|Jottings and Musings|
|I finished the first draft of a science fiction short story, seven thousand words. That's my hot draft. My goal is capture the main action and dialog in scene order. I write from beginning to end without going back to fix or alter things as they occur to me. Those changes will be caught in subsequent revisions.
Hot Draft Shortcomings
Before I start revisions, I print the hot draft. Besides settings and transition passages, shorted by the hot draft, there are certain ways I use words that benefit from further scrutiny. Here are four cases.
1 and . Over-reliance on the word 'and.' Often text can be improved by replacing the equivalence of 'and' with logical relationship between the clauses.
2 was/is . Too frequent use of 'was' and 'is' can indicate that I am explaining the story rather than using narrative links.
3 It/There . When 'It' or 'There' start a sentence, often the true subject is hidden too much.
4 -ly . Finding the words ending in 'ly', offers many opportunities to replace a verb-adverb combination with a stronger verb.
With what frequency do these words occur in my hot draft? Are those frequencies normal or excessive?
To answer the first question, I wrote a python program to count word usage in my story.
The second question is harder and more subjective. To get a feel for a good writer's mix of words, I ran the program against the Project Gutenberg copy of Emma, by Jane Austen. Of course, this is just a first brush on usage frequencies, not the final word.
Figure 1. Word frequency in my hot draft and Jane Austen's Emma
Looking at Figure 1, my overuse in the hot draft of adverbs (ending in ly) is striking, almost three times as frequent as in Emma. Her frequent use of 'and' surprised me, especially since a glance through my hot draft showed it often used when the logical relationship of the joined ideas was more important than 'and' indicated.
Such was my intellectual excursion as I rested after an extended creative effort.
Python code cools my mind after writing a hot draft.
Web site with word frequency information
|I've been on WDC three months now. There are so many names and userids and handles that it's not all straight in my mind—who's who and where do I know this person from and what about that name. So I created a spreadsheet.
I've communicated with about 60 writers on WDC in this quarter of a year. That's way more than I did in the previous two years! They fall into three main groups so far: members of the Rockin' Reviewers (PDG), writers of stories I reviewed, and people who reviewed stories of mine.
I am not a profligate communicator, but seeing the writers and items all together helped me to appreciate the breadth of companionship, context, and insight that is provided here.
And yesterday for the first time, I entered "Newbies ONLY Short Story & Poem Contest" . Oh, the list will grow.
|Usually I study fiction writers. Right now, I’m in an online writers group. To get into a reviewer group, a writer has to take some certification courses. It made me face that I should also re-examine my non-fiction writing more systematically.
Best American Essays of the Century
I want to learn from the best. I purchased the collection, The Best American Essays of the Century.
My writing in Mental Construction and most postings in Burning Thoughts are essays.
Now I can enjoy these essays as well as study the structure the authors used to achieve their effects. There are fifty-five essays by fifty-five famous writers. These authors range from Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, and Robert Frost to John Muir, H. L. Mencken, Langston Hughes, Susan Sontag, and so on.
The first essay I picked was “The Creation Myths of Cooperstown” by the evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould. After I enjoyed his lighthearted expose of the muddle of baseball’s origin, I looked at the fit of his sixty-five hundred word essay into the organization structure I’ve been using since a technical writing class. It gave me my first insight into how flexible the essay form can be–and that I shouldn’t be so rigid in my adherence to that structure.
The aim–one might say a corollary of the thesis–of “The Creation Myths of Cooperstown” comes near the end of this essay published in 1989, the claim that defining personhood as originating at conception is an arbitrary marker along the continuum of fetus development. That perhaps fetal quickening is more meaningful.
Yet after raising this important and provocative point, Gould steers completely away and back to the calmer waters of baseball lore.
My essay Impact: Personhood at Conception Thoughts develops other worrisome consequences of that definition. Such as, will every pregnancy that doesn’t result in a live birth, be the potential source of legal jeopardy?
Year to Come
The nearly six hundred pages of The Best Essays of the Century will keep me in clover for many happy and productive hours. Even when I disagree with an essay’s substance, I’ll still be learning.
|Reading some excellent short stories. I like so much how Alastair Reynolds flows out "The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" that I'm copying some of his prose, hoping that I'll figure out how he manages to paint the scenes and characters with such apparent ease.
Bob in USA
|Internal reasoning is not identical with spoken argument. How is it different?
You do not have to make all the qualifications to statements to yourself that you do with others
Those qualifiers, in communication with others, consume mental bandwidth
Those qualifiers often define and limit the scope of the thought, that may be breezed by and overlooked in internal dialog
You do not have to refer to yourself in your internal dialog, since you are a constant feature
The need to express your relationship to the thought in spoken dialog consumes mental bandwidth (working memory) shortening the train of thought
I love Shakespeare's quote He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.
|Memory that could form a flash fiction
A few things happened during my years in data processing that stick with me. Reading in Consumer Reports about protecting your personal information from hackers, phishers, and con artists reminded me of my early years in the IBM mainframe world.
In a printed IBM manual, I found reference to a PASSWORD file. With time I noticed a pattern. Whenever a word was all caps, that word was the default filename the IBM-360 was shipped with.
I found the PASSWORD file. Every userid and password for the entire company’s data processing staff in addition to the combinations used to change all features of the Operating System (OS).
Before I revealed what I found to the OS team, I logged on as my buddy on that team. I teased him with knowledge of his class work he'd stored.
When I told him the secret of the not-so-secret PASSWORD file, we had a good laugh. He said he'd let his boss know to secure it.
It surprised me that he waited a week to notify them. I think he found something nefarious in his boss's file. He got promoted shortly thereafter.
|Gaslighting the Nation.
Trump's insistence that his distortions of reality must be taken as true has blinded his followers to his anti-constitutional steps: violating the separation of government powers, freedom of the press, and everyone’s accountability under the law.
It threatens the United States future of rational reactions to real situations.