Saturday, December 19, 2009

Going Dark

Sorry for the few-and-far-between posts lately; I'm taking a bit of time off for the holidays.  I'll be back to a normal schedule, including some regular features, after the first of the new year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That Sneaky Facebook

This was friend-of-blog John's Facebook status today:
If you don't know, as of today, Facebook will automatically start plunging the Earth into the Sun. To change this option, go to Settings --> Planetary Settings --> Trajectory then UN-CLICK the box that says 'Apocalypse.' Facebook kept this one quiet. Copy and paste onto your status for all to see.
I'm still giggling.  (My apologies to anyone not on Facebook; this is a lot funnier if you are.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Thing I'm Not Good At

I have this story I tell at parties now and then.  It's a true story vividly recalled from my own childhood, and every telling is a unique performance.  I'm a border collie, using various details to charge and feint until every listener has been herded into the right mindset.  Only when I have them on the edge of their seats with bated breath do I give them the climax.  When it's all over, they blink and laugh and say they need a drink and realize how badly they've needed to pee.

It's awesome.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to capture this magic in writing.  I've tried to write this particular story at least half a dozen times, and it never works.  Unlike fiction, the context of the story is my entire childhood, the relevant details infinite. Without being able to read my readers the way I can read a live audience, I can't settle on a useful perimeter.

I'm having the same problem with my entry for Moonrat's Mentors, Muses & Monsters contest.  I'm trying to tell a true story from my life, one I've told out loud many times, and again I can't seem to circumscribe it for the writing.

Oh well.  I'm no good at calculus either, but I get along.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Outlets for Short Bursts of Genius

Write every day.

That's the mantra bespoke by experts far and wide, but some days you just can't face your novel.  Some days you just need a little somethin'-somethin'.  For those days, I give you my list of favorite very-short-form creative writing outlets.

1.  Urban Dictionary
Submit a definition!  You can redefine an existing term or make up a new one.

2.  The New Yorker Magazine Cartoon Caption Contest
Submit your own captions and vote for winners.  They have it every week, and you only have to sign up once.

3.  Ebert's Little Movie Glossary
Silly terms for silly film devices.  See Ebert's FAQ for submission information.

4.  Twitter Fiction & Poetry
Use an existing or new hashtag to identify your creative posts.  JJ DeBenedictis's #HaikuHorror is a particular favorite of mine.  Contests like Stuart Neville's #GhostsOfBelfast are also great fun when you can find them.

5.  Blog Parties & Contests
Someone is always running one, and they are a great way to "meet" other writers.   I generally don't have time to write entries for short story and essay contests, but I can hardly pass up a one line / one paragraph / one verse / under 150 words-type contest.

I'd love to hear if you have any to add!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Really Do Enjoy This

My novel revisions are under way!

Sort of.

Here's a little secret about the novel.  Although I had planned to write a vaguely steampunk SFF, it somehow became a reality-based historical thriller.  Although by 'reality-based', I mean based on my crush-and-clique-eclipsed recollection of middle-school history.

So Phase One, Step One is actually the Basic Research Phase, wherein I make sure the technology central to my plot actually existed when I hope it did. 

So far so good.

That said, I haven't stopped writing.  I'm just indulging myself with other projects.  Tonight I wrote 1400 words of a new short story, and another 400 for an entry into Moonrat's Mentors, Muses & Monsters Contest.

And now I really must go to bed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Note To Self Re: Paying One's Dues

A pattern in recent posts with subjects from rejection letters to runner's knee have reminded me that when deciding to climb a mountain, it's important to realize the path is not only uphill but also crooked, uneven, and changing.  No matter how hard you climb, along the way, you will probably fall, and stuff will probably fall on you.  Prepare for this even if others seem to have had it easy.  Prepare for this even if those who had it hard seem to be special cases.  Success will depend not only your hard work, but also your ability to recover, adapt, and continue despite the setbacks.  These are all just part of paying your dues.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Final NaNoWriMo 2009 Post

I can't believe it's been less than a week since NaNoWriMo ended.  NaNo is like driving on the autoban.  It goes so fast that everything immediately afterward feels impossibly slow.

So here are my final observations:

1.  It wasn't anywhere near as difficult as I thought it would be.  I expected it to be the hardest thing I'd ever attempted for fun.  Not even close.  But then, I happen to thrive on pressure.
2.  The most challenging thing about it was finding the time without shirking other obligations.  This was possible only with the help and understanding of a very supportive family.
3.  The second biggest challenge was keeping the right attitude.  It's OK to write shit.  Keep moving forward.  Remember this is supposed to be fun.  Keep moving forward. 
4.  The most awesome thing about it was, of course, that I won.  Along with the sense of satisfaction, I finally have a completed first draft that I'm excited about.  I can't wait to go back to work on it.  I've had to force myself to leave it alone this week.
5.  The second most awesome thing was that it really was fun.  I enjoyed writing with abandon, and I enjoyed being part of a huge community doing the same.  There is a reason why people get together to run marathons instead of just submitting their treadmill times.
6.  My NaNo book is completely different than any other fiction I've ever written.  At the same time it is more representative of my personal point of view -- more essentially me.
7.  Would I do it again?  Definitely not before next November.  And then?  Well, we'll see.  It was the tool I needed at this time.  That may or may not be true in future.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Royalties in the Music World

Hopefully by now we all understand how royalties and advances and earning out works in publishing.  One thing that is less clear, because it varies widely depending on situation, is how this information is all tracked and reported to the author.  For various reasons I have been under the impression that tracking and reporting royalties for digital downloads would be pretty straightforward.  I know this can and should be true because I know how the technology works, but here is a missive from the music industry that put a little chill in the air.

Thanks to Tim Quirk and the band Too Much Joy for lifting the veil.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What I Mean By 'Anything'

When I ran out of ideas, I just wrote anything until the plot started churning again on its own, which it reliably did.
I was just saying that the other day.  But what does it mean to write anything?  For some people, it means quoting the dictionary.  For me, it means pure self-indulgence.

I write detailed descriptions of clothes, places, daily life, backstories, and where-they-are-nows.  In other words, I write all the stuff you're supposed to elegantly suggest in your story without boring your readers to death with plotless exposition.  Fuck that.  Call these notes in prose form.

If I get stuck even for expository vignettes, I literally just write in my fantasies: the character is wearing a dress I've always wanted, or living in my dream house, or telling someone off with a razor wit.  If I'm hungry, she's eating whatever I'm craving.  If I'm tired, she takes a nap.

I really can't explain why it works, but inevitably these diversions make a problem more complicated, a character more layered, the stakes a little higher. As long as I keep writing, I can find my way back into the story.  I know even as I write this horseshit that I'll take it out, but it's still beautiful.  It's the string on which the sugar crystals grow into rock candy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No, I Did Not Query Today

I'll write a few final reflections on NaNo this week, and then I'll shut up about it, I promise. 

Today there have been mentions in the blogosphere about agents' inboxes getting filled with NaNo queries, and it's tempting to write it all off as the irritating conceit of the profoundly uninformed wannabe population.

But for the record, all the participants I've talked to are entirely realistic about their NaNo projects.

NaNoWriMo is to writing a novel what gold mining is to making a piece of jewelry.

You write and write and write anything until you hit a vein of Story, and then you follow that until it peters out. Then you write/dig, write/dig until you find some more Story. In the end, you have 50,000 words worth of unrefined Story Ore nuggets and the detritus you created getting to them.

There's a lot of work between this pile of glinty rubble and a shiny work of art (probably a year's worth for me), but every novel has to start somewhere.