Contemplations

Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about for the past week or so.

This past Friday I went to the bookstore to get another book to read.  I bought another science fiction book and a magazine.  When I got home I wondered how many books I had bought since moving to Albuquerque about seven months ago.  I figured five or six.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the book I just bought was the 11th book purchased here in ABQ.  I didn’t realize I had gotten so many, but, it’s true.  Reading is an important part of my life.  I read largely science books and science fiction novels, though I’ll crossover into other areas, too, for example, Blood and Thunder, The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, by Hampton Sides, and A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold.  Whether the book I read is related to my attempts at becoming a sci-fi novelist or not, I feel it’s always good to keep one’s mind in the pages.  I read not only for the information in the book, but to see how the book is put together and how the author lays out the narrative.  I like to compare his/her style of writing with mine, and so often I’ll read a passage that may not come across as well as it should have and say to myself, “I would have written that in this way….”  I look at chapter headings and at characterization, and mentally compare the work I’m reading with the novels I’ve written and am in the process of writing.  Frequently, I’ll get good ideas about some obtuse aspect of the novel, ideas that I can put into use.  In short, reading is good for a writer.  It keeps your hand and head in the business of writing.

We, as a country and as a people are constantly bombarded by pundits who disparagingly comment on the state of US science.  It’s not what it used to be, they say and it’s going downhill, and we’re being overtaken by science performed in foreign countries.  And so on and so forth.  Blah, blah, blah.  Perhaps some of that is true, but have you noticed that the largest number of Nobel prizes given out still goes to US scientists?  That’s a good reflection of the state of US science, but from my point of view, there’s two other factors that support the fact that US science is still strong.  I used to work in medical schools and hospitals in the US, and so many of the students, post-doctoral fellows and residents in those schools are foreign nationals.  More in the US than probably anywhere else.  Many of these people go back to their home country to practice science or medicine, but many stay here.  With so many people coming into the US to train, doesn’t that suggest that they’re coming because this is where the cutting edge is?  Where else is the cutting edge?  Russia?  Getting away from biology and medicine, the US is where the internet was developed, where large facets of the software that run today’s computers were written, where the hardware was developed, even though it’s used all over the world now.  Doesn’t that suggest something?

Getting back to writing, I’ve started using word counts now.  I am currently working on the third in my sci-fi novel series (I sometimes use the word trilogy, but that’s such an overworked word).  I’m in the primary stage of the novel where I’m just putting down the rough draft of the novel.  Just put it down and keep going.  To do so, I’ve started keeping track of the word count, to see how many words I write each day.  I try for 1000.  But I’m not sure this word count thing is the way to go.  I’ve heard of lots of people who use word counts and swear by them–1000, 15000, 2000, I’ve seen them all.  Many prominent writers use them.  But I find myself sometimes putting down things I know I won’t keep in the final draft just to meet that word count goal.  Good idea?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps, perhaps not.  The jury is still out.  I may have more to say on this later.

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