Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing Resource: WriteAboutDragons's Brandon Sanderson Lectures

Since his first publication in 2005, Brandon Sanderson has become one of the standout fantasy writers of the 21st century, with bestselling stories of his own - notably the Mistborn trilogy and ongoing Stormlight Archive series - and his role in concluding Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  But beyond his prolific career and worldbuilding prowess, he is also notable as one of the most accessible and open writers in recent memory with regard to his own writing process, and in his ability to share what he has learned with others.  In many ways, his decision to teach the same creative writing course at BYU that he himself took as an undergraduate influenced my resolution to teach several legal writing courses at my alma mater law school - the very same courses that I took as a law student several years ago.

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is how the process of teaching others forces you to reexamine your own methods and perceptions, often resulting in new flashes of insight and understanding that not only help you to share what you've learned with others, but also offers a deeper comprehension of the processes underlying your writing, inevitably improving upon it.  Watching Brandon's BYU lectures not only gives you a closer look at the mechanics and practicalities of fiction writing, but also a model of how an expert in a field can effectively share his hard-won knowledge and understanding with others.

This series of 2012 lectures is made available through WriteAboutDragons, which is run by Scott Ashton, a former student of Brandon's who wanted to share the "vast quantities of pure gold that issued forth from Brandon's lips every time he opened his mouth."  Scott will also be sharing lectures from Brandon's 2013 course, with the first video due on June 1st.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why It's Never Too Late to Start: Retroactive Posts Announcement

Like many others out there, I started this year with a resolution.

And like most of them, I broke it within a week.  (Or a month, depending on how you count it.)

The goal was to update this blog with consistent updates - at least one a month.  What got in the way was a combination of work and after-work - the latter mainly taking the form of teaching at my local law school.  Bottom line is that I got so busy that blogging - and even fiction writing - took a back seat to everything else I had going on, until that monthly milestone had passed me by.


Technically, that new year's resolution is broken and gone.  Perhaps the usual response would be, "Oh well, better luck next year."

But I don't want to wait until next year.  I want to get back to where Fictional Matters should be, where it would have been had I managed to update it as I had meant to.

So in addition to updating every week from here on out, I'm going to be instituting a "retroactive posting" project.  That means I'll be adding retroactive posts - one for each week I've missed since January 7th - until I've closed the gap.  It won't unbreak my New Year's resolution, but it'll get FM to where it should be.

It also demonstrates how it's never too late to start working on something you've been meaning to do for a while, regardless of what may have held you back.  The moment you set your mind to it, commit to a plan, and stick to it, is the moment that the false starts no longer matter.  What matters is that you've started.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Hero 616 Fountain Pen

Fountain pens have been a lifelong obsession of mine since I first laid hands on a disposable Pilot Varsity over twenty years ago.  The one regret I had from the written portion of my bar exam several years ago was that I was forced to use a heavy-handed ballpoint to write out my answers.  How the examiners managed to decipher my chicken-scratch handwriting well enough to give me a pass remains a mystery to this day.  (Interestingly enough, the very next administration of the exam was the first to allow examinees to type out their essays on a computer loaded with ExamSoft.  Coincidence?  Who knows.)

I've used fountain pens whenever practicable ever since then.  (The usual impracticability occurring wherever carbonless copy paper is used, such as check writing and certain old-school governmental forms.  While a fountain pen could be used in those applications if you exert enough force, I have ballpoints in reserve to save my nibs - and hand - from the unnecessary torture.)   At one point my collection approached a dozen, but like the recent trend with my watch collecting, I've been putting into practice the principle "less is more."  So the Hero 616 is the first fountain pen I've added to the stable in well over two years.  A well-regarded Chinese-made Parker 51 doppelganger, it has several attractive attributes.

The first thing that makes the Hero 616 such an easy addition is its price.  It's readily available on eBay for somewhere between $4-6, shipping often included.  By comparison, the Lamy Safari - commonly regarded as a strong entry-level pen among European models - costs around $20.  The Hero 616 really won't break the bank, and offers solid performance that amounts to a high value-to-cost ratio.  Its affordability also means that you don't have to baby it the way you might a pricier pen costing several hundred (or more) dollars.

That last attribute is the main reason I picked one up:  I've been looking for a good home for my long-neglected bottle of Noodler's Baystate Blue ink.  Baystate Blue is notorious in FP circles for being finicky in use, staining barrels and even laying waste to pen feeds.  Needless to say, it's not the ink you'd want to use in a delicate vintage or exorbitantly priced pen.  So why bother with it at all?  Its vibrant shade of blue brooks no comparison.

The Hero 616 has a reputation as a solid platform for Baystate Blue, and my experience corroborates it.  I've had Baystate Blue clog up a Pilot Prera and Lamy 2000 in the past after only a day or two of disuse.  The Hero 616 is still going strong three weeks down the line.