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Posts tagged as “Dragon Writers”

The plan for June…

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... dig up all the draft posts I never finished, and do one of:
  • Finish and publish them
  • Abandon and delete them
  • Decide they need further work
Up so far: deleted a post which was an early draft of "He Has No Idea", and refurbished (as best I could, three years later) for publication a draft post on "I Hope No-One Closes Off the Internet". Enjoy.


Oh hai … I can has writing novels now?

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... we're over 30 posts in a month now.  Mission accomplished, and without even using fake fill-me-up posts like this one.

There are a few topics left, but they can wait till June.

I can has novel writing now?
-the Centaur

I’ve got 2 hours …

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... so do I blog or work on my next novel?

Sorry guys.  Work calls.

-the Centaur

You’re a Tiger

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You're a tiger.
You hide
in the tall grass.

You're a tiger!
You hide
in the tall grass.

I scritch behind your ear
and you fidget for me
Can't I see
you have important work to do?

Go now,
defend our home
from the flitting birds

and the tiny lizard
tailless marauder
you bring home again and again
held delicately in your jaws.

-the Centaur

Pleasure and Pain, Fiction and Science

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I really enjoy writing fiction, but I find writing science painful. And I just realized one reason why: stories are narratives, and since I write stories in chunks of scenes, the incomplete narrative can still be absorbingly interesting - like surfing past a few seconds of a movie on TV.

But papers are hybrid beasts: they report data and argue about what we can conclude from it. Since I write papers by core dumping my data then refining the argument, what I'm subjecting myself to when I edit my paper is a poorly argued jumble based on a quasi-random collection of facts.  It's not all bad - I do work from an outline and plan - but an outline is not an argument.

This hit home to me recently when I was working on a paper on some until-now unreported work on robot pets I did about ten years ago. Early drafts of the paper had a solid abstract and extensive outline from our paper proposal, and into this outline I poured a number of technical reports and partially finished papers. The result? Virtual migraine!

But after I got about 90% of the paper done, I had a brainflash about a better abstract, which in turn suggested a new outline. My colleagues agreed, so I replaced the abstract and reorganized the paper. Now the paper was organized around our core argument, rather than around the subject areas we were reporting on, which involved lots of reshuffling but little rewriting.

The result? Full of win. The paper's not done, not by a long shot, but the first half reads much more smoothly, and, more importantly, I can clearly look at all the later sections and decide what parts of the paper need to stay, what parts need to go, and what parts need to be moved and/or merged with other sections. There are a few weak spots, but I'm betting if I take the time to sit down and think about our argument and let that drive the paper that I will be able to clean it up right quick.

Hopefully this will help, going forward. Here goes...

 -the Centaur

A Nice Problem To Have

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So my friends are reading Frost Moon and giving me feedback, which I'm letting pile up while I get other work done (and so my committment to what I just wrote can evaporate to the point I can read it objectively). But I've already started the sequel, Blood Rock.  I wrote a lot of Frost Moon in the Barnes and Noble Writing Group at Steven's Creek, but I've avoided reading Blood Rock there because I thought it might be a spoiler for my alpha readers who were still reading Frost Moon.

Now I know holding the new chapters back was a good idea.

My mother-in-law just finished Frost Moon and said "I can't wait for more!". So I sent her the first chapter of Blood Rock, which she immediately printed out intending to read it.  But Sandi's dad got to it first.  He's read part of Frost Moon, but had stopped and was waiting for his wife to record it on tape so he can listen to it on his long over-the-road trips. But he sees Blood Rock lying around, picks it up, and BAM! page one, gets a huge spoiler for the ending of Frost Moon.

There are obvious spoilers in the first chapter of Blood Rock: the central character of the series is still alive, as are other people whose fate was in doubt.  I was worried that people would find that out, but in all truth you could guess that from the fact that it's a book in a 'genre' series and not a 'literary' one-shot novel.  It's going to be a story about someone's continuing adventures, not about the unfortunate events leading up to someone's untimely death.

But there are also NON-obvious spoilers: who the main villain was, what he was doing, and what happened to him.  I won't go into any more details, but suffice it to say these are MUCHO spoilers if you haven't finished the first book.  I hadn't been worried about that, but in hindsight this is blindingly obvious.  So I am very glad I didn't read this at the writing group!

As my mother-in-law and father-in-law both pointed out, it's rare for a book in a series to give away the ending of another book in the series.  And so I need to be careful about how I refer to the past.  While I can't hide the end of Frost Moon - it's integral to the plot of Blood Rock - I can instead hold these revelations back to the last possible minute.  And now that I think of doing that, it seems like it will make the point when I refer to it even more of a shock.  Nice.

I've never had this problem before.  It's a nice problem to have... :-)


How hard it is…

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... to keep up the pace of daily blogging when you have Real Life to do!  I'm working on a scientific paper (and several novels and stories and a comic) and already this month have come up with three blog posts - Delusionaries, Biblical Spam and the Joy of Xi - which are too complex to just dash off, so they've been languishing.  If I get a chance I'll tackle one of them tomorrow after the next draft of the paper is done.  Until then ... post!  And let the chips fall where they may.

-the Centaur

Regurgitating Slashdot…

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... does not constitute true "blogging," unless you really have something new to say about the topic.  Same goes for the tip you just found on Lifehacker.  Perhaps, the curmudgeon in me says, keep the "me too"s and "+1"s to yourselves?

But, I'm a hypocrite; half the tricks I learn and shiny sparklies I find, I only get because some other blogger has read it  (out of the dozens of other blogs I don't subscribe to), decided it was good, and regurgitated it into my waiting Google Reader.  So keep it coming ... I guess.  But I still need something more than "check out what I saw on Slashdot."

-the Centaur

Don’t Get Overly Ambitious

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If you're going to blog once a day for a month, it's important not to get overly ambitious about the articles you're going to write each day.  I started off with the idea I'd finish all the waiting blog posts I had sitting around, write down my definitive thoughts on several key topics, et cetera.

The outcome of this bright idea? Well, sitting "right next" to this article in Qumana is a blog entry on "delusionaries" which proved too big to chew in a couple of small bites.  So I'm going to spit this one out, cut it up into smaller bits, and try again.  Stay tuned.


How Easy It Is To Fall Off the Wagon!

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Not even the first week and I skipped a blog entry.  Shame on me - and I was even online yesterday.

It's very easy to "fall off the wagon" - to decide to change how we want to live our lives, but then let our day-to-day habits, plans, and interactions carry us through a course of actions that contradicts that.  A Christian theologian would make some noise about the fallibility of man; a cognitive scientist would natter on about automatized behaviors, capture errors and the illusion of conscious will.  But the long and the short of it is that we're really bad at this.

I can point to a number of wagons I've fallen off repeatedly: regular exercise, martial arts training, doing the physical therapy exercises for my knee, calling all my friends at the beginning of the month, taking the laundry out of the dryer as soon as it beeps.  But other wagons I hang on to tenaciously: feeding the cats twice daily, watering the lawn, attending the weekly and monthly writing groups.

At first blush this is the diference between things that have immediate feedback (mewing cats, wilted plants, written stories) and those that don't (it can take months to notice changes in your waistline).  But I find that this even applies to things that don't have immediate feedback - like writing my "weekly snippets" at the Search Engine That Starts With a G, a performance tool that I regularly use even though I'm the only one that apparently reads them.  True, if you don't send snippets you get reminders about it; but most people ignore them, just like I ignore many, many other automated reminders I get.  So that's not it either.

So some wagons are easy to fall off of and others are easy to hang on to.  Why is that? I could go off and do a typical blogger speculation, but let's leave it at this for a moment: why are there some things that are so easy to decide to do (or not to do) regularly, while other habits are so hard to make or break that it seems nearly impossible?

'jes wonderin,
-the Centaur