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How easily distracted are you?

This morning I installed WriteRoom on my iPhone, mainly because the latest version of Scrivener can import from the online sync service, writeroom.ws. With NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon and a busy November in my day job on top, I need every tool in my armoury.
Because WriteRoom is all about cutting out distractions, that got me thinking about the audience for this kind of software. So, in the spirit of scientific enquiry, how distractible are you?
You’ll find the poll at the top of my blog home page

Thinking Sideways

I’m still feeling a bit daunted about tackling the middle of my book, and since I’ve decided I can’t make the deadline for the Tor/SciFiNow competition, I feel a bit freer to take things at a slightly less frenetic pace. So, I’ve kicked off my week off work by signing up for Holly Lisle’s “How to Think Sideways” course – six months of intensive writing development.

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One Small Step

Today we finally launched our writers’ group website, Different Star – only a month after mooting the idea. Not bad, considering we’re busy people trying to organise a project via email :)

The site has listings of all our published stories and novels, news of upcoming publications, convention reports and more. Check it out!

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MammothFail

Yesterday I found out about MammothFail, the online backlash against Patricia Wrede over her book “The Thirteenth Child”, and now I’m feeling all paranoid :(

OK, so part of the problem is that a) the world-building consists mostly of hand-wavium and has none of the discipline of true alternate history and b) Wrede seriously put her foot in her mouth, as follows:

“The *plan* is for it to be a “settling the frontier” book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it’ll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). I’m not looking for wildly divergent history, because if it goes too far afield I won’t get the right feel.”

Ouch! Let’s write out the Injuns because they’re a problem. I can’t see how that would cause offence… Well duh!

However it’s caused me to take a long hard look at my own world-building, and a determination to root out any potential causes of offence, however unwitting. Unlike Wrede, I am using alternate history to deliberately create a new and different world, one that isn’t just ours with added magic à la Harry Potter. Fortunately I haven’t yet committed anything to paper that can’t be tweaked to produce a much more acceptable fictional world. If anything, it makes the setting more interesting – as well as providing a good excuse for more research and world-building once I’ve finished this draft!
I call that a win-win situation :)

Dvorak

Whilst browsing Holly Lisle’s site the other day, I came across her posts about switching to Dvorak for the sake of her RSI. Since I also get some problems after heavy use of my laptop, I’m thinking of doing the same. It’s very easy to switch layouts on both OSX and my Linux box at work, and there are typing tutors for both platforms (KDE has a free typing tutor and you can very easily write your own exercises for it). The main problem I forsee is that I don’t have much time to make the transition; unlike a student, I don’t have several weeks’ summer holiday when I can go “cold turkey” and abandon QWERTY altogether. Also, at the moment I am of course dependent on my Palm for a good deal of my computing, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the layout of the onscreen keyboard.

Originality

I’ve been giving some thought to the question of originality. Publishers and agents say that they are looking principally for originality, but in fantasy at any rate, there seems to be a lot of pretty unoriginal stuff being published: epic multi-volume tales of action and adventure still dominate the bookshops’ shelves. Some highly original books do make it into print and get glowing reviews, but whether they successfully launch the writer’s career is another matter. I think it more likely that what editors and agents are really looking for is just a fresh spin on the familiar; something that will appeal to the hordes without being a tired re-tread.

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