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Links 1 through 10 of 199 by Chad Orzel tagged writing

The letter that Robert Heinlein sent in response to Theodore Sturgeon suffering writer's block, containing 26 "Sturgeon-ish" story ideas.

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[T]he business of making new people is actually really important too, because otherwise where would new people come from? I mean, there’s always more people, but what about new people who care about the same stuff I do? I think of children sort of like Voyager probes, except instead of sending them out into space you send them forward in time. They carry messages from your civilization inside them, on into the weirdness of the future. They keep going and going long after you’re gone.

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SciCurious asked for my thoughts on the matter, and what follows is very close to what I emailed her in reply this morning. I should note that these thoughts were composed before I took to the Googles to look for links or to read up on the details of the particular controversy playing out. This means that I’ve spoken to what I understand as the general lay of the ethical land here, but I have probably not addressed some of the specific details that people elsewhere are discussing.

Here’s the broad question: Is it unethical for a blogger to reuse in blog posts material she has published before (including in earlier blog posts)?

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107 really good science blog posts. In case you don't have anything else to do for the next couple of days...

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Authors of science books often begin as writers of science news. As a science journalist who is looking to write a book, I’ve become very curious as to how other science journalists made the leap forward. I suspected that the questions that go into books might be different from those that drive newspaper and magazine journalism. With that in mind, I asked six successful science authors what questions they have found themselves asking — of themselves or of their sources — when writing  books. Are there essential questions that journalists might not ask but which book authors should? They provided a trove of valuable insights:

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Once again the cries of panic have risen over the walls of our digital city. A big shadow is passing over our heads. Publishers and bookstores are in danger. Amazon is a mecha-robot stomping toward Bethlehem.

And writers feel lost. Worried. Bookstores are exploding like a landmine gophers! Books are on fire! Publishers are throwing writers out of windows! An army of self-publishers is marching on New York!

So you turn to me. Your drunken, pantsless Sherpa. Waiting at the top of Mount Penmonkey, stroking my beard seductively at you. *stroke stroke stroke* *comb comb comb*

Okay, you don’t really turn to me so much as I kidnap you in a van and yell at you as we barrel toward the liquor store at increasingly troubling speeds, but whatever. Just the same, let me tell you what to do:


Calm down.

Breathe easy.

In. Out. In. Out.

Maybe have a drink. Take a walk. Sip some oolong tea.

Then, when you’ve relaxed: keep writing.

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Now-a-days, lots of folks are self-publishing. I'm doing it myself. If you're planning to self-publish, and if you haven't yet heard the advice that since you're now a publisher you need to hire an editor, well, you will.

Other folks want to learn to write. A one-on-one session with an experienced teacher can teach you to fish. If you know what I mean.

Therefore: I am putting my writing and teaching expertise up for sale.

What I will do: Critique and line-edit your novel. A critique generally runs 3-5 pages, and covers structural and developmental issues. If I think that your novel has reached or can reach a level which makes it suitable for submission, I'll tell you so. If I don't, I'll be honest about it and tell you that, as well.

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So I've thought for a while that maybe I should turn all that work into some sort of Sentence Writing 101 post for the blog, but of course, I can't exactly use a client's text even anonymously. What to do, then? What to do? It's actually kind of hard to deliberately write a sentence that's fucked up in all the ways I need for such a demo. But fear ye not. A flash of inspiration hit me, I had a quick shufty online, and came up with this prime example from Jim Theiss's seminal 1970 novel, The Eye of Argon:

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The hubby and I like to watch holiday-themed movies over the holidays, so naturally, Die Hard made the list this year. I haven't seen it in ages, but for a movie that came out in 1988, it still holds up remarkably well. One reason for that is the script. I was surprised at how well plot elements were seamlessly woven in. You'd think a big shoot 'em up action movie wouldn't pay attention to details, but this one does. And we can learn from it to make our stories read just as seamlessly.

Odds are you won't write a seamless story on the first draft, but you can make it read as if you planned it that way all along.

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In the annals of history, only Orwell, Voltaire and maybe a half-dozen other guys could match’s Hitch ideological bravery and breadth of political knowledge. In 1977, after I’d returned to his graces by aiding him in a plot to assassinate Henry Kissinger’s character, Hitch and I visited Borges’ library in Buenos Aires. At the time, Hitch was working for the KGB while pretending to work for the BBC, and I was working for the Mossad while pretending to work for Burger King. But our many identities were merely covers for our lives as political writers at low-paying magazines.

Borges invited Hitch and me into his home, fed us tea and empanadas, and launched into a seamlessly brilliant discourse on surrealism in Latin American history. He talked for 30 minutes without stopping, during which time Hitch smoked six-dozen cigarettes. When Borges finished, Hitchens paused, spat in his ashcan, and said,

“Of course, you know, you’re wrong about everything.”

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