ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
[personal profile] ecosophia

Once Upon a TimeI’ve been brooding again over how to teach writing, and how not to teach it, and a possibility occurs to me.

I like to teach by mimesis—by doing something, showing how it’s done, and saying “You can do this too, if you want.” It’s a very unfashionable approach to teaching these days, and we could have a long conversation sometime about the number of people in today’s America whose life seems to revolve around finding some gimmick to tell other people what to do—usually, of course, telling them to do something they’re not doing themselves. (Gay-bashing fundamentalist preachers with boyfriends on the side, and social justice warriors screaming hate speech at people who use hate speech, I’m looking at you...)

 I’m not particularly gifted at most kinds of teaching—in particular, I find that I’m usually at a loss when I try to critique somebody else’s work, literary or otherwise, unless it’s either really good or really bad—but I find demonstrating something and encouraging others to follow along fairly easy, and at least some of my readers seem to find it useful. That suggests an option:

Would it be at all helpful to the aspiring authors among my readership if I were to write a novel right out here in public?

I’ve done online novels before, one scene at a time—my novels Star’s Reach and Retrotopia came into being that way—but I’m thinking of something even more transparent: here’s a scene; here’s my notes on how it came together and why I made the choices I did; well, that didn’t really work, did it, so let’s revise it, and so on. If that’s something that people would find helpful as well as entertaining, I can make a start next month.

Oh, and there’s a catch. (You knew there would be a catch, didn’t you?)

If I’m going to do this, I’m going to challenge my readers to write their own novels as I write mine. In public or in private, take your pick, but one of the points of the project is encouraging you to do the same thing, and why not now?

Let me know. Interested?

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Date: 2018-03-10 04:41 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Ladybug, of Miraculous fame, with a rainbow Pride background (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
oooh :)

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From: [personal profile] alexseanchai - Date: 2018-03-11 02:32 am (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2018-03-10 04:55 pm (UTC)
aldabra: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aldabra

Do you start with the story in your head already?

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Date: 2018-03-10 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I love this idea and I will write a public novel if you do.


(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 05:27 pm (UTC)
stuartjeffery: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stuartjeffery
Yup, I'm interested! I've continued to work on a challenge you set us all three years ago (the one set 1000 years in the future). I now have a plot, characters and a setting so all I need to do is to string some words together in a way that makes sense...

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 05:58 pm (UTC)
danielsobieraj: (Profile)
From: [personal profile] danielsobieraj
Oh, this sounds like it's going to be loads of fun! I've had outlines for novels before, even started writing some short fiction, but I always either lose steam or get disillusioned in my own work without letting anyone else look at it. But if I start writing publicly on dream width.... hmmm, something about that sounds nice.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 07:09 pm (UTC)
peristaltor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] peristaltor
Showing the process and the notes, the revisions and decisions. Hmmm…. Yes, it could be interesting, in that I'm not aware of anyone else who's done it. It would be both creation and ongoing autopsy.

I only worry that any in your readership prone to insecurity, OCD, etc., might see the myriad decisions that go into a novel… and paralyze themselves even further. ;-)

Could be a good prompt

Date: 2018-03-10 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I was planning to write a couple more short stories as practise before trying a novel, but writing as part of a group exercise could be a good way to encourage productivity!

Now I just need to go do that final edit on my OSS story :-)



Date: 2018-03-10 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It sounds fun- I'm game.
The approach you suggest is occasionally used in schools- I teach middle school, and we call it using a "mentor text". We guide students through looking at a (usually) published work, then think out loud while drafting our own version, then give the students time to draft a version themselves. So, if the target is dialogue, we look at a passage with dialogue, break down how the mentor writer did it, then I model it with my characters, then the kids practice it with theirs. The tricky part is giving enough time for the kids to work, without me talking all the time. Trying to be a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.- Katsmama

Re: write-along

From: [identity profile] - Date: 2018-03-11 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Count me in!

Will J

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Date: 2018-03-10 08:19 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What a cool idea! I'm in. Would you want people to start from scratch, or would it be alright to rework an existing project?


(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 08:36 pm (UTC)
wildernesschurch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildernesschurch
Yup! Let's do it!!!

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Date: 2018-03-10 08:51 pm (UTC)
neonvincent: Ambassador Vreelak from DS9 (Fake!)
From: [personal profile] neonvincent
I'm all in favor of this, but I'm not a fiction writer, at least not with my own characters. I'm a non-fiction writer. Should I write a non-fiction book instead?

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Date: 2018-03-10 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jolbytlan
Long time avid reader who has only commented a couple of times, logging in to say that I'm very interested in this, and will gladly try my hand at expanding my writing to the novel form.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'd love to see how other people do it and I'd write along, though not a novel.


Date: 2018-03-10 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am definitely interested! I would say though that you have given very good advice to aspiring writers already, such as setting a certain amount of time out of the day for writing( even if you are just writing whatever random thoughts come to your head at that moment), turning off spellcheck if writing on a computer, refraining from editing as you are writing, etc. These have all helped me finally start writing. I have only got about a page of an actually story so far, but it’s a beginning.

-Dan Mollo

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-10 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Definitely interested. How magnificent.

This should be interesting!

Date: 2018-03-10 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi John Michael,

Well this will be an interesting learning opportunity. I for one am interested in the technical side of how the characters conduct their dialogue within the larger story.

Hopefully, you get to make those words into a marketable book too.

To be honest, I wouldn't worry about the critiquing side of things when you are faced with requests like that. From what I've read from other authors, people expect the world, get annoyed when they receive genuine critique, and then are rarely thankful for the service. In short, it's a mugs game and ignoring the request is the best approach! Most people want to believe that they are a diamond in the rough, their work is genius, and it is just circumstances that have stopped them from whatever... I see that in people all of the time.

I've trained people for many years and it is a one on one, and face to face process, and that seems to be the most effective way for these things to occur. The thing is the social cues are still there in the written words, but they are very hard to ignore when they're right in front of you! Your suggestion for this learning process is an excellent middle way.

Incidentally, I did take up your excellent suggestion many years ago about writing a million rubbish words before something of any quality can appear! Hehe! I realise that you were quoting someone else, but it was a good idea. At the moment, I'm a bit under half way there, and there is some definite signs of improvement - if I say so myself! ;-)! Alas few people have that sort of work ethic, and I wouldn't sell it either, because then I wouldn't have it. Just sayin...



I am considering this

Date: 2018-03-10 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
From what you say about teaching by mimesis, I think that’s how I will do it too, should I wind up teaching drawing, painting, geometry or perspective.

Years ago I wrote the script to a graphic novel, intending to execute it in drawings. I later realized that (a) comics aren’t really my medium, and (b) my story has major problems that will require a substantial rewrite. If I do it, I intend the product to be a lavishly illustrated light adventure fantasy novel. I haven’t decided to commit to this, but am thinking it over.


Re: I am considering this

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2018-03-12 02:28 am (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2018-03-11 12:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I would find it fascinating to watch you go through the writing process online, but the thought of writing something myself publicly is a bit terrifying. I really enjoyed reading Star's Reach and Retrotopia in installments, and I would learn a ton from reading as you go through revising and editing scenes.

I just strongly doubt that I'd have the time and inspiration to write something along with - ever since the baby was born it's been all I can do to show up at work functional and not wearing bodily fluids on my clothing... So if the challenge is somehow a prerequisite for reading along, I think I'd have to pass on this one, interesting as I would find it no doubt.

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Count me in, if...

Date: 2018-03-11 02:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I can use the messy work already in progress.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 06:48 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I would join in on this. There is an future fiction world that has been growing in my imagination for over a year, just begging for a story. I have tried short stories a couple times, but it seems resistant to short format. A novel group would be a novel idea, and one i would like to take part in.

I am excited for this.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 08:05 am (UTC)
drhooves: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drhooves
Hi JMG - not only do I think you've got a great idea to help others get their creative writing skills uncorked, it's also a quite a generous gift from you to contribute your time. Triple thumbs up for that! I've always thought that learning by example is very effective.

In the last couple of years, I've had a chance to take two creative writing courses and attend a four part workshop - and I've really learned a lot. One thing I wanted more of is what I would describe as "constructive feedback", as most of us were pretty hesitant to be too critical. But it's my opinion that issues related to grammar, spelling, and conveyance of thoughts are always fair game, while opinions on idea, content and style need to be handled more delicately. I also found that reading the work of others and how they handled the revision process was very fruitful.

Like Chris, I'm about halfway there in getting the million bad words of writing out of the way, and I do have some near term projects to up the total before starting on a couple of more serious ones. So if the Fellowship hasn't exceeded its capacity, I'll toss my hat in the ring, so to speak....

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 01:55 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

The OSS contest appears to have broken a long-standing logjam in my brain and now stories are coming out of my ears. Short fiction, though, and some novella-length. I'd like to find a way to craft the several unfinished/unwritten novels that live in my head, so this would be an excellent opportunity. Thank you.

David, by the lake

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Well I'll certainly be an enthusiastic supporter from the sidelines. Already, too much on my plate has made me set some writing aside, hopefully only briefly. Having a writing mentor who shares process, mistakes and successes has been helpful to me. Holly Lisle does a great job at this (with many free resources)* - funnily enough, a small group of her students, myself included, formed a generative, up-building (as opposed to down-tearing through "critique") group called the Fellowship of the Muses. :D

Speaking of which, will you also be tying in any of your magical practices as they relate to your creative work? I'll probably ask a follow-up (to my previous) magic Monday question along these lines, but just wondering as I'm recognizing how my writing is frequently stalled while waiting for consciousnesses/will to catch up with each other.

Wendy (aka temporaryreality)

*not trying to distract from or compete with what's going on here, just mentioning her in the spirit of writers helping writers which is much preferred over the terrible practices brought up in your previous post on writing groups.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] orathbone
This sounds like fun. I've got a 12,000 word dissertation to write in the next couple of months but this will be a welcome change. Count me in!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-11 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Totally understand where you are coming from. I was quite done with mine by the time it was finished and I didn’t want to look at it again for a long, long time. These days, I heartily recommend it as a sleep-aid for insomniacs ;)

David, by the lake
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ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)John Michael Greer

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