Travelling writer… sometimes.

August 21, 2010

Well, I’ve been thinking about travel for a little while now. It’s only a week and a half since I got back from Hidden Valley – and Elizabeth Twist wanted to hear more about that, after my somewhat ranty blog ramble about the reservation issues I ran into the first day. Yes, I had an amazing time up in Muskoka. The area around Hidden Valley was beautiful and peaceful – I’ll try to post a few of the pictures that I took. I walked around a lot – the Deerhurst resort, down the road, had better selection of restaurants, so I was heading over there for lunch and dinner by the end of my trip.

Saturday evening, I went down to the docks for a sunset cruise on the lake. I was the only one who’d come for the trip, but the old guy running the boat was happy to take me out on the water, and we chatted for a while – he seemed to know all about the whole Huntsville area, especially the parts of it that could be seen from the water.

I had in mind last New Year’s that I wanted to not be so much of a homebody and to travel more, which I guess I’ve done, though like a lot of resolutions it didn’t quite work out like I’d planned. I went to Wizard world Comic-con and Polaris in Toronto, and I’m planning to hit a few more weekend conventions. (Fan Expo is in less than a week!) And in late November, I’m going to be flying back to San Francisco and attending the National Novel Writing Month ‘Night of Writing Dangerously.’ for the second time. I’m so excited and it’s still around three months away.

The NOWD, if you haven’t heard of it, is a big fundraiser and gathering for Nanowrimo-ers from all over. I made it the centerpiece of a five-night trip to San Fran last year, and I found that I didn’t have nearly enough time to do all the touristy stuff that I wanted, so this time I’ll be spending nearly two weeks in the Bay area. Whoo-hoo. Wish me luck!

And we have pictures from Muskoka…

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A writing experiment…

July 23, 2010

And a bit of a mash-up for today, as well!

One of my favorite writing panels at Polaris was ‘Making Sentences’, with James Alan Gardner. James seemed to have a lot of ideas about how to hone your skill with the nitty-gritty workmanship of writing, as his panel title sort of implies, and one approach that he mentioned went along these lines:

Pick a passage that you like out of a favorite book, and try to change as many of the words as possible with alternates that fill the same grammatical role, to tell a story that you want to tell.

It’s sort of an extreme madlibs exercise, with a piece of writing that you like as the template, and among other elements the idea seems to be to dissect the original passage to learn as much as you can about how it works by getting your fingers dirty with what’s in there.

I’m going to try this with the opening to ‘So you want to be a wizard,’ by Diane Duane – a great opening page I’ve thought for many years. And I’m going to combine the exercise with a little experiment at http://iwl.me/

The IWL site, ‘I write like,’ is supposed to analyze your writing style and compare it to a database of possible writers to see who you’re most like. I’ve tried it with many of my own passages, and heard about some other people’s submissions, but my suspicion is that it’s a fairly superficial analysis that doesn’t really get close to the heart of what I’d call ‘style.’

I also want to stress that I am not endorsing or recommending anything that’s up for sale or giveaway on IWL, and have heard some uncomplimentary things about the ultimate aims of the people running it. Myself, I just think that the submission tool itself is kinda fun, and I’m not really interested in clicking on any other links there.

So I want to send in the original version by Diane Duane, and my ‘mad-libbed’ version of the same passage, and we’ll see if IWL thinks that the style is different.

So, first, here’s the original passage in the book:

Part of the problem, Nita thought as she tore desperately down Rose Avenue, is that I can’t keep my mouth shut.

She had been running for five minutes now, hopping fences, sliding sideways through hedges, but she was losing her wind. Some ways behind her she could hear Joanne and Glenda and the rest of them pounding along in pursuit, threatening to replace her latest, now-fading black eye. Well, Joanne would come up to her with that new bike, all chrome and siler and gearshift levers and speedometer/odometer and toe clips and water bottle, and ask what she thought of it. So Nita had told her. Actually, she had told Joanne wha she thought of *her*. The bike was all right. In fact, it had been almost exactly the one that Nita had wanted so much for her last birthday – the birthday when she got nothing but clothes.

Life can be really rotten sometimes, Nita thought. She wasn’t really so irritated about that at the moment, however. Running away from a beating was taking up most of her attention.

“Callahan,” came a yell from behind her. “I’m gonna pound you up and mail you home in bottles!”

I wonder how many bottles it’ll take, Nita thought without much humor. She couldn’t afford to laugh. With their bikes, they’d catch up to her pretty quickly. And then…

That comes out as being like: Dan Brown. (I wonder what Diane would think of that comparison?)

Okay, so here’s my attempt to try to change the words to make this into a different scene:

“All of the trouble,” Collin said as he flew quickly up Duke’s Corridor, “is that I won’t leave a take alone.”

He had been climbing for ninety seconds now, watching pings, threading carefully between yachts, and Juno was pushing her all. Two clicks below him Collin could see Zeus and Poseidon and the entirety of the fleet lifting up in formation, seeking to challenge his hard-won, tenuous temporary freedom. But Morgan had walked around the corner with that hard stare, all medals and crisp fabric and stunner/blaster and peaked cap and decorated sash, and demand what he was doing there. So Collin had told him. Really, Collin had told Morgan what he wanted to hear. Morgan had been suspicious. Actually, he had been nearly perfectly a match for Collin and deployed the guards around the perimeter – the perimeter that he nearly hadn’t broken through.

“Crime can get very tricky these days,” Collin mused. He wasn’t exactly so angry about this at the time, though. Flying away from the navy was eating up most of his fuel.

“Rayman,” sounded the hail from his radio. “We’re going to chase you down and blast you into molecules!”

“I know how many molecules we’ll make,” Collin thought without much interest. He couldn’t spare time to calculate. With those engines, they’d overhaul Juno in minutes. And so…

You may notice that I was bending the ‘always the same part of speech’ rule by the end – because I had the story that I wanted to tell, and was willing to bend the rules to get to it. And, drumroll please, IWL says that this passage could have been written by:

Dan Brown again.

Maybe there’s more to this than I thought. Hmm…

If any of my readers try this exercise, or play around with the IWL statistical writing tool, I’d love to hear about it!


Dispatches from Polaris!

July 18, 2010

Well, I’m sitting in a hotel room in north Toronto as I write this, with two days of the Polaris convention gone by and only one left to enjoy.

It’s been a great weekend so far. I’m fairly new to the ‘con game,’ and wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one based on the website, but there have been loads of great panels – from the incredible geek-off trivia contests, (I’m going to the finals this afternoon, based on my knowledge of Whedonverse canon,) to discussions of Trek, and Buffy versus Twilight.

There have also been more fantastic writing panels than I really expected, and it’s been great hearing what published sci-fi and fantasy genre authors think of topics like “What’s next for young adult readers,” “Right ways to write,” “Researching what you don’t know for your story,” and “Rebuilding worlds and history” — and joining into the discussion with other convention guests. On my schedule today for writing panels, I’m looking forward to “Our stories are just as much fun without romance” and “Making sentences,” plus a discussion on the legality and morality of fanfiction.

Let’s see, what else – I met Ethan Phillips from ‘Voyager’ and Mark Sheppard from ‘Firefly’ and got their autographs, and shot video of the contestants at the costume masquerade until my camera battery pooped out and my memory card was nearly full.

I should wrap up this entry, because I want to get all packed up before the charity auction starts, so that I can just swing by the room at ten and quickly check out before heading off to the ‘Classic tv crushes’ panel.

We’ll return to our regularly scheduled writing blog later this week.


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