None of that is religious persecution.
You know what is religious persecution? Having your grandfather and later your father arrested for leading a Bible study. Having the police show up at your school when you are nine years old and they take you into custody, put you in an interrogation room, and question you for hours about your parents’ religious beliefs, while your little sister is held in another room, and they tell you can see her again if you will just admit that your parents are preaching illegally.
I knew a woman whose childhood included those things. She was attending Seattle Pacific University and we had a class together. She was about ten years older than the rest of the students, wanting to finally get a degree, because she had spent her high school years (years) taking refuge in a U.S. Embassy in the Soviet Union.
I have restrained myself from commenting on the nonsense that one branch of one party put us through with 16 days of what amounted to extortion, but there is at least one incident about the recent craziness in Congress that I have to comment upon: Stenographer in U.S. Congress disrupts debt ceiling vote to rant about Jesus or House Stenographer Seizes Microphone In Bizarre Rant.
So this woman, whose job it is to record the official things said in the House of Representatives, at the end of a 16-day fiasco that cost taxpayers billions of dollars, put hundreds of thousands of people temporarily out of work, cost the economy much more, contributed to some needless deaths, and very nearly put the credit of the entire nation in jeopardy, in the moments before a last minute vote to bring said idiocy to a close, she rushes the microphone and begins ranting about Freemasons and how the country ought to be a Christian nation but isn’t and “praise Jesus!”
When I say “rant,” I mean that it was, vehement, immoderate, and exceeding normal parameters of behavior. Read More…
And everyone can be someone:
And everyone can help:
I don’t have one single approach. Each story is a bit different. In the typewriter days I tended to scribble thoughts and fragments in notebooks that I carried around with me until I reached a point I was ready to start. Sometimes I still write notes by hand, but more often they get typed into my phone. I have an app called WriteRoom which connects with my dropbox, so anything I type in the phone is available as a text file to access from my iPad, my laptop, or my desktop. The same company has a product called PlainText that works on the iPad and Mac. What I like about PlainText is that it has a good integration with Scrivener, which is my main writing tool.
If I’m at the point where I think the notes and ideas are turning into a story, I’ll set up a story file. Depending on how long I think the story will be, I may start a simple file and just start writing. If I know It’s going to be a longer piece, I’ll set up a Scrivener novel file, and copy all of the notes I’ve assembled elsewhere into the Research section of the Scrivener file before I start writing.
Often those notes I’ve scribbled or typed down include conversations between characters in the story. Sometimes they are complete scenes. I don’t always know where the scene falls in the story when it first comes to me. Sometimes, by the time I’ve finished the story, those scenes aren’t part of it. Even though I had to write them down in order to figure out the story, they don’t belong in it. They may be things that happen in between scenes that are merely alluded to. Sometimes they’re things that never “happened” in the fictional world at all.
For instance, one time I had a scene pop into my head, one of those Write me down! Write me down now or I’ll go away! scenes. Two characters were debating/arguing about the moral and practical consequences of a series of events they had been involved in. I eventually figured out the story and wrote it. It the middle of the story, during one of the events the characters had argued about in that scene, one of the characters is killed. And then some of the events the two characters had been debating happened after that character was dead. This particular story wasn’t set in a fantasy world where people might have conversations after death, so that scene couldn’t happen.
Most of the time, with short stories, once I start, I write most of it in order. I’ll write a scene, and that dictates what happens next and how the characters will act. I may end up going back to insert an extra scene. Or a scene may pop into my head that I know is close to the end, and I’ll write it to get the information down, then go back to where I left off and figure out how to get to the end.
Sometimes, I realize that I started the story in the wrong place. I had this one short story I had been working on for years. It just didn’t quite work. I would read a version at my writers’ group, and even before anyone said anything, I knew it still wasn’t working. Reading a story outloud, and feeling the non-verbal ways people are reacting to it sometimes is all the critique you need. When I finally realized that I’d begun it wrong, I fought for while. I loved that opening. I had read the opening, without the rest of the story, at several readings at conventions, and the audience had loved it.
But it was the wrong start. It happened at the wrong point in the emotional arc of the tale. It only worked from the point of view of the minor character who never appeared again in the story. It was a great opening—but it was an opening for a story starring that character. I had to look at which character it was that underwent the most change, or had the revelatory moment when the conflict resolved. She needed to be the protagonist, and then it was obvious where the story began: the moment she confronted the puzzle which her revelation would be about. Which was a very different opening. The events of that opening I had clung to for so long still happen in the story, they just happened in the middle, and from a different point of view. The scene is still a good scene, but the emotion and rhythm is very different.
Novels are a lot more complicated. For one thing, to sustain a novel length story you need subplots, in addition to the main story. Those subplots need to have some relationship to the main story line, some of them even feed into it. They get resolved at different times. And making all of that work requires me, at least, to go back and add new scenes, or move scenes (or parts of a scene) to a new location in the narrative.
In a novel-length story, there is often a point where I have to jump way ahead and write part of the ending. It’s usually a point where enough of the subplots have got going that I make some intuitive leaps about how some of them tie together. I write the scene, knowing full well that by the time I get to it I’m probably going to have to rewrite it a bit. But having it there it acts like a target, giving me something to aim at as I try to move all the characters and subplots across the finish line.
Calling it a finish line is misleading, of course. Because once I’ve finally gotten them all there, then I have to go back and fix things. But that’s a topic for another day.
Of course we cheer, you say. He wasn’t just the bad guy, he was an extremely bad bad guy! No matter how egregious or overly cruel his final moments were, he had it coming! We’re just cheering the concept of justice.
I get it, truly I do. And I have certainly cheered many such scenes, myself.
Back when I first started writing seriously, personal computers didn’t exist, so I was writing on a typewriter. Typewriters don’t have copy-and-paste (for that, you needed scissors and actual paste!), delete (white-out and erasers have limits), and so on. So you sit down, start at the beginning, and keep going until the end. Revising meant re-typing (you could do minor revisions by marking up the pages, of course, but for your final manuscript you’d need to retype everything—in order).
Word processors make it a lot easier to write things out of order, then arrange and re-arrange to your liking afterward. That’s a good thing. But as I’ve said whenever I have explained why I occasionally host writer’s round robins with manual typewriters, there is a value to a situation that forces you to keep moving until you reach the end of a tale. When revision is difficult and messy, you learn not to let minor things distract you from the goal of finishing the story.
And some people really need that. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many reviews and articles out there with titles such as “20+ Distraction-Free Minimal Writing Apps to Help You Focus,” or “10 apps for distraction-free, productive writing,” or “(Even More) Distraction-Free Writing Tools” (let alone so many applications that do that to make the reviews necessary!).
But even when I was working on a typewriter, it wasn’t true that I wrote stories strictly in order. Before I ever sat down at the typewriter, I thought about the story I wanted to write. I might have jotted down some lines of dialogue or a few paragraphs of description in a notebook. Sometimes it would be several pages of description, with odd notes scribbled in the margins, words crossed out, or whole sentences written in between two lines of text.
Other times I would sit down, start writing a story, maybe get several pages done, then decide it was all wrong. I’d go back to pencil or pen and paper and try to sort out what was wrong with the story. Eventually I might pick up the story where I’d left off and continue it, but more often I started with a new blank page.
And back then I hated doing that, if for no other reasons that I hated wasting paper. Typing paper wasn’t a minor expense, and in some of the small towns we lived, getting a replacement ribbon when the ink started running out meant waiting until the next time someone was driving to a bigger town some distance away.
And don’t get me started on carbon paper and the expense of extra paper when you’ve decided it’s time for a final draft!
I do think that there’s a great deal of good that comes from sitting down and plowing forward. It’s too easy to get stuck in an endless loop of re-doing the earlier scenes so that a story never gets finished. But I think the writers who make a big deal of the fact that they almost never back up or write out of order are deluding themselves.
I’m basing this not just on my own experience, but my observations of their offices. Most of the writers I have known well enough to see their workspaces who make that claim have far, far, far more notebooks and sketchbooks that they work in before they start “writing.” All those outlines, notes, character sketches, et cetera in those notebooks are part of the writing process.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think they do the aspiring writers who ask them about their process a disservice with this delusion.
Now, I need to stop working on this and get back to my novel. I’ve been hung up in chapter 15 for far too long…
Since I am still occasionally surprised to learn that someone I know or work with hasn’t figured out that I’m gay: my husband (Michael) and I are both men, and we’re very much in love with each other and happy together.But while I’m (re-)stating what I think ought to be obvious, I would like to announce that I am a card-carrying liberal gay man who thinks: