Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everyone knows, they say

Common knowledge is a complex thing. Defining it is difficult, and applying specific bits of information to belong to that definition, once you find one, is even harder. What can you assume people already know? Should you aim high or low? The pros and cons can be heavy stuff, for either.

If you assume a lot of knowledge on the part of your audience, you can cause people to learn by making them look things up. Or make them angry that you are being pretentious and arrogant, and throw down your writing in disgust.

And writing down, explaining things overmuch, might make sure that everyone understands, but is no better because then you're talking down to the rest who already know the information, or boring them. This comes up when you write a paper on a specialized subject, or just when you're talking to people you don't know well.

"Everyone knows science fiction is dying. Everyone knows science fiction is doing just fine, even thriving. Everyone knows the future of science fiction is in debate. Everyone knows the future of science fiction has shifted into YA while most people weren't paying attention."

You can find all of this as "everyone knows." See the problem?

And don't forget the dreaded "They say". English teachers hate to see it, don't they? Not just the teachers, though. You yell at your friend, "Who says? What's your source?" And in reply, you recieve only the nebulous "I don't know, everyone"- the ghostly archetype haunting the societal zeitgeist. Frustrating.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mystery Post-it notes

Kristin Cashore wrote an article about writing. I will quote an excerpt here, hopefully with permission:
The house is strewn with post-it notes on which are written about a gazillion important reminders of things I must somehow remember to find a way to weave into the novel at some point, although, where, I can't imagine. Some of the post-it notes are written hastily in a code I have since forgotten. ("He is temperamentally sweet, but dangerous, like Jake." That would be very helpful, if I had the slightest idea to whom "he" refers, or if I knew anyone named Jake.)

My life, people. She hit it. I'm thinking about this and coming up with far too many examples.
  • My white board that I can't use because it has notes on it full of useful ideas, but I can't erase even though I'm no longer sure what half of them are for, because I need them! My story might need them!
  • My random post-its floating around helplessly.
  • My notebooks full of random pages with snippets of plot and characterization- I frequently have to read through an entire notebook to make sure I'm not missing something crucial.
  • Or something that the entire climax will build off of but is currently existing as a scrawl in the margin of my notes from English class.

Look, I don't have all my ideas sequentially. I don't plan to come up with ideas like this! Better randomly written down and possibly found when needed, rather than lost forever, right?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reading Late at Night

I've been berating myself for years about staying up too late reading a book. I argue with myself- I'll feel awful and exhausted in the morning, I can always finish it tomorrow, no big deal, better to get work done if I'm going to stay up late anyway, etc. Sometimes it works and I go to sleep- more often it doesn't and I resort to coffee, if I'm lucky to wake up early enough to actually have time to drink some.

Last night I was up very late, reading one book I've read before and love, and finished it. Rather than going to sleep, I picked up a new book I hadn't read, one that I hadn't really been planning to read. I won't name it, but it is fast paced and somewhat melodramatic and in style reminds me oddly of Twilight, although they aren't really alike. I didn't finish it, luckily, because it was very late. But I got to the point in the book where most of the questions I'd been waiting to have answered were already resolved.

So I just put it down. Normally I feel a horrible guilt as I realize how late it's gotten, but this one night, I refused to look at the clock. I had a moment of happiness, then, as I turned off the light and crawled, blearily, under the covers. Like a sad, hollow feeling inside me had finally gone away. Just me, my book, a good solid story, and I'd made my own choice when to put it down and let my mind free into sleep. Don't know if it'll happen again. And I am still kind of tired today, but not in a bad way. But last night, I remembered in a different way why I love books.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nano Woes

Nano on nano- nano a mano- moano o nano- NANO!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I am a wee bitty bit frustrated. My word count is beyond pathetic. And I really wanted to do Nanowrimo this year. I've done it before but I seem to be stuck, totally uninterested in continuing my story. It's not that excting, but once I start writing I know I'll get into it. But how do I make myself write when the page just isn't calling to me. Do I give up and try another month, or keep going, fall short of 50k and abandon the story and all hope to ye who enter here?

I guess I'll keep trying for now. But I'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Autumn- favorite season?

On my way to the polls today, I noticed what a beautiful day it was. Despite the recent time-change so that it starts getting dark at an unearthly hour of the afternoon, its really a lovely season- I don't think I remembered how nice autumn can be. Or if I'd ever noticed before. I've never called it my favorite season, and I still don't think it is- but the air was clear and crisp and easy to breathe, chill enough for a cozy sweatshirt but not too cold. The sky was glowing with the light of the upcoming sunset, and the trees were a full range of yellows, with an occasional ruby or coppery orange, highlighted against a perfect blue sky.

Then I walked into a dingy little building to vote. Worthwhile, I hope, but the contrast was startling and hopefully not metaphoric.

So can I call autumn my new favorite season? Remains to be seen.