Jennifer Crusie's Blog
September 2, 2015
Remember Sweetness, Lani’s little girl who moved in with me back when we all hung out in Squalor on the River? She’s not so little any more and she has a Tumblr you must see, Pride and Recreation, which combines pictures from BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with quotes from Parks and Recreation:
Our little girl is growing up (sob). And she has a great sense of humor (of COURSE).
September 1, 2015
As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about doing a writing book for quite a while. Teaching the two McDaniel’s classes helped me organize all the ideas in my head, and I’m in the process right now of sorting out all the writing posts on Argh and the website thanks to the hack, and after that, I’ll go through my hard drive and see if I can pull together the mass of information there into a coherent form. I have STUFF here, and a lot more stuff I want to say, and now is the time to put it all together.
But I can’t just throw all of it out there in the form it’s in now. I need to design a way to communicate it to people so that it’s easy to understand and useful. I don’t think most people go to writing books to read them cover-to-cover, I think they go to learn about craft and solve problems, and they usually have an idea of what they’re looking for. I don’t think that’s the writer’s philosophy of life (we’re talking about craft-specific books here, not writers talking about the process of writing) or big blocks of text or draconian rules or ornate theories. The basics of writing craft are pretty simple; Aristotle had most of them down. And those basics are not rules, they’re tools writers can learn so they can tell stories more effectively, to communicate with their readers. So the first thing I need to do is organize and simplify.
Then I need to design a format for that simplified organization that reflects the fact that different people learn in different ways. Some people learn by reading large blocks of text about theory (I’m not one of them). Other people learn by seeing pictures and diagrams with minimal text. Other people learn by analogy and examples, extrapolating the abstract into the concrete world. Still others have to hear the information for it to really sink it, and others have to learn by doing, applying the knowledge in the real world (in this case, to their stories). When I taught, that meant using textbooks, diagrams on the board, lectures, video, games, and of course assignments so that my kids would learn by doing. I went at the information in every way possible so that I’d have a chance of finding every student’s path to understanding.
Of course in order to do that, I have to synthesize the information down to its most basic level. Any teacher knows that you pick a single goal for a lesson, and that’s your focus. It’s one idea, one thing that you want students to understand and remember, and if you can communicate that, the lesson is a success. You can surround it with other things, but every one of those things has to feed into that one concept. More is not better in teaching, it’s one idea at a time, made clear and usable, and then adding the next idea which builds on the first.
All of which is to say, I’m not just going to drop a bunch of essays and blog posts into a file and call it a book. This has taken some thought here, Argh People, and you know how that takes a toll on me. And what I’ve come up with is a book that would present the basic theories of fiction in general and of romance writing in particular, in an easy-to-use, varied format that would accommodate the three reasons I think people go to writing books. The format would
• give readers who want a fast overview the TL;DR experience by starting each section with a brief (under 500 words), two-page abstract of the topic.
• give readers who want in-depth discussion of a particular concept different ways of approaching it, including essays, analyses of stories in print and film, exercises, and examples.
• give readers who have a particular problem specific fix-it suggestions in each concept’s troubleshooting section.
That seems do-able to me. So I’m writing the drafts of the short intro pages for the first section on conflict, and I’m going to be posting them on a new blog called Writing/Romance on the first Mondays in September and October so that anybody who’s feeling helpful (that would be you guys) can beta-read them for me. I’m doing it on a different blog because this place is such a grab-bag of stuff that it’s hard to see organization here. Also, I was going to put ads on that site, but god knows what could show up there, so I’m thinking no. And then if these first two months of very short posts turn out to be valuable for both you and me, there will be sections on Structure (Nov-Jan), Character (Feb-Apr), and Unity (May-June). And if I’m really feeling gutsy, one on Publishing. And maybe while we’re spending those months talking about those things, I can get the units they introduce finished. If nothing else, I’ll get the intros finished. See? I have a PLAN.
Right now, there’s a short post over there that says pretty much what this one says much more briefly. The first conflict post goes up on Monday, Sept 7. If you want to kick the tires now, go to The Writing/Romance Project. And as always, I thank you for your support.
August 31, 2015
So the blog and website are stable again. Not in their final form, but at this point, stability is a HUGE step forward. I like the simple interface for now, it’s a big improvement for tablets and phones, and the whole mess has been a wake-up call for both the blog and website. So here’s what’s changed:
The Jenny Crusie Website: I’m still cleaning up the place, and I haven’t gotten to the Books tab or redone the Bio yet, but I sorted all of the other miscellaneous stuff into two tabs, “For Readers” and “For Writers.” “For Readers” has collages, food from the books, soundtracks, etc, a lot of the same stuff that was there before, some of which still needs revamped. “For Writers” now has four new subsets: “Essays,” which was there before, “Workshop PDFs” and “Argh Ink Writing Posts,” both of which are in progress and will be for some time (that’s a lot of stuff), especially since I have to wait until Mollie gets things re-ordered on the back end to put in the links so that when we shift to the permanent new domain, I don’t lose the thousand links I set up. So the website will be a lot more valuable to writers in the future.
Argh Ink: And then there’s here. Once I clear out the archives and make sure they’re all categorized and formatted (and deleted if they weren’t all that valuable to begin with), I’ll have a better idea of how to shape this blog in the future. The categories will change again, and I’ll do better with the tags, but mostly it’s just re-organizing and house-cleaning here. If you have any requests for the blog, now would be a good time to make them before I wander off to do something else. Like, oh, write a book.
The Writing/Romance Project: Some of you may have noticed the fourth link on the “For Writers” tab on the website. That’s an experiment I need feedback on, so of course I’m turning to you. Back to you on that tomorrow.
So thank you very much for sticking with us through the upheaval. Like all turning points it was traumatic, but it’s turned us in a new direction and we’re happy about it. Nothing but good times ahead, Argh People.
August 29, 2015
Today is More Herbs, Less Salt Day.
One of my favorite greeting cards of all time had a seed packet on the front and said, “Do You Like Herbs?” Then you opened it up and there was a little naked guy with his arms wide open saying, “Herb likes yours!”
I haven’t been able to see a sentence with “Herb” in it since without thinking of that guy.
August 27, 2015
So you may have noticed that Argh looks a little different. We fumigated the pages and moved the entire blog and website and we’re still trying to sort things out. So there will be intermittent weirdness here until that gets done. We’re on it.
August 22, 2015
At some point, during some reboot, all the older posts on Argh lost their formatting. That means that anything that’s older than a year ago is a complete mess.
I have no idea what I’m going to do about that . . . there are 1,391 published posts on this blog so not going to be reformatting all of them . . . but I figured I’d give you a head’s up. The old stuff is now hard to read.
August 21, 2015
Today is Senior Citizen’s Day.
Since it’s our day, we have a request: Please stop calling us senior citizens.
(Our patron saint is Betty White.)
One thing that struck me about so many of the suggestions about what Cat could do to get the vagrants out of the crypt: a lot people wanted Cat to talk, that is, they wanted her to persuade people to do things. I think sometimes it’s a female thing; if we’re confronted by danger, we’re really smarter (most of the time) to try talking our way out. But from a story point of view, and I think sometimes from a real world point of view, action is better.