The Law of Unintended Consequences

I've been on a bit of a YA reading binge recently. Okay, that really means I read like four YAs in a row, which to some of you may not be a lot, but is to me, especially since I'm in the midst of a big brain-draining revision. (I love revision, though it's grueling, thank you very much!)

Anyway, in some of them, the setup of the world (I read mostly paranormal and/or SF YAs) makes me snort out loud. It's primarily because the authors say their world has this set of rules or that, but none of them adequately address the unintended consequences of each set of rules.

Since I'm feeling lazy, I'll copy-paste Wikipedia's definition:

In the social sciences, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not (or not limited to) the results originally intended by a particular action. The unintended results, not recognized by the actor, may be positive or negative. The concept has long existed, but was named and popularised in the 20th century by the American sociologist, Robert K. Merton. The law of unintended consequences is an adage or idiom warning that an intervention in a complex system invariably creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.


Unintended consequences can be grouped into roughly three types:

  • a positive unexpected benefit, usually referred to as serendipity or a windfall.
  • a negative unexpected drawback, occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy - e.g. while irrigation schemes do provide people with water for agriculture, they often increase waterborne disease which can a have a devastating negative health effect, such as schistosomiasis.
  • a perverse effect, that may be contrary to what was originally intended (i.e. when an intended solution to a problem only makes the problem worse). This situation can arise when a policy has a perverse incentive and causes actions contrary to what is desired.

Every new policy and rule almost always changes the characters' individual motivators and artificially creates winners and losers. For a example, outsourcing manufacturing in the States made a lot of goods very cheap, so consumers won, but many who worked in factories in America lost their jobs. (This is a big oversimplification, but you get the idea.) The new economic dynamics caused a strong downward pressure on blue-collar workers' wages and standard of living, among various other unintended consequences.

So I find it hard to buy into a scenario when every new rule, etc. does exactly what it was designed to do. It feels like the author just doesn't understand how economic incentives work or doesn't want to dig deeper than the surface.

P.S. As for the cartoon...I kinda feel that way about the way our government officials tried to help the small folks on Main Street.

How to Perform Routine Maintenance on Outlook

Outlook is a marvelous piece of software that not only takes care of emails and contacts, but also manages to-do lists and various appointments and tasks.

However, if you don't do some basic maintenance on your personal folders files (*.pst), you'll experience a significant degradation in performance even if you don't have virus or other issues on your computer.

In order to keep your Outlook running optimally, you should do the following regularly:

Hope this helps!

My Goodreads Rating System

Some people have asked me what my rating on Goodreads mean, so here's a quick cheat sheet. (This applies to fiction only.) I also put the baseball analogy in brackets.

starstar grayedstar grayedstar grayedstar grayed 1 star -- Goodreads interprets this as "didn't like it". I give 1 star to books that had mechanical, character, plot and/or craft issues to a degree serious enough that that I couldn't overlook them. They're obviously DNFs (did not finish). [Out]

starstarstar grayedstar grayedstar grayed 2 stars -- Goodreads interprets this as "it was okay". I give 2 stars to books that were just okay. Many books that get 2 stars from me end up being DNFs as well. But others may enjoy the stories I rated 2 stars as they don't have any glaring issues the way 1-star rated books do. [Got on base, but may or may not come home.]

starstarstarstar grayedstar grayed 3 stars -- Goodreads interprets this as "liked it". I give 3 stars to books that were enjoyable enough, but that didn't have anything that would've elevated them to something better / more impactful. Basically they're the kind of books that did the job, but didn't do much beyond that. [Got on base, then made it all the way around to come home.]

starstarstarstarstar grayed 4 stars -- Goodreads interprets this as "really liked it". I give 4 stars to books that were not only enjoyable but had that special something that elevated them -- beautiful prose / style, clever plot twists and/or some other elements that made me go "wow". [Wooo...some exciting plays, possibly a 1- or 2-run homer.]

starstarstarstarstar 5 stars -- Goodreads interprets this as "it was amazing". I give 5 stars to books with stories so well told that they shut off my internal editor. They're virtually flawless. [Grand slam, baby!]

Please note that individual tastes differ, and my 2-star books could be somebody else's 5-star rated titles. :)

How do you rate the books you read?

Writer Beware: Web Designers & Graphics

I've seen so many writers who got into difficult situations with their webmasters. It could be anything from the webmaster going MIA, doing shoddy work, whatever. In the eventuality that you want to break up with your designer / webmaster, you should always ensure that your website design (including CSS, graphics, header, buttons, everything) is yours to take with you, and that you don't have to continue hiring the designer / webmaster you no longer find "professional" in order to be able to use the template, etc. you've paid for.

BTW -- don't let your designers register your domain for you. Domain registration is easy. A few clicks of the mouse and you're done. If your designers / webmasters did it for you, make sure to get it transferred to you as soon as possible. Transferring a domain name when your tech people go missing can be very time-consuming and stressful. Go to a place like and register it yourself. It's not that expensive, and 1and1 gives you free private registration.

P.S. In case you're interested, the ever-amazing Frauke from CrocoDesigns is doing a free author website workshop right here.

How I Revise

I'm in the middle of revision right now. Though my process is different for each project, I'll share the revision method for my current WIP.

Step One: I print out the whole thing in whatever font strikes my fancy, but it's always double-spaced so I have enough room to scribble notes. Then I read it through in 3-5 days and make notes. They're not extensive, mind you. It's mostly for big things like:

  • Yawn. This lags.
  • This doesn't belong here.
  • I have no idea what this sentence is trying to say.
  • Oops. Misplaced punctuation / words.
  • Who's saying this?
  • Action choreography doesn't make sense here.
  • This point deserves emotional depth upgrade.
  • Whoa. Emo much?
  • Repetitious.

Step Two: I consult my Maass notes and go through the hard copy draft again, this time marking places that could be changed / improved per my notes. If I run out of space on the actual manuscript page, I use a notebook designated for revision.

Step Three: I finally make all the changes on my computer.

Step Four: I spend about 2 weeks doing nothing but reading other people's books and/or working on some other projects, but I do not revise anything I've written, even if it's not my WIP. (I might beta for other people who I may ping later for Steps Seven and Eight below.) This helps me "reset" my eyes and brain, so to speak.

Step Five: I print out the WIP again. Repeat Step One. Then go through it again with ECE and EDITS.

Step Six: Make changes to my soft copy. Send to the 1st set of betas.

Step Seven: Make any changes as needed per the 1st set of betas.

Step Eight: Send it to the 2nd set of betas. (By this point, the manuscript should be more or less in shape.) Make final changes as needed.

Step Nine: Send to Agent. Give myself a week of detox time from revision so I can "reset" again as I know Agent usually has her own set of revision comments, etc.

How do you revise? What tools / books have you found helpful?

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