Daily Archives: July 12, 2009

Fiction and Non

Marissa Lingen writes up her experience of writing fiction and writing non-fiction, and how the two are different (and, also and importantly, how the two are alike). It’s an interesting read and you should check it out.

For me, the major difference between my writing fiction and writing non-fiction is that with non-fiction I generally write from structural outlines (i.e., I know what every chapter is supposed to be about, and within each chapter, what I’m writing and what needs to be addressed), whereas with fiction I tend to wing it and make it up as I go along. Which is to say the fiction writing process is inherently more creative than they non-fiction writing process. But this is not to say my process for fiction is better than my process for non-fiction; both are excellently suited (for me, anyway) to the goals of the writing.

There’s also something Mris says in the entry that I agree with even though it’s not technically correct for my own writing path. She writes: “If you haven’t written a lot of fiction, you probably can’t write good fiction right off the bat.” I think this is generally true because generally speaking no one is good at anything without putting in a considerable amount of time at it.

That said, when I wrote Agent to the Stars in ’97, I had written almost no fiction at all once I got out of high school, the exception being a three stories in college (one actually started back in high school), and a couple of three-page aborted attempts at novels in the early 90s. So Agent was my first completed work of fiction begun since 1987. The reason I think I managed it was a) I had a job as a film critic, so I spent several years evaluating other people’s story structures (and dialog, and everything else), b) I was writing every day for a living, c) I had worked as an editor, talking people through the potholes in their own work. All that compensated for not actually writing much fiction first.

On balance, however, I think it’s easier for most people just to write a bunch of fiction and get up to speed that way. Which goes to Mris’ point.

Helping Someone Helping Someone Else

A note from agent Colleen Lindsay:

A good pal of mine, writer Aaron Allston, is bouncing back after having had a massive heart attack while on book tour; he had to have an emergency quadruple bypass and now he’s face with staggering medical bills. The Fandom Society of Texas has started a non-profit to collect donations and help Aaron out but we need to get the word out. I’ve written a blog post with all the details and links here.

Go ahead and link through, and if you have the ability, consider helping out.

Oh, Dick

What? Dick Cheney allegedly ordered the CIA to lie to Congress about some stuff it was doing? Who could have imagined? I mean, Dick Cheney always struck me as the open and communicative type, personally.

I have a general theory regarding Cheney, which is that a fundamental psychological trait of his is that he’s a coward, and as a coward he exhibits pathologies towards secrecy, the fetishization of violent power, self-justification in the face of facts and the overestimation of danger. This is not exactly an original theory, nor is it exclusive to me; nevertheless every time I look at Cheney I’m reminded that the politics of war and security should never be decided by men who are such bowel-shaken chickenshits. I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, just don’t have them be the sort of terrified coward Cheney turned out to be. Terrified cowards choose poorly. It’s not too much to ask for better than that.

Your Sunday Musical Obscurity

From 1990 or so, the Scottish band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, with their not-precisely-a-hit “Blacker Than Black”:

I always enjoyed this tune, mostly because any song that starts “Death is a pony that’s waiting for me/His name is Luigi, he’s tied to a black tree” has got to be performed by the truly commited.

Incidentally, some of the more visually astute among you might register the presence of Shirley Manson, better known as the singer of Garbage. She was so young in those days, as were we all. Younger, anyway.