Archive for February, 2010

Against All Odds

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Post ImageIf you're a fan of Cosmos or just an astronomy buff in general, then you've surely heard of the Drake Equation. Formulated in 1961 by Dr. Frank Drake, duly pictured here, it's a mathematical equation designed to predict the number of possible extra-terrestrial civilizations out there. It's fairly straightforward. First, figure out the average rate that stars are born. Next, figure what fraction of those might have planets. Now figure how many of those planets can support life. Next, how many of them do support life, and so on. Follow this pattern far enough and eventually the formula tells us how many Frank Drakes there might be in the universe.

Whatever number is produced by the formula is essentially meaningless, for many of the equation's factors are based on pure conjecture. But the general principle is sound: start with a large pool and whittle it down until you have the finalists.

If you think about it, variations of this formula can be created and applied to almost anything. Take, for example, the one hundred thousand people who audition for American Idol each year. A small fraction of those make it past the scouts. A small fraction of those make it past the producers. A small fraction of those actually make it in front of the judges. Another fraction goes to Hollywood, and so on. Eventually, you get down to the season finale where one person, usually Frank Drake, is declared the winner.


Posted in Musings |

How Odd

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Post ImageThe current book project is, indeed, intended to be a series of books. When I first re-tooled the idea last summer, it looked like it would span five volumes. While writing the first draft and approaching what would have been the end of the first book, I realized the ending I had originally outlined was fairly lame. Okay, really lame. It would have been as if Tolkien decided to end The Fellowship of the Ring halfway during the Council of Elrond. Had by some miracle it been published, it would have received reviews from some extremely disappointed readers.

So I combined the first two storylines into one, then checked my original outline again. Hmmm... now the third book looked thoroughly pointless. Rejected. So how about the fourth and fifth? Hmmm... yeah, these really should be one book as well. And hey presto! just like that, I had a trilogy. I can live with that.


Posted in Musings |

The Greatest of These…

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

If I write a story to rival Hemmingway or Steinbeck, but have not an ending, I am only a whining blogger or a pathetic author wannabe. If I have the gift of prose and can understand the difference between "lie" and "lay", and if I can write for thirty days straight, but have not an ending, I am nothing. If I pour everything I have into every page, but have not an ending, I gain nothing.

The ending is important, the ending is paramount. It does not leave you hanging, it does not leave you disappointed, it does not peter out into nothing. It does not annoy, it does not anger, it does not cause readers to petition for a "zero star" rating. It always satisfies, always suits, always gratifies.

The ending should never fail. When I was a child. I wrote like a child, I plotted like a child, I mixed up verb tenses like a child. When I became a writer, I tried to put childish ways behind me. When perfection comes, the pesky imperfect middle chapters are forgiven. This I finally realize, though I knew it all along.

So remember! Every story has three parts: beginning, middle, and end. But the greatest of these is the end.

(I'm screwed...)

Posted in On Writing |