Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Reading

19 September 2017

Just recently I finished editing a novella for an author friend. While I was working on his book, I noticed several things about how I was reading it and did some thinking about the way I read.

I’ve always loved reading. The family story is that I was potty trained by being placed on the toilet and handed some books. If true, I’m sure they were suitable for my age.

In Junior High and High School, I quickly devoured every SF book in the school library, as well as other literature. SF, however, was my go to when looking for something to read. As to Westerns, I think I’ve read maybe six or seven in my lifetime. I’d also hit the base library (AF brat) and read just about everything SF they had. It was at this time that I also found Fantasy and began reading that genre as rabidly as I did SF. I was probably 14 when I read Lord of the Rings.

This love of reading almost got me into trouble in high school but thanks to a lovely English teacher, turned into a benefit instead. In the second week of a new school year, my English teacher caught me reading in the back of the classroom instead of paying attention. So, she sprung a pop quiz on us, based on the story she had been going over. The story was in the school textbook, and hadn’t been assigned to us as reading yet. I was one of the few to pass the quiz with a 100 grade, so she had me stop by after school. She then asked how I had done that and I explained I had already read the reader from cover to cover. After a few questions to verify I wasn’t just claiming that, we talked about moving me to her advanced reading program instead. The carrot for me was being able to read and the icing on the cake was learning how to speed read. By the end of the school year, I was pretty much reading one paperback a day on the bus to and from school and was reading at around 880 words per minute, tested.

Even now, I will read rather than watch TV. There has been a time or two when I’ve repeatedly told the family that there was a show on in 5 or 6 days that I wanted to watch, to make sure they were aware of my plans to watch it. Then that day I’d find a book and start reading. When the show came on, they tried to tell me and I told them I’d rather read this than watch that. That’s after reminding them for five straight days that I was going to watch this movie or whatever on Channel X at 7:30 PM. I’m sure there were some frustrated or dirty looks cast my way then!

I can read several books a day if I’m allowed to. That’s one reason I like ebooks: I only need to take my tablet with me and I have multiple entire series as well as stand-alone books readily to hand. Heck, I have an entire library with me. No risk of getting to book 2 in a trilogy and having to run around to find book 3. Or carry a stack of books on vacation. And yes, I still very much enjoy reading physical books, turning the pages and having that weight.

That’s my background. I’m a reader, born and bred.

So, to the point of this blog post. It turns out that I have different reading modes, at least four that I’m aware of. No surprise there as I think everybody does, actually. After thinking about how I read and the different “modes”, I find the differences intriguing.

If I’m reading for my own pleasure, I pretty much zone out everything but the words before me. I’m still aware to some small extent what’s going on around me; being deaf I tend to automatically be aware of my surroundings, at least to some extent, as a safety measure. And, yes, I do get irritated when my reading is interrupted.

Speaking of getting interrupted, my wife has this uncanny knack of always interrupting me when I’m in the middle of some battle scene, engrossing dialogue or other action. I logically know it’s not premeditated, but I can’t help wondering why she never seems to interrupt in the boring parts of the book.

Anyway…

The first mode is typically reading at full speed. Some books, especially non-fiction, I read the fastest. I’ve not tested in a long time, but I’m pretty sure I’m not reading at my original 880 WPM now, but more likely closer to 500 to 600 WPM. In this mode I will slow down at certain parts, such as detailed descriptions of interesting techniques or explanations. I also use this mode with heavily embellished fiction, such as where they describe what someone’s wearing down to the thread count or every leaf on every tree in the park the characters are in. Those sections, I read as fast as I can without actually skipping them entirely.

The second mode is reading at a slower rate, probably down around 300 to 400 WPM. This is reserved for books I’m really enjoying, books that I’m savoring. Even with these, I’ll sometimes speed up over what I consider unnecessary detail, as mentioned previously. This is probably where I read most SF and Fantasy, especially my favorite authors.

Those two modes above, I start at the first word of the book and read straight through to the end. I’m simply reading for enjoyment or education.

For mode three, I’ve noticed that when I do a preliminary edit, whether my own writing or someone else’s, I read at a much slower speed. It’s not so much that I’m reading as it is I’m looking for discrepancies. I’ll read a ways, then see something that doesn’t click, read it again, mark it up or verify the discrepancy then mark it up. In this state, I’m also marking up misspellings, typos, grammar that really stand out. Right now, I’m not necessarily looking for particular wordsmithing problems, I’m looking for issues in the story itself. I am, however, not willing to put up with glaring English errors, either. While in the previous two modes I would grimace and keep reading, momentarily irritated with the author for not doing his work, this time if it jumps out at me I won’t hesitate to write it up. On the whole, though, I’m almost reading like I do for fun. Just more deliberately, and with an eye out for glaring story line or grammatical errors. At this rate, it can take me a couple days to get through a book.

The final mode is a full on editing mode. This is the slowest mode of all for me. It’s also one of the more intensive reading modes, a point that surprised me. Here, I’m doing all that I do in the preliminary edit, but where there I only go back to check something, here I’m constantly going back a paragraph or page and re-reading from there. I’m constantly unconsciously asking myself questions: Did this flow properly? Could this really happen this way? Didn’t she sit down a couple paragraphs ago? Can a ship really do that? Would he really speak like that? Does this read like an insert by the author trying to explain something directly to the reader? Is this grammatically correct? Would the reader understand this reference? Is this spelled right? To vs too vs two and other such critters.

As an example of reading progress while editing, consider any consecutive pages of a book. I’ll read page 1 halfway, go back a couple of paragraphs, study a sentence or two, figure out what’s wrong with it that grabbed my attention, mark the correction, continue reading from that point. After several times doing this as I work my way down the page I’ll eventually finish that page and start on page 2. Then I go back to that last nagging paragraph on page 1 and resume from there. When I get that taken care of, I continue reading anew from that point. After a few paragraphs, I’ll go back to a previous paragraph and study it…why did that demand my attention now? I’ll even read ahead past some error to see if it’s explained or accounted for in the next several paragraphs. If not, I go back, make my comments, and resume reading there even though I’ve already read ahead. And so it goes for the whole book, constantly going back and forth by sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters until eventually I reach the end of the book.

When I hit something that I think is wrong, I’ll look for the answer and try not only to comment on the error, but suggest a fix and provide helpful information to avoid that error in the future. I’ll spend several minutes on two sentences, trying to see what made me pause and see how to fix it. It might be voice, it might be tense, it might be grammar, or it might be English. Maybe it’s inconsistent based on a previous book or drawing or model. Perhaps it’s illogical, written that way to accomplish the author’s goals. Maybe it’s physically impossible. Something made me pause here, and I intend to discover what it was. By the time I have finished the book, I have probably read every page three or four times on this one pass from the first to the last words of the novel. This mode of reading can take me at least a couple of weeks, if not more, to read the same book that took me a mere couple of days in the preliminary edit.

I guess it’s to my advantage that I can “forget” most of what I’ve read last time when I re-read a book. I like re-reading a book and being able to enjoy it all over again. I always find something new, some new insight to the characters or some new appreciation for some action or dialogue that comes from knowing but not necessarily consciously remembering what’s going to happen later. This also comes handy when editing as it allows me to maintain a fresh perspective rather than having in the back of my mind that nagging that I’ve already checked this once. Since I never really forget what I’ve read, mention of something at odds with previous pages, stories or books related to what I’m editing tends to pop into mind when needed.

Well, there you have it. I don’t know if this is interesting or useful to anyone else, but it was fun writing up how I read.

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Slowly, slowly

8 June 2017

Still not in a writing mode, but working towards it. As far as that part of my life goes, I’ve been working on the Pa’adhe ebook. It’s been mostly proofing (found a couple of errors), layout, making sure things are in the right order. I’ve got three cover pictures left to do, still: one to replace an existing cover I don’t like and two for the stories that don’t have a cover yet. The designs are done, but now I have to figure out what pictures to take and combine for these covers.

Talking about pictures, I’ve also been working on three photography projects. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say two videos and one photograph.

The photograph is a three generation portrait that I’ve been thinking about for several months. Now that everyone’s present that needs to be in it, I can proceed with actually taking the photo. I’ll be using the DJI Phantom 4 for this due to the perspective needed and to avoid any part of the photographer being in it. It’s also necessary to use the drone to achieve the hidden geometric aspect I have in mind.

One of the videos I have mentioned before. I’ve a script written for it and have all the necessary gear to do the shot. What remains is to get the necessary actors together on location (herding cats would be easier) and get the video needed so I can get to work compiling the whole. This I need to get done within the next two months or it’ll be unlikely to ever get done.

The final video is one that I am not even sure is going to be anything more than an experiment. Fundamentally, it’s one of my granddaughter dancing, but it’s the perspective that makes the video what it is. Or breaks it. I can see in my head what I want to achieve, but until I actually start processing the video, I have no way to tell if it’ll work or not. In some ways, it’s abstract…but without being abstract. I’m trying to explain to some extent the problem with the visualization without giving too much away yet and that’s not easy to do. With everything else I can throw out teasers, but this one…any teaser is too revealing. Let’s just say that if I don’t get the angles right, it’s not going to work and since there’s nothing like it out there that I know of, I have no guidance to the right angle. If it’s off by even a little bit, the impact won’t be there. Even so, right angle or not it could still be a bust.

Both videos will utilize the GoPro Hero 4 Black and the DJI Phantom 4, though in different ways. I never did think I would be doing video, but there it goes. Never say never.

I’e been doing a bit of amateur radio, just PSK-31, since my last blog post. I have to admit I’m happy with the home station, but not so much with the mobile setup. I need to do some more playing with the mobile gear to figure out what’s not working, but it’s also quite possible that it’s simply there was no activity when I was using it. Or maybe it was a bad location. All I can do is keep trying different locations for a while before I start troubleshooting the gear.

Pa’adhe Sails Again

17 February 2016

After a long hiatus, I’ve begun writing another tale of the Pa’adhe. This resumption in writing includes an interesting discovery about both my writing and my personality. Or at least of my writing preferences.

Maybe a month ago, I felt the urge to write a new blog entry. I actually sat down and over two days wrote an update on my Vardo project. I even went so far as to identify the various photos I wanted to include and to revise the post several times. Then, rather than post it and the pictures, because I wasn’t quite ready yet and I was having trouble finding my albums on Google Plus with their new layout, I let it slide. So, I have that post ready, but just haven’t felt like finishing it and actually posting.

Then a couple of weeks back, I was drifting off to sleep and a new Pa’adhe story began to form in my mind. Excited by the story and unable to sleep, I got up about 12:30 AM, logged into the computer, and began typing it in.

By 2:30 AM I had finished writing the opening and crawled back into bed. I had written about 500 words of the new story and about 250 words in a new Encyclopedia entry providing background to the people of the story. 750 words plus a little bit of back and forth tweaking.

Now, when I had stopped writing about a year ago, I had been trying to write a story providing Scarle’s background. I had gotten as far as 1,870 words, and then I just quit writing. I didn’t know why, but I just suddenly had no urge to write either blog or story.

So, what changed?

Interestingly enough, nothing. My subconscious solved a problem with Scarle’s story that I didn’t even realize existed, until now.

When I started writing this new story, I hadn’t figured out this part yet, but it include a visit to the Sea Gypsies for help. Part of my writing is intuitive, and it was here that I realized I could pull in Scarle’s history as a way of furthering the Captain’s journey to…well, I’ll not reveal where yet.

In hindsight, after I decided to pull in Scarle’s already written background into this new story and so provide, finally, history on all four main characters in Tales of the Pa’adhe, I realized what had happened and why I hadn’t been writing for so long.

At least I think I know what happened.

You see, if you read my other posts on the Pa’adhe stories, you know I write by coming up with an idea, that I write by the seat of my pants, and it is my characters that dictate what happens, not this author. That’s how I describe my writing style, and I know it’s not truly the characters, but my subconscious directing what gets written. But it’s more fun to say the characters take over.

In writing Scarle’s story the way I did, my characters didn’t like it being done that way and rebelled. I had been writing it not as part of a story, but as if merely sitting down with his family and visiting. That just didn’t fit and as soon as I had the basics down, the Captain and crew decided not to co-operate any further on that story. For each of the other characters, if you read the Tales of the Pa’adhe listed on the right of this blog page, you see that their three backgrounds came out in the course of solving a problem. Scarle’s was being presented as a mere family get-together and that just wasn’t my usual style. I had actually been writing Scarle’s background just to provide the fourth crew member’s background and for no other reason. It just didn’t fit with the structure of the other Pa’adhe tales or the way I write and clearly I recognized that, at least subconsciously.

Now this part I’m guessing at, but it seems to match my personality and how I dealt with the other time this happened. When I am blocked like this, I don’t want to work on any other writing until I get this fixed. Apparently, if I have an unfinished writing task, working on some other writing is just something I don’t want to do.

Wait, that’s not completely true, so maybe it’s related to the size or type of problem. If I’m just having a wordsmithing problem, I have no problem taking a break and working on something else. But when it’s something fundamentally wrong like this, a major structural issue that looks complete but isn’t, something that my subconscious calls a halt to, then all writing shuts down.

The interesting discovery I made about myself is that apparently if I’m not true to the structure of my tales, I won’t finish the tale. This is actually the second time this has happened, but it’s only now that I think I understand what happened both times. My subconscious, aka the Captain and crew, recognized that while what I was writing was something I needed, I was going about telling it the wrong way. Thus, my writing got hijacked until I figured out how to make it fit the proper structure. The previous time, I had about half the story written before I tossed it. I still have the story, as is, but it’s since been incorporated into one of the other tales and indeed gets presented much better that way than the original writing.

I think this time it took much longer because shortly after I hit the wall on Scarle’s background tale I also entered the stressful period of prepping for retirement. Then after that, I focused on building my Vardo for a while, actually getting the construction started. Then came the various holidays and a certain amount of ennui.

A couple of weeks back the Captain and crew decided enough was enough and started a new tale, one that would allow me to pull in Scarle’s background story. It’s a story that makes that background relevant to not only the question of who Scarle is and where he came from, but also provides some more history of the Sea Gypsies. Then I can use that to let the Captain…but I get ahead of myself. That tale is not yet complete and though I have an idea where it’s going, I don’t yet know the details so I better not say anything.

Besides, I know the Captain and crew of the Pa’adhe will hijack the storyline if I do and take it somewhere else. And I want to see…um, never mind.

The weather is starting to get good again, albeit not yet stable, so I will be working on the Vardo once more. Soon I will actually post that already written blog detailing the work thus far.

The time spent on the Vardo build and exploring the Owyhees as the weather improves may cut into my writing time. However, the Captain, Xinu, Scarle, and Cook are insistent that I tell this new tale so I feel that I’m back, writing-wise, and that the Pa’adhe is indeed once again sailing.

Fair winds and a following sea!