Going With the Flow (On Writing & Editing)

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So this is gonna be another post extolling the virtue of the pump pad. I finally found myself back in my office with some time to focus on my writing. I have a busy weekend ahead, starting with a wedding today. I was feeling a little confused about how to start. Editing wise I am right to the chunky middle part, where things sort of jump off and get weird, and so with love and tradition in the air, it just didn’t feel right going all dark and crazy. So instead I decided to go with the flow and turn to the pump pad. I decided to write a random scene with my lead and her love interest. And again the pump pad came through. 

As usual I’m not sure if the thousand I put up will ever make the final draft, but what it does is help fill out are the details of my characters. They come alive by writing these scenes. And it’s interesting too because having the basic story in mind, I can sort of imagine the affect this is going to have on a reader, when they final get to the ending. It’s like I can actually feel the layers being added; it’s a very cool sensation. 

It made me think of other Arts which are obviously more mechanical, like painting or playing and instrument. And somehow getting that perfect line you want in a figure is analogous to finding that perfect feel for a character, when that success is achieved only then does the figure begin to jump off the page. That’s what’s loved in something like the Mona Lisa, or The Old Man in the Sea, the ability of the artist to create a real world out of artificial techniques. The more we focus on these real, tangible methods of our the art the better we will become. Art is not about being inspired and sort of vomiting out a finished project, but it is the slow march forward that wins the day. 

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Going with the mood of the day, dictated by agenda, was a success as well. I reflected on why people feel the need to marry, why I myself have desperately needed monogamy and companionship. The scene I wrote brought out all kinds of ideas. It is because we need to communicate, and be understood, recognized in our personhood, by another. It is because we are on an adventure, and it is perilous and having a dedicated companion gives you strength. It is because the world is confusing, and getting simpatico with someone makes it less confusing. It’s because we don’t have all the answers, and we are obsessed with that mystery of the other, and we know if we can just understand one other person fully, than maybe we have moved forward. It’s is because we are pack animals, whose skin was built to give and receive pleasure, and sometimes it can be so cold and then a warm body next to you can mean survival. 

This is what I think is meant by write what you know. You need to work with the emotions and experiences that interest you. And though you can be writing some crazy distant world, it needs to come from your own heart and mind; there is no other way. 

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All Hail the Pump Pad! (On Writing and Editing)

So I wrote last time about priming the pump, the idea that when editing a writer should still “prime the pump”, by pounding out a thousand or so new words before jumping into any editing. With the business of Summer afoot, the writing side of of my life is sort of being neglected, but finally today I got after it. Thinking about the big picture of my story though, especially after like a week or more of not really working at it, had me feeling confused and overwhelmed. But then I remembered the pump pad.

Coincidentally, I had also have also been experiencing a little bit of domestic discourse with my Wife and so I was feeling bit litigious, and so that prompted  me to turn to the climax scene of my book, which is a sort of mock trial event. Then bam, an hour later, the thousand words are out, and we have ended up with a couple juicy tidbits which might actually make the final draft. 

The pump pad is awesome. I really like writing new stuff, that main is the reason I do it. And if that’s all it is, just me banging on the keyboard, making stuff up, having a little fun, that’ll be enough. But the thing is sometimes I also dream about other people enjoying what I have written. And something like hopeless stirs in my heart. It’s futile, a dark mind says. No one will ever read your story. And there’s truth in that dark voice right now, because readers could never happen until we have a finished product, and can’t have finished project without the massive edit, but don’t like to edit? Despair. Solution? The pump pad!

Honestly, if you’re like me, stupid, lazy, and careless, the pump pad is for you! Some people say anything worth doing is worth doing right. My motto is anything worth doing is worth doing twice! So get out there and just rewrite the same scene a hundred times, sooner or later one of those will have to not suck, right? 

There’s this philosophical thought experiment called the infinite monkey theorem. The idea is how long would it take a infinitely supplied room of monkeys banging on a typewriter, for them to write Shakespeare. Now the point of thought experiment is about the results of infinity and randomness. It wants to indicate that if there is an infinite amount time and randomness, then there is an infinite amount of possibilities. And this provides me some strange hope, that maybe one day if I just keep banging away on this keyboard, out might pop a master piece! 

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Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem

Does Size Matter? (On Writing & Editing)

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Well I don’t think it does, really. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, in most areas really, ahem. There is a lot of discussion out there among writers about how much is enough. There are different word count for different genres I’ve learned, and a myriad of reasons and explanations for these different levels. Like Hard Sci-FI should be no less than 90K words, and YA should be somewhere around 60k. These are of course dictated by the always dubious and ambivalent, “publishing industry”, and so of course my Generation Y, anti-conformist, middle-child syndrome, wasn’t raised right ass, is highly doubtful of all these conventions. Of course no one is really saying these word counts are a hard line in the sand or anything. No, of course not, just merely suggestions, based on empirical research and common sense.

For a thorough listing and explanation of word count expectations, check this out    http://www.literaryrejections.com/word-count/

So I am on Chapter 3, Draft Three, and I am having another sort of size issue. The first two chapters are each roughly six pages and then my third chapter end ups being only like two. So I have gone back tightened it up, done some rearranging and rewriting, removing some of this telling, adding some of that showing, and it still sort of tops out right around two. So then I ask, well is this just the way it is? Is this okay? I think about pacing. We start out Chapter 1 in the action, 2 we get a little interlude world building, 3 bam we get another little bit of action, 4 we will return to development, five pick up the action, I see some sort of scheme here. All sounds fine and dandy, but then again the over analytic, non-conformist, begins to think, well is it too symmetrical, too formulaic, and then suddenly an existential abyss opens up and the whole thing must be evaluated for all points of problem and merit, until we find ourselves lost in circular battle of artistic doubt and mania, and then our Tuesday is ruined…

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source: http://alexiuss.deviantart.com/art/The-Abyss-333599379

That’s not what happened though. I edited for an hour, will probably spent another half an hour, in deep contemplation, rereading Draft 2, and then I’ll call it a day, and go plant some tomatoes. Now how do I grow those things into monsters….

The Work Continues (On Writing and Editing)

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source:http://www.dailycompass.org/2013/05/31/the-long-and-winding-road/

 

We are off on draft three people. About one and 3/4 chapters on our way, so we still got some way to go. I understand too of course that this may not be the last draft either. I do hope though that this can be a definitive draft. If I can’t get this basically in line, this round, then I will have to caste it to the abyss officially. I don’t want to do that.

All right with that melodrama out of the way, life is going very well for me. Spring garden is rocking, except for the ravaging bunnies. My garlic is about twelve inches tall, got a tater popping, and seven tomatoes plants out in the raised bed. Little kiddies are keeping on rocking in the free world, and the Wife has five days off! It’s write time folks. Actually edit time, I guess.

The great thing about writing is you can only do it so long. If I get in my morning session, like I like it, by noon I am basically spent and can go do other stuff. Like read! I picked up a few books on editing. I started Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. The first chapter was about the differences in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. How they each have similar rules and conventions, which self-identify to perspective editors and publishes. He also give a wonderful overview of the readings that should be done to acquaint yourself with the scientific cannon. So basically I got like twenty some authors I need to go get into, super exciting!

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I’m realizing that my writing has a lot of plot holes, and not in the traditional sense of a singular distracting instance, but instead like holed swiss cheese. I need better character integration, and better frames for the main narrative. I need substantive development through narrative, but not info dumps. All the actors are here, the set is made, and the ideas are on the page, but we still don’t have the story, beginning to end. But we are getting there, one day, one session, one sentence at a time. Hope you are getting somewhere too.

 

Book Review: The Empty People, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1969)

Great book review!

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

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(Howard Winters’ cover for the 1969 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

“Inspecting a few she found that they were about what she had expected: the science-fiction books seemed to be full of nonsense about extraterrestrials or flights into space, the damnedest silliest stuff imaginable, and the sex part was sheer filth.  There was no question about it; there was no other way to describe those books” (12).

Science fiction as delusion.  More specifically, chapters replete with SF plots with evil aliens with interchangeable names and megalomaniacal claims to power culled straight from the pulps are delusions.  Imagined (perhaps?) by an average American man with “metastases” (14) growing in his brain while a concerned, albeit cheating, normal American housewife waits at his bedside.  The Empty People (1969) is considered Barry N. Malzberg’s (writing at K. M. O’Donnell) first SF novel.  However in the vein of his more famous Herovit’s World(1973), the most convincing interpretation of the novel suggests…

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Draft 3 (On Writing and Editing)

I’m finally back at it. I spoke of a first brief bit of hope in my last post a few weeks back. I had intended to let my current WIP rest until April 1st, but then it didn’t really rest and there was much existential angst and study, and before I know it another month had progressed. 

In the mean time, I did start a new work, and now I’m almost up to 5k words on that. And to be honest I still really was never able to let the WIP rest to any great degree. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the changes that needed to be made, but for some reason I’m having trouble doing the work. I’m working through that limbo, self-doubt phase though for real. What has happened is that I have thought about the WIP enough where now it is easier to just make it less crappy and do the work, than continue to muddle over it and not move forward. 

I got my spring garden planted, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, in the extra month. My garlic from last October is looking great. I also built a large raised bed to hold all my plants. So again the rest period is not all that restful, but doing other things definitely helps the writing. Writing is a lot like gardening, or cooking, or even raising kids. It is a process, that has to be taken step by step, and though you work towards some imagined end, there is no real end and you just got to keep at it. 

I’ve been reading a lot during these last two months. I think I am at like 8-9 book so far this year. I am a little behind the pace I wanted to be, but I have been reading more overall, so it’s nice to have the challenge in mind. I’m just about to the end of Stephen King’s newer book “Doctor Sleep”, a sequel to the “The Shining”.

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I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun not just because of the interesting story, but also because I am paying extra-attention to how the story is set up, and what works. I am looking at it more as a writer, as an editor. I also recently finished the Western “Rider of the Purple Sage”, by Zane Grey. It was another great lesson in what makes a book exciting  and keeps the pages turning.   

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Stephen King is one of my heroes. I have definitely been influenced by his writing and love how he tells a story. It is all about story. Good ideas and good characters are important, but there has to be a story; Stephen King gets that. He makes you pay attention to a character, and then before you know it you’re empathizing with that character, and mad as hell at another, and then problems start popping, and you just got to keep reading for some resolution, and before you know it’s over, and you’re just out on your ass from the whirlwind. That’s what I like in books and life, getting messy in the whirlwind. 

So I started Chapter 1 today. I basically took three chapters, sixteen sum pages and smashed it into six. I probably wrote another new 1k words, reincorporating chunks of details which I felt were key from Draft 2. I also took the advice I was given and started at a point of action, and worked some backstory in flashbacks and the scene. And you know what it’s better. Not perfect, but it is a better first chapter than Draft 2’s first chapter.More than the good chapter I am comfortable and aware of how the changes looks, how to make it better, and that is my goal, steadily getting better. I was also able to go through the kept stuff from Draft 2, and edit it again, tightening up some of make dialogue tags, clarifying/rewriting bad sentences, eliminating unnecessary or incorrect details. 

It’s a weird feeling watching it coalesce, and evolve into something which feels more like the real thing. I am able to take pieces of the earlier drafts and then graph them on to a tighter narrative. It is almost as if the earlier drafts become cheat sheets that I can than plagiarize to make a better story. Anyways, I could go on all day. I hope you out there are progressing in your efforts. Do the work! 

 

My First Acceptance Letter

Success and Inspiration!

Words and Wanderings

First Acceptance Image: Morguefile

Tuesday morning I checked my email just as class was starting and was greeted by a long-awaited response from a literary magazine. Since I figured it was yet another rejection, I considered leaving it alone until after the lecture, but compelled by curiosity, I went ahead and read it.

Imagine my surprise when I was greeted with the words: “We love your poem and would like to publish it in the next issue!”

Wait, what? You want to what? My poem . . . Seriously?

Six months ago, I sent a prose poem that I wrote in September to that particular literary magazine. Only that one. I didn’t have high expectations. I’m no stranger to literary magazines. Or to getting rejected by them. And since it was the first poem that I was brave enough to submit, this was my way of testing the waters. My way of…

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Limbo (On Writing & Editing)

ImageFrom the film “What Dreams May Come”

 

I would love to be writing. I would, really. I would also love to be editing, really. I can’t write because I have to finish the book, and the next project requires preparation, which I don’t want to commit to before I finish the book. The month “resting period” I described in previous posts is over, and that means I should be back to editing but I can’t get to it. The scare quotes are because the story never rested, like they all said it would.

So the obvious answer becomes well let it rest more, but seeing as it didn’t rest in the first place, how much sense is there in letting it rest more? Instead the draft haunts everything else; I see it in my personal conversations; I see it in my dreams; I see it in other television shows; I think about it when I’m awake; I think about it when I try to sleep.

The limbo has brought me to a choice, perhaps a false dichotomy, but it seems I have to love it or leave it. And I mean leave it, like on the side of the road and peel off. I need to love it also, like fully commit, take me to the alter, and let’s get busy. I need commit to the book by giving up this limbo and make the changes to make it work, and move on. I need to get in there and do a major rewrite. Easier said than done, says my bruised little ego.

The changes are abstract though, that’s the problem. For instance I am told to start the book at the point of the first big conflict, but I also feel the first chapter is crucial to character development and roping the reader in. The book is focused on one character, so it’s important for the reader to really connect, and what better way then to see her as a baby? Her lifehis abbreviated, dictated by circumstance, and I feel that seeing her as baby, handled by the robots arms, is essential to the mood and story.

But I also stated one of my rules was, “the reader” is god”. I can see why starting in the action is a good idea, and I also know I can work the robotic arms and early years into a chunky little bits of flashback…but that all seems hard for some reason…like really hard, because it involves major cuts. For me it feels like chewing gums twice or something; I just get the urge to spit it out and start over.

But ya know, as I think about it, right now, it doesn’t seem so bad. This action, smashing and smoothing, thinking like an editor, it starts to feel like work, then enters the problem of LIFE. It’s pressing in on all sides. I got five raging balls of consciousness, who depend on my involvement, love and patience. I got a household to maintain. I got a garden. It’s Spring…

But I love it, the writing and the editing. I imagine stories whether or not I want to. And with editing, I’m developing a sadmasochestic relationship with that too. I am reading this great book on editing, “Self-Editing For Fiction Writers”, by Brown and King, and it is just wonderful.

It is helping me to think like an editor, beyond just language and grammar things. It gets me thinking like a story teller. Self development and skill development have this transitory, unsettling process, were you practice until your bored and then you practice some more, and the thing which was difficult becomes easy, but then there is always a new difficulty, and the process just continues. You have to perpetually learn.

The book is teaching me how rhythm for the reader is formed through paragraphs, dialogue, and white space. How conflict is something that needs to be followed and charted, and how that connects to overall pace. It had taught me a lot about beginner pit-falls, like having too many characters that are doing the same thing, or getting focused in on my personal interests and not the story itself. It’s making me think like an editor, and that is a unique set of skills that you need in addition to creative writing. It means you have to exercise the skill over and over again. Until it hurts, and it seems like stopping would be better anyways, but you don’t stop, you just keeping going on.

I think I’m almost there. There’s probably why I wrote this…I am going to commit; I am past the point of turning back. Everyone, please pray.

 

 

Short Stories VS. Novels (On Writing and Editing)

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http://charlescather.net/congrats-to-the-serbian-womens-handball-team.html

So over the last two days I got through a first edit of one of my short stories called “Kill The Television”, which I hope to self-publish later this year. After the long editing period on the book, it felt easier editing the short story, and that is because of the size and scope differences between the two genres. You can see the totality of the project in a short story, and that makes it’s easier to move the parts around.

Short stories offers their own set of unique issues. It can feel abrupt, maybe even inconsequential. I’m thinking of having an epilogue with this short story, to help end it, but also to kick the can down the road a bit further. I want to establish the idea of intertextuality in my writing anyway.

Short stories I feel can also have a dreamy, non-attached quality to them. They can be like impressionistic film, where we just sort of float in and then just float away, and not much can happen; nothing is waged and nothing is lost.

Someone could also argue that there’s isn’t any real difference between short stories and novels. Novels should be episodic, which they are inherently, built with chapters. This eventful nature is capture by things like cliffhangers and shifting points of view, like in George R. R. Martin Game of Thrones series.

Short stories limit the point of view shifts to some degree. I do one major flashback in this current short story. It sort of gunks up the flow of the story, but I think it also charges the climax, because of delayed gratification. But I wonder in the flow of the short story, would it be best to just track the one big story line with no flash back. I am also at 16k words on the short story, which is a little long. Same time, self-publishing really does away with rigid word count restrictions anyway, so who knows?

I like short stories because of the idea of single session reading. Books can be a huge invest of time, and when the books doesn’t really pay off, then you can start wondering if your wasting your time. Short stories you can get in and out, and that’s it. Short stories are like one night stands and books are like marriages. It’s funny talking about the method in anything, it always seems to take on this latent-sexual vibe, or maybe that’s just me…

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images

But yes, novels have their uniqueness too. I am a firm believer in the whole idea of you can’t have too much of a good thing, so if I am enjoying an author and story, I would probably like to keep that magic going. Novels allow life long commitments to characters and stories lines. There is plenty of room to flush out plot and setting. Characters can pop easier because we have time to see them through changing events. And a number of over things keep the Novel valuable.

I’m an inclusive sort of guy and like I said I like intertextuality, so I say do it all. Write independent short stories. Write independent Novels. Write short stories that build worlds for the novels. Write a series of novels which span thirteen books, and six short stories, and a collection of poetry from a barely developed secondary character from the six book in the series. Just write and create those worlds!