Adventures of a Fiction-Writing MLIS Student: Semester 1

My first semester working toward my masters in library and information science is over, and I feel confident in saying that I totally rocked it. I was pleased to discover that, twelve years after finishing my undergraduate degree, I haven’t lost my Nerd-Fu.

On the downside, first semester craziness combined with Ye Olde Day Job seriously cut into my fiction writing time. I did, however, find my fiction writing life creeping into my grad school life in fun little ways.

How do I love Scrivener? Let me count the ways . . .

I bought Scrivener several years ago for novel writing. When putting together a lecture for TNEO one summer, I discovered that Scrivener was also great for collecting and organizing research for that. So when it came time this semester to turns lots of research into a presentation for a group project in my Human Information Behavior class, Scrivener once again became a handy tool. And then came my final paper for that same class. In addition to using Scrivener for organizing my research and turning it into a paper, I discovered that Scrivener had an APA style template. From my undergrad days, I was used to writing papers in MLA format, but the MLIS program requires APA format, which was new to me. Scrivener saved me huge amounts of “how exactly am I supposed to format this again?” time on the APA learning curve.

It’s just like a short story, only it’s mostly plot with very little setting and character development . . .

At first, I was a little apprehensive when faced with the prospect of writing a 15-page research paper for the first time in over a decade. But then I thought, “Hmm, 15 double-spaced pages in 12 point Times New Roman font with an inch margin all around–that’s roughly the equivalent of a 4,600 word short story for which I’ve done lots of background research. Piece of cake!” On the downside, years of focusing on the style and rhythm of my prose made the paper revision process go a little slower than it might have otherwise. Without the fiction writing experience, I probably wouldn’t give a damn about using the same sentence construction twice in a row in a research paper.

This one time, at writing camp . . .

Human Information Behavior, where we studied how people search for and process information in a broad number of contexts, was a fascinating course. Several times I found myself drawing on writing-related experiences as an example of information-seeking behaviors and how library and information science professionals interact with users in their search process. One example was the judgmental you-frighten-me look I got while checking out a book called On Killing for research purposes and how that kind of attitude can dissuade people from using the library. And as an example of the Principle of Least Effort, where someone consults a known resource instead of investing the small bit of extra effort needed to get what they know would be a better quality answer, I mentioned the weird phenomena I sometimes saw of individuals asking very specific research questions in a writing forum where it was unlikely anyone had expertise in the area in question, and then balking at suggestions to consult resources more likely to actually provide an answer to their question.

The geek is strong with this one . . .

My other class this semester was Information Technologies, where we got to learn some basics about web design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and other fun stuff. The class seemed like it was a struggle at times for several folks, but I was safely in my geek comfort zone. I already knew how to create a website with HTML going into the class, and I picked up the rest of it pretty easily. Two of our projects involved creating an “information resource” on any topic of our choosing, so I created a site called So You Want to Write Speculative Fiction? And for our final project, we had to create a site using WordPress, so I tested out a redesign of my writing website.

And there you have it. Now to check off more items on my winter break to-do list, which includes paying attention to this blog again and rediscovering the fact that I’m a writer.

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