Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reading to Write, Writing to Read

When I was in college studying Music, I took some classes on Music Composition (at the time, I was think I would be a music composer, it didn't work out).  Despite my inability to write music at the speed that my teacher expected, I did learn a lot.  I remember him telling us that we should really listen to what we were writing and if we didn't like it, figure out why.  They "why" part is very important.  Just saying you don't like something isn't enough.  So, with this mighty question in hand, I started truly listening to music for the first time in my life.  I've done it enough times now that I do it unconsciously.  Of course, it also helps that I ended up studying Music Theory.  Knowing how music is put together has really enriched my listening experience.

Now, you are probably wondering what all that has to do with writing.  It's quite simple.  Everything.  What I learned in that classroom can easily applied to other forms of art.  The funny thing is that I didn't make that leap until I read the book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.  In it he talked about how he taught his wife how to really read his work so that she could give him feedback.  It was at that point that I realized that I could learn more from reading my favorite authors.  In a sense, reading to write.  The inverse is also true.  The more I write the more I can read of my work and figure out what works and what doesn't.

A lot of the books that I've read have mentioned that an aspiring writer should write.  It's interesting that none of them explained the purpose.  Maybe it hasn't occurred to them. I don't know.  What I do know is that the more I write, the more opportunities I have to learn.  The more I read, the more I learn to write.  There are more "how to" books that I'm planning on reading.  I think they can be very helpful.  Just about every major author, of every genre, has written one.  If you are interested in a genre, look to see if your favorite writer has done a book on their process.  Read it.  Then figure out what you like and what you don't.  Then figure out "why".  Same goes for your favorite books.  Why are they your favorites?  Figure out what parts you like and see how the author does it.  I guarantee you'll learn more.

Another thing I learned in college.  I don't know if this is true, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Mozart learned how to write fugues by rewriting J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue.  Mozart wanted to learn fugues, so he studied a master.  Note by note, he deconstructed it and learned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


So this is my 13th post and it just so happens to be September 13th.  Coincidence?  Not really.  I've been trying to come up with something to write about and then I got distracted by the latest Dresden book.  Well, I've finished it and enjoyed it.  I don't know if he'll write another one, but I hope so.  I love the character, the setting, and the style.  If you haven't read them, then I suggest you pick up copy of Storm Front and enjoy.  The more I think about it, the more I think that there will be more in the series.  There are still some questions about Harry Copperfield Dresden that haven't been answered yet, and I'll be very upset at Jim Butcher if he doesn't answer them.

Initially this post was going to be about superstitions, so here goes.  In some ways, I see superstitions as a vain belief that we have control over the universe if we just do something in a certain way at a certain time or avoid a certain instance.  It is vain and self-centered, but we all do it, in some ways.  Of course superstitions, like any other belief, have power.  I remember reading somewhere that hotels never had a floor 13 even if they had more floors.  They just skipped it.  Black cats, walking under ladders, Friday the 13th, and broken mirrors are all examples of superstitions.  They also all involve bad luck.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Whether people think it is irrational or not, they still avoid those things.

As I said earlier, belief in a thing gives it power.  This is not a unique concept and one that has been around for a while.  Pick up any book or story that involves ancient religions and you'll get it.  Hokey religions and ancient weapons won't beat a blaster at your side.  Right?  Lovecraftian horrors had it all the time.  You even see it in modern stories such as comic books.  Thor and Hercules were both members of the Mighty Avengers, yet they were very diminished in power because nobody believed in those religions anymore.

I realize that this may be treading on blasphemous, but the reality is that belief is power.  You see it every day.  People consider superstitions to be an irrational belief in something beyond their control and power.  How is that different from religion?  I'm sure someone will have an answer.  I know I don't.

May the force be with you.  Live long and prosper.  Avoid black cats, ladders, the numbers 13 and 666 and don't forget to throw the salt over your shoulder. Amen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Waiting to Descend

I knew I was going to die. I mean, we all do eventually. In my case, it was a little earlier than planned. Not that I had any say in the matter. I was drifting. The planet's gravity had me and it wasn't letting go. Not that I could do anything about that either. My engines were a gaping hole into space, I was leaking atmosphere and I didn't have a prayer. It was one of those moments of clarity when you realize that you're screwed. Kind of liberating in a way. I was still waiting for the bolt of plasma to finish me off, but it wasn't happening. Now that bothered me.

The Old Man told me I would probably end like this. Of course, I was pointing gun at his head at the time. Funny, but he didn't seem to upset by it, more amused than anything. My feelings for the man aside, I had my assignment and I never failed an assignment. I would have rather taken him alive, but the bounty said "dead". So I did what I was told. Failure meant death and I didn't want to die. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have taken death, but I doubt the Old Man would have wanted it that way. He had a funny way about him, like he knew things that nobody else knew. Not surprising considering how long he lasted in this business. Guess I wasn't going to outlast him by much. Maybe my attacker would take mercy on me and vaporize the rest of my ship, but I doubted I was going to get off that easy.

I stared at the data disc that the Old Man had given me. It was encrypted and I didn't have the time to hack it. Guess I'll never find out what it was he wanted me to know. He was pretty insistent that I take it. He told me that it contained some really important information that I would need. Whatever it was, it would be lost with me. Pity, it would have been interesting to find out what the Old Man knew. I had the nagging feeling that this was some sort of twisted legacy. Either that or it was his special recipe for Doolani Mud Worms. If that was the case, it was probably a good thing it was going to burn. Those things are disgusting. I have no idea how he could stand eating them all the time.

I looked at the sensor screen. Still nothing. Of course, half the sensors were off line, so I could have been right next to them and not noticed. I watched as my velocity increased. I was finally getting closer. No more drifting, it was going to end soon. Damn. I was really going to miss this ship.