Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where a few men have gone before

Recipe for a good day.

Step 1. Call in sick for work.
Step 2. Write half your weekly writing target drinking coffee in a cafe.
Step 3. Give your first talk at a high school and have the entire audience purchase ebook at the end.
Step 4. Play at the park with son.
Step 5. Have dinner with wife and son and eat far too much falafel.
Step 6. Get leave pass to go to cinema by self to watch 2 episodes of restored star trek.

I'm sure there could be improvements to this day, but from where I'm sitting I can't think of any.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The value of time.

Touch typing crept up on me slowly. One day I just realised that my fingers knew where everything was. Even now I find it weird. The same goes for learning the more subtle craft of writing. I think we pick up more than we know, and sometimes, leaving a piece of work in a drawer for a year or two gives us just enough time to get good enough to make it better.

On the recent break, amongst the furious drive to pump out 1000 words an hour on Book 2, I decided to re-edit an old short story I had lying around. I had heard about a new online magazine, Dark Edifice, who were accepting open submissions for weirder SF tales. So I dusted off the draft which I had sent out once and received one firm rejection for in early 2009, and tried again.

Turns out, the only cure for the horrible first-week-back-at-school-blues is finding out a short story has been accepted for publication. 

'Saved' is a 4000 word story about a young girl, Molly, whose idilic life becomes a little more perfect when her prayers for a puppy are answered. When Molly's puppy runs away, she goes looking for him, but instead finds people that even the town pastor does not speak of -- outcasts who have rejected God's love. And they'll do anything not to go back to Hell.

Stay tuned for the October issue of Dark Edifice.

Friday, July 6, 2012

5 things we say to toddlers that would actually help us write.

Okay -- everything we tell toddlers is good advice: Don't put your finger in there, for example, could have saved me years of trouble.

But there are some things I find myself repeating over and over to my three year old that I really should just say to myself.

Here they are:

1. Calm down and do it again slowly.

This one is the most repeated. Our children are walking personifications of the mirror Atreyu faces in the Neverending Story. They reflect back to us our true natures:

Engywook: Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu has to face his true self. 
Falcor: So what? That won't be too hard for him. 
Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming! .

My son loves to be by himself, playing happily for hours on end until one little thing goes wrong. The lego might not click together, the lego might not come apart. He can't find his Rainbow Dash, he cant get the paint lid open. You get the picture. The result is instant rage and despair -- an immediate existential crisis where no-one can help beyond playing witness to the suffering.

This is pretty much me when writing a first draft.

2. Clean up all that before you start something else.

This one needs no explaining. When it comes to my writing however, this bit of toddler advice is best applied to the process of drafting. I used to preach the necessity to forge ahead no matter what, but often there is a problem in chapter 3 that really needs to be tidied up before delving into chapter 11.

4. You can't watch TV in the morning.

Okay, so I don't wake up wanting to watch Peper Pig, (well, not always) but this rule applies to email, reddit, google reader, facebook et cetera. As I explain to my son, 'watching a screen first thing just makes you miserable.' This rule, incidentally, is the hardest for me to follow. I don't think I am the only one.

5. Yes, you really do have to sleep.

So you have been a good buy, and done all your work for the day and held off checking your blogger stats until after the spelcheck was done on your WIP. Now all you really want to do is stay up to 2am catching up on all the fun you missed out on. No. Go to bed. Your morning self will thank you.

***edit Sunday 8th July. Reason: stupidity***

No one noticed, but I only gave 4 rules.  I blame rule 5.

So here is missing rule #3:

3. Share your things.

I used to think that writing was a solitary pursuit; that all I need do is lock myself away in a castle for a few years and out pops a finished novel.

How naive. 

Just like I have to explain to my son that the only way to enjoy himself is to learn how to share, I have to remember that sharing is not only the point of this writing adventure, but the means to make it happen. 

I am 43k words into book 2, and I am relying on people now more than ever before. I share my chapters with my wife, who gives instant feedback on structure. I share the draft with my friends for their feedback on plot and the big ideas of the book. I share a crucial spreadsheet on all the magick spells in my book with the magician, who helps translate them into the language of magick. And lastly, I share everything with you, both my book, and its process on my blog. The feedback I get in the comments here and the reviews on goodreads keep me going when the thought of how many words I still have to write makes me want to curl up in a ball and have another existential meltdown.  


About me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Plot without conflict

I found this link via Metafilter. I think it is important.

Growing up I always loved anime, and I could never put my finger on why great films like Space Adventure Cobra, or Ninja Scroll felt so different to other movies.

Here is a choice paragraph from the linked article, The significance of plot without conflict:

For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict "built in", so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

What the article goes on to explain is the fundamental difference between Western three-act structure, and the four act one from the East.

I'm not suggesting that Eastern narratives have no conflict in them at all, rather that they are less concerned with thematic resolution derived from the conflict of the typical climax present in most of Western narrative. 

I think this is true, and nicely sums up the haunting, lingering mood great Eastern narratives can have. 


About me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Am 40K into book 2 and things are slowing down

That glorious rush of creativity is ebbing, and now each time I sit down to write I find I am spending more time revising what I did previously.

Advice like this doesn't help.

About me.