Category Archives: BJ Hiorns Art

Fanmail Q&A: Revision

Pat,

I know from your comments on facebook and your postings on the blog that you’re busy revising. What’s more, that you’ve been doing it for months. What I’m wondering is what, exactly, you do when you’re revising that it takes you so long to do it? Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy mewling e-mails from people complaining about waiting for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. You see, I’m not a writer or anything. The most I’ve ever written is papers for classes, and those I pretty much write, spellcheck, print, and then hand them in.

Consequently, this whole revision process is a big mystery to me. I know writers do it. And I know some writers (like you) seem to spend a lot more time on it than others. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. Where he would write the first draft of his books longhand, then revise them as he typed them into the computer. Then he was pretty much done. I know your books are much more complex than his, and a buttload longer. But still, I’m curious. Is there anything you can do to explain to us non-writers out here what exactly happens in the revision process? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

When you ask about *the* revision process, James, I get nervous. Every writer has their own way of doing things. I can only talk about *my* revision process, because that’s the only one I know.

Still, you aren’t the first person to ask about this. So I decided to take some notes on what exactly I did over the course of a night’s revision.

Here’s what I wrote down: (And don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers below. I don’t go in for that sort of thing:)

1. Changed a curse to be more culturally appropriate for the person using it.

2. Looked at all instances of the word “bustle” in the book to see if I’m overusing the word.

3. Considered modifying the POV in a particular scene. Decided against it.

4. Added paragraph about the Mews.

5. Changed the name of a mythic figure in the world to something that sounds better.

6. Spent some time figuring out the particular mechanisms of sygaldry to prevent consistency problems.

7. Reconsidered changing POV in same scene as before. Decided to just tweak it a little instead.

8. Trimmed two excess paragraphs.

9. Looked at my use of the word “vague” to see if I’ve been using it too much.

10. Removed about 20 instances of the word “vague” from the book.

11. Spoke with beta reader on the phone, getting their general impression of the book. Asked questions about several issues/concerns I have about the book. Took some notes.

12. Added two paragraphs to a chapter in order to adjust reader’s expectations for the following chapter.

13. Tightened dialogue in two key scenes, making them move a little more quickly.

14. Went through a manuscript copy of the book returned by one of my beta-readers. Fixed the typos they noticed, read their comments, and made a few minor adjustments to fix areas of the book where they were slightly confused.

15. Expanded scene to improve pacing and dramatic tension.

16. Considered moving a chapter to earlier in the book.

17. Moved chapter.

18. Read section of the book with new chapter order.

19. Moved chapter back to where it was before.

20. Re read several new-ish scenes to check their clarity and make sure they’re properly integrated into the book. Made small adjustments to smooth things out.

21. Invented several new religious terms.

22. Added paragraph to clarify character motivation.

23. Developed several new elements of the Commonwealth legal system.

24. Resisted the urge to add a 4000 word chapter so WMF would be longer than Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings.

25. Changed chapter ending to add slight foreshadowing.

26. Read the book for about two hours, making many small changes to tighten, clarify, and generally improve the language used.

That’s how I spent my Friday night, James. Altogether it took me about 11 hours. (10:30 PM to 9:30 AM the following morning.)

Some of these pieces of revision take more time than others. Something like #8 is relatively quick and easy once I’ve decided to do it. But something like 6  or 16-19 might take me an hour, and result in nothing at all in the book being different when I’m finished.

While most of these are in no particular order, the last one, # 26, is how I normally finish out my night, re-reading the book on the computer and tweaking the language it in a thousand small ways. When I do this, I also try to trim some of my excess wordage a bit. My first drafts are fairly verbose, and stories are better when the language is lean.

I know that sounds strange coming from someone whose novel is almost 400,000 words long, but brevity is something I really strive for. Everything in the book is there for a purpose. Every scene has to pay for itself. Every piece of description really needs to be worth reading.

During the two hours I tweaked the book, I trimmed out about 300 words, removing little bits of sentences and superfluous bits of description. I’d say over the last year, I’ve removed over 100,000 words from the book. Some of that was whole scenes and chapters, some of it just little bits and pieces.

I realize a lot of this is kinda vague. I apologize for that, but I don’t want to spoil any of book two by saying things like, “Added two sentences so it would be more of a surprise when Bast and Chronicler kiss.”

But since you asked me to “show you how it’s done,” I will. Since you admitted your letter that you only tend to write a first draft, I hope you won’t be offended if I revise your letter.

(Editor’s note: I felt weird doing this, so I e-mailed James to ask for permission. He said it was cool.)

Here’s how your letter looks after I gave it the same treatment that I give the book. I read through it twice, fiddled, tweaked, and tightened up the language.

Pat,

I know from facebook and your blog that you’re in the midst of revisions. I’m curious. What do you do when you revise, and why does it take so long?

Please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another bitchy, mewling e-mail complaining about the wait for WMF. I’m genuinely curious. The only things I’ve ever written are papers for school. I just write, spellcheck, print, and hand them in.

Consequently, the revision process is a big mystery to me. Back when I was a kid, I read about Piers Anthony’s revision process in his author’s notes. He writes the first draft of his books longhand, then revises them while typing them into the computer.

I’m guessing your process is more involved than that. Your books are more complex than his, and a buttload longer. Is there anything you can do to explain the revision process to us non-writers? Can you show us how it’s done?

A big fan,

James

First off, James, I don’t mean to imply that your letter was in desperate need of revising. There’s a reason I answered yours and not someone else’s. Your e-mail was delightfully polite. It had punctuation and capital letters. It even looks like you spellchecked it. It was a lovely letter.

I just did this to show you what exactly I’m talking about when I say I tweak things around. I like shorter sentences and paragraphs because they’re bite-sized and easier for the reader to digest. Also, now each paragraph centers around a separate idea. That makes it easier for the reader to follow your points.

Also, my revised version is about 30% shorter. I clipped out a few phrases and some repetition. I removed prepositions when I could and combined some sentences. It says pretty much the same thing, but it’s about 160 words long instead of 225.

That’s what I’ve been doing all these months. Except instead of doing it once to a tiny letter, I’m doing it a billion times to a huge, bugfuckeringly complex metafictional narrative.

Hope this clears things up a bit,

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, Revision, the craft of writing | By Pat123 Responses

Ultimate Chalupa

So I’m driving by Taco Bell the other day, and the sign outside says, “Ultimate Chalupa.”

Naturally, I’m intrigued. Not just any old chalupa, not even a Really Good Chalupa. They’re selling the Ultimate Chalupa. The end-all be-all of chalupas. How can I pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

So I lane-change across three lanes of traffic and hurry inside. “Do you still have the Ultimate Chalupa?” I ask.

The guy behind the counter gives me a blank look and nods.

I’m so relieved. “Thank god. I’ll take it.”

So I pay my two bucks and change, and step to the side, waiting to them to complete whatever terrifying alchemy is required to produce the Ultimate Chalupa. It takes almost two minutes, so I’m guessing something pretty complex is going on back there.

And all the while I’m thinking: Wow. Ultimate Chalupa. This thing is going to be awesome. It’s going to be the Chalupa equivalent of Optimus Prime.

But just as they’re finishing, someone else steps up to the register behind me. She orders the Ultimate Chalupa too. I felt a little guilty, but also a little smug as I wait for the guy behind the register to explain to her that they’d already sold it.

But get this. He nods and rings up her order! I look over at him, pissed, and say, “What the hell are you doing?”

He gives me a blank look. I think this guy specializes in blank looks.  “What?”

“I already bought the Ultimate Chalupa,” I said. “It’s mine. You can’t sell it to her.”

Another blank look. He buys them in bulk at Costco. He got his associate’s degree in blank look at the local tech. “There’s your Chalupa.” He points at a tray being slid across the counter toward me.

“That’s not the Ultimate Chalupa!” I said, pointing at the woman. “Now she’s got the Ultimate Chalupa!” I slam my hand down on the tray. “This is just the Penultimate Chalupa! That’s not what I ordered! I didn’t pay $2.79 for some fucking Penultimate piece-of-shit Chalupa!”

The conversation spiraled out of control from there. The woman left in tears, and the guy behind the counter eventually used up his vasty store of blank looks, and was forced to use other looks that he wasn’t nearly as skilled with, like confused, irritated, and exasperated. He even had one that might have been flummoxed, but I’m not sure. He wasn’t very good at it, and I don’t think he really knew it was for.

Eventually I produced a Webster’s dictionary and proof that I did, in fact, have a Masters degree in English. This left them with no choice but to throw my ass out of Taco Bell yet again.

I stood in the parking lot and cursed them for a while. Then I climbed up on the sign and found out that someone had left the box of letters there. So I changed the sign to read, “Rather Good but by no means Ultimate Chalupa.”

Unfortunately, that used most of the letters, so my options were limited for the other side of the sign. All I could spell with what was left was, “Taco Bell – Everybody Masturbates on Us.”

Then I left. All in all, I’m counting the experience as a moral victory.

pat

Editor’s note: I actually wrote this back when I was doing the College Survival Guide, but I figured I’d post it up here so people could get a cheap chuckle out of it while I’m busy with revisions.

Also posted in College Survival Guide, small adventures | By Pat77 Responses

My Fictional Nature

It’s strange to me, knowing that if I write a blog, thousands of people will read it. Thousands and thousands. A ridiculous number of people, really.

It was less strange when I wrote the College Survival Guide for the campus paper. With the column, I knew what my job was. I wanted to make people laugh, and maybe, occasionally, slip a bit of reasonable advice to my unsuspecting readership.

Pure advice is unpalatable. It’s preachy. But if you make people laugh a little, they may not notice you’ve slipped them a little bit of truth. And even if they do notice, they’re more likely to forgive you for it.

I was a tiny bit of a local celebrity when I wrote that column for the campus paper. A few hundred people read it every week. On rare occasion people would recognize me as that-guy-who-writes-that-column. Once, the guy delivering a pizza to my house looked at my name on the credit card receipt and said, “Are you THE Pat?”

I laughed. “I didn’t know I’d become superlative,” I said.

I haven’t done the column for a couple years. These days I channel my humor writing into the blog instead. But there’s a difference. Back then I was a little bit famous because people read my column. Now people read my blog because I’m a little bit famous.

There’s more to it than that, of course. People read the blog because it’s amusing, or because they’re interested in news about upcoming projects and appearances. They tune in because they’re curious about book two, or because they’re looking for writing advice.

But mostly, people read the blog because they read my book and were curious about the author.

So I tell stories and post pictures. I screed and opine. I post up little pieces of my life. Then y’all take those pieces, fit them together, and you form an impression of me in your heads.

This is the interesting thing. It’s something I think about a lot. That person you create in your head out of these bits and pieces. That Pat Rothfuss you get to know from the blog, he’s fictional.

(It’s true that you could say the same thing of anyone. You could say that you don’t really *know* any of your friends or family, you just have flawed impressions of them based on your limited perceptions and experience.

This might be true in some small theoretical way, but in a bigger more practical way it’s pure bullshit. You know your friends. Let’s not become hopelessly meta here. If you follow that line of reasoning too far you end up in the pointless philosophical morass of relativistic solipsism.)

Anyway, my point is this: I think about this fictional Pat Rothfuss sometimes. I wonder what he’s like.

I expect in some ways, fictional Pat is pretty much like me. I’m honest to the point of blinding stupidity, and I talk about things here on the blog that any sensible person would keep quiet about. Anyone who’s ever seen me speak in public can attest to the fact that I can’t help but express myself freely and clearly, even if it’s not entirely appropriate.

Still, I can’t deny that I present an edited version of my life on here. The blog lies by omission. I talk about my signings and answer fanmail. I post a cute picture of my baby and talk about the new foreign edition of my book. I link to an interview and do a fundraiser for my favorite charity.

Given all of that, fictional Pat seems to have a pretty swank life. He seems really nice. He seems kinda cool.

And that makes me feel dishonest, because it’s not really true. You’re putting together the fictional me without the grubby bits. The truth is, I am at times a contemptible human being. The truth is, I have deplorable habits.

For example, when I go on Facebook, I post status updates talking about Dr. Horrible. Or I joke about the dream where I ended up in bed with Willow and Spike. I don’t mention what happened the other day with Oot.

You see, right now Oot loves my beard. In terms of desirability, beard ranks #3 in all creation. Boobs hold the top spot, of course, and the telephone is currently a strong #2. But other than that, he loves nothing more than to clutch at my beard.

I think gripping it appeals to some primal, monkey part of him. He gets his sticky little hands tangled up in the beard, and some piece of his primal baby brain thinks: “Good. I’m safe. If we’re attacked by a predator and forced to run to safety, I won’t be left behind.”

The problem is this: if you don’t have a long beard, you have no idea how painful it is to have it pulled. He could swing from my hair from all I care. He’s even managed to kick me square in the junk several times in an ongoing  campaign of sibling prevention. Those pains are nothing by compairison. Having your beard pulled hurts as much as when you’re walking around barefoot in the middle of the night and you stub your little toe really hard against a table-leg.

Usually I’m able to head him off when he grabs for it, but his motor skills have really been developing lately. So the other day, before I know it, he has both drooly little hands in it up to his forearms, then he yanks on it for everything he’s worth.

“Ahhh!” I shout. “Stop it you little fucker!”

Oot doesn’t seem to mind in the least. For all he knows I’ve just called him by one of his other countless names, (Thunderbutt, Prancibald, The Dampener…) He just laughs and tugs the beard some more, happy to be safe from prowling lions and packs of hyenas.

Still, it’s a shitty thing to say to your baby, and I feel bad about it.

The point is this: I suspect that fictional Pat would never refer to his adorable baby as, “you little fucker.” I suspect he’s better than that. I expect he’s a nicer person than I am.

Part of me thinks, even as I write this, “Of course you don’t talk about those things on the blog. Why *would* you? That’s not why people read the blog. You’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward….”

But then I think about that fictional Pat again, and I feel dishonest. There’s a difference between putting your best foot forward and subtly misrepresenting yourself.

The thing is, professionally, I should be careful here on the blog. If I was going to be smart about this, I’d never talk about sex or politics or religion, never make any jokes that could offend anyone, never tell you a story that makes me looks like the idiot I sometimes am. The smart thing for me to do is carefully groom and maintain this fictional Pat and use him as a promotional tool.

But the truth is, the thought of maintaining that sort of professional persona makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Given the choice, I think I’d rather be too honest and have you like me a little less. I’d much prefer to look like a bit of an ass, because… well… I am a bit of an ass.

So tomorrow I think I’ll post up a story of one of the countless times I’ve made an fool of myself in public. Maybe I’ll tell a few of those stories. I don’t know if they’ll help round out the fictional Pat some of you have come to know, but I expect it will make me feel a little bit less like a poser.

Barring that, it should be good for a laugh or two.

See y’all tomorrow….

Pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, blogging, College Survival Guide, emo bullshit, ethical conundra, my beard, Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat113 Responses

Concerning Circumcision

Any of you who have been to my book signings know I tend to move back and forth between reading my stuff and doing Q&A.

I do this partly to break up the potential monotony of an hour of straight reading, and partly because I really like to answer questions. Any sort of question, really. That’s part of the reason I became a teacher, I think. And it probably factored into my decision to keep writing my College Survival Guide for about 10 years.

I even, believe it or not, wrote a sex advice column for a while. Under an assumed name.

When I do Q&A at a reading, there are some things that get asked a lot. Things like, “Where do you get your ideas?” or “Do you base your characters on real people?”

Then there are the questions that don’t get asked very often. Like, “Do you like cats?” or “How do you feel about circumcision?”

This last question got asked when I was down in Lexington. Strangely, wasn’t the first time I’d been asked. I actually wrote an column on it back when I was doing the Survival Guide. As luck would have it, I had a copy of that column with me. So I read it.

After the reading when I was signing books, someone said, “You should post that one up on line.”

“I probably should,” I said.

So here it is…

***

Dear Pat,

I’m in a weird situation. Normally I pride myself in minding my own business. I keep my nose out of my friends affairs (literally) and generally keep my opinions to myself.

But recently I ended up doing some research into circumcision. Not female circumcision, which everyone in their right mind generally admits it barbaric and creepy, but good old fashioned guy circumcision. The type that’s done to almost all newborn boys here in the good old U S of A.

I found out not only is it totally unnecessary, but it’s generally bad for the little kids. Despite the fact that it’s the standard thing here in the US, where almost 90% of guys are circumcised.

My problem is, I have a friend who is about to give birth. Maybe to a little boy. Now that I know all the horrible things that can result from Circumcision, I feel like I should try to tell her about it so she won’t do it.

But isn’t this kinda sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong? I can’t think of a good way to approach her. I mean, I don’t have a penis myself, so I can’t really speak from experience. I have been with guys both cut and uncut, and I was surprised to find out how much I liked the unedited penis. But again, I doubt that’s the right way to approach things with my friend.

How can I mention this to her without offending her for getting in her business?

Student Not Into Penis Slicing.

Your College Survival Guide, the place to go when you really need to learn the finer points of dick discussion etiquette. I’m like Miss Manners with tourettes.

Alright, SNIPS, I’m going to glide right by a few too-obvious jokes about your nose, and get right to the business of answering your question. Back when I was younger I would have taken this as a golden opportunity to make a lot of wang jokes.

But I’ve matured since then. So, instead, I’m going to slide as many innuendo-laden puns into the column as humanly possible. Also, just to make it a challenge, I’m going to use a new euphemism for the male member each time I refer to it.

First I feel like I need to correct one of the statements you made in your letter. Uncircumcised fellas are more common than you make them out to be. Back in the 1960’s about 90 percent of baby boys got the chop, but the circumcision rate these days is closer to 60%, as more and more people get clued in to the situation by helpful folks like you and me.

Secondly, the proper slang term for an gent’s uncircumcised dangle-bob isn’t “unedited,” it’s “director’s cut.” Occasionally it’s even a “special edition director’s cut,” but that’s very rare.

Hmmm. You’re right though. This is a touchy subject. But there’s a big difference between being pushy, and just giving your friend some valuable information. Still, it should be handled delicately. Here are some opening lines you might want to avoid:

“Jenny, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about your baby’s penis.”

“Have you ever thought that hacking a chunk off the end of your newborn’s wing-wang might not be the best way to welcome him into the world?”

“Y’know, if I was going to have sex with your son, I’d prefer him to be uncircumcised.”

The more I think about it, maybe you don’t want to try to get a rise out of her. Instead maybe you could just try to bring it up casually instead.

Maybe quoting a few facts would be the way to go. Don’t be accusatory, just point out why, exactly, chopping someone’s fireman off isn’t cool. Point out that since the foreskin actually has about a third of the penis’ nerve endings on it, cutting it off it pretty much the same as a partial clitorectomy. In plainer terms, it’s like cutting off a good chunk of a little girl’s clit. As you said in your letter: barbaric and creepy.

Think of it guys. You know how you think your Johnson is pretty awesome now? Imagine if it was 33% more awesome. Yeah. I know. It boggles the mind. I expect some manner of radiant light would constantly be emanating from my pants. Most of us would never leave the house. The fact that a piece of my winkie was torn off without my approval leaves me feeling a little bent out of shape. Figuratively speaking.

You could also direct your friend to a good website or two, so she can gather her own facts. www.notjustskin.org has a remarkably well-researched and easy to read FAQ on the subject. Including some information about how the surgery might be seriously traumatic for the newborns involved.

In closing, for all my fellow fellows out there, if your parents gave your special purpose the snip, don’t hold it against them. Because, y’know, that would be pretty weird.

***

It’s interesting to note that I wrote this a couple years before I became a dad. It was nice, actually, having done this research ahead of time. Because I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to circumcise the baby if it was a boy.

But even if I hadn’t done the research, I probably would have been convinced when I saw The Circumstraint:

That’s really what it’s called. It’s the plastic thing they strap your baby down onto so he doesn’t struggle around too much while they’re trying to cut off a piece of his dick. The nurses thought I was kinda weird for wanting to take a picture of it.

While part of me, the scientific part, can acknowledge the fact that something like this helps keep the baby safe during the procedure. The rest of me is filled with a mute horror at the thought of someone tying my baby down onto this thing so they can cut him. Not because he *needs* it. Just, y’know, because. Tradition. And stuff.

A lot of times when people meet Oot, they say things like, “He’s such a happy baby.” Or “He’s so friendly and trusting.”

Sometimes I want to reply, “Well, we got things off on the right foot by not cutting off a piece of his dick.”

Can you imagine what sort of an introduction that must be to the world? There’s a big, long squeeze, then suddenly everything is really bright and cold. Maybe you get a bit of a cuddle and a taste of breast. Then you’re strapped down and someone cuts off a piece off one of the most sensitive areas of your body. Welcome to being alive, little guy.

[Edit – There has been too much ass-hattery in the comments. So I’m turning them off because I don’t want to deal with it.]

That’s all for now, folks.

pat

Also posted in College Survival Guide, my oracular impulse, Oot | By PatComments closed

The Perils of Fan Fiction – Part I

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fanfic.

This is new to me. Up until this this point in my life, I’ve spent more time thinking about how turtles have sex than about fan fiction.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against fan fiction. It’s just….

It’s like this. Let’s say you came up to me and said, “So, what do you think about Dnipropetrovsk?”

I would look at you blankly.

Then you would say, “Dnipropetrovsk? Major Ukrainian industrial center?”

To which I would shake my head dumbly.

Dismayed, you would continue, “Come on! It’s the third largest city in the Ukraine! More than a million people live there! How can you not know about Dnipropetrovsk?”

At this point in the conversation, I would probably explain that I’m sure that Dnipropetrovsk plays a vital role in a lot of peoples’ lives. I’d admit that I’m not surprised that folks have strong feelings about how it used to be a major military asset for the USSR. I’m sure that a lot of people live, breathe, and spend a big chunk of their waking time thinking about Dnipropetrovsk.

But I’m just not one of those people. I’ve never known anyone from there. Never visited. Never seen a movie set in the city. For all these reasons, Dnipropetrovsk has been off my radar for my entire life.

It’s the same thing with fan fiction.

Admittedly, in these last several years, I’ve become aware of fan fiction through a slow osmosis. At any given convention there are going to be panels on the subject. You’ll hear conversations in the hall. Occasional jokes.

Even so, fan fiction has only been dimly present on the edge of my perception.

The one notable exception is that I’ve known, sooner or later, that someone was going to do fan fiction about my stuff. Using my characters. Set in my world.

Truth is, I’ve looked forward to it. When people start writing fan fiction about your stuff, it shows that your writing has attained a level of popularity. It’s like fanart, in my opinion. No matter how you feel about the art itself, the fact that someone went out of their way to do it is really flattering.

That’s the most I ever thought about it. The thought of folks writing a Potter vs. Kvothe cage match never really bugged me.

How other writers feel on the subject has never concerned me very much. I know emotions tend to run hot on the subject. Some people love fan fiction. Some people hate it. Some people view it as legally actionable, others see it as a crime against god and nature.

The first people I met who were firmly on one end of the spectrum are the awesome folks who won the photo contest that I ran a while back. The first time I ever met them out at Gencon, they expressed a firm distaste for fanfic. They even made up this picture for me.

When I went down to Indianapolis a year ago, I they dressed up for a reading I did at their local library. And, as a joke, I had Kvothe and Bast pose for kiss because we were talking about the bit of Yaoi that got written.

You can see from the expression on Kvothe’s face that she doesn’t condone this sort of behavior.

It didn’t really strike me as odd that people who engaged in cosplay would look down on people who wrote fan fiction. There is a viscous of territorialism in geek society, as shown by this flow chart that Brunching Shuttlecocks put together years ago:

(Click to Embiggen.)

It reminds me of a quote that used to get tossed around when I was in grad school. “Why is the competition on academia so fierce? Because the stakes are so low.”

I think some similar psychological force is at play in geekdom.

Hold on…. I just realized something. Our award-winning cosplayers, by putting together a series of images that tell a story have created a narrative. A narrative that features characters someone else created.

Does that make their entry to the photo contest fan fiction? Are they all closet fanficers?

Whoo boy. I’m glad I’m not there to hear the great wailing and gnashing of teeth right now. I’m guessing those are fighting words….

Anyway, I always figured how people felt about fanfic was a personal issue. It’s like Jefferson said: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

That’s been my philosophy. You love fanfic? Fine. You hate it? Also fine. It really doesn’t effect my life in the least.

But then I accidentally wrote a piece of fan fiction, and everything changed….

(Stay tuned for part two, space cowboys.)

pat

Also posted in Catgirl, cosplay, delicious fanarts, fanfic | By Pat84 Responses

From the Archives: V-Day

I’ve had several people e-mail me in this last week asking for Valentine’s Day advice.

Unfortunately, I’m at the end of a long stretch of revisions right now, and it would break my stride to write an appropriately frothy, bile-filled screed about this most abhorrent of qua-holidays.

Then I realized I didn’t need to write a new screed. I probably had an old one on file from when I wrote a weekly advice column for the college paper.

So I dug around in my files a bit and found one. Actually, I found several, but here’s the one I liked the best.

Share and Enjoy:

*****

Dear Pat,

What are your feelings towards Valentine’s Day? Personally, I believe it is just another Hallmark holiday in which consumerism reaches its ugly hand in the picture, forcing couples to exchange gifts and singles to feel like crap.

By the way, what are you getting your girlfriend/sister? Teehee.

Jessie

For those of you who missed last week’s column, the last line of Jessie’s letter is a reference to a joke I made. Just so nobody is confused let me re-state again, for the record, that I am NOT dating my sister.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my sister, mind you. She’s great: smart, funny, and hot. It’s just that we’re really good friends, and I worry that getting into a relationship might jeopardize that.

*ahem* Okay. Moving on.

Honestly Jessie, I’d all but forgotten that Valentine’s Day is coming up. You see, I don’t pay much attention to crap like that. And that’s what VD is: a big, steamy pile of crap in a shiny heart-shaped box.

You were right in your letter. As a holiday, it’s made-up bullshit. But Hallmark didn’t start it, Chaucer did. He wrote “The Parliament of Fowles” back in the late 1300’s. I tell you, there’s only one time in history that more crap has been spawned from bad poetry, and that’s the musical Cats.

Now I don’t want to get a bunch of huffy letters with people telling me VD all started with St. Valentine, the priest who was imprisoned and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. If it were true, February 14th would be Go-Fuck-A-Priest day. A holiday, I might add, that I would wholeheartedly endorse.

But no, what we have is Valentine’s Day. The day designed to convince you that if you don’t spend money on someone, right now then you’re not really in love. Prove your eternal devotion through a four-dollar greeting card sporting some freakishly deformed bug-eyed puppy on the front. Go ahead and give someone the severed sexual organs of a plant. Diamonds are forever. Every Kiss begins with Kay.

(You can tell it’s an older column, because Brett’s illustration
is in B&W and optimized for newspaper printing.)

Now I’m not just saying this because I don’t have a girlfriend and I’m frothing at the mouth with bitter loneliness and rage. Contrary to what you might think, I do have a girlfriend.

I know, it seems to go against all the laws of god and nature. But not only do I have a girlfriend, not only have we been in a happy, healthy relationship for almost six years, but Sarah is sweet, kind, smart, funny, and almost unfathomably hot.

I know, it boggles the mind.

There are many theories among my family and friends as to why someone like her would take time to smile in my direction, let alone date me for six years.

Some of my more religious-minded friends used to believe that she was working off a hefty karmic debt from a previous life. But this theory lost credibility when one of my calculus-savvy Buddhist friends did the math for me, showing how much bad karma Sarah was actually burning off by dealing with me on a daily basis.

What it boils down to is this, if Sarah had, say, beaten a nun to death with a bag of kittens in a previous life, she could have worked that off in about three weeks of putting up with my endless bullshit. In fact, after six years of living with me she’s built up so much good karma that she’ll most likely reincarnate as a transcendent being composed entirely of white light and multiple orgasms.

Other theories held by my friends and parents include: blackmail, Truman-Show style conspiracy, and the suspicion that she is performing a prolonged psychological experiment.

What does Sarah herself say? I’ll go ask….

In response to the question, “Why the hell do you love me, anyway?” Sarah responded thusly:

Some part of my soul recognizes part of your soul as being really awesome. And sometimes you take out the trash.” Sarah then made several sexually explicit comments that cannot be reprinted here. Suffice to say that apparently I possess certain skills that shall remain nameless.

Lastly, she gazed rapturously at me and said that I was “gorgeous.

All this seems to confirm my personal theory, that she has some kind of brain tumor that makes her love me. Really, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

The only other explanation is that I treat her with kindness and respect. Or because when I give her a gift she knows it comes from a sincere upwelling of emotion, not because it’s National Buy-A-Gift Day (TM). Maybe it’s due to the fact that I make a habit of not taking her for granted, and I tell her I appreciate her, rather than buying a card that says it for me once a year.

Yeah. I know. Too crazy. I’m sticking with the tumor theory myself.

*****

That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. I hope each of you end up enjoying V-day in your own special way. If that means drinking a pint of rye whiskey and cursing the unfeeling sky, more power to you.

pat

Also posted in College Survival Guide, Fanmail Q + A, Sarah | By Pat61 Responses

Fanmail Q & A: Advice For New Writers

Pat,

I know you’re busy, so I won’t take up much of your time. I want to be a writer (Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to read anything of mine.)

I was just wondering if you have any advice for new writers. Just one piece would be really helpful…

Love the book,

Becky

Heya Becky,

Over the last few years, I’ve heard this question a lot. It comes up in e-mails and interviews with clockwork regularity.

Despite that, it’s a question I never mind answering. I like giving advice, and I like talking about writing. So this one’s a twofer for me.

That said, my answer tends to change. If I’m reading something that irritates me, my advice might center around how to avoid that particular irritation. Sometimes it just depends on my mood, or what I’m working on in my own revisions.

But I’ve also noticed a slow change in how I think of this question as time goes on. Sometimes my answer centers around the nuts and bolts of the craft: revision, or character, or how to comport yourself professionally at a convention.

But more and more, I tend to answer this question in more practical terms. While these snippets of advice tends to be much more universal and useful that talking about managing POV, interviewers seem to be put off by it.

I’ve come to realize that when an interviewer asks me, “Can you give one piece of advice for new writers?” what they’re really looking for is something pithy and encouraging. They want me to say “Reach for the Stars!” or “Never give up!”

But that’s not really good advice. I mean, you could really hurt your shoulder reaching for the stars. Good advice is occasionally disheartening. “Come to grips with the inevitability of rejection.” Or “Don’t quit your day job.”

Once, I had a lovely 30 minute phone interview that ended roughly like this:

Thanks for the interview, Pat.

My pleasure.

In closing, if you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

Live somewhere cheap.

I beg your pardon?

Odds are, it’s going to take you a long time to finish your novel. Then it’s going to take you a long time to break into the publishing world. That means you’re effectively going to be working at a job that will pay you nothing, and you’re going to be doing it for years. So you should live somewhere cheap.

I was thinking something more along the lines of worldbuilding….

If you live somewhere like Seattle or Manhattan or LA, you’re going to have to shell out thousands of dollars just in rent. If you have to work three jobs just to pay your rent, when are you going to find the time to write?

Do you know how I managed to keep working on my first novel for 14 years without starving to death?

Student loans? Some sort of trust fund?

Shit no. I learned how to live cheap. Up until 2005, I never paid more than $225 a month for rent.

Wh– how?

I’m a good bargainer. And I had roommates. And small-town Wisconsin is a cheap place to live.

Also, I lived in some real shitholes from time to time. But you know what? You can write in a shithole. You can’t write when you’re working 70 hours a week.

[chuckles nervously] Well, I think that’s about all the time we have….

Hell, I was so poor for a while I qualified for low-income housing back in 2004. Those places were pretty nice, actually.

Remember to turn in next week, folks. Thanks again, Pat.

Did you know that if you boil a paper shopping bag long enough, it makes something that’s almost like soup?

[Cut to static]

Okay, I made up the part about paper bags, but the rest of it is true.

The nice thing about being a writer is that you can do it pretty much anywhere. If you want to be a Hollywood actor, you have to live in LA. If you want to be a professional pianist or a ballet dancer, your options are pretty limited. But if you want to write, you can live whereverthehell you want.


For example, back in 1994 I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom down the hallway. The rent was $135 a month, everything included. My friends called the place: “The Pit.”

I was really poor back then. I was working three little part-time jobs and paying my own tuition. I didn’t even have a telephone because the 30 bucks every month for basic service was money I could really use for other things. Like food. You can eat for a month on 30 bucks if you’re careful.

Was the place a shithole? Absolutely. Was it inconvenient not having a phone? Of course. Hell, at one point my parents took out a classified add in the college newspaper because they had no other way to get in touch with me.

But I had time to write.

In fact, I distinctly remember writing Kvothe’s first admissions interview while living there. And his first class with Hemme. I was pretty proud of those scenes, and they didn’t change all that much between there and the final version of the book.

Best of all, living cheaply is a skill that will serve you well *after* you’re a published writer too. Especially if you’re writing Fantasy or Sci-fi. Tobias Buckell did some research into the advances a new writer gets for a first novel. And, on average, it’s not a ton of money.

So there you go, Becky. My advice for a new writer. Live somewhere cheap. Sorry if it’s not the gem of wisdom you were looking for, but really, what would you do with a gem of wisdom anyway? This is more like a muffin of wisdom. Everyone likes muffins.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in Ask the Author, Fanmail Q + A, my student days | By Pat79 Responses
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