Friday, October 24, 2014

Such Outward Things Do Dwell in My Desires

Maybe next year St. Crispin's Day will fall on a day when I'd normally blog, but this year it's tomorrow, October 25, 2014, that the anniversary of one of the bloodiest single battles in the history of Western civilization (a more ironic term in this case even than usual) falls. If you didn't know about it, you've got a year to learn until the 600th anniversary. I might throw a party. I threaten to throw a Battle of Agincourt/St. Crispin's Day party every year and never do, but a 600th anniversary of anything is rare enough that I might actually follow through.

Not pictured: St. Crispin Glover

Anyway. Since it's not actually October 25th, and posting the Henry V speech would be a very lazy way to fill this space, I'll address some of the other stuff that was in my Facebook feedback a couple of weeks ago. These are questions that didn't lead to long or good answers, unfortunately, so I'm going with a Q&A format.

Q. Tips about being a good editor of one's work?

A. See, great example. My tips include a) practicing, a lot, for yeeears, and b) buying Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King and Renni Browne. That's it. Not that interesting an answer.

The more you practice on other people's work, the better you'll be at your own. If you don't have any other people's writing to practice on, find a text copy of Oliver Twist or another Dickens novel on Gutenberg and try editing it, just omitting needless words and making sentences clearer and punchier, in your word processor. That sounds unkind, or presumptuous, but...just try it. I think you'll see what I mean.

Art by Kate Beaton

Q. All About Fonts?

A. I sort of love fonts, although having learned about the existence of true font nerds, I don't fall in that category. I really like Bookman Old Style and Book Antiqua, I am not that excited about Arial, and I dislike Courier. Of course Comic Sans is a scourge, and the font that Slate has been using of late is such a travesty that I've stopped reading the site altogether, when it used to be an everyday thing. Those ys, ugh. TNR is completely transparent to me, with no inflection at all, so that's always my preference. I do think fonts have inflection, and affect the way readers read, but I couldn't begin to interpret how they work.

You thought you were writing a joke comment, didn't you? Ha! HA! I even edited down that paragraph because I went on too long about sans serif.

Q. What are they teaching you in that [workshop] class of yours?

A. Lots of stuff. If I learn anything that seems worth chewing over or passing on, I'll probably write whole posts about it, like this one. Sadly, I haven't garnered any more faith in the process. In my workshop class last semester, we focused on "What is this story doing?", which turned out to be a lot more fruitful than other methods. But I think you need a lot of skill, both in the group and in the workshoppee, to do it from that angle.

I could write a whole post about what I think of workshopping, but it would not be especially positive. So I'll set that aside for now.

Here's a hint. Art by Peter Brueghel. 

Q. Writing rituals?

A. It's kind of silly how superstitious I am. However, the only element that's not negotiable is food. I can't be hungry or I can't write. Funny, because historically many writers have been motivated by hunger, but I can't concentrate for shit if my stomach's not full.

Otherwise, this is how I prefer to do it. I keep a notes book, always smaller than 8.5 x 11, where I write down dreams, character ideas, stuff I saw out in the world that I want to preserve for later, etc., all the way up to many-page plot outlines and poorly drawn maps of fictional cities. Any notes I take elsewhere - on my phone, in a .txt on my desktop, etc. - eventually get transcribed in the notes book. I keep a separate drafting book, a lined A4 or 8.5 x 11 Moleskine, where I write the first draft of everything longhand with specific Sharpie pens, which cost too much and don't last long enough, but I'm addicted to them. When drafting is done, I type from that notebook, and in typing I'm revising. So the first typed draft is like the second or 2.5th draft of the work, because I'm usually correcting the draft even as I'm drafting, because I am annoying.

Not everyone needs writing practices this specific.

This was by far the oddest Google Images search result for "meticulous." 

None of these elements other than the full tummy is 100% required. Sometimes I'll write in ballpoint on notebook paper. (Not often, though.) And sometimes I need a small alcoholic beverage to lose my fear of the blank page, but getting too drunk to go on is a bad idea.

Speaking of which, don't let any rogue Agincourt partiers slip you anything too strong this weekend. It's only the 599th anniversary, after all. No need to really let your hair down.

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