An Exercise in Self-Critique

A few weeks back, I was exposed to a Tumblr meme inviting writers to extract the first line from their ten latest works and see if some pattern will emerge. I accepted the challenge and indeed found some patterns — none of which are good. At about the same time, I started regularly listening to the marvelous writing podcast, Death Of 1000 Cuts (“making you an awesome writer one cut at a time!”) produced by the novelist, creative writing teacher and stand-up poet, Tim Clare. Among other things, this podcast features refreshingly honest and incredibly illuminating critiques of story beginnings submitted by courageous novice writers.

Thus inspired, I decided to make a series of posts in which I’ll take a critical look at the beginnings of some of my own stories. I’ll keep the excerpts under 250 words, and I’ll paste them whole before taking them apart one sentence at a time.

The first victim: Ghost in the Machine.

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A New Mass Effect Fic: Conference Transcript 159

Conference Transcript 159 is a redo of a sexy Saren/Nihlus flash-fic titled “Fluff” that I posted elsewhere a long time ago. It’s a bit of an experiment in form, consisting of pure dialog. I had a lot of fun writing it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it too.

Image: excerpt from Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep by MisfireAnon

This is not the fic that I hinted at in the previous post.

You can also read it at AO3.

Conference Transcript 159

…………….isVoice: true,
…………….isUserVerified: true,
…………….userID: encrypted,
…………….userPermissions: Environment.Permissions.Admin,
…………….inputStream: InputStreams.Audio.StandardAudio,
…………….out parsedInput: “Play it again.”);

……………..outputStream: OutputStreams.Audio.FromStorage,
……………..storageID: “Conference Transcript 159”,
……………..titleOptions: TitleOptions.TitlesFromAASR & TitleOptions.ShowTimes & TitleOptions.ShowProbability & TitleOptions.StreamToEyepieceOnly,
……………..streamingOptions: OutputOptions.StreamToEarpieceOnly,
……………..volumeOptions: OutputOptions.AutoVolumeRegulation,
……………..aasrOptions: AASROptions.TimeSeed & AASROptions.Algorithms.VelorDon &                 AASROptions.QueryForAdditionalOptions);

GST 02:24:15:16 Starting playback from index 00:00 with AASR titles; earpiece only.

00:00 [Humming of mass effect engines. P: 98%]

00:02 [Breathing of two persons. P: 98% Species: turian. P: 93% Gender: male. P: 89%]

00:12 [Moaning due to sexual activity. P: 52%]

GST 02:24:30:22 Query AASR threshold? default value 50; value type percent.

GST 02:24:30:23 Query AASR show best fit below threshold? false; default title “Unclassified sounds.”

00:16 [Unclassified sounds. P: 48%]

00:18 Kiss me.

00:20 Shut up.

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Writer’s Intuition

In an attempt to get back to writing fanfiction for Mass Effect, I’ve been reading and hesitantly poking at some old unfinished pieces. Among them was this rather long short story (about the length of The Candidate), about Saren and Nihlus, of course, tackling some unusual and heavy issues. Like the others, it was unfinished, but unlike the others, it was really close to being finished. I don’t know when exactly I started to write it, but it must have been way back in 2013. When I picked it up a few days ago, it read almost like a fresh piece of (not very good) fiction that I’ve never seen before. Yet I had no trouble whatsoever understanding why it had gone unfinished. At the time when I started it, I simply didn’t know how it should end. The only way I could see it ending was in total disaster, whereas I wanted it to be a learning experience for the characters. Reading it five years and a lot of diverse experiences later, I realized that now I do know how to finish it. And I set out to do it.

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Saren glanced at his omni and noted the time. He had been waiting for one thing or another the entire day and by now the humming and creaking of the L4 station, mixed with the chatter and clamor of the traffic in the spaceport, was well beneath the threshold of his senses or interests. Even the smells, the dirty scents of machinery and the greasy scents of fast-food stalls, and the disturbing scents of aliens everywhere, could no longer distract him from utter boredom and burning impatience.

Continue reading Distraction