Writing: August 2005 Archives

Writing News/Request for Prayers


Some years ago, I was in a writing group with three other very talented writers. Together we hit upon the idea of writing a short novel for a new market of "dime books" in supermarket chains. The novels were to be less than 50,000 words in length and could be in any number of genres.

The four of us sat down and picked a favorite plot--The Count of Monte Cristo--to redo as Science Fiction. (Yes, yes, I know it had been done before--but we do well to recall Ecclesiates dictum, "There is nothing new under the sun.") We outlined the plot and then assigned each person a group of chapter to do, passing the manuscript around one to the next. Well, as it transpires, what we had to say could not be said within the constraints of 50,000. (Well, we should have gotten a clue from the length of the source, shouldn't we?) At any rate we continued to work on it.

After I moved away from Ohio, the group more or less dissolved. The novel lay dormant for a few months and then I took it out and substantially rewrote it after trying to interest the others in completing it. Only one other was interested. I rewrote the novel substantially. She did some touch-up stuff. And then years passed.

A few months ago, she wrote to ask for the odd straggler file she wouldn't seem to find and recently wrote to say that she has submission letter and other information ready to go. She's chosen a couple of publishers to start and if one doesn't take it, she'll send it to the next immediately.

I'm excited. I thought the work was worthwhile some years ago. I still think it is. I've always lacked the necessary stick-to-it-tiveness to force it through the long process of publication. But I can see doing this in tandem--contributing to it as it were.

So I ask your prayers that our novel is well and gently received, even if not accepted for publication. I pray that we all learn something from it and from this experience I have something to share with you all.

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Write What You Know

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Fledgling writers are often given the very good advice to "write what you know." The problem is that what one knows and knows well could very well be harmful to others. I discovered that as I set out upon a recent writing journey from which I share the following excerpt because I do not think it will go any further. The piece I share is not harmful, but some of the rest might well be. People who know me well might read it and think that they are being written about, and nothing could be farther from the truth, and yet people will see what they will see. So as discretion is the bitter part of valor (to quote Philip Jose Farmer), I think I do better to share only this relatively harmless excerpt.

It was into this fray that one day in late June I unsuspectingly wandered. I had been working on my Ph.D. in paleobiology--my particular subject of study was the functional morphology of seive-like plates that constitute one of the most identifiable of the disagreggated parts of an extinct relative of modern-day starfish. But, alas, my funding ran out and I had only one possibility--and a rather dismal one at that. The State Geological Survey needed coal resource mappers. It paid a buck more than minimum wage and involved weeks away from wife and soon-to-be child. But, whatever it took to keep body and soul together. More daunting than the summer prospects was the seeming perspective on the rest of my life. I was looking out over the increasingly dismal vistas of academia, knowing with a fearful certainty that I was destined for a soul-crushing eternity of teaching undergraduates who came to us as the deplorable product of what we laughingly call an educational system. All ths while balancing a rich array of grant-writing, research, and political backbiting and infighting that made the U.S. Senate look live a haven of serenity and equability. It little mattered that my advisor seemed to wear it very well and manage without much expensive therapy or extensive and inventive recreations of himself through padded CV and bogus nominations and awards.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Writing category from August 2005.

Writing: June 2006 is the next archive.

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