Monday, October 4, 2004

Meanwhile, in the Blogsphere...

Oh, man, am I tired! After a magnificent 11-hour sleep Saturday morning/afternoon, I blew my sleep quotient with a 2 1/2 hour Sunday morning cameo appearance in my bedroom, followed by 4 3/4 hours of sleep this morning.

Saturday night I went to look up a few facts for my weekly Mâvarin fiction entry, and ended up reading about ten chapters of Mages of Mâvarin, making the occasional minor edit. I'm not sure it matters to the work as a whole, but I renamed one minor character and added surnames for the tengrem Faithful. In a choice between adequate sleep and reading through scenes that are pretty much ready to go, sleep would have been the wiser option.

Sunday night was a continuation of the all-day task of editing, formatting and repeatedly uploading the Feast of St. Francis pictures for several different web pages. It's a good thing I don't have the material to update five different church web pages every Sunday. I'd never get anything else done.  All this was interrupted by the requisite weekend shopping trips with John, and a stop at the nearly-empty church to drop off used shoes and my mom's glasses. At the end of the night, when I would otherwise have gone to bed, I watched Kate & Leopold, a DVD rental of a time travel romantic comedy that John said he'd return tonight whether I'd watched it or not. We picked it up at locally-owned Casa Video, where DVDs are due back in two days. The cool thing about the place is that they have a huge, deep library of all kinds of video and even some audio, in several different formats. It can't have been easy for them when DVD superseded VHS, rendering their amazing VHS collection obsolete. They've been up to the challenge, building an almost equally amazing DVD collection for their large clientele, people willing to drive across town to rent Laugh-In episodes or Picnic at Hanging Rock. So anyway, I watched the movie, and enjoyed it a lot; but it meant another night of inadequate sleep.

With all this stuff going on, I've fallen behind on my homework (Critical Thinking is starting - cool!), my housework (you do NOT want to see pictures of my house right now), and blogging-related stuff. I've yet to figure out how to get correct Technorati protocols into my LiveJournal, and I haven't even tried to fix it since I got an email from tech support over a week ago. I didn't get a Friday night entry into this journal at all, and there are other journals I'm behind in reading, partly because my list of must-reads keep getting longer.

That does not mean, however, that I haven't done any blogging and web stuff outside Musings and the SMAA pages. I've been avidly following discussions on Making Light, Whatever and various LiveJournal pages about the behaviors of writers and would-be writers. Since my entries about Night Travels of the Elven Vampire, there's been the very public case of Anne Rice lashing out at negative amateur reviewers on, extensive commentary on the less-than-stellar writing skills of two more newbie writers, one minor skirmish between two professional writers, and of course a lot of political discussion by the writing and blogging community, which I tend to dip into only superficially.

The most interesting of the writing discussions was about a manuscript on eBay by a man named Daniel Rice. Initial comments about Rice's original but misguided approach to getting his book onto the bestseller list, and sympathetic attempts to set him straight, soon turned into bemused fascination as Mr. Rice started slandering and threatening his would-be advisors. This led to the "disemvoweling" of Rice's abusive and apparently insane rants by Making Light blog owner Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Another major writing discussion was about Circle's, an inept book with an ungrammatical / misspelled one-word title. While samples of the writing are undeniably bad, I worry that the hapless writer, like the author of Night Travels of the Elven Vampire, will be hurt by the merry mockery without really learning anything.

Say what you will about the writers of these bad books, at least they've showed a certain dedication, putting their work into the marketplace, often at considerable expense. Other bad writers take an even easier route, starting terrible blogs and journals. The cost is negligible, and they don't even have to put forth the effort of trying to craft a complete story. The best I can say about such bloggers is that their writing may get better withpractice--if they come to recognize that there's anything wrong with their current skill level. In the case of one bad blog I looked at recently - and no, I'm not going to point it out to you - the person probably has no idea that it's not good to write in all caps, or that serious mispellings permeate her journal, including its title. Will she learn to correct such errors? I hope so, but I have my doubts. Recent experience suggests that if someone were to point out such deficiencies to the writer, it would only result in bad feelings on both sides. The good news is that I've come across a few excellent, deservedly popular journals recently. I've added them to my journals links in the right hand column of this page.

As part of one of the Making Light discussions of Rice and other inexperienced and unskilled writers, someone posted a link to a summary abstract(?) of psychological studies about people who think they're much more competent than they actually are. Here's the link:

Unskilled and Unaware of It

I heard about this a year or two ago on NPR or CNN, but came across the actual link just this past week. The basic premise it that incompetent people lack the intellectual competence to recognize their own incompetence. Lest we think condescendingly about such people, secure in the knowledge that it doesn't apply to us, I must point out that this problem is not limited to the obviously clueless. My critical thinking text cites studies that show that nearly everyone overestimates his or her own competence, believing that each of us is, in Dave Barry's words, "an above average driver."

This has obvious implications for wannabe writers who think their lack of commercial success has to do with not having connections or a famous name, and overlook the fact that their writing is not remotely ready for prime time. An occasional typo may be almost inevitable (for example, I've edited this entry numerous times to fix minor mistakes), but when each paragraph goes on forever, and is riddled with misspellings, frags and run-ons, misplaced commas and bizarre grammar, it is clear that the perpetrator of the prose lacks the most basic skills required to make the work worth reading. The only chance such a person has of succeeding as a writer is to learn the craft, including a decent understanding of how the language works.  If the person can't or won'tdo this, he or she is susceptible to scam artists, modern-day subsidy publishers such as AuthorHouse and PublishAmerica, who are all-too-willing to put unedited drek into print for a price.  It's not the way to go, people, the vast majority of the time. I've bought a few of these out of loyalty to friends, but I'd much rather buy a "real" book by these people. I fully expect that I will do so, when one of my surviving friends (one of these people is dead now) does the work of building up a publishable quantity of competent writing, and perserveres through the soul-killing horror of submissions and rejections until she actually succeeds.

Come to think of it, I need to do that, too.


P.S. Here's another fun, unrelated link:

Klingons for Kerry


ryanagi said...

While I won't profess myself to be a literary genius...I do wonder sometimes if I have "skills". LOL I must say, I sat here munching on Jelly Belly jelly beans and read this post with great enjoyment. It's very entertaining reading about all this in-fighting among writers and self-proclaimed writers. LOL

cneinhorn said...

This was so interesting to read, but I must say, some of these writers just sound so cutthroat.  Or is it the business?  I read the Anne Rice comment over at Amazon!  Woa! That woman was pissed off!