Two hats: Darwinian yarning

Where do stories come from?

In the last post, we looked at stories as products of a process. The writer doesn’t proceed like this: “I have this story in my head, and now I’m going to record it in written form.” The text isn’t a given that merely awaits transcription. It’s often—perhaps usually—the product of a writing activity. It didn’t exist before being realized in that activity, not even in the mind of the writer. In such cases the … Read more

Story: A conversation with the page

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a kid—the notion just smacked of romance and freedom. It also had the advantage of annoying my father, who wanted me to be an engineer. But I was 40 years old before I wrote anything for publication.

Twenty years before that, having just spent a couple of years working underground in an Ontario nickel mine, and having more money than I’d ever seen in one pile before, I … Read more

Writerly occupational hazard: Premature thought

Today I present two gnomic items of writerly advice. Subsequent posts will expand upon them.

These are aimed first of all at myself, who knows better but, it seems, keeps forgetting. In fact, in drafting this second of a series of futuristic novels, the sequel to Syn, I’ve been committing these most basic of errors.

 

1. Don’t think. Write.

2. Don’t wait till you know what your story is before you start writing it.

3. Try to be … Read more

Recipe for a 10-stone story: Souffles as boat anchors

“Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Expanding on Nietzsche’s insight

The writerly impulse to be admired rather than understood is generally associated with certain stylistic horrors.

Right away, seeking the admiration of “knowing and over-acute readers,” the unwitting writer  serves up long and complex sentences like a tangle of  spaghetti. The more clauses the better, eh? And … Read more

Lexical entropy: Will meaning prevail? (Hopefully)

Only a year ago the forces of tradition prevailed (click on image):

 

 

Now the AP Stylebook has reversed its position. And in the streets there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth as right-thinking editors everywhere protest the onslaught of lexical entropy to the point, some fear, we’ll be left to describe human experience with nothing but “whatever” and “huh!”

In breaking news, Shakespeare has been disinterred by a team of archaeologists and mediums in search of … Read more

Occupational hazards: Add to the collection

I’ve suggested some typical hazards that writers face, aside from the traditional death from starvation, and more lurk here in my files. But the following wheeze is easier than writing one of these up just now.

I’m supplying links to those that have gone before, and invite ideas from you—“you” being that mythical creature, the real, live visitor to Collin’s blogsite—for other occupational hazards that afflict writers. Contributions from writers, writers-to-be, readers and the general public welcome.

1. Godwotterous writerly Read more

Some good things to do with an Internet addiction

The Joy of Quiet,” a story by Pico Iyer in the NY Times (29 Dec. 2011) resonates with something I proposed a week ago at a Christmas party.

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I’d been talking about plans to go away for a few weeks to finish a novel in draft. As usual, when such an idea is broached, people were quick to say things such as, “Hey, I know a great place on the coast down south” or “My uncle has … Read more

Save the semicolons

“[U]se of the semicolon is dwindling. Although colons were common as early as the 14th century, the semicolon was rare in English books before the 17th century. It has always been regarded as a useful hybrid—a separator that’s also a connector—but it’s a trinket beloved of people who want to show that they went to the right school.”

Henry Hitchings, “Is This the Future of Punctuation!?(Wall Street Journal, 22 Oct. 2011)

Rightfully, I think, there’s … Read more

Can the novel survive the demise of novelists?

The demise of the novel? This has been predicted again and again over the decades, if not the centuries, yet people keep reading novels. Here’s a recent vote of confidence in their persistence:

“The book-length text is coded in our DNA and will never go away; it is the written version of the oral myths and histories told on consecutive nights around campfires for 80,000 years. In each new generation, roughly the same percentage of people is born with

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