Perfection and Writing: Two Words that Don’t Get Along

NCIS Filming

NCIS Filming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know what I should be doing right now?

Writing.

Well, technically I am writing, but I ought to be working on more formalized, structured work that actually accomplishes something.

Storytelling.

Right now my only active project is actually a fan fiction (so low brow!) of NCIS. It’s been my most recent fandom; my obsessions of other people’s work cycle on about a bimonthly basis, so I’m about ready to move on from NCIS. But in the meantime, it has given me the idea for a mystery, and since I’m not all that great at plotting, mostly through sheer lack of doing-ness, using already established characters and being able to disregard a lot of research into technicalities (given that it’s an already inaccurate and glorified television show), I can rely on the conventions on the genre as I figure out how to structure a full-length plot.

So far, it’s both easier and harder than I expected.

I think I have the rough plot outline fairly well sketched out. (Enough qualifiers there, do you think?) But making sure it’s in a rational order while keeping track of plot twists and tension complicates things: I keep moving around certain discoveries, character responses, and am also trying to tie in to enough character development to make sure there’s a point in reading it—NCIS is hardly the most procedural show.

For once the scenes themselves are causing me trouble. Usually when I write I start with a character, throw them in a situation and see where they go. (Mostly the scene ends and then the story goes nowhere.) Two years ago, I did manage to finish NaNo with even less preparation than I’ve done for this fan fic, but I can’t say it ended well, especially since I didn’t do any revising. I still don’t know that it would be worth it. I very much want to finish this NCIS story before November, because I want to participate in NaNo again, and have the start of a plot—but at the same time I’m still trying to figure out my characters and how they’re going to start the plot, and make sure each makes sense with the other.

This writing thing is HARD y’all. I’ve only finished a few short stories and attempted a few terrible poems, mostly in classes. But I tell myself so many stories I may as well write them down! And preferably well, as I am a perfectionist.

I’m sorry, I just love linking to writing blogs about writing, mostly because I love reading them, and I do love the suggestions box.

Piles and Piles of Unfinished Books

English: A child watching TV.

English: A child watching TV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got home from work, watered the plants, and turned on “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Which, sure, the only thing it has going for it above other reality shows is pretty dresses, but there are equally obnoxious people. At least there’s usually one per bride.

Anyway, that’s probably why I’m not reading.

After all, it’s easier to not think. Especially as it’s on as I’m trying to write this post. It’s just a little hard to focus when following the three different stories and all the meanness. This is why I don’t even stop on most reality shows even out of curiosity: shows about dresses usually have happy ends (at the very least, weddings) and cruelty is discouraged.

Much as I love reading, I’ve only been able to get about half-way through any one of my books before picking up another. As if, once I’ve put them down they are no longer compelling enough.

I suppose I’m just restless. There really wasn’t anything today that I’ve managed to focus on long enough to give my thoughts any direction, organization.

During college, at least, assignments gave me a reason to make sure I could clarify my thoughts. I still respond to everything I read—no matter how disparate the subject matter, most books relate somehow: after all, they’re all, in one way or another, about humanity.

Not being an alien, that gives me a common reference!

Page from an incunable of Valerius Maximus, Fa...

Page from an incunable of Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia, printed in red and black by Peter Schöffer (Mainz, 1471) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So while I can’t not respond to what I’m reading, and keep a notebook just so I have somewhere to keep all the notes when I’m not actually defacing the pages with my marginalia, but I don’t have any thing to focus on. There’s nothing in particular I’m looking for, no argument I have to make.

This is why I need to start finishing these books. Once I finish, I can get back to reviewing on Goodreads. Maybe I should start reviewing story by story from <i>The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2011</i>

Although there are only so many ways to say “all zombie stories sound the same.”

reality television

reality television (Photo credit: the|G|™)

P.S. One comment about one reality show, and now they want me to like to Kim Kardashian. NO. No matter how many hits I’d get. 

Betrayal! Confessions of an eBook Reader

As in, someone who reads e-books, not an e-book device.*

 

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

When I was in Academic Decathlon, they asked me “What’s your favorite book genre?” My mouth went dry and I know I took too long to answer. “Fiction? …or nonfiction.” Any question connecting favorites to books strikes me as entirely unfair.

 

After all, how many books are published per day?

 

When I was a kid I wanted to read every book ever published. Even now, I occasionally get anxiety attacks over the sheer number of books I haven’t read yet, and all those brilliant works I may not ever read. By Roman times, scholars were bemoaning the breadth of important literature, and the impossibility of reading it all.

 

There’s just no way to keep up—or in, e.g., in the loop. I’ve always had eclectic reading tastes: I’ll read science and history and paranormal romance and the so-called literary novel and fantasy and memoir. I’ve never been discriminatory and I love (some) genre works as much as I love (some) of the classics. Let’s face it, some of the classics are only canon because the manuscript happened to survive.

 

Growing up with reading privilege, which is to say, a bookcase in every room, my own library before I could read on my own, I learned to love books, and especially value the physical book. Books are more than just a product, because all those words stand for ideas, a nearly direct communication from the author’s brain to yours. Fortunately, they do not include mind control, and so you are free to interpret the author as best (or worst) you can.

 

I only bought my nook after getting hooked on the local library’s e-book lending program, but reading on the computer screen, at least in terms of ‘real’ books, has never been the comfortable for me. And while I do love my nook, but…

 

As a dedicated reader of everything, I feel guilty for sidling along with the e-book bandwagon. (I’m far too timid to jump after all, and paying that much for those little text files?) People keep talking about e-books killing the traditional publishing market. Which I find problematic in two parts: first, with the rise of the dependence on technology, some form  of change was inevitable, and second because that’s just such a huge shift for so little benefit.

 

Remember when email was supposed to mean we wouldn’t use paper anymore?

 

My nook is nice. I can carry around as many books as I want; I have instant, free access to most classics (public domain), and I can read it more easily all the time. Like walking, or eating, and even knitting although turning the pages can be difficult with my fingers tangled in yarn. I can just set it on my knee and go, whereas if I try the same thing with a paperback—whoops, lost my place.

 

But O! do I miss the feel of paper and slick covers and especially typography. Not that physical books always pay the closest attention to the quality of the interior pages, but the nook can never match even an average layout…especially when the e-book designer formats the text incorrectly and it doesn’t respond to my spacing and text choices and their text choice is awful.

 

I nearly went all caps there, the phenomenon annoys me so much, but I didn’t think that’d be fair to you, dear reader.

Cover of "The Monsters of Templeton"

Cover of The Monsters of Templeton

The nook fits in my purse better than my former minimum of two novels and a hardcover, just in case. I have access to the library program books, which, though it isn’t a huge selection, is still different from the rest. I can only check out three e-books at once compared to the local library’s ten, but the two week limit means I don’t keep them three months before I get to read them—I mean I always try to finish, but you know, life gets in the way, and I couldn’t just not check them out, right? E-books don’t take up space on my shelves, which is good, because I don’t have any. And it’s easier to get new books on the nook, since I don’t live within 100 miles of a bookstore.

 

 

But I can read a physical book better: because the pages are larger, you see two at once, and flipping black and forth is easier. When I picked up The Monsters of Templeton this morning I realized I also read much faster and more happily.

 

Dear everyone, don’t give up on the paper book because some people buy e-books. Physical books are accessible and shareable and so much more valuable.

 

*I can’t find a standardized spelling for e-book anywhere.

 

Everything Sounds Better In Classical

My brother linked me to his Pandora station started from The Piano Guys, and it turns out there’s an entire genre of pop translated to music!

What can I say, I’m a snob.

I like pop as much as the next person, perhaps even more as so many people are convinced they’re too sophisticated for anything suitable for general consumption. As much as I may complain about the low standards of popular culture, or just people in general, I don’t actually object to the so-called low genres.

Actually, I’m not sure anyone actually uses the phrase “low genres”, but I’ve decided it suits my needs.

Genre Model - Interacting Elements

Genre Model – Interacting Elements (Photo credit: Derek Mueller)

Many people object to the idea of anything produced for the middle class: traditionally the largest and greatest commercial drive in the United States. With our Western idealization of the individual, even at the expense of community or society, anything aimed at the largest possible audience can’t be something to use to craft an identity. It’s a terrible sad development in our culture and I’ve already blogged of what comes from that.

But the elite especially despise the middle class: just read any “literary” novel. A great many are written by MFAs who (as far as I can tell) despise the middle class for taking up resources that they, as the battalions of culture, don’t receive.

I’ve got a whole ‘nother post in me about all the reasons I think that devoting those resources to the arts would be a bad idea, as radical as it seems.

Right now, however, I want to clarify that I don’t particularly consider myself better than anyone because of my taste in music. The reasons why anyone likes any kind of music and not another are far beyond my comprehension and aren’t related to intelligence, mental health, or virtue in any way outside of popular perception.  I’ve been reading Snoop, and in a recent chapter, Gosling reference a study saying that music is one of the primary topics people use to get to know each other.

That doesn’t mean it describes anything specific about you, but it can, and I think that has more to do which which music you enjoy, rather than the genre, and how people think of genres: like country music (is it really that bad? I just don’t hear the problem myself). So no need to judge me for being a snob (because I like the instrumental version better) or for being too low brow (because God forbid real musicians from even thinking about those dirty commoners).

Is there such a sad figure anywhere as the elitist confronted with reality?

 

Apple Wins Again

Apple Inc.  New Headquarters

Apple Inc. New Headquarters (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

I can admire Apple’s business practices in a bloodless sort of way. You have to admit, they’re brilliant at manipulating their customers, gaming the legal system and justifying the worst abuses. If any other company attempted similar maneuvers, they’d be skewered by the media and hipsters.

But Apple is cool. They’re so cool, they have a guaranteed customer base. They have such cool products, I’d be tempted to buy in.

And yet, they are such despicable people. I suppose I shouldn’t say that. After all, I don’t know anyone in charge of the company. And for all I know, their lawyer team consists of robots who merely go into action at the prompting of any number of particular combinations of words or phrases that even slightly resemble a product Apple has, is, may conceivably devise in the next thousand years, comes up in any print, speech, or rumor. Perhaps the process is so automated they can’t even stop themselves.

1984, the sequel.

At least this latest example provides perfect evidence for my distrust of the so-called “jury of peers.” I doubt they were all scientists or computer engineers. Surely I’m not the only one who remembers the CSI phenomenon of criminal trials?

Look, in the aggregate, people are stupid.

“The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.” ― Terry Pratchett

It’s just the way it works. That doesn’t mean you have any right to give into the easy way, and just go along with what others have decided for you.

Right there, of course, is the real issue I have trouble with. Some Apple fans (not all, I’ll freely admit) are nothing more than slavering pets of the company. They do as they’re told and never question a thing—including whether or not they really need Apple’s products. I, for example, have survived just fine my entire life, without ever once buying an Apple-branded anything.

Not even a smart phone. (Honestly, I have.)

As my brother put it: “Apple wants to control our fingers now.” (Note, he does have a smart phone, a Samsung.) Apple abuses the system. They just do. And it gets to me that they don’t even need to do so. They have good products and could decide on their own.

But now customers are that much more limited—because really, how many makers of smart phones are there? And they get fewer and fewer. Notably, Samsung was Apple’s primary competitor, and I find their actions extremely problematic.

I’m pretty sure, once upon a time, we actually enforced our anti-trust laws.

You do remember that happened to Microsoft, right? And it was for seemingly less of a violation than what Apple appears to be doing. But Apple is cool. I hate that I keep going to that response, but it does seem to be the only thing going for it.

Look, these so-called patent violations are effectively meaningless in my mind. Patents hold no real value anymore, given how specific they are and how often they’re sold. Given Apple’s trademarking of their app images (for email, time, weather, etc), I’m not particularly convinced of the value of a trademark either.

The government is for sale everyone! Just be rich.

(I think this might be the only time I’ve had any sympathy for the Occupiers—although I’m pretty sure they mostly used Apple)

Bonus time!

Q. How many unique ways can you make a smartphone? Hint: they have to be rectangular to be usable.

A. Approx. 1

Tethered to Technology

Aside

I’m pretty sure I had a great idea in mind for a post

or at least a decent one.

But my brand new writing computer just came in the mail, and the greatest measure of my conscience intelligence is devoted to squee!  Which is admittedly not a great use for such a complex organ like the mind—but it’ll go away soon enough, if not when I happen to be using this computer for the next couple weeks.

Recently I read an article about the overuse of the em dash in much writing now days, and so I’ve noticed my usage. It hasn’t slowed me down yet. Especially on this blog I over use it, mostly because it’s very much a conversational style, and I’m constantly interrupting myself.

Back to the computer. I already have two, I know. And I’m not giving them up, as the desktop is the workhorse and the brick that sounds like a jet engine has just given me too many years of faithful service and still carries a great many files I don’t feel like organizing or facing directly for me to be willing to give it up.

And I just got interrupted by a call center insisting our “Windows 7 computer” is sending their service server malicious files. And during every pause in the call, I could hear all these other phone calls. Also, they couldn’t say which computer, considering we have at least three Windows 7 computers in the house. They couldn’t tell me which file it was, or where to find the problem…no, they had to fix it for me. And it’s not mine, because this computer hadn’t even arrive yet, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t attacking them from the UPS truck.

Is it just me, or is that suspicious?

Actually, it isn’t, because even my mom who doesn’t use computers knew perfectly well the situation was odd. It was so funny, I answered the third phone call (yes, third) and every time I asked a question “umm, umm… let me transfer you to my supervisor.” He couldn’t help either so I just passed the phone to my Dad. He yells better than I do.

So anyway, despite two computers, I did have a reason for getting this one. Primarily, I wanted a computer to write one, something I could take to work, the coffee shop, wherever. For one thing I’d really like to just go out in the world and write, and I type far faster than my longhand. Technically, the brick is a laptop, but it’s so loud, so obsolete, and it takes so long to start it doesn’t work like one.

First world problems ahoy!

But I saved up forever for this, and when I go out of town I can use it to find jobs and keep up my job search, which has been a problem, and I’d saved up, paid out-of-pocket. That’s what it’s important to me. I can’t wait to leave this town, but in the meantime, I’ll be able to write, to have that release of tension, untangle my thoughts.

I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.