Friday, August 17, 2007

Technical Writers on Chaucer

From Writers Write:
A professor argues that technical writers are the future of American literature. Utah Valley State College English professor Scott Hatch says that the great American literature of the early 20th century was penned by journalists such as Ernest Hemingway, but in the future it is the technical writers who have the best training to be novelists.
As you may know, I used to be a technical writer. Can't say that I loved it, but it was a good job for me in a couple respects. One, it made me learn to produce words even when I didn't want to. Two, it instilled excellent editing skills. And three, it made me say to myself, "Oh, look. It's a writer looking back at me in the mirror. Hey, that's really what I do for a living! Cool!"

(Four, it also made me much more likely to write things in ordered lists, a habit I'm still trying to break.)

Anyway, I think the professor may have a point, but I would disagree with his reasoning. The main reason, IMNSHO, is that real Literature and Creative Writing programs in most influential American universities were long ago murdered, cremated, and put away in ancient crypts to be treated as frightening relics of "The Old Establishment". These programs have mostly been replaced by so-called Critical (or Gender) Theory with its relativist yet at the same time dogmatic cultural ethos (meaning anything goes as long as it is anti-white, anti-male, and anti-corporation) and its non-existent writing standards.

Though neither Technical Writing nor modern Literature courses have anything to do with literature, at least Technical Writing has the distinction of teaching its graduates to actually write and to think intelligently and productively about what they're reading. How revolutionary.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Once Upon a Time

The time has finally come. The players are set, and today I move my first pawn.

My novel has a rich and interesting back-story, so I have decided to start in the past — pre media res, if you will. For weeks I've been trying to find a way to weave this back-story into the narrative, but finally I've just given up and decided to tell the whole story chronologically. I'll either discover that this was the right move, or I'll find out where my story really wants to begin. Either way, there's no use staring at a blank piece of paper for more weeks on end.

Besides, I'm excited about these earlier events and want to write about them, and as I said in this long post about my progress as a plot writer, my mind seems to want to think about my story this way anyway — that is, visually and by just diving in and exploring the territory, especially the characters.

Though I do have the bones of a plot, I'm planning on letting my characters have the final say about it.

My partner, who has about 17 U.S. patents and has proven himself to be very capable of being creative at will, tells me that this is the process of keeping your target fairly wide in the early stages of being creative. It's still a target that you choose — don't get me wrong about that — but it's wide enough that you actually have a reasonable chance of hitting it as you proceed through all of the unknowns that lie ahead. I think he's right. So far, my attempts to lay down a very specific, step-by-step plot at the outset has felt like a kind of rationalistic exercise for me, because it requires a certain kind of omniscience about a terrain that I haven't yet tread.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes.

Expect light blogging for a while — possibly a long while — especially if my story takes flight. Or maybe I should say, if it catches on fire.