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Writing About What You Love

Notice, it says “what” you love, not “who” you love, which is another kettle of… well, fish? Hops?

I am working on a short story about homebrewing, brewing, yeast, beer-mythology (there’s a lot of it), art, transformation… well, and finally I’ve come to think of it as my attempt to write something Zymurgico-Lovecraftian.

(Zymurgy is the fancy-dancy word for the branch of applied chemistry related to fermentation — making beer, mead, wine, and the like using yeast. Lovecraftian is a term I expect I won’t have to explain to anyone reading this blog.)

Anyway, I’m busily revising the story now (and finding Scrivener quite useful in this regard: I like being able to break a text into chunks and move them around, shift them out of the text and then rework bits and pieces back in, and so on), and finding that there’s a good side and bad side to writing about what you love.

The good side is that you come to the subject with a kind of energy, a kind of joy and fascination that can seemboundless. (As in, I feel like I could write something much longer using this character, the events in it, and so on.1) There’s a kind of familiarity, detail, and love that comes across in the text, and that’s contagious for the reader.

On the downside, if you feel the kind of passion I have for brewing good beer, then sometimes that can hijack the story, as you start including all kinds of details and schticks that don’t belong. A lot of serious editing is necessary, and it’s important to talk to people who don’t feel that passion you feel for the subject, in order to help you figure out how much is too much for a layperson or whatever.

That’s not much of a downside — editing is always a necessity — but I think it is harder for a writer to see what needs to be cut when one truly loves not just those bits and schticks themselves, but the subject which they elucidate, illuminate, and describe.

Ah well, as you guessed, I’m making cuts. There’s a bit of humor I suspect will not make it into the final draft, so I figured I’d share it. Warning, it’s tame but prudes may be offended:

Brewing and sex have a lot more in common than you might imagine. You need do all the same kinds of things:

  • be thorough about sanitation
  • careful you don’t throw out your back
  • watch your timing
  • don’t be afraid to try something unusual, but if you’re the only one enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong
  • practice, practice, practice

That said, beer is much more sexless than your average beer commercial on TV might suggest. Yeast are like a colony of tiny ascetic gourmand clones, reproducing asexually and then settling down to the real business of life: eating sugar, farting CO2, and pooping out ethanol.

That’s the story of beer, or one of them…

As for the story, “The Home Brewer’s Consolamentum,” well… we’ll see if I can get the thing edited and reworked by the deadline of the anthology for which I’m trying to write it, which is, very cleverly, to be titled Yeast of Eden. I’d love to have it done to send in time, but you can see the deadline is only a few days away, and like with beer, rushing stories is sometimes a bad idea.

But we’ll see…

1. I am not sure who would read it, since, as with stories where I mash up American modernist poets and steampunk adventure, or spy-thrillers with SF history and Wellsian scientific-romance, I get a lot of, “Well, I don’t know enough about X to feel I get the story.” X being the non-SFnal element. But I could I could probably bang out a rough draft of such a book in a week — were I doing nothing else — and it’d be the kind of thing that could with work be revised into a publishable novel. I just don’t know if anyone would read such a book. Case in point: the word consolamentum, in the title, is exactly right for what the story is supposed to do, but… how many people will be scared off by a word that obscure in the title of a story?

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