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Some people are driven to become writers because they have in them stories which must be told. Some people become writers because they have general creative urges which go unsatisfied by home life or office work.

I think those things would be nice. But mostly I just want to get paid to stay up late and sleep late.

My Views

I'm still working on my chops, but in one sense I've been "writing" now for several years, and that is in on-line opinionizing.

As a patron of multiple-user computer systems since 1981, I've been involved in a lot of conversations on a lot of topics. One of the results of this is that I've learned how to argue. By this I don't mean "yell a lot." I mean "argue" in the sense of a logical argument: a series of facts connected by logic leading to a conclusion.

Being involved in an on-line discussion is somewhat like discussing subjects in person, but in certain ways it's both easier and more difficult. The primary difference is that having a day or two to research and develop a good response to someone else's argument allows you to put together a very strong counterargument. In a heated debate it's possible to get flustered and fail to make your point simply due to your presentation; it's easier in written form to make a good point.

The thing is, the same holds true for the other persons involved in the discussion. They've got time to strengthen their arguments as well. So you actually have to work harder to support your case when you're discussing some subject in an on-line message forum. You have to research your position, develop and test the logic, and present the entire argument in the strongest form possible. You want to be complete, so that your argument rebuts the strongest arguments on the other side... but you also want to be as brief and direct as possible so that your argument is clear and forceful.

Given that there is always someone who is better than you at developing such arguments, this can be a hard school. You either learn that you don't have the instinct to go for the jugular vein of a faulty argument, or else that you do. Either revelation can be sobering.

For those who find that they have this killer instinct, such discussions are a great way to sharpen the mind. Working out and presenting a sound argument not only helps you to figure out what you think about a tough issue and why you think it, it's good practice for dealing with more personal questions. The same habits which allow you to reach trustable conclusions on general issues apply to thinking about your own problems.

Here is some information on the suggested form of a good argument... and some good examples of bad arguments. If you're tired of getting hammered by "clever" debaters who won't address your points, this essay On Discussion is for you.

And here are some typical arguments I've made during the past few years. If you decide to examine them, try to put aside whether or not you agree with the conclusion--think about whether the argument is presented well, and if it follows the advice given in The Elements of a Sound Argument.

Then feel free to take your whacks at the underlying ideas.

A note on these arguments: Most of them (as you'll see) were made as part of a conversation between myself and someone else. So first, let me say "thank you" to those who took the time to discuss issues with me. While it was always nice when people agreed with me, I learned more from those who disagreed with me. What's more, these persons helped me by forcing me to confront my beliefs, to examine them closely, and to try to express my conclusions with precision and clarity.

I modified only slightly the text of these discussions from their original forms. This consists primarily of deleting the names of my correspondents to respect their privacy. Other than that, I have made only simple editorial revisions for spelling and grammar, and added HTML formatting elements for clarity.

Speaking of HTML formatting, a word about the form of these documents is in order. Usually these conversations were a back-and-forth dialogue (that's sort of the definition of the word "dialogue," isn't it? a back-and-forth between two speakers). In such discussions, it's often useful to quote part of the other person's argument to them in order to address it.

Some of the documents that follow contain such quotes. I've used HTML to format them like this:

My original argument, which they quoted for me

Their counter-argument, which I quoted for them

My new argument

Also, the HTML "horizontal rule" (an example of which follows this sentence) is used to separate different individual pieces of correspondence in the same conversation thread.












Forward Motion: Holly Lisle's Writing Pages how-to advice from a pro. Includes suggestions on both the creative and business aspects of writing as a career.

For Writers Only many good links on writing and selling, especially for SF writers.

The Asimov Seminar the 1998 Asimov Seminar. This year participants will help design missions to several pre-built planets... with a few surprises.

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