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Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Submission Angst

Other than to school lit mags, I’ve never submitted anything anywhere in my life.  I realize that if I want to be a published writer, I’m going to need to submit things for publication.  I’ve read the books, the writer’s essays, the blogs.  I know that everyone in the history of writing has been rejected at some point by somewhere.  I know that once I get off my ass and do it, the jumping from high place sensation will kick in and I’ll be okay.  But now I’m teetering at the edge of the abyss, thinking that it is much too far down.  There is still time before the leap and the ‘too late now’ sensations.

It isn’t exactly a fear of rejection that stops me.  Part of me fears being accepted and then hating the work that I’ve done.  Fears getting out there and having what I write not represent what I want it to.  Every year I get better as a writer.  Every time I write something it is better than the thing I wrote before it.  While this progress is nice, it keeps me crippled in many ways.  If I can build it stronger, faster, better with only the technology of time, then nothing is stopping me from waiting until I am at the unnameable peak of my talent.  (Until, as a friend pointed out, I’m likely dead.)

I can see the progress.  But I want it to be perfect.  I want things to be better than good enough.  I don’t want the reading worlds’ first impression of me to be less than I am.

I know I just need to take the leap.  To step out over the edge, hit the ‘send’ button, and let my darlings fly away from me.

I’m trapped in the eternal human gap between knowing what we need to do and taking the necessary action.

My Writing Issues Part 2 (Million)

As always when I’m reading other writers’ blogs, reading writing forums, or even just comments on my own blogs, the differences between myself and other amateur writers strike me. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of similarities. I think having self-doubts and times of uncertainty and difficulty with the creative process comes pretty much packaged with the territory. But I also have problems that have nothing to do with this doubt, this overriding uncertainty. (Well, not more than anything that is directly tied together via my brains can be unrelated).

So, common writing issues I don’t have:

Voice- I gots one. All my writing sounds like me. Sometimes it all sounds a bit too much alike, which is something I’m working on. My writing has a surreal tone to it, however. I’m good with that, though I am working on varying character more.

Ideas- I has them. Many writers often complain about getting the question of “where do you get your ideas from?” constantly. I don’t think I’ll ever ask someone this question. In fact, I’d put ideas under problems in some ways. I have too many. I don’t know if I will ever get all the stories inside me out onto a page in coherent fashion. Some of the ideas are no more than an image, a quick clip of film in my head, or perhaps a character standing alone on the black screen of my mind. (She’s there right now, dripping blood all over everything from a pretty nasty looking gash in her left arm. Don’t know who she is, but someday I will.) I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block in the traditional sense. The ideas are always there. I always have images and stories in my mind to work with.

Internal Editor- Not really a problem. During NaNoWriMo I love to read the forums even when I’m not participating. People constantly whine about not knowing how to turn off the internal editor. I found NaNo to be no issue at all because I’m pretty sure turning on my internal editor is the hard part. My novel might have gone better if I’d been listening the quiet voice inside of me instead of rabidly smashing words into the computer.

Getting Discouraged- It happens. It also isn’t a huge problem. I tend to decide I’m going to quit forever about once a month. Like my wrath, this feeling generally passes within minutes, often followed by another stream of those plaguey ideas. In fact, if anything discourages me it is the flow of ideas around me constantly. I feel like a cheetah stuck in a stampeding herd of zebra. Too many ideas, too many images. So hard to choose just one to bring down and bleed out. That can be quite discouraging. And sure, I never know if I’ll be good enough to satisfy myself. I write because something inside me compels me to do so. I don’t think I could stop, I’ve certainly never been successful at stopping in the past.

Those seem to be the main issues people write about with writing. So many books are dedicated to helping beginning writers work through these issues.

And now, writing issues I do have.

I think in images. And not just silent paintings moving through my head, but I mean full sensory images that I can see, touch, taste, hear, smell. Sometimes they are as real to me as the world around me. Sometimes they become almost a part of the world around me. (A lifetime of dealing with them has trained me to distinguish most of the time, and boy does my sanity thank me. Also, so do people who drive with me in my car *grin*). The flow is often fast, more of a flood swollen river than a lazy summer stream. It can be hard for me to get full pictures before things move past me and other voices and worlds crowd in for attention. I don’t always have the full story, the how and why of it. My writing shows this. I think that this is often one of its huge weaknesses. It’s clear in my rough drafts that I don’t always know the why behind the what, so things are flatter than they could be. To me this is a problem inherent in the translation of things. I have to take the ideas from my head and put them into words. Image to language. This is, for me, an actually physically painful process sometimes. I get huge headaches if I’m pushing things too hard. Then comes frustration and the delete key. (Used to be fire. I’ve burned many stories and plays). Training myself as a translator between my head and my writing is an ongoing and scary part of it. Getting the images to communicate themselves the way I see them is difficult. I struggle with this constantly. I’m not sure I’ll ever have it perfect, and yeah, that frustrates me daily.

My hatred of editing my own work. I really do starve and kick my internal editor. I’m perfectly capable of editing other people’s work. Editing while translating/writing, however, is really hard for me. I require a lot of distance and input on my own work before I can ever begin to process how to improve it beyond grammar and basics. Fortunately lately I’ve had a few people willing to read my stuff and offer good feedback. It is starting to smooth the editing process. I’m going to work on letting the editor out while I’m writing on this novel rewrite. This is definitely an area I could improve on.

Characters not ideas. Right now my characters tend to fall into pretty archetypal categories. Some of this is because I keep writing based on themes or images I get and not with the characters themselves as the focus. Part of this can likely be blamed on 7 years of college studying archetypes and themes. I’m working on getting into the heads of my characters more, of dragging it out of them instead of just letting them tell me whatever they think I need to know and leaving the rest obscure. I’m not sure characterization will ever be one of my strong suits, sadly. I hope that I’ll have some sort of breakthrough eventually on how to write the kind of unique and memorable characters I love to read about. This is definitely up there on my ‘worries about my writing’ list.

So there you have it. Those are the main issues I have with my writing and with the writing process. (Also known as the post where I use the word ‘issues’ way too many times, gah.)

Good Times

Two awesome things happened in my writing life in the last two days.

One: wrote a short story I’d been wanting to write for a while now.  I managed to quiet down the excuse monkey and do it.  Amazing how after working on a 60k word + novel for a while makes writing up 3 to 5k words seem like so much less work than it used to.  I finished the entire first draft of the story in about 4 hours.  It’s a retelling of the Samson and Delilah story.  I’ve wanted to retell it ever since listening to Regina Spektor’s Samson song.  The original story is so stupid that I wanted to write a version that makes more sense (and involved more of a fantasy/sorcery bent to things rather than just stupid people).  It feels really good to get the story done.  I think I might take a chance and submit it to S&S depending on how my rewrites of the two other stories I’m considering go in the next week.  Though Samson drives some of the action, I feel that Delilah is truly the central part of it, so the strong central girl thing comes through well enough if subtly.

The second awesome is that I found out about grad school.  I’m in!  So now I have to figure out how to pay for it and what I’m going to do about that whole “sorta misrepresented the stuff I write” problem.  Though, to be fair, my two stories I sent in weren’t exactly mainstream normal either.  One is about a teenager heroin addict who kills her abusive ex (and has his ghost in the story) and the other is about a violin player from Hometown, Everywhere going to the Big City and finding herself (and falling for another girl). (And the final installment of that story, which I didn’t send them because I haven’t finished it yet reveals that the girl she’s in love with is actually a hermaphrodite with the bits of both sexes.  And I’m probably going to rewrite the whole thing and put a more high fantasy bent on it since as one reader pointed out it has that feel anyway).

I’m now brainstorming and taking all ideas for how to raise money for school.  So far on the maybe possible list (instead of the silly list) I’ve got bake sales and chapbook donation/sales.  It wouldn’t be that expensive to print up a little (maybe 40 page) chapbook of my poetry.  I’m not sure how many people I could convince to donate/buy them.  Anyone know how bake sales work?  Any other ideas?  I’m not expecting to raise all 25k, but it would be nice if I could get some monies to put towards books and such.  The more costs I can defray on the front end, the better it will be in the long run since I’m pretty much doomed to some sort of Federal loan.  (So much for having no debt. At least interest rates are low right now).

This does not affect the Ten in Ten plan, by the way.  I’m going to work my thesis into my novel plans and hopefully write a novel for it which will be that year’s novel.  Probably War Witches, but maybe the sequel to Dangerous depending if I get lucky and the whole sale thing happens.  I guess I’ll have to cross that whole “doesn’t like to write lit fic” bridge when I come to it, eh?  MFA programs do have a reputation for turning out writers who sound just like each other (and their profs), but I have my own fairly distinctive voice and thus this isn’t a huge concern.  I’m stubborn.

Well, now to wait for the paperwork machine that is the University proper to get around to processing that I’m admitted to the program and do the whole actual admission process so I can find out about aid.

Back to writing. Yay.

Editing and Bribes

I added an entire chapter today in the beginning part of the novel. It sets up a conspiracy that is alluded to later and ties the events of the first two chapters into the events later in the novel. What it means for the practical side of writing is that I now have a ton of inconsistencies to go in and fix as well a couple more threads to pick up and weave into the main part. Which means that for the moment, the novel gets even messier.

I want it done. I want to be able to print a few hard copies, stuff them in binders, and then disperse to the people who have offered to be my beta readers. I want to start on my new projects and get this whole stupid thing over with. It’s so easy to just ignore it, however, and work on other things. I’ve got books to read and two other novels in the works. So I arrived at a natural solution to trick myself into buckling down and just doing it.

Bribary. I wrote a sticky note and fixed it to the wall behind my monitor. It reads “When you finish editing your novel, you may spend 250 on things from your Amazon Wishlist. So do it! Now!” Thus not only will it be off my back in terms of needing to get done, but I’ll get real life rewards of things I want. It’s sort of like getting paid to do it. I think if I make a real effort and a big push, I can finish in two to three weeks. The more hours I spend on it, the faster I’ll get to reward myself. It’s a cheap trick. But if it works, I’ll use it.

The other bribe I’m debating offering myself is to go to World Con in Montreal in 2009. It would be awesome to get to vote in the Hugo awards and it would be a good networking opportunity since agents and editors go as well as some of my favorite authors. There are also workshops and such run. If I can get both novels done this year and edited up to a basically polished state, I think I’ll be ready to find an agent and launch myself into the world of rejections (err, I mean professional writing, really).

I’ve also joined the Online Writing Workshop. So far I’m just reviewing things since I don’t feel I have anything to post for reviews yet. Once I’ve finished the rewrite of my Monsters short story, I’ll probably post that. The quality of writing on the site is better than most and the reviews I’ve read so far are fairly detailed and helpful. I’m using my month long free trial to see if I could get enough out of it to be worth the 50 per year fee for access. So we’ll see how that goes.

Well, that is the news on the projects of doom so far. I’ll try to think up a more interesting or at least writing informative post later this week.

Ranty McRant

Please ignore the whining.

I’m having a terrible time editing this damn novel. It’s sad really. I want to burn it, delete it, throw it far far away. Unfortunately, I know it would sling back around like a bad joke to smack me in the face. One of the reasons it’s being such a pain in my ass is that the ‘fixes’ for it are actually pretty obvious but super time consuming. I’m pulling parts that didn’t make sense before together, which requires pages and pages of completely fresh material. I’m revamping the science and making it less fly by seat of pants (or seat of wikipedia), and I’m inserting a great deal more character interaction and hopefully motivation. I’m brimming with ideas about it. Ideas are never the issue.

Basically, I feel like a person who buys an old fixer-upper house and then sinks 10 years of time and money and effort to make it beautiful. I don’t want to find out my lovely house isn’t worth what I’ve paid for it. I’ve said before that I sort of hate this novel. It was a dare, a bit of a joke. But I also know that I’m often my own worst critic. I know that there are things worth exploring at least in this novel. I can see the possibilities in the ragged and ugly bones of my tale.

But the doubts linger. Would this time be better spent writing one or both of the other novels I’m working on this year? I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever really know. I do know that I would love to just have this damn thing done already. Not to overuse a literary convention, but this novel is fast becoming my writing albatross. I know I need to just suck it up and git’er done. If only things were so easy.

In other news, no word yet about that job. I’m still on the fence. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep plugging away at the writing. Now if only I could banish thoughts of my Civil War Witches novel from my brain. That novel is at least a year or two away from being written. Grr.

Alright, /endrant.

Wrenches

Well, I’ve been offered a job in Technical and Marketing Writing.  It’s sort of using my degree, at least one of them.  The pay is low for the work, but not too low.  It has benefits and such.  It’s also full time.  Which means no more days free for writing.  I know me, if I have no me time, I don’t get to write.  I can’t do it with distractions or too much structured time.

The pros are real experience in a field that actually pays reliable money.  And it’s about double what I’m making part time now.

The cons are a commute, and no more free time.

So, do I choose fiction writing?  Or money?

Waxy Thoughts

After spending the majority of a 12 hour work shift putting together a reading wish list and trolling writing forums, I’m exhausted and full to brim with thoughts that won’t seem so deep tomorrow.

After reading a largish amount of amateur short fiction in the last few days, I’m yet amazed at ego involved. On the one hand, posting for reviews is good. Having others read one’s work is useful often. On the other hand, so many of these ‘reviews’ are fellow amateur writers who refuse to say anything more negative than making gentle comments about maybe looking into cleaning up grammar or spelling mistakes. It’s a lot of back patting and hand holding. For me, it’s very hard not to fire up the flamethrower and wade on in. For criticism to work, it has to be constructive. But it also has to be critical. “You’re story was nice.” or “I liked it.” doesn’t help. Even a little. And really, the illusions about their skills that 99% of these writers seem to harbor, well, it’s staggering. Half the time I’m tempted to leave truthful yet equally unhelpful reviews like “you really need to scrap this and start over” or “maybe your talents lie more in knitting, or cooking, or something that will never involve the English language or a keyboard.” Of course, this doesn’t tell them much. It doesn’t really help because such negativity is easy to ignore. So instead I try to offer real criticism that basically says these things in very long form. I tear tiredly into these little tidbits of drivel offered up by the writing virgins and hope that at least some part will sink in.

There’s a strange gap in writer ego, as far as I can tell. People who write amateur fiction seem to fall into two camps. There are the writers who think they are the next great ‘thing’, the undiscovered genius. Then there are those (of which I’m one, I must admit) who think that they’re pretty much doomed to remain unread and unloved because they’ll never be sure if anything they’ve written is any good at all. Sometimes I wish I could change camps. Having some measure of pride or at least misplaced glee in my work might spur me to actually get things done. Certainly some of my least favorite writers among the published masses manage to produce vast amounts of their mediocre fiction. Perhaps that thin illusion of potential would make a nice shield for my easily bruised writing ego.

Perhaps I should just stop reading good books. Every time I read a decent novel, I dig myself a little deeper into the trench of personal expectation. Sadly, reading bad novels just pisses me off instead of providing a ladder out of said conceit. Recently I’ve been reading Simon Green’s Hawk and Fisher stories. I’m disappointed. It’s amateur writing at its finest. The potential is there, but the stories so far feel like something churned out to meet a writing workshop first draft deadline. I pretty much hate reviewing things, so this should tell you how surprised I was at the quality of this work. I mean, it came recommended, damnit. Sigh. It should give me hope; this mediocre work by an author with plenty of published works to his name. Somehow this only makes me sad.

In the writing project news category: I’ve decided that while I’m not a daily writer sort of writer, I need to kickstart myself. I’ve taken on a lot more project than I intended to, which means my usual method of binge writing isn’t going to cut it. I can’t keep treating writing like a free bag of cookies that I eat half of before I realize I don’t really like these cookies, but then finish out of guilt. So I’m aiming for 2 hours a day of writing type activity. That’s ten hours a week. (weekends are full of work, and work is full of stupid which isn’t good for writing). We’ll see how Plan B goes. Plan C involves a blow torch, six white mice, a one way plane ticket, and pink silk stockings. Don’t ask.

(edit: also, I realize the irony of saying I write mediocre fiction vs my arrogant presumption that my critical reviews of other works are valid and useful.  In my defense, I’m a pretty damn good editor.  Also, I read more than pretty much anyone I know.  It might be cliche to say that reading makes you better at writing, but it is true to an extent.  I’ve spent years feeling out and learning what works or doesn’t as I read. )

Productivity Is Overrated

I haven’t written a single thing all week except to jot down a few notes here and there for my novels. In terms of life though, I’ve been very productive, so I suppose it’s a trade-off. I built my shelves, finally. All that remains for my office to be complete is for my old computer to get raided for its information (such as my first novel that needs edits) and for the new computer to be fully installed with the programs I need. I’d like this to get done by the end of next week. I’ve been using it as an excuse not to do much in the way of writing. It’s a poor excuse.

I’m a tomorrow person. I know this, and I do what I can to work around the constant desire to just “do it tomorrow”. Actually, I did get some writing-ish stuff done, since I managed to get some comic things sent off to my artist. However, it’s not really as much as I’d hoped. So for next week I’m setting some goals. I will meet these goals. They aren’t that lofty or interesting, but I have to get going. Once I have momentum, it will take care of itself, but I’ve been putting things off too long.

Weekend goals: Finish review of Cooking Mama for my friend’s website. Rework Predators plot outline (I’ve had some different ideas, so I’m going to rewrite it).

Next week’s goals: 10 pages of Predators. At least 10 pages of Chwedl written. Type up and edit first layer of Past Dark. Finish Bad Day comic (I can do this in one day, I just have to buckle down and do it).

I’d love to be doing a chapter of each book a week, but it isn’t going to happen. I should be realistic about things and put off Predators until I’ve got Chwedl done and ready for first round of readers. Then I could buckle down and get Predators done in time to be sent out once they’ve gotten back to me about Chwedl. I may do this. But I want to get the outline done at least. We’ll see. I may have too much project on my plate. Fortunately for me, it takes me far less time to write pages and pages of comic than it does for my poor artist to concept and draw the stuff up. I can get layers ahead of her in a day or two without a problem, so I’m not worried about her outpacing me in terms of the comic.

So that’s the story of this week. Exciting, isn’t it? I’ll be more productive. You know, tomorrow. But hey, shelves! My to-read shelf has 58 books on it.

Excuses and The Writer’s Space

So, I have two novel outlines. I have a brand new computer. I haven’t done anything in a week.

I’ve been using the “no access to my dead harddrive” excuse in order to not work on the ‘Dangerous’ editing/rewrite. It’s a problem I could fix just by poking the people who have computer know-how and making them boot my drive with their magic computer powers. Instead I keep letting them get distracted with things like work, school, and Jade Empire.

I’ve been using the excuse of not getting much sleep and then being out of town to avoid working on my novels. These excuses are poor and thin. I keep letting people distract me or making other plans and my writing time slowly disappears. I’ve used the same excuses to avoid writing on the two comics I’m working on.

Solution? I think I’m going to have to be a little more stubborn about writing time. Which means saying no to friends who want to do things during the day. And recognizing my own excuses for what they are. My plan for the rest of this week is to get my office set up again and get comic bits sent off to my artist so she has something to work on as well.

I have a lot of books. This means that my office, which is the place in my home I can go to close away the outside world and its distractions, is currently full of books with very little extra space. I went to Ikea and got new shelves for the rearranging of the office, so the books should get off the floor and where they belong soon. Having space is important. Having a working computer that isn’t shared is also important. I like to close myself away to write. I need to be able to put on music, lock the door, arrange my notebooks and research around myself, and turn the eyes inward towards the mindscape of my stories. It’s vital to my writing process. I don’t understand those people who can write in cafes or pizza parlours or bars. People are too interesting, I like to watch them too much. There is no way I can be around them and still interacting on a meaningful level with the things in my head.

I’ve only lost a week to excuses. Sometimes having no deadlines isn’t actually a blessing. Well, I suppose I do have a deadline, but it’s so far away, it feels unreal. If I don’t get on this now, however, December will have come all too quickly. I’ll post the first couple paragraphs of both novels by the end of next week. There, that’s sort of like a deadline. Time to get my room in order, both the real one and the one in my head.

If Stories Were Wishes

The other night I had the coolest dream. It ended up that I was wide awake at 5am with a desperate need to write this stuff down. At first it seemed like this new idea would just be nice sci/fi short story. The premise is simple: a group of biologists on a new planet studying predatory fauna. It was going to be around 3500 words which makes it easy to write it up and give it to my friends who love to give me feedback on this stuff. Do a quick rewrite, then submit somewhere. Boom, done. Maybe a month or two.

If only it were that easy. Instead this story has expanded into a novel. I could probably keep it novella length, but those are especially hard to market. It’s sad really. Over 10,000 words and a story is too long for a short story. Under 60-70k words, and too short for a novel. And 60k words is still an awfully short novel. There is a gray zone, which my first novel currently occupies at 55k, between 10k and 70k. Now, mind you, I realize different genres have different typical lengths. A young adult novel doesn’t need to be more than 170-220 pages generally (about 45k-65k words). Likewise, a stock romance novel is often around that length as well. For mainstream fiction or genre fiction like sci/fi or fantasy, however, most books are 250 to 350 pages these days. Longer if it isn’t the first book from an author. Which is why with my novel projects I’m aiming for 75k-110k words.

So Novel Project 2 is apparently starting at the same time as Novel Project 1. That’s the fun of writing, I suppose. Can’t really plan anything. My brain is teeming with ideas for both novels, therefor it isn’t as though I can just ignore one and work on the other merely because one idea was first. With some of my ideas, I can do this. I have three other novel ideas, for example, that aren’t pressing themselves into my head as needing to be written right now. I know the basic plots of each of these, but the chars are staying quiet enough I can ignore them and write the others.  The sci/fi novel isn’t staying quiet.  This is a story that is demanding to be written.

I think the only way to possibly have hope of completing these projects is to break it up a little. Fortunately the projects are different enough that there won’t be crossover. One is somewhat hard Sci/Fi, the other very much Fantasy with some fairytale/historical elements.  One is third person omniscient, the other is in first person.  I’m going to handwrite the fantasy novel, which means it will take longer. That isn’t such a bad thing, however, because it will make the editing process easier and it will be something I can do on a longer time-line than the Sci/Fi novel. As much as it might make editing quicker to write both by hand, I’m not that much of a masochist. Handwriting stories is fun and I prefer it, but something that long is an exercise in endurance. I type about 70-90 words per minute when I’m on a real roll, which means I can do a page of story in about 3-5 mins if I know where I’m going with it. When I write by hand it takes longer to do the same amount of text unless I want my hand to cramp. (oh the memories of college lit exams where I had to write three essays by hand in 40 mins.)

So, to sum up:

By end of March: have Nano novel (working title Dangerous) edited and ready for second round of readers.

By end of June: have both novels (working titles are Chwedl for the fantasy and Predators for the Sci/fi) done in the first draft form and ready for first round of readers.

By end of September: have at least Chwedl ready for second round of readers and edits.

By end of December: submit Chwedl, have Predators ready for second round of readers and edits.

Of course, if I get into grad school, it could put a serious constraint on my writing times and needs. However, I don’t see this ten years ten novels project as being counter to getting my MA. At the least I can turn in parts of my novels for classes and hopefully turn one of my yearly novel projects into my thesis project. I doubt whatever adviser I end up with would mind the idea of the project, hopefully they will think it is interesting and worth helping me out with.

I know, too many ideas is probably the least of my problems. I read so many complaints from amateur writers about how they can’t find the ideas or they have writer’s block or something along those lines. This is never my problem. The problem for me with writing is that once you’ve written the story/novel, the work has just begun. Editing takes ten times the energy and time of actually writing. I’ll get the hang of it one of these days. I hope.