Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big wet fun

Stop your dirty mind right now.

That's better. We're talking a water park, specifically Wet 'n Wild at Emerald Pointe in Greensboro. I left work early today and finally kept a years-old promise to the kids: that I would go to this water park. I've felt guilty for some time for not going, but I wasn't sure how much fun it would be.

It was big fun. Playing in the wave pool, jumping off the fake pirate ship remnant, floating lazily along in an inner tube on a slowly moving circuit, and, most of all, riding alone, then with Scott, and then with Sarah and Scott on an oversized float tube down twisty turny water slides--it was all big fun.

The people watching was also excellent.

I had a great time, and I hope I get to go with them again.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why so many passes over a book?

A friend recently commented that four complete passes over a book seemed like an awful lot, particularly given that my basic writing skills are solid. As near as I can tell, however, four's the minimum. Here's how it breaks down:

Pass 1: Writing the first draft

This is far and away the hardest work, because this begins with nothing and must end with a complete novel, albeit one not ready for publication yet. I know some writers can stop here, but far more do so than are capable of doing it well. I do this pass on a computer unless I don't have access to one, in which case I'll write longhand and key it in later. (Power outages have necessitated this in the past on a few occasions.)

Pass 2: The massive clean-up

In the rush to finish the first draft, I make all sorts of mistakes. Some are simple: grammar errors, missing words, etc. Some are plot mistakes, often bits that were right when I wrote them but wrong due to changes I made later. Other errors require more work to fix, such as not being fully present during a scene or relaxing my imaginative concentration. I do this pass on the computer as well.

Pass 3: The sanity check

Up to now, I'm the only one who will have seen the book. At this point, I recruit the help of one very skilled reader (Dave) whom I trust to spot plot weaknesses I did not, give opinions on language, and generally provide advice designed to make the book better at being what I want it to be. Most of all, he tells me what's working and what's not.

In parallel, I print the book and do a complete pass on paper. Seeing it on paper is different than seeing it on the screen.

Pass 4: The fusion

I start with Dave's input and my hand edits. I make specific changes on the computer to address both. I then start at the front and read the whole book again, cleaning and polishing as I go. You could count this as two passes, I just realized, but I think of it as one.

Then, off the book goes to the editor, from whom I want absolutely no input. If I've done my job well, the book should be ready to go to print--and that's how I prefer it.

If the editor has input I must address, we hit Pass 5, of course.

Oh, yeah: at some point I'll receive a paper copyedited ms. (Pass 6) and at last the galleys (Pass 7).

Isn't writing a novel easy?

And I'm still on Pass 1 of Slanted Jack. Back to it!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Six days a week, I walk two miles at a pace ranging from downright challenging (sub 15 minutes per mile) to faster than most cover the same turf but no real strain (sub 20 minutes per mile). I used to jog, but a foot injury and my stupid unwillingness to go to a doctor has kept me out of that for a year and a half. Allyn and Jennie walk with me most days, though Jennie will bag on the days when the heat index is into the nineties or above. Sometimes, Sarah or Scott will join us as well. On days when the heat is tolerable, we take Holden and Shibori. The dogs respond well to walking with us, because on the walk the world is functioning as they think it should: they're moving, they're in the outdoors, and they're with a bunch of members of their pack.

I get that.

The way my life works, for years I was basically never outside. House to car to company office to car to lunch to car to company office to home--my contact with the external world lasted the minimum amount of time that was reasonably possible. I was comfortable enough that way, and it simply was the way things were.

Now, though, almost every day I spend a half hour or more outside simply walking my little corner of the world, the half-mile stretch of my neighborhood's road. I still can't name plants--brain software defect, I kid you not--but I am always aware the world is there. I've come to find it quite grounding.

You still won't encounter me on a camping trip--my idea of roughing it is a three-star hotel with room service that closes early and slow Internet connections--but I'm glad to be touching the physical world for this little time each day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rush Hour 3

Okay, we went. Sarah was sleeping over at a friend's house, I'm up for any movie, Scott was also interested in it, and so I thought, hey, how bad can it be? It's bound to have some good stuff, right?

To answer the first question: pretty darn bad. I started dozing out from boredom during a fight scene. Tucker appeared embarrassed, and Chan looked downright tired. They lacked the chemistry that made the first one fun and the second occasionally enjoyable. They telegraphed the bad guy more obviously and earlier than most bad movies, and the brother theme played out limp and tired.

To answer the second question: precious little. A few comic moments, the odd stunt, but not even many of those.

If I were a paid reviewer with a column to fill on this one movie, I'd probably start with the rush jokes, critique the bad effects, delve into the offensive cultural stereotypes, and so on. Because I'm not, I'll reduce it to this:

Stay home from this one, and don't bother with it on DVD, either.

Roy duty

(Warning: Don't follow the link in this entry if dirty words offend you. Don't blame me if you do follow it.)

Around our house, one of the things you don't want to hear is someone summoning you for "Roy duty." (In the interest of full disclosure, I must note that I'm usually the person doing the summoning, and either Sarah or Scott is usually playing the role of Roy.) Roy duty is typically some unpleasant minor chore, most often carrying a can or plastic bottle from the kitchen to the garage for recycling. Those who visit us sometimes hear this cry and stare in puzzlement. For them, and because the source never fails to crack me up, I give you the source of Roy duty, a cartoon called The Square Root of Three (scroll to nearly the bottom to see it). This sucker perfectly encapsulates how I and, I'm quite sure, many other people engaged in creative pursuits feel when someone interrupts their work.

The host site, Married to the Sea, contains boatloads of similar jokes built on old images. They're of widely variable quality, but a few minutes here will almost always yield at least a chuckle. Check it out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The end-of-book mirage

Sometimes late at night, I can see the end of Slanted Jack in the distance. The path to it is clear. I'm practically there.

Except, of course, that I'm not. I'm still about 23K words from the 110K words that Toni wants and that I promised to deliver, and I think the book might well run longer.

Even when I reach that goal, I'll just be done with the first pass. I'll then make at least three more, though they will go dramatically quicker than the first.

The vision I see truly is a mirage, an enticing one founded in reality, but an illusion nonetheless.

I can't help, however, but find it comforting.

Back to walking toward it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Go see Stardust

If you're a hardcore Neil Gaiman fan, you don't need this advice. If you're an avid follower of movie reviews, you may be torn, because the early notices are mixed.

Ignore them, and listen to me: go.

You'll enjoy it. You'll have a good time even though the flaws most reviewers note are in fact at least somewhat real: predictable plot, Robert De Niro eating the scenery when he's on screen, Clair Danes at times being a bit too bitchy, etc.

The movie is not The Princess Bride, but that's a tall order to fill. It is, however, the closest to that wonderful film in tone and style that I've seen in a long time, and that alone would make it worth seeing.

More importantly, it's true to its own magic.

Check it out.


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