15 Things About Me and Writing

A variation of the meme in the entry immediately before this one. Naturally, if you’re a writer, feel free to do your own version of this.

1. The first time anyone told me specifically that I could write and should keep working at it was when I was in the sixth grade; it was my teacher, Mr. Johnson. His comments were amplified by my freshman composition teacher, Mr. Hayes.

2. Since freshman year in high school, I’ve never considered doing anything else with my life other than being a writer.

3. At the risk of sounding egotistical, in a general sense writing is very easy for me. Specific projects may be difficult due to research or other factors, but the actual sitting down and crafting the words has never been a problem. When other writers talk about how hard writing is for them I can sympathize but not really empathize.

4. Despite it being easy to do, I can get distracted from writing pretty easily, which can get me in trouble. To some extent this is mitigated by my being able to write quickly (5K words a day is not uncommon for me), but one thing I continually try to work on is my ability to structure my time effectively.

5. I find it difficult to write if I’m not using a keyboard — the act of typing is definitely part of my writing process. I write very differently when I am writing long hand or if I am dictating, and (in my opinion) not better. For this reason I am a bit anal about my keyboards. When I bought my Mac, I knew within a week that I couldn’t think using the keyboard that came with the Mac; I tossed it unceremoniously. Now both my Mac and my PC have Logitech keyboards. Logitech keyboards apparently help me think.

6. I’m not a writer who works well in group settings. I don’t like workshops (I have a caveat to that coming up) and I prefer my relationships with other writers be casual rather than professional; I would much rather have a drink with a writer and talk shop than try to co-write or start some sort of writing group. Now, this does not mean I think writers who like collaboration and creative consultation with other writers are doing something wrong; if it works for them, that’s good and well. I just don’t have the inclination for that myself.

7. Having said that, here’s the caveat: I think it would be fun to teach at a workshop, and I like being an editor (on occasion; I don’t know if I have the temperament to do it full time). The fact that I’m interested in teaching and editing but not in peer review and collaboration speaks volumes about me, I’m sure, but as I don’t think what it says about me is a bad thing, that’s fine.

8. Like most writers, I have a hard time judging what writing of mine is going to be particularly resonant with readers (and editors). Some of the writing I thought was not my best has been my most successful; some of the writing I liked the most no one has noticed. What is important is that I know when I’m writing crap, and that writing almost never gets seen by anyone else. So while I can’t tell which of my writing is going to be successful, I at least know all the writing I put out there meets a minimum standard of readability, and that minumum standard is fairly high.

9. And having said that, I do have to say that one of my great challenges as a writer is making sure that my writing is more than merely facile. Writing quickly and not having to struggle to write is a blessing, to be sure, in pounding out sale copy; however, it can present huge issues in quality control. I threw out the first chapter of The Ghost Brigades about six times because what I wrote was perfectly readable, but it wasn’t good — and yes, there is a difference between “readable” and “good”.

10. As a writer, I am not particularly interested in description unless it’s necessary to the plot. For this reason, I think, I am sometimes asked if my novels started out as screenplays, since the convention in screenplays at the moment is not to be overly specific in description, since being so limits the film’s casting directors and production designers.

11. Speaking of which, I have yet to write a screenplay. I’m vaguely interested in the format and I suppose if someone wanted to pay to me try to do one, I would. But it’s not a storytelling format that calls to my soul. Having said that, I think I would be a pretty good script doctor, and I think it would be a lot of fun trying to bang an already-existing script into shape.

12. I’m not in the slightest bit romantic about writing — I love doing it and I would do it even if it weren’t my job, but as it happens it is my job, and since it’s my job one of my aims is to make a lot of money doing it, so I don’t have to do anything else. This is occasionally off-putting to other folks but I don’t worry about that much. Being unromantic about writing doesn’t make one a hack — that comes when you don’t give a crap about what you write, just as long as you get paid. I want to get paid, but I care about what I write. I write for money, but I don’t write just for money.

13. Every year I buy a Writer’s Market, and every year I never use it. I buy it to remind myself that if everything I have going for me at the moment craters and collapses, I still have a couple thousand other chances to still keep writing professionally.

14. I have no good answer for “what would you do if you didn’t write?” I can’t imagine not writing. I can imagine not making a living at it, but that’s an entirely separate thing. If I couldn’t make a living writing, I don’t think it would particularly matter what I did, since I doubt my self-image would be connected to that job.

15. I think I’m a good writer. I also think I’ve been a very lucky writer. Both have worked to my advantage at different times in my career. I know that some better writers have been less lucky than I, and that some worse writers have been more lucky. In both cases, I try not to worry too much about it. I just try to make sure that the luck I have eventually gets justified by good writing. If that gets me to a place where I can spread some of my luck around, so much the better.


15 Things About Me and Books

One of the few blog memes I’m actually interested in participating in. I’m snagging this from Mrissa.

1. I don’t remember not being able to read. Or more accurately, one of the very first memories I am sure about was reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I was about two at the time.

2. Possibly the most influential book in my life was The People’s Almanac, which I encountered when I was six at my grandmother’s house. It seemed that everything in the world it was possible to know was contained in that book. So naturally I was astounded a few years later when The People’s Almanac #2 showed up.

3. When I was in kindergarten my teachers had me tutor third graders on reading. As you may expect the third graders weren’t pleased about that.

4. My love affair with astonomy started in kindergarten as well; I can still see the book on astronomy with pictures of stars of all different hues, and their temperatures listed beneath.

5. My mother used to scrounge old Time-Life science books and science textbooks for me from thrift stores. That was the coolest thing ever.

6. The first science fiction novel I’m entirely sure of reading was Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. The first fantasy novel I’m entirely sure of reading is The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I’m pretty sure I also read A Wrinkle in Time around the same time, but I’m not sure whether it came before or after those other two books.

7. Because I both grew up poor and was in awe of books, to this day I read my paperbacks in such a way that I don’t crack the spine. If you were to come over to my house, it would appear that all the paperbacks have never been open. They have, trust me.

8. In high school, I burned one of my math textbooks at the end of the year and immediately regretted having done so, to the point of actual shame. I still have the remains of the book to remind me that was essentially a betrayal of my beliefs.

9. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve regularly bought hardcover books.

10. You would think that one of the cool things about being a writer is I can go into a bookstore and see my own books there, and you’d be right. But what’s even cooler is going into a bookstore and seeing my friends’ books there. It’s like being able to visit them wherever they are.

11. There are some books in which I enjoy the writing so much, I can’t bring myself to finish the book, because that would mean there is no more of the writing to read.

12. I am delighted that Athena both thinks that going to the bookstore is a treat, and that not being able to buy the entire bookstore is a tragedy.

13. As much as I love books, I am not a serious collector. I don’t particularly care about first editions and the like. The value of books is what’s inside them.

14. With the exception of Twain, I don’t like reading novels written before the 1920s. The writing style is so different that it’s distracting.

15. I’m not an audio book person. I understand why there is a market for them, and I don’t think ill of people who listen to them — that’s just silly. And I wouldn’t mind if one of my novels were made into an audio book. But, really, they’re not for me. I read with my eyes, not my ears. That said, the people at Escape Pod are going to be doing an audio version of one of my short stories at some point in the near future, and I’m very interested to hear what that will sound like.

I’m going to do a riff off this meme soon.

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