The Craft of Writing 490

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Robspierre » 08 Oct 2010 23:55

DH: A list recently published in The New York Times by a noted restaurateur gave 100 rules for what service staff should not do. I thought a list of 40 things that writers shouldn’t do would give us all a chance to vent. I’m contributing 10 items. Some of these pet peeves have pissed me off for years:

Don’t use italics for more than one line.
Don’t tell me what someone looks like if it doesn’t matter.
Don’t make me draw a diagram to figure out who’s speaking.
Don’t write in a manner that’s different from your everyday speech. You should write like your best talk when you’re having a very good day.
Don’t start your story with a character alone in a room unless you’re Kafka and your character is going to turn into a bug.
I should be able to turn to any passage in your story and enjoy the craft of it. Don’t write a coy opening to draw me in. I’ll throw the book away instead.
You have five minutes to interest me, not with gimmicks but with craft.
Topicality is another word for bullshit.

And more at...

http://threeguysonebook.com/50-things-a ... houldnt-do

Rob

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Hunchback Jack » 09 Oct 2010 01:42

Don't use cheap emotional manipulation to try to trick me into caring about your characters. If I can relate to them, and recognize myself in them, I'll care.

Don't tell me, show me. I can read subtext.

Don't conceal information to generate cheap suspense. If your POV character knows something, let me in on it. Otherwise, it's cheating. NO, shut up. It's CHEATING.

HBJ
"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
- Carl Sagan

I'm still very proud of The Quarry but … let's face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel.
- Iain Banks

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Robspierre » 16 Oct 2010 02:26

Today we shall examine KJA's latest blog post, "A Day at Work."

A few years after my first novels were published, David Brin asked me if I would collaborate with him on a short story. At the time, David was at the height of his career, winner of numerous awards, a New York Times bestselling author, one of the most respected names in the field. I, on the other hand, had far fewer credits. Although we had known each other for a while, I was still surprised by the offer. “Really? Why would you want to collaborate with me?”
“Because I want to figure out how you can be so prolific.”
So, we plotted and worked on the story, back and forth, but it never really came together. Finally, after about three months, David said to me, “All right, I’ve figured out how you can write so much. It’s because you write all the time.”



Here we have KJA's basic premise, he's better than award winning writers because he writes all the time. Or does he?

Granted, I love to write, and I’m even a little obsessive about it (okay, maybe very obsessive), but I’ve never understood why a full-time writer should expect to put in any less time “at work” than anyone else with a challenging full-time job. A teacher is expected to be at school before the buses arrive, teach classes all day, stay until after the students have gone (sometimes coaching after-school sports), and grade papers, often into the night. A doctor sees patients all day long, usually eight hours or more. A lawyer spends the entire day (and more) writing briefs, researching cases, meeting with clients, filing papers, appearing in court.
Why shouldn’t a writer put in a full day of work?


Right off we have the assumption that writers need to structure their work habits along the lines of a 9-5 job. The unsaid assumption being, this is how I do it and this is the only way. I wonder what Robert A. Heinlein would say to that. He would write down ideas and work them over and over in his head and then he would commence writing. He would complete his story, make editorial corrections, and that was it. He spent about 70% of his time doing other things that he wanted.

Naturally, all writer's are different and every writer has a system that works for them. However, that is not KJA's assertion. According to him, writing is an assembly line, plug in A followed by B and finished with C.

Let's see what more he has to say about writing.

Right now I’m under several tight, concurrent deadlines (what else is new?). I have an office in my home, but that is often fraught with distractions. I occasionally take the laptop and hide in a local coffee shop, conveniently “forgetting” my cell phone in the car and turning off the internet access so I can concentrate on my editing. Other times, when I have a particularly heavy slate of writing/editing to do, I will go away for a few days, find an out-of-the way lodge or empty ski condo off season, where I can get a lot of uninterrupted work time. That’s where I am now, out in the mountains at a ghost-town ski resort (it’s at least a month before the lifts open).


KJA is known for the fact that he does not write, instead he dictates all his works. Yet, not one mention of this aspect of his "writing process." Instead we get discussions about editing. Now, editing is important to the writing process. A good editor can turn an OK book into a great read. A bad editor can destroy a masterpiece. Yet, KJA says the office at home is too distracting so he goes to the local coffee shop. I've never been in a coffee shop that had an environment conducive to doing anything more than cruising the web or email. I can only imagine the distractions he allows to invade his home that force him to flee to the coffee shop.

Then we have the "I must flee from human contact" post of finding a secluded cabin and "Must meet dastardly deadlines!" What has happened at home that he must flee on a regular basis to do his editing? A stray buck decide to camp out on his lawn?

On the morning I left, I spent two hours at home gathering notes and writing down ideas for a new “Seven Suns” trilogy proposal. Lots of big concepts, character sketches, plot ideas, which will take me a while to whip into shape, an overall blueprint for three 700-page novels. Then I packed my suitcase, drove to the grocery store to pick up supplies, drove to the accountant to retrieve our recently completed tax returns, and came home to have lunch with Rebecca. She is finishing her rewrite on our second Star Challengers novel, which she’ll email to me the day after I hole up in the lodge.
I drove two hours into the mountains to get to the ski resort, while listening to an audiobook on the way (a current bestselling thriller, so I can keep up with the market), and had a phone conversation with Brian Herbert about some background details in The Sisterhood of Dune, which I would be editing. After I checked in, mid-afternoon, I walked around the area for a while, thinking a bit more about the new Seven Suns proposal, then set up the computer in the room. I edited three first-draft chapters in The Sisterhood of Dune, two of mine and one of Brian’s, because that’s the order they appeared in the outline.


Here we have classic KJA wankery. He listened to an audiobook, no mention of the title, that would be promoting someone else. Notice he only names others when he is sucking up to them or putting them down, such as he did with David Brin.

Then he talks on the phone, while driving mind you, with Brian Herbert concerning Lesbians of Dune, before he checks in. Then he walks Notice he one ups Brian by saying he edited two of his, KJA's, chapters and only one of Brian's.

For dinner I heated up some leftover gumbo that my friend Paul had made, then worked on formatting the ancient Word files of my novel Assemblers of Infinity, a Nebula nominee that I wrote with Doug Beason. We’re putting some of my hard-to-find backlist titles up as ebooks; I have all the electronic rights to the novels, but they all require some cleanup and reformatting. Because the files were so old, the prologue and epilogue were corrupted, so I had to rekey them from my paperback copy of the novel—about ten pages. (Not fun.)


Holy crap, here we have KJA having to retype ten pages due to a corrupted file, naturally, actually having to type is no fun. Of course it isn't, all he does is edit. He never engages in the activity of typing his writing. He does not have the skill. This is the crux of KJA's "writing." He dictates simple prose that someone else types and he then edits, and edits, and edits. His outlines are 1/3 the size of his novels. That is how they read. There is no turn of phrase, no twists and turns, just shlock crap designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Then I watched the DVD of the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein film (research for a short story I was commissioned to write). After that, I took a bath and read four submitted manuscripts for Blood Lite 3, which I’m editing.
That’s a day at work, a fairly typical one. A lot of hours spent, and quite productive, but I wouldn’t say it’s much different than, say, a corporate executive, the owner of a busy restaurant, or a hospital administrator. A successful author doesn’t get to just write for an hour or two and then dink around the rest of the time


Funny, he's always watching something for research, especially when working on something else.

I am amused by the other jobs he compares writing to. A restaurant owners job is very different from that of a writers. The same for a corporate executive. Once again KJA is saying an apple is the same as an orange.

This is my job. This is my career. This is how I make a living. And like anyone else who has a freelance occupation, if I don’t do work, I don’t get paid. If I don’t deliver what I promised in a contract, I’m not likely to get work again. A professional writer treats a day at work like a day on the job.
It’s the difference between a career and a hobby.


KJA, the McDonald's of writing.



Rob

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 16 Oct 2010 03:28

Robspierre wrote:Today we shall examine KJA's latest blog post, "A Day at Work."

A few years after my first novels were published, David Brin asked me if I would collaborate with him on a short story. At the time, David was at the height of his career, winner of numerous awards, a New York Times bestselling author, one of the most respected names in the field. I, on the other hand, had far fewer credits. Although we had known each other for a while, I was still surprised by the offer. “Really? Why would you want to collaborate with me?”
“Because I want to figure out how you can be so prolific.”
So, we plotted and worked on the story, back and forth, but it never really came together. Finally, after about three months, David said to me, “All right, I’ve figured out how you can write so much. It’s because you write all the time.”


Yeah, that was the answer he gave KJA. If that were really the truth the project they worked on would have seen the light of day. The real reason that Brin found out that KJA is so prolific is that he puts almost no time into any single work. Lots of writers write all the time - FH wrote about doing this often, but FH didn't do 14 books a year. Most writers given the chance to work in the Dune universe would spend years on a single book, trying as hard as they could to wrte something that was at least close to FH's work. KJA spends weeks. WEEKS. Sometimes maybe even several months. :roll:
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Shaitan » 16 Oct 2010 04:11

Good stuff.

Robspierre wrote:DH: A list recently published in The New York Times by a noted restaurateur gave 100 rules for what service staff should not do. I thought a list of 40 things that writers shouldn’t do would give us all a chance to vent. I’m contributing 10 items. Some of these pet peeves have pissed me off for years:

Don’t use italics for more than one line.
Don’t tell me what someone looks like if it doesn’t matter.
Don’t make me draw a diagram to figure out who’s speaking.
Don’t write in a manner that’s different from your everyday speech. You should write like your best talk when you’re having a very good day.
Don’t start your story with a character alone in a room unless you’re Kafka and your character is going to turn into a bug.
I should be able to turn to any passage in your story and enjoy the craft of it. Don’t write a coy opening to draw me in. I’ll throw the book away instead.
You have five minutes to interest me, not with gimmicks but with craft.
Topicality is another word for bullshit.

And more at...

http://threeguysonebook.com/50-things-a ... houldnt-do

Rob
"When the going gets weird, the Weird turn Pro." -Hunter S. Thompson
"Man, a guy gets drunk *once* and it's all anyone remembers..." -HBJ

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby TheDukester » 16 Oct 2010 04:29

Excellent stuff, Rob. And spot on, as usual.

I'll just add that Anderjacket is an amazingly boring man. It's one thing to be self-obsessed — and, really, who else but Spanky constantly gives us these long-winded "my life" posts? — but it's another thing not to be engaging or witty or charming or fun to be around. I've known a lot of braggarts who were at least kind of fun.

Not Keith. He's like the international spokesperson for The Boring Club.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby SandChigger » 16 Oct 2010 06:05

Nice one, Rob. :D

He hadn't posted a link to the blahg yet when I roared through Twitter today, so I'm just seeing this now. You forgot one thing, though, at the end:

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Don’t miss the next Superstars Writing Seminar, Jan 13-15 in Salt Lake City: no-nonsense business and career advice for the serious writer, taught by six bestselling writers, Kevin J. Anderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, and Rebecca Moesta. Note that the early-bird price for the seminar goes up at the end of the month.

http://www.superstarswritingseminars.com

Looks like he's going to be flogging this thing in everything he posts for the rest of the year. :lol:
Last edited by SandChigger on 16 Oct 2010 14:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby TheDukester » 16 Oct 2010 12:39

Ah, L.A. will miss you, Kevin! One year just wasn't enough ...

Can't wait to see the very carefully selected "crowd shots" from 2011. :lol: :dance: :lol:

(We never did get a straight answer at Twatter, did we, Chiggie? No one would even estimate the crowd size ... or admit that attendance was pretty much a big joke)
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Robspierre » 16 Oct 2010 12:48

I didn't forget, I didn't want to give the bastard any advertising :P

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Robspierre » 16 Oct 2010 12:56

From The Dukester:

Right. We call those "line editors" in the publishing/newspaper business (some publications probably use other terms), and they are an important part of a good editing process.

But that's all Becky, Keith, and the idiots at TOR are doing. They are catching the occasional error in punctuation, a run-on sentence here and there, and that sort of thing. And doing so while watching DVDs; let's not forget that.

The problem: they are not editing for substance, which is the other side of the editing coin. No one is challenging Keith about his repetitiveness, lack of character development, weak plotting, over-use of adjectives, ridiculous reliance on deus ex machina, and so on. No one is trying to make the story better.

And, given the subject matter — the Dune setting, as created by FH — that is just completely fucking sad.


The outlines run 110-120 pages, pad that out just a bit then spend your time line editing and voila, another Hack masterpiece. Substance is not a virtue to KJA.

Rob

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Hunchback Jack » 16 Oct 2010 14:55

Wow, did anyone else interpret the first few lines of that blog post as:

"David Brin, the hotshot SF writer, once wanted to collaborate with me, so he could learn how I wrote so much so quickly. But it didn't come to anything, because it turns out he's a lazy schlub. Like so many other hotshot writers."

HBJ
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- Carl Sagan

I'm still very proud of The Quarry but … let's face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby TheDukester » 16 Oct 2010 15:10

Pretty much, yeah.

This is the same Anderjacket who has also been known to mock his peers with lines like "are you waiting for your muse to strike?" and shit like that. He sees writing fiction as nothing more than an assembly line. Things such as "art" or "craft" need not apply.

Which makes it funnier when he gets all butt-hurt over not getting any respect or major awards. He can't seem to grasp that he's never done anything worthy of those things. Mostly because he's an incredibly stupid man.

+++++

Sidebar: It could also be that Brin just got sick of him within a few weeks. The rumor mill says that's pretty much what happened with the Koontz/Frankenstein thing, and I'm sure that wouldn't be the first time. I'd imagine working with Kevin J. Anderprick is pretty much as close as most of us would ever get to actual torture.

(Bobo can handle it, of course. He only has to sign some checks, play along with "brainstorming" gag, and stare down at the bottom of that bottle some more.)
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby SandChigger » 16 Oct 2010 15:14

I found Brin on Twitter and asked him if he had any comment, provided a link. Haven't checked for a reply yet. ;)

Robspierre wrote:I didn't forget, I didn't want to give the bastard any advertising :P

Good point. I fixed the URL. ;)

TheDukester wrote:Can't wait to see the very carefully selected "crowd shots" from 2011. :lol: :dance: :lol:

(We never did get a straight answer at Twatter, did we, Chiggie? No one would even estimate the crowd size ... or admit that attendance was pretty much a big joke)

No, even Mr "I'm ALL about the numbers" Anderhack didn't mention a rough estimate. But they must have at least broken even, or they wouldn't be holding a second one, right?

This next one's going to be at the Red Lion Hotel, Salt Lake City, UT. I just had a look at their website, but they don't seem to provide online access to their schedule. Here's the chart of their room capacities:

http://www.saltlakecityredlion.com/html ... lc.asp#top

No indication of pricing, though...
I have heard of only one mistake that doesn’t have an explanation for a careful reader...with an open mind. (And, no, I’m not going to tell you what it is!) —KJA

I don't like every writer's style; for instance, I have never been able to get through Ursula LeGuin, China Mieville, or Iain Banks, all of whom are critical darlings. —KJA

I...had written a bunch of Star Wars and X-Files books...that proved not just that I'm a hack, but that I could write in somebody else's universe... —KJA

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby TheDukester » 16 Oct 2010 15:23

From an L.A. convention center to a random Red Lion in Utah? :shock:

That ain't a step up! LAWL! :lol:
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Robspierre » 16 Oct 2010 17:44

I cannot believe I didn't think of this earlier.

because Keith records his "writing" while "hiking," it's no wonder he summarized what happened previously all the time, he doesn't remember himself. He can't dictahike and check the outline at the same time so he just keeps repeating himself because he can't remember shit!

Rob

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Kojiro » 16 Oct 2010 17:48

I wonder if he ever completely loses track of his train of thought and has to rewind and playback.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Shaitan » 18 Oct 2010 15:35

TheDukester wrote:Excellent stuff, Rob. And spot on, as usual.

I'll just add that Anderjacket is an amazingly boring man. It's one thing to be self-obsessed — and, really, who else but Spanky constantly gives us these long-winded "my life" posts? — but it's another thing not to be engaging or witty or charming or fun to be around. I've known a lot of braggarts who were at least kind of fun.

Not Keith. He's like the international spokesperson for The Boring Club.


Having spent some time in the public eye myself, writing/editing/managing relatively successful web sites at times or working with other people's projects over the years, I have struggled a lot with the right balance of talking about myself (strictly on my socialnet feeds, forums I run or where what I'm talking about is remotely topical, or my own personal site....and even that, I tend to be unsure as to the value of, something I constantly question and shift around among my priorities) and also in what to say when I do publish things that are ultimately personal in nature. Boring people and oversharing at the same time seems to be a national pastime lately, and I'd like to think that I have enough self-respect to at least attempt to stand above the lowest common denominator.

I think it's fairly clear that a lot of people have come to the conclusion that certain people in the "writing industry" have sunken to the same lows that television, major-studio Hollywood film, and much of the Internet have stooped to in their race to the bottom. Whatever brings in a buck, that's all the game is about to them.

I let myself get into that mindset at times working on strictly "tech analysis/review content" article writing for web sites....why let yourself get passionately attached to a bunch of products being marketed by the tech industry? At best, it's what people do with the tech that's ultimately worthy of praise. The rest is just nuts and bolts. Allowing myself not to care became a necessity when I got severely injured in a mountain biking accident, then sick from complications. It allowed me to keep making money for my family even when I had far too much on my mind, not the least of which being blinding pain, to muster up much passion about what the details of Company X's next gadget were going to be. If my writing "got the job done," then I gritted my teeth and did my best to be satisfied with the fact that my arthritic hands were even able to type up a decent-sized article that day in the first place.

If that ever happens to me in my creative work....shoot me.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Shaitan » 18 Oct 2010 15:51

I guess the short version of the previous post would be that despite all the "me" talk I've posted in this thread (because writing is a topic I put a lot of personal stake in. And something I'm concerned that I might not have decades more to do; my opportunity could be measured in years or even weeks. I've already had my right hand/arm paralyzed by radial neuropathy once for almost three months, to say nothing of the arthritis)....is that I'm trying to share LESS lately, and focus it more than ever not only on what's really important to me, but also restricting my posts more to what is actually for the people on the other end at not just my own self-aggrandizement. I like to cultivate just enough ego to stay positive and motivated, but it's an all too easy to let that particular beast outgrow its cage.

I can write a diary for my own consumption, and that of my children some day, etc.....which is the purpose I originally intended for a lot of my socialnet posts. At most, maybe I can put some of that stuff up on sites like Facebook where there's at least some degree of hope for restriction from the public Internet. On the one hand it's easy to argue to oneself that people don't *need* to visit sites like a personal blog which is intended basically as a diary....but the way KJA is using his is well, reflective of over-sharing, over-production.

In my case, to put it bluntly....if I were an actively producing "author"/scriptwriter -- with passion for his work -- as I hope to be again in to the not too distant future....I would feel that all that personal diary stuff would be detracting from my ability to find time to invest myself in the quality of my work rather than just its quantity. I like to think that once in a while, I think of something worth sharing with the world. But I find that the less I publish, the more I like what I've posted when I look back on it later.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Shaitan » 18 Oct 2010 16:13

Hunchback Jack wrote:Wow, did anyone else interpret the first few lines of that blog post as:

"David Brin, the hotshot SF writer, once wanted to collaborate with me, so he could learn how I wrote so much so quickly. But it didn't come to anything, because it turns out he's a lazy schlub. Like so many other hotshot writers."

HBJ


Yes, pretty much exactly how I interpreted it. Honestly, who the hell cares about a writer's "work ethic" if they produce something that will enrich people's lives and outlive them for centuries if not eternity as a work worthy of reading by every sentient being its contents can reach unto the limits of entropy and proton decay in our universe?! Even one great book is better than a thousand piles of a hack's vomitus.

KJA seems clearly to value the rewards for writing and editing that are provided by the immediate. As in: $$$. His legacy doesn't seem to matter much to him, nor does shitting all over anyone else's.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Kojiro » 18 Oct 2010 16:23

I think as long as you feel self-conscious and avoid bravado, you'll do fine.
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Hunchback Jack » 18 Oct 2010 16:24

Shaitan wrote:Yes, pretty much exactly how I interpreted it. Honestly, who the hell cares about a writer's "work ethic" if they produce something that will enrich people's lives and outlive them for centuries if not eternity as a work worthy of reading by every sentient being its contents can reach unto the limits of entropy and proton decay in our universe?! Even one great book is better than a thousand piles of a hack's vomitus.


Absolutely. I'd go further. Even if the result isn't a great book, but is, at least, something that the writer has put time, energy and passion into, then why criticize the writing process? Number of words per day is not the only metric.

One more thing about that blog: even if KJA didn't intend to bad-mouth Brin deliberately, the fact that it comes across that way says a lot about how carefully KJA words things. This guy's supposed to be a professional writer, for Christ's sake, and he doesn't notice the subtext of his own blogs?

[edit]Oh, and it goes without saying that Brin kicks KJA's ass in the writing stakes. He's even won a Hugo, I think. [Checks]. Two, actually. [/edit]

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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Kojiro » 18 Oct 2010 16:31

Well that's no surprise, KJA, being a technical writer, only cares for the literal meaning of words. Subtext is like a completely alien language to him.
Has not religion claimed a patent on creation for all of these millennia?
-The Tleilaxu Question,
from Muad'dib Speaks

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Hunchback Jack
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Hunchback Jack » 18 Oct 2010 16:40

Not arguing, but even a half-decent tech writer is very aware of subtext. ;)

HBJ
"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
- Carl Sagan

I'm still very proud of The Quarry but … let's face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel.
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D Pope
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby D Pope » 18 Oct 2010 17:32

Too true, HBJ. Any real maint log entry is as much about what's not written as the text that did make the page.

"N210X 27 Nov. 2010
Removed FOD, replaced damaged brake line, part number 6a, right, inboard. Bled right brake. All work performed IAW maint manual. Ops check OK."
Leto II is gone for good, except for OM. The "pearl" was just that; a miniscule portion of what Leto was, and not a compressed version of the whole. The pearl that the worms have do not make them Leto, or in any way similar to him.
-Omphalos

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Shaitan
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Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Postby Shaitan » 21 Oct 2010 02:40

Kojiro wrote:I think as long as you feel self-conscious and avoid bravado, you'll do fine.


Indeed. When you stop agonizing over the quality of your own work and start defending it in public....it's all over, IMO.
"When the going gets weird, the Weird turn Pro." -Hunter S. Thompson
"Man, a guy gets drunk *once* and it's all anyone remembers..." -HBJ


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