Archive for August, 2010

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Since I can’t seem to stop myself, I’m reading another book now (this will be number 43 for the year, or at least the ones I tracked through my Kindle app on my iPhone) and getting really into it. When I was young, I didn’t think there was anything strange about reading three books a week. In fact, my English teacher in middle school didn’t believe me when I said I read this much. So my school tested me – assigned a number of books and asked me to do a project for them. Not only did I do all of this, I distinctly remember complaining about how easy these books were. They’d given me interested material, certainly, but I was more into classical books (I didn’t know they were classics at the time, I just thought they sounded interesting). In high school, I hated the so-called classics we were forced to read because my teachers would dissect all the good parts, overanalyze and read into every line (and even stuff that wasn’t in the book at all) and then assign stupid projects that only served to make us (the students) hate those books even more. In the end, I managed to get away with not reading the books and simply waiting until someone else in my class started talking and then picking up the thread of conversation from there. I… was really good at being a bad student. Not that anyone noticed since I had a 3.78 GPA in my college prep high school, but that’s not the point. I was really good at faking interest in these books.

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Innocence vs. Experience

I must confess: I have a BA in English Literature. Hence why I make a lot of references to classical works, some I loved, some I couldn’t stand. Therefore, be warned!

I’ve always been a fan of William Blake (his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Innocence and Experience were truly brilliant, go check out copies of his prints since he didn’t intend for his poetry to be read without them). Anyway, this got me thinking about writing and editing, specifically the difference between a beginning writer with raw talent vs. a well-seasoned veteran, professional writer. This is not to say that the veteran doesn’t have talent either, just making the difference between a beginner and an expert in this case.

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Wow, okay, first of all I want to strongly recommend reading Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover. I saw the cover and didn’t think I’d like it and I’ve been out of the sci-fi funk for a few years now (the Ender series by Orson Scott Card is such an amazing sci-fi story, I didn’t think anything could compete), but this novel just gripped me. It got me thinking about why I like it so much, since the writing isn’t particularly astronomical and the main character was a bit of a pansy in the beginning. But the growth of her character (and she has a spine! And wit! And all of these interesting thoughts that make the writing so great, I can’t even pinpoint what it is I like about it) and the developing relationship between the two main characters is so real, so believable, that even as I am mentally trying to analyze the text and read from the perspective of a writer, I keep jumping thirty pages ahead and realizing I got no analyzing done. I am that sucked in. But anyway, that’s the intro for this blog, since it got me thinking about the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and a conversation on worldbuilding that I had with Night_mare last night.

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There is something to be said about editing your novel. I’ll focus on fiction since that’s where I am most comfortable. My writing buddy Night-mare and I are struggling through her revisions. She got stuck at a difficult scene and recently managed to break through, creating an enormously more powerful scene. Now we’re onto another turning point in the story and she’s fighting it again. I feel a little helpless sometimes, since I’m not the one struggling through the scenes, but I remember very clearly when I went through something like twenty-three drafts for Skull Juggler: Disenchanted before I finally gave it up for self publication.

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My writing buddy Nightmare and I were doing some joint critiquing for WriteOnCon together (because we’re nerdy gals and just love doing that sort of thing) when a scene we were reading struck me. At first I couldn’t figure out why some of the writing didn’t work. As Nightmare pointed out, it wasn’t bad writing, but there was something about it that didn’t scream good writing either. This isn’t to single out the person we were reading because I’ve come across this style often in writing, especially in fanfiction (where I first started writing) but also in various bad books I’ve endured. In talking to Nightmare (as always happens because we tend to read each other’s minds), I figured out why some of these things bothered me. Here are some lessons I’ve figured out how to explain from our joint analysis so far:

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Some Links to Editing Blogs

There are a lot of blogs out there about writing – the business of writing, the craft of writing, even writing about writing. I haven’t seen too many blogs about copyediting though, which surprises me a little. I did find this awesome one called the Copy Editing Corner but it doesn’t seem to get too much traffic. There also this really awesome site I just found called Copyediting: Because Language Matters that I’m going to devour after I write this. Sadly, in my short research for this blog, I didn’t find any other blogs about editing! But why not? Editing is such an integral part of writing. Some writing blogs certainly talk about the editing process but not to my satisfaction.

I started out editing (badly, very very badly) before I started writing anything. I liked the idea of catching mistakes other (better) writers had left behind and making the work easier to read. I got better with age and practice until I was editing people’s English papers. Funny thing is, they kept getting As every time I did. Then teachers started noticing and sending me kids they thought needed the extra help. I was more than happy to help them out since some of them were my friends and others were nice enough to me outside of class. I eventually started doing it in college and even in graduate school for my Certificate in Editing and Publishing.

At this point, I think I’m a fairly good editor. I have my reference guides now (so I don’t just rely on my memory of grammar, as I did when I was eleven, stupid, and just starting out) and I take the time to reread any mistakes I think I see. I feel as if this is perhaps the most important thing about writing.

So I think I’ll make this blog a combination of writing, editing, and reading. I’ve got my book reviews to do (I’ve already read 12 books since my last review! How insane is that?) and I’ve got some material I want to go over for a later blog.

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