There’s a good discussion of Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks going on over at Crooked Timber, including comment from Benkler. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve seen him speak a couple of times in the run-up to publication, and it’s definitely on my short list. In the mean time, the discussion is worth reading.
…how long this might go on. Ever since the Times had begun charging for access to their columnists, I’d been keeping up on them through a blog that was reposting them. The Times has moved to protect its content. So will this encourage people to pony up the 50 bucks, or find other columnists? I’d rather put the money toward a subscription to the Economist.
So with the move to WordPress comes the opportunity to back tag blog posts, a process I have to admit I am enjoying more than I thought I would. I like the increased access it provides me to previous posts, plus the chance to look at posts from different angles. It’s going to be a long process, but there’s no time pressure on it, so I’ll just keep doing a few a day…
I’ve found reading bedtime stories to my kids to be a great experience in learning about prose style. Because Olivia and Daniel–like most kids–crave repetition, we end up reading the same stories again and again. They are also quite aware of any changes made to the text of the stories, so if I vary at all from the printed words, they call me on it. Over time, this combination has made me acutely aware of books in which I admire the writing, and the ones in which I don’t.
Because kids like repetition so much, children’s books probably face greater challenges that most other types of writing. In most other genres, a reader is often willing to forgive flabby and awkward prose if the plot is compelling enough (have you read “DaVinci Code” yet?), but with a children’s book, over a short period of time, the novelty of the plot wears off, and the language stands naked. And as with human nudity, it’s usually either compelling or appalling, with perilously little in between.
For me, children’s books rapidly sort into either those I enjoy reading over and over or those at which I cringe when the kids pick them up. When Livi was an infant, I read her Goodnight Moon nearly every night with out ever tiring of it. It’s the only piece of literature I really have reflexively memorized and can recite without effort. With Daniel, I discovered Where the Wild Things Are, which I don’t remember reading as a child. Both of these books use language that delights even after a great many readings, language that is enjoyable to speak aloud, words your tongue wants to say. “Goodnight comb, goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush.” “Please don’t go–we’ll eat you up, we love you so.”
Books like Curious George and Make Way for Ducklings, while providing a level of imagination that may be entertaining at first, become painful reads very quickly, with pedestrian prose that will get you to the end, but won’t make you want to go there. The kids often catch me revising these books on the fly, and make me go back and read the story as written. In these moments, I am made to consciously confront shortcomings of the text, whereas if I were reading to myself I might just pass them over. At some point, when I have a book in front of me, I may do a close read of the style issues in one of these.
Curious George at least provides an entertaining field for critical examination, from the point of view issues (it mostly seems a close third person from George’s POV, except we do get occasional thoughts from the man with the big yellow hat and the sailors), to the obvious racist and colonialist issues, to more subtle concerns like the telephone wires as both George’s betrayer and liberator (a statement about the double edged nature of technology’s impact on our lives?).
At this point, Olivia and Daniel are much more focused on plot than on the delights of language, so they seem to select both categories of books about as often. This means I should have plenty of opportunities to continue studying this….
So if I had to characterize one part of tOFP that has been a failure, it would be the Wiki-as-craftbook, mostly because it’s just not a good use for the wiki. For my needs, the categories function in WordPress will do the trick nicely, without the fuss of adding a hand-coded link each time. I was also imagining it might be used by a class, or by a general web audience, to build a collaborative craftbook, but at this point, I think RSS would work better if it ever came to pass.
The question then is how might the wiki be best used to support either my own writing or tOFP? I have to confess I’m not very interested in collaborative writing projects. I can see how they might be of interest to some, but for me, writing is an individual event. I do find peer critique to be helpful at points along the way, but really can’t imagine co-authoring a creative work such as my novel.
So I’m trying to decide now what to do with the wiki. I’ll likely be back-tagging all the old blog posts, and then creating a sidebar link category called “Craftbook” to call up all entries in craftbook categories, so the use as a craftbook will evaporate. The one use I can imagine at this point is to organize the concordance for my novel. Because I have been working on the novel in fits and starts, I know there are a lot of timeline inconsistencies and other logistical issues that need to be reconciled, and I need to have a rock-solid sense of period in some of the flashbacks.
I had started a notebook for concordance, but it was hard to keep in that format because I’m always adding dates to the timeline, and because it’s hard in notebook form to link backstory and notes to dates, etc. A wiki is well suited for this kind of thing, so I’m thinking I might build out the concordance in the wiki. There’s nothing in it that would compromise the market potential of the book (whatever that might be), and the concordance might ultimately make a nice teaching tool down the road. As I complete the latest lap through the first ten chapters, it would be nice to have all these issues straight before moving deeper into the book, provided it doesn’t suck momentum out of the drafting.
Here’s a great example of tOFP out in the wild. Points back to the site, which is nice (and sufficient attribution). Not sure about the licensing though–no clear indication on the page. Would be nice to see a big ol’ CC logo there, but nice nonetheless to see the materials are of some help to someone.
Any archive exceptions will be way too narrow for OCW.
At the Berkman Center for the second workshop on education and copyright. Probably will post a few notes today, but one issue that occurs to me is that there are special exemptions carved out for archives, and there is energy behind an effort to re-examine the definition of “archive.” It seems to me that OCW has a strong claim to be considered an archive, and thus perhaps qualify for the exemptions. I’m not sure at this point any of them are direclty useful, but the exemptions will likely need to be updated as well…
If you’ve landed here, it means you’ve found your way to the new home of the OpenFiction [ Blog ]. Please excuse the mess, as it’s still somewhat under construction. Blogroll, fav links and other enhancements to follow, but all postings are going to be over here now, instead of on Blogger (note that most of the self-referencing links will take you over to Blogger for now).
…but tOFP is really beginning to score highly on very specific discipline-related searches:
fictional narrative – 4 of 4,950,000 (99.9999%tile)
narrative arc – 6 of 2,380,000 (99.9997%tile)
psychic distance – 7 of 3,140,000 (99.9997%tile)
prose style – 27 of 19,400,000 (99.9998%tile)
Strangely, the narrative arc illustration no longer registers at all on a Google image search. I guess fame is fleeting.
Anyway, the above phrases are among the ones I’d like the site to be found through, so I’m really happy with these results. A related piece of news: I’m getting much less traffic from porn sites related to the phrase “tickle torture,” the name of Tom’s story. Also good.