Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Bitch: Soul Harvest

Okay, recap of series so far: Rayford Steele fails at monogamy, Buck Williams is loaded, both men are JBJ's self inserts, Hattie is a total skank and fucking annoying, HEY STUPID THE RAPTURE HAPPENED, both Buck and Ray work for the Antichrist even though they hate it, author fails at keeping track of ages, WW2 got lost for most of book 2, Chloe Williams does ... um, what does she do? Tim LaHaye upgrades his self-insert from a black theologian to a Jewish theologian, and then ... EARTHQUAKE!!!!
 So let's find out what happened to Amanda!

...Amanda who? Oh, right. Rayford's wife. Who had like, three scenes in as many novels. Who will be Ray's primary motivation for the next three hundred pages. Right.

Anybody got an aspirin I can borrow?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dear Literary Agents,

Please stop putting compliments in rejection letters. After we get the fourth one, or so, we are going to automatically assume that it's a form, that you say that to everybody. Ergo, compliments in rejections are a waste of time, energy and space, respectively yours, mine and the universe's. If my writing were worth complimenting, you would have read more. In fact, when rejecting, start with the word "Sorry". Wading through three sentences of cheerful, fluffy false-praise (and I don't give a fuck if you really DID write something personal or not. I AM ASSUMING IT IS FORM NO MATTER WHAT) to get to the "no" does very unpleasant things with my brain and blood pressure. SAY NO, SIMPLICITY WILL NOT HURT YOU.

Also, remember dating, and how you do not say "Well, I'm sure you'll find someone (ELSE) who is very nice, eventually" to the other during the breakup process? Because this is apparently stupid and trite and it only makes YOU feel better, and not the ex-SO you just broke up with? Please transpose this information over into rejection letters. You know the phrase, "Remember, this is just my subjective opinion"? STOP SAYING THAT. IT DOES NOT FUCKING WORK.



P.S. Yes, I know we writer-types are supposed to pretend like we've never been rejected at all so you don't have to think about it. But you and I both know writers get enough rejections to fill a swimming pool, so pardon me if I want to wade in mine a little bit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Honest-to-God rambling thought

So I spent part of today trying to understand the Axiom of Choice, and so far what I have gathered is this: it involves choice, and mathematicians cannot write. This chain of thought lead me to a secondary conclusion: Perhaps many of the higher sciences are difficult to understand, not because the concepts themselves are confusing, or not only because the concepts themselves are confusing, but because the people who must write about these concepts cannot write worth a damn.

I had the same problems understanding Meditations on the Tarot (BTW that is (a not actually about Tarot and (b. a really good book with some really weird ideas). The concepts themselves were difficult to grasp, but I first had to wade through the language of the book, which for a recently written book was very ... strange. And I frequently find myself going "Oh, THAT's what you were talking about. Is there a reason you couldn't just say that in simpler language?"

Writing is hard work, in case you didn't know. The primary job of a writer is to take an idea from inside of their head and phrase it in a way that a reader can easily understand. This is why (IMHO) passive voice is out of favor. "The body was placed in the cupboard" is more difficult to understand than "She put the body in the cupboard." Admittedly, the concept here (a body in a cupboard) is simple enough for anybody to grasp, but it's awkward. Awkwardness is a roadblock to comprehension. The more complicated the concept, the larger the roadblock. The more roadblocks you put between the reader and comprehension, the more blatantly you fail in the most basic job in writing.

 And before you say, "These ideas are complicated, CW. There's no way you could write them so most people could understand," There's a beautiful example of breaking things down simply in A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favorite books. In it, a teacher (who also happens to be a former star) explains time-and-space travel to a child. Specifically, how use of the fourth dimension allows the teacher, the child and their companions to jump from planet to planet almost instantaneously when the child knows it should be impossible. This is a very complex idea, and I have read several other books on the subject of time and dimensional theory which I enjoyed very much. But none of the books had the gorgeous simplicity of the Wrinkle in Time passage, and I suspect I wouldn't be able to understand any of the other concepts at all if I had not read Wrinkle as a child. So let me repeat myself: I had a basic understanding of dimensional theory as a ten-year-old, not because I was brilliant, but because someone was willing to take the time and effort to break an extraordinarily complex idea into language a child could understand. So it can be done. If you have the time, patience and intelligance to do so.

If this is true (that any idea can be broken down into language simple enough for a child to understand) than the more complex ideas are more difficult to grasp, not because they are complex but because the people who understand them just can't be arsed to break them down. It's too much work and they don't want to. Education is the attempt to find a middle ground. Give someone the basic knowledge necessary so that the "in the knows" don't have to break their concepts down quite as far. Also, breaking a complex idea into simple language requires a total understanding of the subject at hand, so that the writer knows which simple words to use. In order to describe a cerulean hemisphere, you must completely understand what both concepts mean to break them down into "half a ball, in a specific shade of blue". If you are talking to someone with the same knowledge as you, sans the specific concept, you can use more complex language. If you are talking to someone with less specified knowledge, however, then you must not only understand your concept, you must also understand language, and also understand the way people think. It takes intelligence to understand the implications of what a wrinkle in fourth-dimensional space could mean for spacial travel. It takes genius to break that concept down into the image of an ant walking across a table cloth, and what a large wrinkle in the table-cloth would mean to the ant.

And having gotten THAT out of my system, I leave you with this:

Math is so cool