Cough! Aurgh! Splat!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 13, 2010 -- 1:57 a.m.

I was going to write a review of Percy Jackson and compare it to Harry Potter today but I ended up sick with the flu, and sitting up makes me feel like vomiting. Hardly a situation conductive to cogent thought. I could barely even watch my beloved figure skaters do their pretty lutzs at Skate America. Oh, Daisuke Takahashi, your babies would look so refulgent in the verdure of my viviparous womb!

(See, I'm practicing, right? No, not avoiding studying for the GRE. No, not me).

I blame my sickness on trying to multiply decimals without a calculator--a feat I have not performed since junior high school but which is apparently centripetal to my future education. The GRE people prove they are not entirely bilious idiots by planning to allow calculators in the revised version of the test...which kicks off in August, long after the grad school deadlines have passed, alas for moi.

As always, the math story problems are slaughtering me. They have been my nemesis for about two decades, keeping me out of that coveted 95th percentile. The fact I haven't taken a math class in 5 years hasn't helped, either, but I swear to all that I apotheosize, I will conquer all things quantitative!

The blogo-writing world has semi-exploded in response to an (intentionally?) inflammatory article at which calls NaNoWriMo a waste of time and energy, basically pointing out that there are too many writers feeding the vanity presses anyway and we shouldn't be celebrating/promoting the production of junk. Carolyn Kellogg does a good job in refuting the analysis in her article at the LA Times' book blog, using skills that I will hopefully be able to imitate on my GRE argumentative writing sample. (You'd think I wouldn't sweat the writing samples, but I suppose one of the symptoms of my flu is advanced paranoia.) Other writers (like John Scalzi) have also condemned the article, rightly.

It's true that the original article sets up a foolish false dichotomy between reading and writing, but I will say that in certain sectors of the epic fantasy community, there are far more people who want to write 300,000-word books than people willing to plunk down the cash for 300,000-word hardcovers (outside of big names like GGRM). I suspect the proportion of wannabe writers to books published by the mainstream presses is higher in this genre than anywhere else, exception maybe romance. This is part of the reason the book I'm working on now is YA, where the market seems to have much more room for new writers. Being the internet, if anyone actually read this blog, I'm sure they'd take what I'm saying in a pejorative way, but allow me to exculpate myself: everyone should write epic fantasy if they want to. The merit of your ideas and your growth as a writer/human being has nothing to do with whether or not you are published, and it is quite possible that you will be. I love epic fantasy and read it and buy it when I can afford it. I am not saying don't write your epic fantasy, or that your epic fantasy isn't worth publishing.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure what I am saying, it's probably the flu talking, but the one thing in the Salon article I agree with is that it's a cool idea to pick a month and say, "let's read ten books this month." Not in competition with NaNoWriMo, but in conjuction with it, maybe in September? It would be especially salubrious for wannabe writers, who need to know the market they're entering into. And there's nothing better than closely analyzing other books to learn how to write. The basic tenets of grammar, plot, and character are all available for you to cadge from careful analysis of these texts. You don't have to memorize techniques out of context from some kind of writer's dictionary--as I am somewhat forced to do by the GREs--you have a nonpareil toolbox at your hand, one of almost infinite variety, weighing down the doughty shelves of your local library.

And I do think it's a tool that goes underused, because people tend to find their favorite authors and genres and keep to that niche for decades. Epic fantasy writers have stuff to learn from people like Robert Graves and Isabelle Allende, as well as stuff to learn from Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan.

So I would propose having a "Writers Read" book month (NaNoReMore?) where authors are required to read several books, some outside their favorite genres. And it can be like those things we had in elementary school, where if you turn in your book calendar all filled in, you can get a free pizza. Though I won't be paying for it, of course.

What am I writing for NaNoWriMo? I am not participating in it this year, unfortunately. I have far too much studying to do. (Sigh).

EDIT: No surprise, someone else has already come up with the NaNoReaMo idea.


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    Had heard about the Salon article but not read it till just now. It reads like a straw man...kinda ironic, for an article about the evils of wasting time and energy writing something not worth reading.

    Along with the kids' reading program last summer, our library had an adult reading challenge. I cheated a little, but it was invigorating to read outside my favorite genres. AND I won 5 free movie rentals ($2.50 value!)

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