Favorite Little Things → Writing
Illuminating Quotes, Visualised – Part XVI
More ineffably wise words from Carl Sagan about the importance of understanding the origins of cosmic bodies before you begin baking for the afternoon. I would pick watching Cosmos over home made pie anyday;
“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”
Would anyone be interested in seriously — like in a professional capacity with actual deadlines and accountability and critique — starting a small original fiction crit group in a locked comm on LJ? I almost replied to Maggie Stiefvater’s “Find a crit partner!” post but then I remembered that I am horrible at meeting people ever and at least I have an okay knowledge of/relationship with most of the people I follow/know on Tumblr who write?
If you’re interested, shoot me an Ask or reply to this post. I’m most interested in people who are working on or would want to write YA and MG lit, obviously, but I’m open to adult fiction as long as it isn’t medical or legal genre.
Apparently you have to end a post with a question mark to get a reply button?
If you HAVE replied and I messaged you saying that I sent you an LJ comm invite, a) accept the invite, and b) go respond to things on the community!
Indeed. A useful reminder that throwing up your hands and saying “Women don’t pitch us; what can we do?” is ineffective and unacceptable. Changing a biased culture requires action. (via megangreenwell)
100% yes. Editors, it’s on you.
This also translates into:
- “Why am I so motivated when it’s really late?”
- “The best time to make ideas is through sleep deprivation!”
- “I want to do so much more right before bed and I don’t understand why!”
So basically when you stay up way too late it effects your problem solving ability and your ability to make decisions. 
Do you want to know a possible reason as to why that “I stayed up really late and now I feel so creative and willing to draw!” feeling happens? Because your self-critique center is shutting down because you’ve been awake for too long.
You are always as creative and able to do things as you were when you were awake. That potential doesn’t just disappear.
Difference is— when you’re wide awake you have a stronger problem-solving and decision-making center, which is obviously related to self-critique. Being tired doesn’t necessarily make you more creative and motivated, being tired forces you to quiet that part of yourself that holds you back.
Something to think about.
Sketchbooks of the Pros
it’s always really interesting to see how other people think, because for me the difference between long&short stories is pretty much how relevant I feel all my worldbuilding and backstory is.
Yeah, definitely — I tend to see those as part of the arc, but I’m also the crazy person whose favorite character in The Hunger Games is “Panem.” (Like, that series is all about how Katniss’ personal journey and Peeta’s story arc are mirrored in the growth/devolution/revolution of Panem itself and their stories were also caused by Panem and are all about Panem and Panem Panem Panem WORLDBUILDING/BACKSTORY IS THE ARC and snurg ::cuddles District 4 to face:: )
I’m the crazy person who sits down and writes like two pages of notes on how the biology of squids and octopodes relates to the biology of humans in a person with tentacles instead of a dick and then constructs a whole world where there is a subset of the population that with such a mutation to write, I am not even joking, five hundred words of porn.
so I mean, for me I always stop and think “how much story do I want to tell?”
like, okay. in actuality, stories don’t end. the story of a person starts before that person is born, with their parents and their parents’ parents all the way back to, you know, the beginning of the universe or whatever and it ends when the universe ends too (or their lineage dies out, I guess, but even then does the story actually end? does george washington’s story end when the last person related to him dies or does it end when the world ends and the ninety-foot tall statue they built of him in the future slaying a cherry tree crumbles?). you can’t write the story of the universe, though. it can be impossible, even, to write the story of a single person because people don’t exist in a vacuum.
so even if I have everything from the birth to the death of a character in my story planned out, if I only want to tell you about this one time that had sex then that’s the only slice of story I need to tell you. conversely, if I want to tell you the sprawling epic of how a character fell in love with another character then I might need a large slice of story but I still don’t necessarily need the whole story.
this has nothing to do with words (the number of words to tell a story, I find, is an infinitely arbitrary one). you would think that choosing a larger slice of story would mean you’d need more words, but the beauty of writing is that I can tell you a story in six words or six hundred thousand words. (I don’t recommend telling a story in six hundred thousand words, but do what you like. I have no power over you.) for instance, Harry Potter in seven words: Harry Potter, born to battle Voldemort, won.
it loses a lot of muchness that way, though.
so, on some level, like. I feel that when you’re writing longer stuff it’s not necessarily a matter of how much story, but how much lip service you want to pay to things. you could (as people have) write the entirety of Harry Potter as a tightly-focused, couple thousand word long character study. the question is how much you’re expanding and contracting parts of the story.
longer writing is always rooted in scenes, but not just any scenes: scenes that have been expanded. like, think of it this way: I could have the scene where two characters meet be them on a blind date.
if I’m writing something shorter, I’d have the scene go like this: [x] goes on their blind date and it goes well.
if I’m writing something longer, I’d probably have the scene go more like this: [x] gets ready for their blind date, is driving to the blind date, arrives at their blind date, and it goes well.
because after you’ve decided how much story you want to tell, you have to decide how much space you want for people to breathe. longer stories have breathing room that shorter stories don’t because you have to sit with them for longer and think about them for longer and basically, the thing about writing something longer is this: you have to take the parts you skip and summarize in a shorter story and write those out too. you have to let the story take up space.
well, and you have to have something that you’re willing to carry around with you like a weight, because it’s going to stick with you even when you’re not writing it. you have to have a story that you’re willing to eat, sleep, and breathe for however long it takes to write it.
which sounds dramatic, but you know. it is dramatic. writing is dramatics.
This should be a fledgling historian’s maxim & I wish someone had told me this earlier. When you start out studying history — when you begin as a graduate historian, you are nothing; you are not even the history books you’ve already read, because you’ve probably misunderstood or not appreciated some fundamental aspect of them. You are an infant: the first eighteen or twenty years of your life were spent stumbling, coming to terms with living, with the world and with yourself. By the time you get to my age (23) you’ve had maybe four or five years of actual consciousness, self-awareness and self-understanding. You are now about five years old. Then, and only then, the real work begins.
And the work is: Only Collect; that is to say, collect everything, indiscriminately. You’re five years old. Don’t presume too much to know what’s important and what isn’t. Photocopy journal articles, photograph archives; create bibliographies, buy books; make notes on every article or book you read, even if it’s just one line saying “Never read this again”; collect newspaper clippings and email them to yourself; collect quotes; save your ideas for future papers, future projects, future conferences, even if they seem wildly implausible now. Hoarding must become instinctual, it must be an uncontrollable, primal urge. And the higher, civilizing impulse that kicks in after the fact is organization, or librarianship. You must keep tabs on everything you collect, somehow; a system must be had, and the system must be idiot-proof. That is to say, you should be able to look back on it six months for now and not be completely stymied as to why you’ve organized things that way. (The present versions of ourselves are invariably the biggest idiots, and six months will make that clear).
What this all takes is patience — more patience, sometimes, than I am good at. I am impatient to know things, and impatient for things to make sense more quickly; and the discipline (ah, that apt term) just doesn’t work that way. A colleague of mine told me that he’s been Only Collecting for over ten years, and can now knock out a 3000 word paper in under two days, simply because all his material is already at hand; it exists in the stuff he’s picked up in his intellectual infancy and adolescence, which at the time he didn’t know how to use, and perhaps didn’t even know was important.
Here, there’s one more point I could make: time fine-tunes your collecting habits. You are a predator of sources. Over time, things will start to jump out at you. For a lionness in the savannah on the hunt, the merest movement in the grass is a stimulus to action, but she has learned to distinguish between the random twitches of the landscape and the presence of prey. In the library and the archive, the hunt is as much a matter of skill as of instinct. In short, until you’re an adult lion, jump at everything — even if it turns out just to be a falling leaf, or a totally bizarre interview between George Bernard Shaw and a Saudi Muslim mystic in Mombasa in 1936, which I discovered amidst some otherwise entirely unremarkable magazine articles on the nature of Islam in Southeast Asia.
—Rachel Leow, Nov. 26, 2008
Having trouble finding synonyms for ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘tan’, etc? Have any clear idea what tone you’re going for? Here’s some web pages for skin tone description and references:
Handy Words for Skin Tone (Includes palettes and comparisons)
More Tone Synonyms w/ Pictures
7 Offensive Mistakes Writers Make (includes more than just skin color)
Writing is weird.
One minute you are telling a story.
The next minute you are researching the average amount of snowfall Edinburgh gets.