March 23rd, 2009

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[personal] Open dinner in Dallas, TX March 25th (repost)

Barring a last minute change in business travel plans, I will be free for dinner in Dallas on the night of Wednesday, March 25th. I plan to be at:

Chuy's Dallas
4544 McKinney Ave at Knox-Henderson [ Google Maps ]
Dallas, TX 75205
(214) 559-2489

I should be there around 6:00 pm that day. It'll be a JayCon Lite — open dinner, if you're around and interested, come on by. Probably it would help if I had tentative RSVPs here in comments or via email, so if it gets bigger than 4-6 people I can be properly prepared to annoy the host.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[links] Link salad is walking on sunshine

Hot sauce that can kill — This hot sauce has got a license to kill, and it's not afraid to use it. (Thanks to corwynofamber.)

"Skyquake" — Huh? WTF? Is this a Sign of the End Times or what?

Wheel Motors to Drive Dutch Buses

When computers address the Almighty — Uh huh. (Thanks to danjite.)

The World as Seen from Chang'an Street

?otD: Where's the winter in Winter Park?




3/23/2009
Body movement: 40 minute suburban walk
This morning's weigh-in: n/a (travel day)
Currently reading: The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville; Push of the Sky by Camille Alexa

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[writing] Teaching in Winter Park

Today and tomorrow I'll be writer-in-residence at Trinity Preparatory School here in Winter Park, Florida. They have very generously invited me to come and speak to the AP English classes, as well as conduct a workshop for selected upper division students, and a public reading Tuesday night. This is going to be a lot of fun.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[process] The antimagic of crutch words

Since I mentioned "crutch words" while talking about Pinion [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], both rsdevin and sheelangig have asked me about them, and about mine in particular.

A "crutch word" is a word, or phrase, which is used so often that it becomes intrusive in the text.

Some words are by definition pretty much invisible unless grossly overused. "The", "and", "said", "was", "her" and so on. These are the connective tissue of any narrative, simply because they're required for the whole monster to lurch into motion in the first place.

Some words are intrusive but necessary — character and place names, for example. They stand out, but they have to be there.

Some words are intrusive by their nature, but this is on something of a sliding scale. For example, if a writer uses the word "eleemosynary" even once, the reader will notice it. Use it more than once in a novel and the reader will probably object. On the other hand, "house" is pretty inoffensive, but it's not invisible. If it occurs three times in the same paragraph, "house" will become intrusive.

There are a couple of different artefacts in my writing which I collectively refer to as "crutch words", though properly I should use a larger critical term.

A true crutch word can fall anywhere on this scale, but specifically refers a word which the writer keeps re-using, probably because it's stuck in their head, or it feels familiar. I will often find this in stories and novels (or sections of novels) where a certain turn of phrase or slightly unusual adjective recurs often enough to become intrusive. It's the equivalent of having conversational phrases, things most of us do, to provide stock verbiage in certain situations. "Oh, I'll bet," as a generic reply is an example.

My actual crutch words vary from project to project, and depend a lot on the project content, the state of affairs in my head when I was writing the piece, and so forth.

I also tend to perseverate on words such as "some" and "something", as well as phrases such as "some kind of", "at all", "in truth." Also certain constructions such as "was [verb]ing" instead of "[verb]ed", or "made their way toward" instead of "went to". Beginning sentences with "And" and "So" is another of these tics. Notice these are mostly passive words and constructions, that temporize the action or description, soften it to a generic impact, and stall for time. Pretty much the written equivalent of "um, um."

Sometimes these words and constructions are important, depending on the tone and emphasis of the passage. For me, though, 80% or more of them are just textual static, fillers as I typed while my writing brain lagged slightly behind my working fingers. Likewise the crutch words — same phenomenon at a slightly higher level of function, a sort of stuttering at the paragraph or scene level, or within the plot process itself.

I'm more than a little obsessed with clean style. I comb through my work at a level of detail that probably is irrelevant to many readers. One of the reasons for a longer revision cycle, both in terms of time-in-the-drawer and time-at-keyboard, is that these bits and pieces tend to be invisible to me as I'm reviewing my own work. I need both distance from the drafting process and tight focus on the text to find them.

This textual static is a style-killer to both my writing eye and my reading eye. But it's important to me, and I think it makes for stronger, more direct story telling.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[personal] Winter Parking in Florida

Had a lovely day at the school today. Guest-taught three A/P English classes, and lunched with some of the faculty. The kids were smart, engaged and interested, and the faculty were terrific people.

Back tomorrow to do a half-day workshop for a selected group of the A/P kids. I'm going to cover business, craft and technique, focusing ultimately on openings. Then a reading tomorrow evening at 7 pm — a public event at the school, which ought to be interesting.

This afternoon I came back to my room and worked on the Endurance outline for several hours. Right now I find I've overthought the process (this happens to me on occasion) and so am in effect getting in my own way. Nonetheless, experienced some good insights and got an outline of the outline, so to speak, onto the page.

After that, dinner with lingtm and her husband. Went to a local slightly alternativo pizza joint which was actually pretty good, even if the waitress didn't think I was the least bit funny. Flirt fail!

Back to the school tomorrow, off to Dallas on Wednesday, home on Thursday, then San Francisco on Friday to hang out with kenscholes (who lives across town from me) and spend a few days with calendula_witch (who does not live across town from me).

Originally published at jlake.com.