Friday, April 14, 2006

How To Avoid Doing The Work That Needs Done

Last night marked the third Official AbsoluteWrite Science Fiction/Fantasy Forum Chat. DamaNegra had the privilege of creating discussion topics (that dubious honor belonged to me last month, during a Semi-Official chat). She came up with some wonderful ideas.

However the chat delved into silliness rather early on, and the official topic never got its time in the limelight (although the entire chat was a good example of procrastination at work).

I truly liked the discussion topics, and thought that I thought I would post my responses here.

Things to discuss:


- Why do we procrastinate?

I procrastinate because it is easier than writing. Surfing the Internet, browsing chat rooms, doing researching, watching TV, even reading a novel, are all ways that I procrastinate from my writing. It is ten times easier to sit down in front of the television and space out for an hour than it is to plant my butt in my desk chair and write a thousand words.

I also procrastinate out of fear. Fear of finishing a project, of having to submit it and find out that it's no good. It is a common fear, I believe, among writers. Fear of failure. But not finishing a piece is the greatest form of failure, isn't it? Quite the predicament…

- What are the most common forms of procrastination?

Personally, message boards are my most common form. I will post, browse, read old threads, anything to keep that .doc file minimized on my screen. Anything I can do on the Internet, including games, keep me distracted more often than they should.

- How do you avoid distraction?

I kick out the cat and close the door.

No, seriously…it's difficult to avoid. If I turn off the TV, put on some instrumental music (popular music with lyrics is a distraction), and make up my mind to write, then I will. It is impossible to completely avoid distractions, but I can take steps to minimize them.

- Weird things that get you distracted:

I don't know if it's weird, but it's funny. My desk is next to my bedroom window. Now that it's spring, my cats spend lots of time in the window watching birds perching in the trees outside. I love to watch them chatter at the birds, so close and yet unable to pounce like the little hunters they are.

RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE in Science Fiction/FantasyThings to discuss:

- Which areas of knowledge would help one write a SF/F novel? (Ex. Biology, Mechanics, etc. etc.)

The areas of knowledge vary depending on whether the genre is Science Fiction or Fantasy. Traditionally, SF utilized science or technology as a catalyst in the story. Computers, space ships, weaponry, nano-tech, engineering, things like that, are elements of SF.

Fortunately, you don't have to have a degree in Engineering or Computer Science in order to write a successful SF novel. All you need is a library. Some elements require more research than others in order to make your story believable.

Fantasy encompasses so many sub-genres that you only really need to be versed in the rules of your sub-genre. If you write supernatural thrillers, know your subject's history (be in vampires, werewolves, or witches). If you write sword-and-sorcery epics, know your Renaissance history, Medieval weaponry, what elves and orcs are, and make sure you are aware of your contemporaries.

- How important is it to re-study and research these subjects in order to successfully create a world/technology?

It depends on how in-depth you use the knowledge within the story. If the story is a SF novel about computer viruses, you have to know your subject. You have to know computer science, because experts will be able to tell. If the story is a supernatural romance between a vampire and a telepath, a little research into both areas will help you create the rules for your world.

Your success depends on your audience. I think that SF fans are more likely to rip apart flaws in your science.

- Which will be more affected by the credibility supported by these subjects, SF or F?

Science Fiction, without a doubt. However, you still have to know your Fantasy history. If you don't know that Hobbits are Tolkien's sole creation, and try to write a novel about them, you're going to get into trouble. Elves, trolls, goblins, and dwarves are free game, just make sure you aren't copying their habits and traits from other sources. Be creative. Experiment.

Know your genre.

- In fantasy, is it really necessary to have knowledge of biology, anatomy and such studies to successfully create a race?

I think it is important to be familiar with biology. With reproduction (sexual, asexual, three sexes, or more), with growth cycles, with the familiar physical features of established races. You have to know that a creature with a five pound body and a twenty-foot long neck will not be able to hold its head upright (unless it is magical, or there is odd gravity on this world).

Knowledge? Yes. Intimate study? Not necessarily. It all comes back to what purpose the subject serves in the story.

- In SF, is it really necessary to have knowledge of mechanics, engineering, physics, chemistry and such studies to successfully create technology?

Same as above. Yes, knowledge is necessary. But the level of knowledge depends entirely upon the use of such technology in the story. Hard SF tends to keep tech front and center in the story. Soft SF is sociological in nature, more about the human experience than their gadgets.

Judge what you need, learn it, and then use it to the best of your ability. There is no harm researching a subject exhaustively. Learning is a great thing. We should learn something new every day. It's only when in-depth research becomes an excuse to procrastinate against the actual writing of the story that it becomes a hindrance.


Dama Negra said...

Ha! I'm procrasinating right now :) You forgot mentioning other people's blogs, lol!

BTW, see you tomorrow at the next chat.

Kelly Meding/Kelly Meade said...

You'd better make an appearance, Miss! We missed you last week. :)