Saturday, September 01, 2001

From this morning's newspaper:

Person's name, 31, was charged with soliciting prostitution and soliciting crimes against nature, police said.

My husband: "What? She offered to have sex, then go to the back porch and throw toxic waste into the yard?"

Friday, August 31, 2001

In Defense of WIPs

A WIP is, in fanfic, a Work In Progress. Something that's posted with a header of (4/?) rather than (4/57). Something that the author hasn't finished yet.

Many, many people loathe WIPs; (4/?) is as good a reason as "Angle Never Lost Hi's Soul" to discard the thing unread.

I'm not one of them, and not just because I've perpetrated, and am perpetrating, WIP myself. People I respect (Carrie, Melissa) have posted WIPs that stretched out over years and were nonetheless concluded.

It seems to me that there are two important issues about WIP: consistency and trust.

When you post each episode as it's completed, you are locking yourself into continuity. If you realize, in chapter 13, that you needed a table in the apartment you set up in chapter 11, you are screwed. Ditto when you realize that your lead character has been a sadist all along, and you should have been foreshadowing. I enjoy this myself, because it's an extra authorial challenge. In practice, when I have an important character insight, it's generally because I have been foreshadowing something all along without realizing it.

Consistency is either a trap or a dare, depending on how you work. My (non-fan) shelf novel was written as a WIP; I began it having no idea where it would finish. I started from a character and a situation and let the plot unfold itself. When I finished it, I revised for language, but not for plot. This method wouldn't work for other writers; it seems to do fine for me.

Trust is another stumbling-block. When you see (1/?), you wonder "Will I ever get to finish this, or will this be yet another author who gets bored or writes herself into a corner and trails off into silence?" That's a very real issue, especially with an author who has no track record. As a reader, I'm willing to take the risk; if I enjoy somebody's writing, I'm happy to take what she has to offer, even if it never winds somewhere safe to sea. As long as the journey's satisfying, I can live without a destination. YMMV.

As a WIP writer myself, all I can say is that I've finished two WIPs. That's enough of a track record that some readers will trust me to finish the third. Others won't, and that's a completely valid decision. I define myself as a person who keeps her promises, and I consider a WIP a promise. I will finish Something In Between. It will be later than I'd planned, Real Life having intervened rather a lot this summer, but I'll keep that promise.

I never mentioned Dickens or Trollope once! Do I get a prize?

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Since we came to New Southern City, I have peeled away so many things that mattered to me. I don't garden any more. It's too hot. I don't want to be outside. My herbs die of root rot, even though I have amended and amended and amended the exhausted clay soil. I let my subscriptions to garden magazines expire; last year, I began throwing away the garden catalogs unread.

I gave up on trying to meet people about a year ago. I did try hard, once. When we moved here, I even joined an Episcopal church. But the only people I could really talk to were the minister and his wife who, poor souls, were Berkeley transplants and as desperately out-of-place as ourselves. They gave up their dreams -- forming a racially integrated church, creating a ministry to the poor -- and then they just gave up and moved. (Excuse me, "accepted a call to another ministry.") I hope they found a better place. The other mothers at the Montessori school wanted to talk about how important it was to stay home with the children, a conversation I couldn't really get behind. The other mothers on the street and I had nothing to discuss but our children. Which worked well when the sprogs were small, but not so much once they didn't need supervision when they played outside.

I'm 42. I'm a snob. I talk about books. About two particular television shows. (I hope) about ideas. I don't care about sports. When I talk about God, it's more about theological debate and less about praise. And my theology is way, way out of step with the local norm, in case you hadn't noticed.

We've lived here for 9 years. We have had a non-relative to dinner precisely once, and then it was an out-of-town visitor.

We don't belong here. I pray we're getting out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Yippee! A kind soul at Blogger explained why my link tags didn't work. Now they do. Fixing a bug is so satisfying.

Oh, and Mely? Sheri Tepper didn't start publishing until after she retired from her work at Planned Parenthood. Lois McMaster Bujold didn't start publishing until after age 30.

It looks as if we really will be getting out of here. A consummation devoutly to be wished. (I typoed 'risked', which is even more fitting.) A large Silicon Valley company is slowly, slowly (this all started the first week in July) winding through the paperwork to hire both of us. Hubster got his relocation account Friday, which seems to suggest that all will eventually be well. I have completely fallen in reciprocated love with the writing department, and am waiting for the paperwork to peristalt to the end of the anaconda. Meanwhile, another large Silicon Valley company wants to talk to me. So why do I feel so guilty? Answer: because guilt and fear are my default reaction to any situation.

Mely, I installed reblogger. Happy now? Lar, hope the surgery goes well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

It's weird being middle-aged.

You spend your youth thinking there's now, when you're (if lucky) healthy and enthusiastic, and there's old age, far, far away, when you will have become wise, distinguished, silver-haired, and fragile. You don't think a lot about the years in between.

Then you arrive in the years in between. And you aren't dead yet, you aren't distinguished yet, but you aren't young, either. Things that break don't heal quite as quickly or as completely. The outward signs build up, from one white hair, quickly plucked, to swan-wings on either side of the head, to a hairbrush as full of white hairs as dark. If you ever had that eat-everything-and-never-gain-weight metabolism, it goes away. You aren't as brilliant and as famous as you thought you'd be, but you haven't quite given up hoping. Grandma Moses blossomed late.

You don't know what you'll be. You're halfway on the road from here to there, and the start and the finish are lost in the fog.