Not Revision

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

June 20, 2009 -- 2:58 a.m.

To close out the week, I'm going to actually have a blog post that doesn't involve revision in any way shape or form except that I put the final touched on my still way-too-long prologue and am more or less putting it aside. No wonder it took me five years to write that thing!

Would you be turned off by a long prologue if the writing is good? How long is too long? How much connection should it have to the ensuing story.

Re-reading my last draft, I'm disappointed at bits that seemed to get "lost" somewhere in between drafts. I swear I had elegant paragraphs of character description that somehow just vanished. Were they all in my head in the first place or did I trim them because I was concerned about length? Sigh.

The book I'm reading on Revision was published in 1989 and it's funny to read about the author advocating for the use of computers. Honestly, I'm amazed if anyone still handwrites novels. I couldn't read my own writing if I tried. Go them, I'm not denegrating styles, but wow, it'd be so hard to organize and deal with it.

Though without an attempt to hand write my novel, I'd never have invented a "Sa'hana." I was trying to handwrite a novel because I wanted to force myself to stop revising. I have this tendancy to look back and finetune when I'm afraid of moving forward, and I figured with handwriting I wouldn't dink around the whole time. So I wrote in the morning and at night while I worked on a job searching other days and decided to start out my novel with a bang--Rachell's Sa'hana. But the scene felt really overdramatic/unbelievable, even for a society used to magic, and so when I wanted to start writing it again, I shifted the scene to the grandfather. Who wouldn't have existed without the handwritten copy either when I realized that someone needed to be involved in the Sa'hana--a character who looked down on Rachell for her half-blood status but loved her anyway. I don't know if the handwriting had anything to do with it or not, but there it is.

Wish I could find that damn notebook. Not only does it have the first draft, but it also has my maps, lists of the character's ages, a historical timeline, a short glossary, and the twenty-seven runes sketched out with their meanings, along with six or seven bindings. Since I misplaced the books two moves ago, I've had to make up new names (I wonder what Cien's name was in the draft?) but I'd like to have the runes at least, rather than having to come up with them all over again.

That was more about revision than I meant to write about. What I meant to write about is: will computers replace writers, GASP!!!

Writer Beware blog did an interesting entry on a guy who's the "most published author" on Amazon with over 100,000 titles (not books) available. How does he do it? Apparently he hires a bunch of computer programmers to data search on a specific topic and put it together in a POD book. To quote the blogger, Victoria Strauss:

"Ah, but what's creative? Not romance novels, apparently. Per the New York Times article linked in above, Parker 'is laying the groundwork for romance novels generated by new algorithms. "I’ve already set it up," he said. "There are only so many body parts."' (A reductive statement that, no doubt, will infuriate romance writers everywhere.) What's next? Computer-generated SF novels with stock aliens? Algorithm-created crime dramas with hard-boiled dialog swiped from the movies? Robo-poetry to populate a hundred Poetry.coms?"

Okay, so I don't think HAL will replace fiction writers, but in some ways, movie writers in particular seem to have only artificial intelligence. How many scrapped-up remakes and hero's journey clones have you seen and thought "a computer could do that." Or my kid, a dog, can of soup, etc.

I wouldn't worry. There will always be a place for human intuition and creativity. Computers are more a threat to readership than writership. After all, how many of us will bother reading the next Ernest Hemingway where there are blogs to search and porn to download? Even a devoted bookworm like myself might prefer hopping into a virtual reality capsule.

I swear, I'll stop talking about revision next week!


  1. Lee Ann said...

    "There are only so many body parts"...thinking of a computer-generated romance about a man with an elbow fetish dating a girl with HUGE ankles...

    Laughed and felt relief on this topic when I saw this news article:

  2. Unrepentant Escapist said...

    Hmm, well, just goes to show creativity...

    Actually, I think opening a program like this for students during the drafting project would be useful. On the other hand, you'd likely get just as much help if you chucked your paper through spelling/grammar check on Word. I can picture some overworked teacher who's asked for electronic submissions just putting it into Word and circling all the green squigglies.

    My biggest annoyance with word grammer? It can't "her own" as "She clutched his hand in her own." Yeah, not a nobel-winning sentence or anything, but understandable surely!

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