Monday, February 3, 2020

Turn It Off

Ack. The noise! So much noise. What's it all about? The half-time show. The commercials. The clothes. The behavior.

It doesn't really matter what it's about. It's all noise. It amazes me that folks spend so much time being annoyed over something so unimportant. If you don't like it, TURN IT OFF. Have we forgotten how to do that? It's a simple action.

If your phone is driving you crazy, turn it off! We used to do that all the time. In my day, it was as simple as taking the phone off the hook. And you know what? We never stressed about missing a call, either. The philosophy then was straightforward. If someone really wanted to reach you, they would call back. That's still my take on it.

If a television show or radio channel is bugging you, change it. I've never understood people who watch something they hate and then spend days--even weeks--bitching about it. TURN IT OFF! When did we lose the ability to do that?

I have a theory...just my own idea. I believe all media is designed for misdirection. You know like a magic show. We're all so busy watching the magician wave his wand, we're missing the real action. So while folks are obsessing about stuff like some singer dressed up as a robot, the bad guys are robbing us with impunity. Why should they worry? No one's watching, anyway.

Maybe, just maybe, if we dared to turn off all the noise, all the distractions, all the misdirection, we would actually see reality. The hunk and I once had a discussion about the single most influential invention in the 21st century. I say it's the cell phone. Almost everyone has one. And because almost everyone is 'connected', there's not time to think, no time to dream, no time to ponder mysteries, no time to appreciate wonders. Instead, we're nose down to a small flat screen that robs us of nourishment and true communication.

It used to be kids learned important things from their grandparents and extended families. Time spent was time shared, resulting in passed on knowledge. Now, family gatherings consist of a circle of people all looking at their cell phones. And when the elderlies pass on, their wisdom and knowledge is lost for all time.

There's an old expression, "Don't reinvent the wheel." I think we keep having to reinvent because we aren't willing to shut down the distractions so we can hear the wisdom. We have an entire generation of folks who are more that eager to share what they've learned. But we don't have time because we'd rather bellyache about something we didn't enjoy. Interesting, isn't it? We don't have the moral strength to just turn it off and walk away from the trivial and short term. Sad.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Second Eye

Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. You sit, you write, you ponder, you write, you research, you write. Then you do several editing passes, mostly catching overused words, missing words, misspelled words, and maybe some timeline issues. When you think you've done the best you can, you hire a specialist, a second eye to catch all that stuff you missed.

Some writers, usually new writers, don't think they need a second eye. They pass up that step because they're sure they know everything they need to know about writing. The longer I spend writing, the more I know I need that second eye to keep me in line.

One of the things that happen while writing is the multiple changes to the story (at least my stories). I start out with a clump of ideas and as I write, I refine, I change, I delete and add...and sometimes I don't see that step where I've eliminated crucial information by mistake. That's one of the things my Second Eye catches. She sends me a note asking me "what about?", and I have to confess that was an error. Oops.

One well known author of a long-running series, misnamed an important character in a book mid-series. She didn't catch it. Editor didn't catch it. It went to print with the wrong name. Something similar happened in the book I'm currently whipping into shape. In book two, the character's name was Gray Horse. For some weird reason, I called him Gray Fox all through book three. Still don't know why I did that, but I did catch it. Now, if the Second Eye and I can catch all the rest of the continuity issues, that would be good.

Another thing the Second Eye can point out is when the author is too distant from the story. My Second Eye felt my main character was...not a very sympathetic character. We spent time discussing how I could convey how he really feels. Writers don't always get it right when we try to express emotion, especially when the character is a stoic male type. It's a fine line.

One time, when I was writing one of my early books, my beta reader sent me a clump of text with this note--"You're trying to convince me he loves this female. I don't believe it. Fix it." Heh. Well, I did. And the story was stronger. But until she pointed it out, I didn't see it.

Over the years, I've had a variety of Second Eyes. I've learned different aspects of my craft from each one. Some focus more on the grammar issues. Others focus more on the story and character aspects. But each one had a lot of wisdom to offer. I would urge writers to never pass up the opportunity to learn and expand their writing skills. Always, I say always, have a Second Eye in your quiver.

Finally--maintain a sense of humor. In the first iteration of Shadows on Stone, I hired an Second Eye and sent the book to her. She sent it back with some creative comments. But the best was about my use of boxes. Yep. Boxes. First she just highlighted the text. After a bit she highlighted in RED.  Then she started adding comments in the margins. More boxes. Big boxes. Small boxes. Boxes again...until she finally wrote ENOUGH BOXES!!!

Um. Well in the final version, there were only a FEW boxes. Just a few...