other media.

* In comics, we sort of do the 'editing' ourselves in between panels, cf. Scott McCloud.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)

I'd love to see how far you'd get into B.R. Myers' A Reader's Manifesto before hurling it across the room.

I don't throw books. But I've read enough of this one to know that it's tripe, plain and simple.
sovay
Feb. 25th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Yesterday, I did 1,014 words on the new vignette, which, it turns out, will be named "Apsinthion." Though I am tempted to name it "ἀψίνθιον," but fear the Greek letters would give thingunderthest fits when it came time to translate it all into the PDF for #51.

. . . I'd approve.

readers are qualified to tell authors how to write (I say that's very like me advising a dance choreographer or a cameraman or a cellist).

Yes. I may be able to pinpoint what I like about a particular filmmaker, but that doesn't mean I should advise them (even assuming I had the technical knowledge) on how to achieve the effect!

It's not a clear window, but, rather, something more akin to stained glass.

Yes. And changes each time the sun moves through it.

Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in Howard Hawks's delightful Ball of Fire (1941), an old favorite.

I've wanted to see that movie for years; I caught fifteen minutes out of the middle once on TCM, but I never seem to be home when it's scheduled. I should probably give up and Netflix it.

And now, the third set of photos from Sunday's trip to Conanicut Island.

The shoggoths are awesome.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)

. . . I'd approve.

I may ask Thing if he can handle the font. Though I know such "pretension" would give B.R. Myers fits. Actually, that's why I should do it.

Yes. I may be able to pinpoint what I like about a particular filmmaker, but that doesn't mean I should advise them (even assuming I had the technical knowledge) on how to achieve the effect!

Alas, we are reasonable women.

Yes. And changes each time the sun moves through it.

This is particularly important.

I've wanted to see that movie for years; I caught fifteen minutes out of the middle once on TCM, but I never seem to be home when it's scheduled. I should probably give up and Netflix it.

It's "streamable" from Netflicx at the moment.

The shoggoths are awesome.

Spooky's annoyed at me for pointing out their shuggothness, as she says she'll not now ever be able to look at those rocks the same way again.
(no subject) - sovay - Feb. 26th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Feb. 26th, 2010 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Feb. 26th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Feb. 26th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC) - Expand
whiskeychick
Feb. 25th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
Life is plain enough. Give me lush.
*blink blink*

Indeed.

Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 25th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Life is plain enough. Give me lush.

Life is plain enough. Give me lush.

Which, in part, goes back to one of the reasons I'm stepping back from SL...the inexplicable fetish some people have for the mundane...but I'm not getting into that here.
catconley
Feb. 25th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
Here's my favorite bit from the article:

"Readers are what every novelist really wants, so isn't it about time that a reader offered them some advice? I've never written a novel, and don't expect to ever do so, but I've read thousands."

Just... wow. That's like saying, "Yes, I know I've never flown a fighter jet, and I never intend to do so, but jeez, pilot, I think you're headed into that loop-the-loop a little too slow, don't you? Isn't the whole purpose of your job to entertain loads of people at air shows and stuff?"
greygirlbeast
Feb. 26th, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)

Looking at that bit you excerpted, I'm tempted to think this all comes down to the belief that writing is about product, or at best, entertainment. That the idea of Art is just too passé for the early 21st Century, and too many people are marginally literate, but completely ignorant of the true benefits of literacy.

It just makes me hurt....
ulffriend
Feb. 26th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
I read your quote from the article and immediately thought of bits of prose (and poetry for that matter) that have impacted me as intensely and viscerally as have pieces of music. If Miller truly believes what she's written, I feel a little sorry for her. I can't imagine that feeling not being a part of my world.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 26th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)

If Miller truly believes what she's written, I feel a little sorry for her.

I refuse to feel pity for anyone who's this proud of their stupidity.

I can't imagine that feeling not being a part of my world.

Nor can I.
kali_licious
Feb. 26th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
Just reading that excerpt of so-called "advice" made me cough and sputter at the screen. I can't bring myself to click on the link, and I'm only a lover of stories and writing, not a writer.

If "most readers" don't recognize or like good writing then something is terribly wrong. (Though it explains the glut of crap on the market).

Because I'm an art student, and a highly-visually-oriented person, one of the things I love the most about your prose is the lushness and the beautiful sentences. It makes the experience of reading so much richer and more satisfying.

greygirlbeast
Feb. 26th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)

If "most readers" don't recognize or like good writing then something is terribly wrong.

Frankly, I suspect this has always been the case. It's just that the internet has given them a voice they've never had before (so we all have to suffer).
(no subject) - kali_licious - Feb. 26th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
poesillchild
Feb. 26th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC)
You probably don't go to movies to see the lighting and photography, and most readers don't come to books in search of breathtaking sentences.

As I read the above sentence, it occurred to me that there was a possibility that the poor soul may never have seen or paid attention to a Hitchcock movie.
( 33 comments — Have your say! )