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The Working Writer

Yesterday Kate Paulk had an article on ideas over at Mad Genius Club. Today John Wright has a post on his own blog about an interview that deals with his writing methods, including the ideas.

I'm very familiar with the "seeing another's design executed poorly and thinking you can do better." I've got a steampunk world (or maybe a couple -- I still haven't decided whether all the stories belong in the same continuity) kicking around in my head which was inspired by Harry Harrison's Stars and Stripes Forever. The idea -- what if the Union and Confederacy have to patch up their differences to fight off a common enemy -- were fascinating, but the execution was problematical. In several ways and on multiple levels.

And it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad work. I can think of several different books I've read that were well-written, but left me thinking, yeah, but what if....
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  • Current Music: "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles
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When Life Imitates Art

Way back in the 1980's, when I was first writing the earliest stories of what would become the Gus on the Moon timeline, one of the "extraordinary reversals" was a US dictatorship. And one of the things that was supposed to make it possible was the shooting of three Senators on the Capitol steps, supposedly by a terrorist of some stripe, but very likely on the behalf of the man who would become dictator.

What has happened today isn't precisely those events (after all, I was still in my teens when I was writing those first stories, and my ides of politics were a bit laughable at times), it's still alarming to see how polarized things have become. Are we on the brink of a very ugly period?
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The Problem of Old Text

It's interesting to go through the files of old projects that got set aside for various reasons. Sometimes you'll find something that strikes your interest afresh, that leaves your fingers itching to work on it again.

But when you actually pull it back out, you'll almost always discover that the existing text needs some serious rewriting to bring it up to your present standards. Sometimes it's just clumsy wording, but more often there are major structural issues, whether they be leaps of logic that don't make sense or worldbuilding that's been left behind by subsequent development in that fictional world.

And then you find that all rewriting is most definitely not created equal. Sometimes it makes sense to tweak the original text. But at other times, working with the existing text proves to be a liability. There's an unconscious desire to conserve as much of the existing text as possible, to not throw away all that effort -- so you end up not making all the changes that the story really needs. The existing text is actually holding you back.

Which means that sometimes you need to get away from that text and start afresh. Read the existing work quickly and make notes on the basic information you're trying to convey. Then set the original text aside and write a new one from your notes.

Only after you've written a fresh new draft, go back and make sure that you didn't accidentally leave out anything vital from the original. You may want to do some reconciliation -- but even then, be aware of that "magnetic attraction of old words."
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  • Current Music: "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles
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Books for the Week

Now that I'm home again, it's time to get back to the regular book promo post.



Magic and Secrets by Mary Catelli

Tales of Wonder and Magic

A woman, sent to a far off duchy, finds a mysterious wolf haunting the forest, and learns there are secrets no one even suspects.

Playing with props for amateur theatricals has more consequences than any of those doing it dream. . . act with care.

A king's tyranny sends a woman searching desperately for a legend of lions, there being no other hope.



The Wolf and the Well-Tempered Clavier by Leigh Kimmel

With the coronation fast approaching, the Cathedral of St. George the Dragonslayer cannot afford trouble. But come it does, while the cathedral choir director is at the Dragon's Breath Organ, practicing the anthem he wrote at King William's own request. While explaining some technical terms to his understudy, the choir director decides to show off a little.

In the process, he releases an ancient menace from long before humanity came through the worldgate to this place. An entity that strikes him blind, and threatens further harm to anyone who tries to play the Dragon's Breath Organ.

However, they dare not disappoint His Majesty, not on the most momentous day of his reign. Someone must cleanse the Dragon's Breath Organ of this malicious entity, and the choir director cannot. So the task falls to Miss Anne Teesdale, understudy organist.

Now she must delve into the history of the cathedral, and the mysterious ancient magic that fills the organ's windchest. A secret that may well cost this young woman her life.

Or worse, her sanity.

An Ixilon story.
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Memory Wears Rose-Colored Glasses

It's always interesting to read or watch the stuff we enjoyed so much when we were younger. Some of it stands the test of time, but some of it makes us wince and wonder how we could have ever been so callow as to think it was cool. And then some of it simply has been left behind by production technology, so that the effects which had seemed so cool when it came out now look clunky and hokey.

After hearing about the death of Roger Moore, I went on a binge of watching stuff related to his interpretation of James Bond. And in particular, I watched the video for Duran Duran's theme song to A View to a Kill.

Back in 1985, when it came out, a video in which the members of the band are put straight into the movie was a really cool, exciting idea. And they even got to play with cool spy gadgets too.

Now that I watch it, I find I have to deliberately watch it as a period piece from my teen years or it looks almost painfully clunky. The gadgets are most obvious -- the flying cameras may have seemed cool in 1985, but now that we have quad-copter-mounted GoPro cameras available to ordinary people, the effect of cameras zipping up and down the frame just looks silly. And even the methods of integrating the video of the band members with the movie actors is primitive, if you watch the cuts from one camera angle to the next. Compare that to U2's Elevation video, which features clips from the (then-brand-new) Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie, in which the Edge and Lara Croft are in the same frame, visibly interacting. While it's possible that the scenes were re-shot with the Edge in them, it's also very likely that sophisticated frame-by-frame computer editing was used to insert the band member into the existing clips.
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  • Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
  • Current Music: "Time" by Pink Floyd
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James Bond in Space

In memory of the late Roger Moore, who for many of us was James Bond, The Space Review has an article on Moonraker, which featured the Space Shuttle. I only saw it when it came to TV, so I didn't realize that its original theatrical release was intended to coincide with the launch of the Shuttle.

Of course the Space Transportation System program had the usual developmental problems, and launch slipped two years. But the awareness and excitement was there, enough that Moonraker was the biggest moneymaker to that date of the James Bond films.
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  • Current Music: "Rocket Man" by Elton John
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