Friday, September 14, 2007

Writing websites

The Scriptorium

What is A Word? by Chuck Rothman: though I'm ambivalent about having to do math every time I need to do a tally to see what my results are. But the final count for an editor, maybe.

The Writer's Block


If one waits for the right time to come before writing, the right time never comes. -- James Russell Lowell, poet and critic.

I'm really rusty on world-building. To the point where I had to ask myself where to start when I said "brand new world nothing I have done before." I'm currently researching to remind myself how again, after blowing a raspberry at my personal library that felt remarkably devoid of that particular issue.

So by the time I reached work, I had to ask myself why the only thing I had close to world-building is a writing science fiction book on create alien worlds (with scientific principles instead of one transplant Earth environment stretched over the whole planet with some unusual astronomy features). But what I am looking for is more creating on the fictional universe, which includes species, planets, rules of logic, the quirks that make it unique, etc. And what the hell went wrong with my brain suddenly?

If one was really a writer, then one must write, and write now, while the hand still kept its cunning, while the technique was still in one's head, while one was still in touch with one's public. -- Harriet Vane's thoughts in Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh

So I have lost the technique. And it's really not that surprising. Putting aside the stressed-out, can't-write periods of mental commotion, I have been working on non-fiction, fanfiction (which has been universe expansion but not creation), Zy's universe (which I know but needs more fleshing out), and historical fantasy (Elizabethan that I already have a fundamental grasp on). It's probably been a decade since I've done anything from more scratch than those. I could look up an exact date, but I'm trying not to depress myself.

So I have lost the technique, and must relearn it. Being a constant student is one way to insure success.

Quote from Lawrence Block's prayer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thesis Contenders Continued

Wow, how much a planned blog post changes with a few hours.

What I came up with while I was driving from work to yoga class after reassuring the poverty-stricken kidlet inside me that I wasn't signing up for the unemployment line (and boy did discovering THAT explain the dread I get whenever somebody toss the write-full-time grenade at me) is my purpose and drive is back. Instead of being lost between a part of me squashing it out of fear and the rest of me oblivious and thinking there's something wrong with me somewhere else, and trying everything to get the old groove back. (I'm really glad none of this stuff attacked me while I was an undergraduate. I'm pretty sure I know why it didn't, but it's a sidetrack.)

With purpose back, I had planned on writing on fiction once I got home. I have been writing but well not what I intended. I decided to limit the thesis to my cross-genre stories though I hadn't consolidated that into a theme sentence idea yet. I figure if I'm going to piss somebody on the committee off by writing genre, I should go all the way. I might even put the Elizabethan grammar into "Covenant." *evil giggle*

While cross-genre gave me a starting point with my copied current-projects-list, I realized I needed to start on something that hasn't been in my brain percolating with mostly fleshed-out characters and plot. And take it through all the steps to completion. That was as far as I had gotten. I think now I'm leaning toward the creepy paranormal guys I've been collecting descriptions of. But what to cross them with needs to be worked out (Western? Capt. Kate?).

Then I got home and saw the response to my first initial post on the thesis issue. Not what I was expecting. I was thinking I was going to get something snarky about sarcastic female protagonists and the things they do as a theme in my writing. What I got made me feel that my non-finished stories were on trial and found not worthy. And I've been responding to that feeling for over an hour now. This is my attempt to clear up any confusion, and hopefully not pick a fight because I feel that I need to defend my stories.

What I feel was said: the stories on the list have been on your sidebar forever and a day (in Internet time) and they're all you've talked about for so long, so they are all used up. ESPECIALLY the ones you want to "rework" from old shit out of the filing cabinet. THROW THEM AWAY, BURN THEM UP, THERE'S NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THEM WORTH SAVING!

Now I do know that isn't what was said or how it was meant. And the last bit in all caps is my personal demon. I lost stories when I was 12 because I listened to a literary moron and believed him when he said I was promoting Satan. I burned every manuscript and every note I had about my psychic who helped ghosts and fought with her mother that didn't want the Gift. I can't even remember her name now, and I will probably never forgive myself for it. But understand why I can make the leap from file the story away to burn it for being bad.

I've been writing nearly non-stop since I was 11 until the transaction of being an adult with a real job and the resulting fear monger inside put a big monkey wrench in the writing. From 1988 to 2004, I completed 63 stories of various lengths. 39 of those are originals. And that's not counting the resource guides, the e-book, how much I have written for classes, and anything finished since the 2004 point. Out of those 39 stories, one can still be considered work-in-progress (Zy's Novel) and two are the genesis for two new projects.

With that balance, you can see why I feel bewildered when I'm treated like all I'm working on is crap because three story ideas on the list are cannibals (and I will lump Zy's Novel in that category even though I don't think it's fair). Everybody cannibalizes themselves. That's why they say never throw anything way.

Now in Thesis Contenders, I copied my current what I would like to work on list because I was in a panic and couldn't see a common theme to anything. But I already got approval for anything written during my master's schooling is eligible to go in. That's four stories on the list. And yes, I can publish them elsewhere because this thesis is a joke.

Those four are the most recent stories I have been working on. Truth is, I've probably had less total writing time on all this stuff no matter how far back you want to take the start date. Like one of those how many years you spend sleeping over a lifetime tallies, time spent on writing has been minuscule compared to other categories.

I have not been writing my fiction. The frozen word counts prove it.

Hell, NOTHING on the list has ever made it out of beta-editing stage because that would be the point where I would freeze up and stop. Two on the list are not even written; HOW can THEY be old, tired shit? Just because I've thrown up some notes about them on a blog and admitted to building off of something I started earlier and had them on the list but barely anything written manuscript-wise for so long that means they are obsolete?

Yes, I list them constantly because I WANT to finish them. And even though I'm listing them and taking notes about them and thinking about them, that doesn't mean I have the manuscript out working on it. For the past couple of years, it really has meant I haven't been working on the actual text. My muse keeps coming back to this stuff, and I don't think I need to apologize for that. Short stories with Zy, fleshing out Strix to a real world, expanding Capt. Kate, Cynthia Towers because damnit I like her cranky ass; see the paragraph above where I talk about new story from scratch. This stuff is not mutually exclusive. It never has been.

So the problems with my list are not computing in my head. If I take a story, pull the characters from it, tweak the character dynamics, and put them down in a new plot with fresh dialogue, what's old about the resulting story? If a story is still in the after beta-reading editing stage, how is it old and tired? It's not done yet.

I'm not trying to pick a fight. Ever since I started writing, I have always had a huge list of future stories. Some on it now will probably never be written, but they stay on the list to show my evolution of ideas. I shortened that list by to what is more feasible when I created my Current Projects list for the blogs, but some stuff is still up there as "I really think it's a neat idea but it needs to percolate more."

I have also never really said work was retired based on a date. Which I will admit has probably hurt me in the recent past trying to find courage for submitting, but plenty got retired without relying on a date. Have I ever brought up "Khartie's Birth, Zion *shudder*, the Kablancs, Drug M" series, the first four mysteries I ever wrote? A lot of those 39 stories has stayed buried in the file cabinet for good reason.

My work habits with writing have always been about the point when I can say "done." There's only one thing I can say done on in the current list and that's "Underneath the Colored Lights." And it feels like abortion to say that, to file it away, and move Cynthia away. And since it's not the big relief that filing "The Chosen" away was, I doubt this is a permanent decision.

So that wraps up my defense of my baby stories. To sum up: I feel they are getting blamed for what isn't their fault. Measuring in terms of hours spent writing, they haven't gotten the attention one would think they have gotten in the time span. And it's not their fault their creator got addicted to the busy drug along with health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, daily life problems, family crisis on top of family crisis, and capped off with Katrina. (If New Orleans can constantly harp on the hurricane, I can throw it into the mix too.) It's not their fault I got fucked up in the head.

But I am working on getting better, and every day is finding out new things about myself or to change. Like changing the chi of the room, these personal changes are rippling out and affecting everything else. But I can't snap my finger and undo the damage done over years and I can't snap my fingers and suddenly be the end result of all of this. Writing has the most proof of what a screwup I am, so I'm not expecting that finding the even keel with it is going to be easy. And it's the easiest to let slide because I expect so much from myself. And if that means working on the list until I am satisfied (which does happen contrary to popular opinion), I'm okay with that. I think the stories deserve it.

Things to Think About

Series planning questions

Market in the mystery genre

Giving up by Holly Lisle

Don't know why, but they really hit home. Well, I do sorta know why. In that nagging, tingling, back of the head, gut response that tells you this is IMPORTANT but you don't want to face it.

Could it be that I'm facing quitting as a viable option in my life for the first time? (Not writing, so nobody panic.)

Could it be because I had one of those tiny, duh epiphanies this morning? This job you tolerate isn't going away. I don't have to face my childhood-self not knowing when Dad would have a job or a paycheck. I haven't even worked on the finances in weeks, but I think I need to go back some exercises and work on that one.

Writing as a career most often is not a financially stable one. At the same time I say that doesn't matter to me, there's a little girl inside me that knows there's no money for anything because Daddy doesn't have a job. And that kid is desperate and doing everything in her power to maintain the glory of the paycheck.

I'm not being fair, but I just figured out where the sabotage is coming from. She just wants to be safe and have things. Me trying to get serious and earn minuscule and uncertain money off writing scares her to death. Safer to keep me busy and blocked and keep writing as a hobby.

So does this make sense? Writing has never been blocked--once I find time to just write. But finishing and submitting has been a major wigout fest. I kept blaming an unknown stessor and tried easing off the demands I make on myself to no success. Well, of course not, I haven't addressed the real issue. I don't know if this post has sufficiently addressed it and more is necessary. Maybe a routine of steady reassurance will get my writing groove back.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thesis Contenders

So I finally found somebody else in the English department working on a Creative Writing thesis. (That I don't get to socialize with these people is my defense, and I'm sticking to it.) Thesis runs about 70 pages and you have to have enough stories to fill that. And the stories all have to fit a theme that you get to defend.


So any ideas on a common theme between any of these?
  • The Blue Man on the Porch
  • Covenant of the Restless
  • Gingerbread Girl
  • Phantom Hitchhiker
  • Strix short story
  • Underneath the Colored Lights
  • Zy's vacation story