February 5th, 2011

Egyptian hieroglyphics

In the beginning was the word

Next came the story. Someone strung a bunch of words together to relate what had happened. That was nonfiction. Then someone got the idea not to be limited to what had already happened but to relate a story that could happen. That was fiction. I don't consider early mythology to be speculative fiction because my definition of spec fic is, the author knows the story isn't real or even possible. I'll bet the folks who told the Gilgamesh story, for example, believed that monsters were real.

I consider myself primarily a story teller. I figure if I had been born in prehistoric times, I would have been the person who told stories to keep everyone else distracted as they sat around the fire hoping the sabertooth tigers weren't out hunting that night. If I had been born with any musical ability at all, I might have been a songwriter. If I had a better sense of rhythm and physical coordination, I might have been a dancer. If my visual arts skills had been stronger, I might have been a painter, and told stories in pictures.

There are lots of ways to tell stories, but I chose the written word. Or perhaps, considering the above lack of qualifications, the written word chose me. Telling a story in written form requires that you learn the craft of writing. When I was an art major in my undergraduate days, I learned the difference between art and craft. Art exists for itself, but craft has to be useful. A silversmith or a weaver can be an artist, but what he makes also needs to be usable. It has to hold together, do its job, and still look good.

So, I just finished reviewing a manuscript, and I liked my story. And on the whole, I was happy with the writing. I thought it did its job and didn't get in the way.

The tricky part is, like any craftsman, you have to know when to put down the tools and pronounce the thing DONE. The temptation is always there to say, if I sand a bit more here, and polish a bit more there, maybe add more trimming, then maybe it would be better.

Nope. This one is done.

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