Month: January 2014

Pronounced Excitement

a question since 1987

a question since 1987

How do you pronounce “gif” (or “GIF” as it was originally)?

We had a discussion at the day job about this recently with the usual appeals to authority (the authors of the standard wanted it to be pronounced “jif”) and orthography (if the authors had wanted it said that way, they should have spelled it with a ‘j’), but the argument highlighted several interesting points:

  1. once you release something into the world, you have to let people experience it on their own terms
  2. pronunciation is a social construct which only matters if you’re not understood
  3. they really should have spelled gif with a ‘j’

Let It Go

We make things – we all do. We put things out into the world, and want others to experience them, to enjoy what we’ve made.

It’s unreasonable to control how someone enjoys your work.

If someone approaches your work because of the vampires then stays because of the amazing protagonist, slagging off vampires as a medium may alienate some of your readership.

Where “Saab” Rhymes With “Sob”

Different people pronounce the same words differently, and different words the same.

I grew up in Britain. There are a plethora of different accents in Britain, where vowels turn upside down in the space of a few miles it seems* but I was unprepared for a few elements of West Coast American speech when I moved here:

  • ‘a’ sometimes sounds like ‘o’ – in British English, the ‘aa’ sound is like that of the first vowel in “army” (excluding any rolling Rs because we’re not pirates**), but I heard a news story where the reader talked about “sob police cars” until I realised that he was saying the extended ‘a’ to rhyme with the ‘o’ in “hot”
  • ‘t’ sometimes sounds like ‘d’ – “I whittled some sticks” is a harmless occupation, but the soft ‘t’ which sounds exactly like ‘d’ to my ear makes it sound like you “widdled”, a rather more scatological meaning which I recommend a trip to the doctor for.

Neither of these are wrong, but they can be confusing to an unaccustomed ear.

For these reasons alone I would never write poetry***, but it can be dangerous to write based on assumptions about pronunciation in your audience.

It’s Pronounced ‘Throatwobbler Mangrove’

British English is replete with examples of unobvious pronunciations, such as the place names Leicester (pron. “lester”), Gloucester (pron. “gloster”), or Slaithwaite (pron. “sl-ow-it”****).

These (along with curious American names such as the Willamette in Oregon) are fair enough, because they are locally grown, organic place names which can be explained to the visitor as the opportunity presents itself.

Otherwise, coining a term which requires instructions to pronounce it is generally a mistake because you end up looking increasingly silly as your strenuous objections are ignored by large portions of the population you have reached.

Another example from computing is the data type “char”. Programmers are divided between those who say “ch-ar” (as in “a nice cup of”, or burnt around the edges) and those who say “car” (because the type is short for “character”). Both are justifiable and reasonable, and the argument only gets heated in code reviews because mostly you’re reading it to yourself.

But when your work goes out there and you hear someone pronouncing your MC’s name or their place of birth in an unfamiliar way? Don’t mock it – you have a reader who has made the work their own. Celebrate that.

[*] Henry Higgins’ claim to be able to place someone to the nearest street based on how they spoke was not all that fanciful.

[**] not all of us, anyway.

[***} the more pressing reason being that I am a rotten poet.

[****] this is where I wish I was better at the phonetic alphabet – Slaithwaite has an ‘ow’ in the middle, so I separated the “sl” and “ow” portions of the pronunciation to avoid it being read as “slow”.

Leave a Comment

Song Burred

the pretty one of the Portland freeway bridges

the pretty one of the Portland freeway bridges

I’ve just finished reading the first act of A Turquoise Song, second draft, which I was writing earlier in the year but abandoned when other things crowded it out.

When I was writing it, it felt awful – sluggish and uninteresting – but it doesn’t seem to actually like that at all: the pacing is pretty reasonable, and the showing rather than telling seems to be pretty well-balanced. Parts of it are even good, to my eyes.

Let that be a lesson in not making judgements from too close to the text.

The next thing, then, is to formulate a plan for finishing it.

There were two reasons to read this first act: to remind myself of what I had, and to figure out if what I had was worth continuing with. Since what I have actually seems to be OK, I think I will continue with the Song plan I had before – it’s got me this far!

This list takes out the completed items from the original plan, and rephrases some of the others as appropriate. It also adds a step for polishing.

  1. To complete the outline.
  2. To complete the second draft in line with the outline.
  3. Edit that second draft. Repeat (2) and (3) for subsequent drafts as necessary.
  4. Make submission materials – synopsis, pitch, hook, and all of that.

Next up will be reading the initial draft of Shapes, my 2013 NaNoWriMo project. We’ll see what that looks like in a week or two.

One Response

Planning to Run

a big race

a big race

2014 is a big year for my running.

My ultimate goal is to run the Hood To Coast relay in August, but I have a few way points:

  • lose some weight: depending on what you measure against, I am anywhere from twenty to forty pounds overweight. I’m reasonably fit despite that, but losing a stone or two* would help in all sorts of ways. Not least, my clothes would fit better.
  • figure out a team training plan. I volunteered to organize team training for the Hood to Coast. I’ve done some of this already, putting down markers to the other team members as to how the training I will be writing up should go, but I still need to finish that.
  • races. I am planning to run both the Shamrock Run 15K in March and the Helvetia Half Marathon in June. Both of these are hilly routes, which seems like appropriate preparatory race conditions for a mountainous relay run in August.
  • injuries. Or rather avoidance thereof – increase load on my body gradually so as to not increase the risk of injuries, and also use low impact exercise to manage the injuries I already carry.

The training regimen, then, will be in three parts:

  1. distance – I need to be running about ten miles prior to the Shamrock and at least twelve prior to the Helvetia. I have a particularly brutal twelve mile loop which I used prior to my last Helvetia and which was, frankly, much tougher than that half marathon: do that again!
  2. speed – there will be some distance component in here, but I am planning to start interval training after Shamrock. There are two goals: to run faster, and to run easier. That second one may seem odd, but running faster is more mechanically efficient and so tends to be less tiring.
  3. endurance/recovery – the trick here is to get used to running on tired legs and dealing with heat. This is the portion that will be after Helvetia, and will feature such rigours as running into work in the morning, then back home in the evening.

These parts naturally fall into three phases which match the goal races: distance leading up to Shamrock, then speed (with additional distance) between Shamrock and Helvetia, and finally the endurance component between Helvetia and Hood to Coast. I’m also planning on doing some cycling in there to bolster my cardio fitness and allow for some non-impact exercise. The structure of this plan is also drawn in part from the training I did for my one marathon entry in 2004.

For the most part, the training will fit into time I am already setting aside for my exercise regimen so I do not expect my writing to be especially impacted**. If anything, I am hoping that this will improve my energy levels.

Do you have any fitness goals for the year? How do they interact with your creative goals?

[*] Britons measure personal weight in stones, one stone being fourteen pounds.

[**] except, perhaps, for days when I run or ride into work since that will prevent me writing on the bus.

Leave a Comment

Planning to Write

Following up on goal #4 in my Janus post, I need to figure out a way to do more writing, by which I mean writing of fiction.

What things are stopping me from writing fiction?

  • blogging – I like doing this, but it occupies a lot of writing time.
  • roleplaying – specifically running roleplaying games. Again, this is something I enjoy but it soaks up huge amounts of writing time both in the prep and in writing up session notes.
  • social media – this is not as bad as it has been: curiously enough, adding Twitter to the mix has actually reduced my overall usage. Still, it does sometimes end up using time I should be employing for writing.
  • day job – I like my job and this is how I pay the bills, but the day job occupies the majority of my most creative time.

So what can I do? These are some ideas I could try.

  • blog differently – this blog has value (to me at least), but I may need to refocus it.
    • post less frequently – rejig the schedule to twice a week perhaps? Even once a week? A reduced schedule would probably be in addition to goals posts, rather than incorporating the goals posts into the normal schedule.
    • post more frequently – but with a hard word limit. Split larger ideas across many short posts.
    • change the content – I’ve been writing advice, goals and book notes, avoiding actual story. Maybe include some short fiction in the mix?
  • role-play differently
    • stop running games – I don’t like this option, although I’ve mentioned it before. Having said that, the other primary GM and I are basically tag-teaming on a 6-8 week turnaround which makes for a more manageable schedule. I hope this more episodic style of play is sustainable.
    • stop writing session notes – I delegated writing session notes for the last Dawn session on 01-Nov-2013 – I could hand out some kind of ephemeral but meaningful reward for the note takers.
  • social media
    • write first – get the work done before checking social media at all. This is a tough one to enforce just because I use the same computer for everything. Consider working in a notebook first thing?
    • focus on task – sometimes I am in the stream to do a particular thing. Make a note of the task, do it, and get out.
    • use as a reward – social media time is what I get when something else is done (although see the hierarchy of rewards below).
    • time-box it – related to focus on task, but sometimes I just need a break. Keep the break constrained in its length. Use a timer.
  • day job – when I am in the office, work always wins, but I might be able to engineer things differently.
    • use writing as break time.
    • swap creative time – do some writing during the day in exchange for some work time in the evening or morning.
    • go somewhere else to write – particularly relevant at lunchtime because if I write at my desk then I am effectively available.

That’s changing what I do, but I might also try to manage my time differently.

  • hierarchy of rewards – something that Howard Tayler mentioned on a recent Writing Excuses (Q&A w Mercedes Lackey) was a hierarchy of rewards: do the things you want to work on as a reward for getting the stuff you don’t especially want to do done.
    • example hierarchy
      • do work first – it pays the bills
      • do essential chores next – they’re essential for a reason
      • write
      • other fun time
    • two problems with this:
      • the definition of “essential chores” – maybe I just have low standards, but there always seem to be more chores to do than time available. Sometimes the principle of doing the long term work first is better.
      • not having that much control over my time – I have a good deal of flexibility at work, but I still need to be in the office which makes work win to a distressing degree.
  • time striping – something which worked well in the week running up to NaNo was the assignment of particular tasks to particular times of day. Try to apply this more generally.
  • read a book – this week’s Writing Excuses features Mette Ivie Harrison and her book 21 Reasons You Don’t Think You Have Time To Write. More ideas in there, for sure.

So, those are my thoughts. How do you stay focussed on your writing when there are so many other demands on your time?

2 Responses