Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Every eleven years, there is a peak in the number of sunspots observed on the Sun. No one knows why.

Currently, we're in a trough. For the past week, there have been NO visible sunspots. This is a problem if one's astronomy students are supposed to be measuring the rotation rate of the Sun via the motion of sunspots; oh my, yes. Thankfully, a lovely zit on the face of Sol rotated into view yesterday. Hurrah!

If you focus the Sun's image onto a piece of paper, such that the image of the Sun is magnified to about 10 cm across (4 inches), this sunspot looks the size of a pinhead.

This sunspot is actually slightly bigger than planet Earth.

Which brings me to the idea of scale. My first draft of my novel didn't hold together as a book. The scenes were fine, but the overall plot wasn't.

I've read books that had this flaw also. One in particular was - if judged scene by scene - freakishly brilliant. The world was vivid and exotic, the author rocked at the "show, don't tell" principle, and everything flowed beautifully.

For most of the book, the plot was great too, but in the last third, it became insane. The individual scenes were still wonderful, but they added up to something distressingly bad.

I've also read books that had the opposite problem (particularly in science fiction); the plot was good, but individual scenes weren't. Maybe the characters were cardboard or the dialogue flat, but the details of execution all seemed carelessly spackled onto an otherwise solid idea.

Which problem do you tend to have? Are your scenes little gems, but you struggle to make the plot logical? Or do you crank out solid stories that are marred by how desperately rough everything is in the first draft?

In other words, are your sunspots well-formed - or artfully arranged? What do you have to do to make them both?

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