Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SIROTI: The Week in Review

I read a lot of stuff on the internet. It cuts into my writing time. That's my excuse for not updating this blog more often, and I'm sticking to it.

So, what Stuff have I Read On The Internet this past week?

Journey to Planet JoCo series. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, but there I discovered two things I had never heard of before: Jonathan Coulton and sci-fi songwriter. Each interview in the series is short and mostly humorous. You can read or listen to them. I read the interviews looking for any tidbits on how Coulton approaches storytelling in his medium, and I came away thinking simplicity and honesty is key. There’s not a lot of room in a song to be verbose and expositional, so the simplest tales told as candidly as possible make his songs relatable and enjoyable, and quite emotional, at times. Listening to his music (among which are the hit songs to the Portal games) are an added bonus.

Is SF Still The Genre of Big Ideas? Seven notable speculative fiction aficionados, including Daniel Abraham and Alistair Reynolds, answered the question, offering great insights into how they viewed the genre itself, where it’s been, and where it’s going. I left my thoughts in the comments section there, the gist of which is: the question is a tad presumptuous.

Shame by Pam Noles. If you ever wondered why race matters in a work of fiction, this moving essay might just give you some profound answers and a new perspective.

The Most Comma Mistakes. Because you can never read too many explanations of the rules for commas. The one that got me was the Identification Crisis comma.

The Art of Fiction, Dorothy Parker. Witty and frank.

What have you been reading lately?

Photo credit: "catch 22 nately" by schammond available under CC BY 2.0

Friday, May 11, 2012


I don't like to nano stories, that is, to write them really fast and without a lot of thought or care going into the words that make up the sentences that make up the paragraphs that make up the story. But I have a problem with not finishing very many good stories in a timely fashion...or at all. That's why I accepted a friend's challenge to nano a couple of short stories this month.

We actually started last month. He finished his story before I did, and it took me 25 days to complete a 12k word story. (I did say I had a problem, didn't I?) I hated the story as I wrote it, and I hated the story when I finished. So, what was the point?

Glad to be done with the thing, I quickly retreated to my proper WIPs and basked in the sanity and coherency of the prose. Ah, the smooth narrative and the delightful dialogue were like soothing balms. Then it struck me:

When you see how bad your own writing can really be, you appreciate how well you write when you’re trying. You appreciate the trying.

The challenge is not about trying--trying to write a great, good, or even likeable story, or trying to come up with clever plots and indelible characters.  I already know how to strive for precise words, better flow, coherent structure, strong voices, etc. I know how to endeavor to write well because I have, and after years of practice I know when I'm writing poorly.

The challenge is about doing. It is about setting aside inhibition. When I try my best, the final draft will be my best, to heck with how cringe-worthy it starts out. Right now, it's about writing now, and the more I do, the more I learn how best to approach it, how to work more efficiently and get better results. I second-guess a little less.