Contents of this A/N: About the writing; Shannon Friedman is starting up her counseling business; the Quixey programming challenge; P/S/A about programming careers; and the long-awaited fan-art update. Sorry about the length – there’s a lot of accumulated stuff to get through!
Loserthree’s summary of key chapters. (Within the post, these are spoilered, so highlight/select the text to reveal them.)
I was surprised, yet again, by how many people didn’t seem to hate Ch. 78, including the parts I thought were awkward – people seemed to like even Harry’s retrospective of his discovery of the work-in-work-out Potions principle, which I really thought was going to flop. I genuinely suspect that I could write a lot faster if I could just convince my damned brain that my readers enjoy the parts I hate to write – both because I would rewrite it less, and because I would enjoy writing it more. My brain seems to be refusing to update and is generating phrases like “But maybe everyone who hated it just isn’t saying anything,” which is in fact possible, but also seems like something of a Perfect Recovery Error – the evidence should be shifting my opinions somehow. I shall talk to my rationalist friends about this, and see if they have any advice on reconciling my beliefs and anticipations here.
The entire Self-Actualization arc was intended to get to the point where the Wham Line that ends Ch. 78 would make sense to the reader. There are three important lessons I learned from this, over and above the “Never recurse more than once” principle:
1) After all the buildup of Self-Actualization, I still wasn’t at the point where I felt that the Wham Line wouldn’t have readers going “Huh?” And then, more or less as I was writing the last Aftermath, it occurred to me to put in Hat-and-Cloak’s repeated-Obliviation of Hermione. In principle I could’ve done this at the end of Ch. 63! I do like the Self-Actualization arc, but… Lesson learned: Any setup you think you need to accomplish by a major diversionary arc can probably also be accomplished by a single event, if you can find that single event.
2) Anything you think will be completely inexplicable to the readers, probably won’t be – they know less background info than you, so where you see a single huge missing fact you haven’t yet revealed, they see a plentiful bag of possible interpretations. (Discovered when I compared all the reviewers’ interpretations of the Wham Line at the end of 78, to the actual interpretation revealed in 79.) An important corollary is that anything you think won’t confuse the readers, will.
3) The description of the breaking storm over Hogwarts at the end of Ch. 78 probably did more to make the Wham Line “fit” than the whole previous Self-Actualization arc. Setup you think needs to be accomplished by plot events, can also just be done by atmosphere and tension in the immediate paragraphs; but this won’t be obvious when you’re trying to outline the abstract plot.
All of these are corollaries to the key lesson I’m learning as a writer – for yes, this is my first real book-length effort, and I am very much still learning – never divert.
Among the several people who suffered so that you could get your next Methods fix is Shannon Friedman (Chaotic Shannon in Ch. 78), who missed several dates with me so that I could get some writing done. She’s starting up a counseling business, specializing in Internal Family Systems work – if she was talking to Harry, she’d try to talk to his Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Internal Critic, and dark side separately, find out what they wanted, and try to negotiate a compromise that all of Harry’s parts could agree on. (A chunk of our rationalist community, though by no means unanimously, have been evangelizing Internal Family Systems as the most effective type of counseling they’ve come across so far.) Shannon is currently looking for new counseling clients; she’s located in the Bay Area (Mountain View) but can also do Skype video, and is charging HPMOR readers an introductory rate of $50/hour. Click here for more.
Quixey is a startup founded by LW readers, with a fair number of HPMOR-reading employees. They have funding and traction, are looking for top programmers, and are offering salaries competitive with what you’d get at Google. One year out of college is fine, if you’ve got the talent and you’re a good fit for their culture. To publicize their hiring efforts, they’re also running the Quixey Challenge – if you’re in CS at CMU or MIT, you’ve probably already heard of this – which offers $100 to anyone (in the US) who can solve a programming challenge in one minute or less. The next Quixey Challenge is Wednesday, March 21st. If you’re a superprogrammer, and especially if you’re interested in working for a Bay Area company with a strong rationalist culture and highly competitive salaries, give it a shot! And if you get to the interview stage, be sure to tell them how you got there.
Public service announcement: If you have high talent, programming is extremely easy to learn. The way I became a programmer was by finding an old ZX81 computer with 4K of RAM and no tape drive, meaning that anytime you wanted to use a program you had to type it in from scratch, and pretty soon I was typing in my own programs. This was at the age of 5 or 6. This mysterious Talent doesn’t always correlate to intelligence, but if you did well at algebra and you’re currently making less than $120,000/year, consider installing Python 3, looking at some random Python programs online, and then seeing if you can write programs yourself. College majors are a highly inefficient market, with Computer Science enrollments steadily dropping, and competent programmers are in extreme demand right now – in the Bay Area, companies are paying $10-$20,000 for successful referrals. It doesn’t require a four-year education to start getting paid to do this – if you’ve got enough Talent to learn to program just by reading code, then regardless of what other career you’ve built or costs you’ve sunk, you should definitely try your hand as a modern-day wizard. This concludes the public service announcement.
And now, the long-awaited fanart update!
Audiovisual: Centreoftheselights sings her original Chaos Legion Song on Youtube, and cameos as Ellie Knight in Ch. 78.
Drawn: Cover art by Mike Obee Lay (cameo pending). Wishcat brings us a view of Rianne Felthorne from Ch. 76 – Wishcat, please contact me with your cameo information! Tavoriel shows us an unbearable cute image of Draco with Lucius (circa Ch. 7), and also needs to contact me with cameo info. Sascia brings us another image beneath the stars and cameos as Sophie McJorgenson (Ch. 79). LL depicts a boy unlike the others   and cameos as Lurinus Lumblung. Mad Hatter Lcarol shows us the three generals. Stephanie shows us a declaration of war, a spit-take, and a failed experiment, and cameos as Adam Beringer and Nita Berdine in Ch. 78. Tess Walsh (cameo in Ch. 78) shows us another starscape and a very recent Quibbler cover. Sukamisya reminds us that it’s just a conceptual limitation, and still needs to contact me with cameo info. And Ben Gutierrez takes us out of Azkaban the loud way.
Cameos in Ch. 78: Tess Walsh as herself, Stephanie as Adam Beringer and Nita Berdine, Dylan Vaughan who did that epic cover art, the Darke Lady as a guise of Tracey Davis (it wasn’t easy figuring out how to work that name in there), Raymond Arnold of Patronus fame, centreoftheselights as Ellie Knight, Gingersnap (more about her in next A/N), and Shannon Friedman. Cameos in Ch. 79: Sascia as Sophie McJorgenson, LL as Lirinus Lumblung.