Notched another 2300 words on the Apocalypse Pictures Presents rewrite—or, to put it in Magic Meter terms:
That’s not very much, frankly. Establishing a good rhythm has been challenging. Maybe I need a metronome.
On the plus side, recasting chapter 3 in a different POV went pretty well. So there’s that.
Snippet? Sure, if you insist:
“Say that again,” he said.
He gestured impatiently, his hand fluttering. “What you just said. What was it?”
“I said, there might not even be a Manhattan anymore.”
He dug in his pocket, produced a pencil. He flipped to the end of the notebook and began scribbling in the dark. She watched, baffled, wondering how he could ever hope to read it later, given how fast he was writing.
“Give me a minute.”
He’d gone rigid, except for the scribbling hand, as if someone had hit him with a jolt from a car battery. He scrawled for a full minute without stopping, filling a page.
Finally, he paused, noticed Susan watching him, her mouth slightly open. She didn’t know whether to be amazed or concerned.
“Manhattan,” he said. “That’s the answer.”
No updates for Write Club.
Here’s hoping for better days ahead.
I was flipping through the January 1898 issue of The Nickell—which, as you know, is the kind of thing I love to do, because it’s the closest to a time machine I’m going to get—
Kevin and I spent today doing tourist stuff in Toronto. This included visiting the Merril Collection and Bakka-Phoenix Books. However, we also dropped in on the Royal Ontario Museum. The original objective was to allow Kevin to see their magnificent dinosaur collection, which he duly did, but I was pleased to see that they also had a special exhibition of Mesopotamian artifacts, mostly on loan from the British Museum.
The exhibit is divided into three sections: one devoted to each of Sumer, Assyrian and Babylon. Towards the end of the Babylon section there is a display board talking about the Seven Wonders of the World and how the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have never been found. Next to it, entirely out of place, is a piece of an Assyrian mural from Nineveh. It is, of course, the depiction of Sennacherib in his hilltop garden. The museum curators have been careful not to say that this could be the fabled Gardens, but copies of Stephanie Dalley’s book are prominently on sale in the gift shop at the end of the exhibit.
So, people of Toronto, you have a unique opportunity to see this key piece of Mesopotamian history. If you have any interest in such things, don’t miss it. It is only there until January 5th.
Ah! The more positive side of my advice to students: the things that actually helped, writing-wise.
These are probably obvious to most writers, but they’re things I definitely hadn’t learned when I was the age of my students. Probably the ones I consider most important for them are reading more widely, noticing how writing works by taking it apart and putting it back together again, and practicing deliberately on the things they know they aren’t doing well.
Oh, and one more regret that I’d toss in with cultivating a life of appreciative experience: I wish I had talked (and listened!) to more people outside my interests or social circle or financial class. I’m doing that more now, but man, I was sheltered when I was in school!
The other day I read this article on Gawker about bad reviews, and smarm. It was inspired, to a degree, by a notice in the new books section on Buzzfeed saying they would not publish bad reviews.
I thought it was interesting, but sadly, nothing terribly new. For as long as I can remember, people have been caught in a debate about if its right to be negative or not. Some people believe that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say it. Despite the reference to Bambi that is tossed around – let me assure you that referencing Bambi doesn’t give you any authority in this matter – there is some merit to the thought. If you know the authors involved, you won’t upset them. If you are part of the industry, you won’t burn any bridges. And, sometimes, yes, sometimes, careers can be halted by a particularly bad review, or opinion that forms online (and off) about the work. Nice people get burned in real world ways when that happens. Still, others think otherwise. For some people, reviews ought to kick out, take no prisoners, be both good and bad, and push up the symbol of art, celebrate the superb and challenge weak craft. Some people even enjoy a good take down.
For myself, I have always been part of the latter group. The reason I do is not because I enjoy a good take down – though I do, just as I enjoy well argued praise – but because I recognise that reviews and criticism do not have anything to do with me, either as a person, or an artist. Whenever I see the Bambi line given, I always think that it is in response to a desire not to upset the artist, and the machine that is behind him or her. It is as if the review has stopped being about the work, and has instead become a tool to help advertise – part of the promotional machinery that speaks not to readers, but to this insider group that exists around the book. But a review or criticism is not about communicating with the author or publisher, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is about communicating with the reviewer’s own readers, about beginning a conversation that is born out of the interaction of the individual and the work.
What is often overlooked, I feel, is that a review is an independent piece of work, existing beside the – in this case – fiction that it rose from. It is not the property of the novelist, or the publisher, but rather the property of the novel, and the novel, once it is published, is no longer the property of one individual. It is a communal object, and as a communal object, it will be used in discussions, arguments, essays and whatever – and sometimes, they’re going to be positive, and sometimes they’re going to be bad. Whatever the outcome, the critical work of a novel, I feel, has more in common with film adaptions, cosplay, fan fiction, and whatever else a novel can give birth too, than the novelist and their relationship with the novel.
There’s a whole lot of things in criticism to unpack. You can argue if it is right for a reviewer to cultivate an audience, you can point out the inevitable personal relationships that come from interlinked scenes, and so on and so forth, until you have exhausted each avenue, and found even that some parts contradict others. But for me, I think there is more to be gained by putting aside the Bambi line, which is bad for children, anyway, since it promotes silence over honesty, and just encourage people say what they will say and to say it well.