Red ink for edits

Editing a novel, I prefer to do markup of the first rough draft as a hardcopy in a three-ring binder. This weekend, while I was writing changes into the margins, I thought about the pen I was using.

It's nothing special, just a disposable rollerball with red gel ink. I also do edits with a plastic 0.7mm mechanical pencil. Unlike the pens and pencils I use for writing (like my beloved Parker 51), the pens and pencils I use for editing are the exact opposite of classy, interesting, and high-end. They are cheap, boring, and utilitarian.


What's the psychology behind my choice of writing tool? Do I need something with flair and élan when I compose? I'm not so bad as to be using a quill pen and green ink, but the idea is the same. And for the grunt work of editing - why so downmarket? Because editing is flinty hard work, and the tools should reflect that?

Am I the only one who does this kind of thing?

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9 Great Things About Not Writing

1. The longer it goes on, the more you save on paper, pens, toner, etc.

2. Feelings of alienation from the world of letters keeps you from getting angry about nominations lists for awards. Mostly.

3. Less wear and tear on your hard drive and/or word processor.

4. Emotional experiences build depth of character, from which good writing (eventually) flows. Guilt is a emotion. Q.E.D.

5. 2048 isn't a challenge anymore until at least one 512 tile is on the board.

6. Social withdrawal gives your writer friends more time to write and/or talk to people who are writing. Points for selflessness.

7. Fresh insights on being presented with hoary old chestnuts like, "If you can quit writing, you should quit writing." Fresh insights build depth of character (see point 4).

8. More time to come up with better ways to flog the stuff you DID write.

9. The hope that the sunshine will one day return to thaw the frozen ground of your mind. Hope is an emotion. Q.E.D.

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My thoughts about the Hugo nominations

Actually, I don't have any particular opinions about the Hugo nominations. Amid the same old, same old, (i.e. an excess of Doctor Who) there's a lot of shrieking that the WRONG books and the WRONG authors are nominated.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. The nominations process is as easy to rig and suborn as the election of your high school student council. If you've got a bunch of friends who can stuff the box for you, you're on the ticket. If you can sustain that momentum in the actual voting, you win a Hugo.

What's more to the point for me is that I only recognize the names of a couple the authors and I've read none of the novels, novellas, novelettes (whatever the hell that is) or short stories. I've read 3 of the 5 graphic stories, seen 3 of the 5 movies. Read none of the 'zines, listened to none of the podcasts.

The Hugo nominations underscore how alienated I feel from the world of science fiction writing. There's irony here and a message for someone who wrote and published a science fiction superhero novel. The irony is easy to recognize; I'm still trying to figure out what the message is.

Or perhaps I know what the message is, but am having a hard time accepting it.

UPDATE: Dang. I completely forgot that I was going to stop doing introspective, depressing, "me-centric" blog posts.

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Where is my Pryde?

The new (and final) trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past is much more compelling than any of the others I've seen:

However, while I understand the necessity of changing the storyline from the original comic book to make Wolverine the one who mentally goes back in time instead of Kitty Pryde, I still find the switch a bit disappointing.

When the storyline appeared back in 1980 (or was it 1981? can't remember), Kitty was still a kid, very much the inexperienced junior member of the X-Men. In fact, was the trouble that 15-year-old Kitty had in being on a team of adults which led Professor X to form the New Mutants. Well, that and the rising popularity of the X-Men as a comic franchise.

Anyway, one of the big aspects of Days of Future Past was how Kitty turned into a kick-ass hero who didn't take any shit. Forty years in the future, Kat Pride is a hardened veteran and bitter survivor of the Sentinel genocide of mutants and any human who carried latent mutant genes, slaughter of all superheroes, and ultimate enslavement of most of humanity. A final desperate plan sends Kat's mind back into the body of Kitty, her younger self.

Wolverine was especially taken aback by the change from hesitant kid, uncertain of her powers to a confident leader of warriors. Later, when Nightcrawler failed as leader of the X-Men and Storm gave up the role, Wolverine regarded Kitty as the de facto leader, something she found irritating in light of her relative youth. I tend to think that he was responding to the leadership potential he'd seen in her during the Days of Future Past storyline.

The big difference in the movie's take is that Wolverine is already a hard-bitten warrior, both in the Sentinel-blasted future and in the alt-timeline 1970s. Perhaps the saving grace will be that his big challenge is in having to rise above his lone wolf persona to become, not merely a team player, but a proactive team builder.

We shall see.
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Imposter or Impostor?

It was pointed out to me yesterday that in my various posts about imposter syndrome, I've been misspelling "imposter". Even after lifting a quote which spelled it correctly (i.e. with an -or), I continued to spell it with an -er.

Shocked at my own incompetence and determined to rewrite history, I went into my post editor to fix this error. Before I did, though, I checked a few dictionaries. It turns out that my -er spelling is not merely an acceptable variant spelling, it's nearly as common (and nearly as old) as the -or spelling.

In general, American English tends to favor -or, while International English tends to favor -er. In this globally connected world, the best thing one can do is adhere to house style and be consistent about it. Since I'm the house, I choose -er.

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Dancing cats

For a little while, I forgot what the Internet was for.

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Imposter syndrome vs. "reality"

In my post of last week, I talked about imposter syndrome: what it feels like, how it affects me, and its impact on my writing. From the Caltech Counseling Center:
The impostor syndrome is associated with highly achieving, highly successful people. This makes impostor feelings somewhat different from the concept of "low self-esteem" because there is a discrepancy between the actual achievement and the person's feelings about the achievement that may not be present in low self-esteem. People in different professions such as teachers, people in the social sciences, people in academia, actresses and actors, may all have impostor feelings. It was originally associated with women but recent research indicated that men suffer in similar numbers.
That bit about women is no joke. If you do any Googling about it, you'll see that a lot of discussion about imposter syndrome focuses on successful women, within the context of feminism, how women function in the workplace, and so on. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a man, not a woman. If my talking about imposter syndrome seems strange, makes me look weird or makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to go read my book instead. Its got explosions in it.

Anyway, several people responded to my post with variations of, "But you HAVE professionally published stories. You HAVE written and published a novel. You HAVE been paid for your writing. Those things are real, not fake. End of story." My response was cogent enough that I'll reproduce it here:
I wish it were that simple. The issue is not the facts before me - those are incontrovertible. It's my reactions to those facts that are problematic. To rewire my mind so as to have a different constellations of emotions triggered by a given set of stimuli would be a great trick. I'm not bothered by spiders, but I've got a serious thing about stinging insects. Why can't I just rewire my mind about that stuff while I'm at it?

Emotions are not automatically translated into actions, however. One's emotional response can be controlled through will and intellect so that it doesn't become the primary driver of behavior. As an adult, I've learned to not freak out and start swatting at things when faced with a wasp at eye level. That doesn't mean I'm not still really bothered by them.

Similarly, although I feel like a tremendous fraud as a writer, I know that my next book is waiting for me when my current hiatus is over. I'll feel guilty for putting another one over on you, and afraid that the reaction will be, "When will he realize that we all know he can't write?" Those are emotional responses. As a rational adult, I'll try not to let myself be driven by emotions alone.
That's kinda how it is, how it always has been, and, I suspect, how it always will be.

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A big, fat fraud

Of all my flaws and failings, the hardest to overcome is the imposter syndrome. As a writer (and in other fields of endeavor), I skate through life on thin blades, trusting that the only thing that prevents you all from seeing exactly how incompetent I am is my ability to maintain the fiction of competence.

There's a school of thought which says, "Fake it until you make it." Taken through the lens of impostor syndrome, this approach means that the skill I've developed to the keenest degree is not the ability to write, but the ability to fake it.

I started a blog and wrote blog posts until you couldn't tell me from a real blogger. I wrote flash fiction stories until I got good enough at it that I could trick you into thinking I could write decent flash fiction stories. I critted, beta-read, and edited other people's work until I became a more convincing editor. I wrote and abandoned a dozen half-novels in preparation for writing an actual novel - a perfectly unassailable prop to sustain the fiction that I'm a novelist. I even have a WIP in the can, awaiting my attention. What could be more convincing for this act I'm perpetuating than a half-finished sophomore effort?

All of these accomplishments feel to me like expertly forged papers, with a fake name and a photoshopped picture. Written in a language that is not my mother tongue, they are the passport, driver's license, and birth certificate which allows me to move freely in a country not my own. I feel as though I'm not an immigrant, or even a resident alien, but still on a tourist visa.

However much I work to learn the ways and customs, however hard I work to erase my foreigner's accent, I suspect I'll always feel a stranger in this strange land.

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The best joke ever

Romeo: "Juliet, Juliet! I'm burning with passion for you!"

Juliet: "Oh, Romeo... don't make such a fuel of yourself."

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