Archive for September, 2014


"Rebellion is justice." | A protest demanding the reinstatement of the mayor of Bogotá, 10 January 2014.

“Rebellion is justice.” | A protest demanding the reinstatement of the mayor of Bogotá, 10 January 2014.

I didn’t have a very coherent plan when I left for Colombia last year. We don’t tend to make very good decisions when we’re reacting to a bad situation, or at least I don’t.

You could write a whole book on what I didn’t know, but what I didn’t anticipate that I didn’t know going in was that a trip out of the country would be great for my creativity, and not just because of a sudden lack of responsibilities. It opened up new pathways in my head that hadn’t been active before. I think that for a lot of people, learning really does end in school, and that this is a result of our biology. As a species, we sort of don’t believe we need to be discovering and retaining new things as we age. At some point, we think we’ve got it all figured out, even though intellectually we must know that we haven’t.

Except for “grown-ups,” of course; they don’t intellectually suspect there is anything to know that they haven’t already deemed tiresome.

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On the agony of editing

I long for greener places. | Valle de Cocora, Colombia, January 2014.

I long for greener places. | Valle de Cocora, Colombia, January 2014.

I was going to write a much longer and more florid post, and in fact I did, but then OmmWriter Dana II fucking ate it after assuring me it had just saved it.

I am taking a sick day today to combat a malady and to avoid public transit when I can very well write press releases from home, and am unwilling to compromise any more time blogging when I could be working further on my current neck-albatross: The Autumn Sword, the next tale about my detective character set in a fantasy, Victorian-coded world where magic and feudalism are jealously guarding against technology and democracy.

I let this story get away from me. It is now at novella length, and this post is merely me complaining about having to keep fucking editing it when I long ago lost any passion for doing so. This is the part of writing that is work, my children.

Picture above is for inspiration on this, the laziest of days.

In-between places (and a novel excerpt)

Orange Line elevated train stop at 35th & Archer, Chicago, 10 Sept. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

Orange Line elevated train stop at 35th & Archer, Chicago, 10 Sept. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

That’s my view on the way to the Orange Line each morning. I’m not 100% on being here in Chicago, but I do know that it is affording me some great opportunities that I did not have. Writers trade on experiences. One of the reasons I got into journalism originally was that I wanted to draw a paycheck for writing (heh), but another was that I knew it would give me broad license to go places and meet people that others do not.

As a reporter I met governors and senators and the ragged and unwashed people so many of their policies fail to help. You might recall people sneering about Barack Obama having been a “community organizer” ; I actually met community organizers, still have some on speed-dial, and I see the kind of work they do. I’m less intensive a reporter now, since my freelance is limited to document-driven pieces in the interest of avoiding any conflict of interest in my current public sector job, but I do still find myself feeling the outsider-looking-in feeling that I’m pretty sure every writer feels.

In that regard, one thing about my time living in the various places I have – suburbia, ag-industrial-rural nowhere, urban South America, City of Big Shoulders, &c. – has been my fascination with in-between places. In places like that, we all feel like outsiders.
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The ideal writing space

There isn’t much secret to writing beyond just doing it, but that doesn’t mean people can’t still get hung up on the little things. One of the problems I seem perennially to have is not having an ideal setup; that is, not having everything just exactly the way I would absolutely love it to be for me to compose what it is I’m writing.

Part of the problem there is quite simply that I tend to write things that play around with format. As readers of the short story I currently have up and the novel excerpts I have posted will note, I like to play around with footnotes in particular, something I have messed with on recent projects. The friends who have read those works have railed against those formatting things and claimed that they distract or that people won’t read them, which may or may not be true. (I am of the opinion that if they don’t, they won’t get the full story, and will fail any quizzes on the work, so.)

It stands to reason, then, that I need a program that will allow me to insert footnotes, but I need other things, too:

  • A program that includes an automatic first-line indent.
  • A program that will spell-check in a way that doesn’t slow everything down.
  • Something that allows the file to be portable – the ability to transfer off the machine I am writing to the web, where I can have my friend-editors look at it.
  • Optional but appreciated: Browser-based so I can just log into it anywhere and access my stuff cloudishly.
  • Something that doesn’t slow down to a latency-induced crawl when the size of the work approaches 10,000 words or greater.
  • Does not become a brick the second your internet connection is interrupted

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On the Ecstasy of Editing

One of my friends asked me to write a little bit about the editing process. Since it’s the hardest part of writing, you’d think I have some deep philosophy about it, but you are about to find that no, I don’t.

But I’ll talk about what I know about it all the same.
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