Sailors on the Sea

Sunday, February 28, 2010

You Can't Rush Art

I'm probably wrong about this idea I have. After all, what do I know? But I just realized something.

I begun the year with the goal of writing one million words this year. I came within about 40,000-words in 2009. So what happened? I began the year writing - nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Not only that, I didn't feel like writing. I didn't want to write. And so I didn't.

I tried a few times, but the efforts were half-hearted. None amounted to anything. Soon, January had passed and it was February. The goal was pretty much shot. You see, to make one million words in a year I have to write about 2,800-words every day. And after 31 days I was already 85,000-words behind schedule.

So the goal was over. No realistic chance of making it. Because I'm not foolish enough to believe I would write EVERY day. Even last fall, when I wrote two novels in about six weeks I didn't write every day. Just most days. So my average daily output - when I wrote - would be nearly doubled. Over 4,000-words every day I wrote. It wasn't going to happen. Pressure off.

So what happens in February?

About mid-month I get the idea to start writing a new hero story. Ten days later I have a completed draft of 40,000-words. How was this possible when just a few days earlier I didn't want to write at all?

Well, the obvious answer is that we filed our state and federal taxes. Our income has continued to drop steadily for the past seven years which means we are still getting returns instead of having to pay in. The returns we got this year meant we could stay in the apartment another few months. One level of stress removed. Temporarily.

But I think there was something else going on. And it's what I alluded to at the top of this post.

Last November I tried to do the Nano thing. Didn't like it. Even though I never officially signed up. So I quit it. Immediately after quitting I finished my novel with days to spare.

I think a LOT of writers make the mistake of setting an artificial deadline for completing a writing task. Now when you have been paid to get something done by such-and-such a date, that's one thing. Or if a writing contest, or submission window has a cut-off date, that is also something. But when the deadline exists simply because you said it would, it's artificial. And creativity can't work in that kind of an environment.

I did not set out last year to write a million words. (Just as well, seeing as I didn't quite make it.) But I wrote prolifically. This year I set the goal. Couldn't write a thing.

Write a novel in a month? Seemed an easy enough challenge, seeing as I can produce a novel in 2-3 weeks. Couldn't do it.

Artists - even amateurs such as myself - don't work well under artificial deadlines. Some do. And if that describes you then by all means go for it! But if you find yourself setting deadline after deadline, and you can never achieve them, then perhaps it's time to say, "To hell with getting it done by July. It will be done when it's done. I'm just going to write what I feel like. And when." And who knows? You may find yourself writing every day.

Just a thought.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Hard Part is Upon Me

Well, the reveling is over and the editing has begun. (ye-ay)

I'm not a good editor. That's because I'm not a good critiquer. The things others see tend to be blatantly obvious.

But I generally miss them.

But I'm trying.

I know the theory that if I were to put the story away for a month or two, and then come back to it, I would probably see the obvious, too. There's a problem with that approach. At least, in my case.

You see, if I put anything away for that length of time my brain decides it doesn't matter anymore and I WON'T pick it up again and see the obvious. I won't pick it up at all. So I can only afford a day or two and then I have to get cracking on it.

So that's what I'm doing with my latest hero story. I'm cracking on it.

I think it's a good story. And fairyhedgehog, who's comment in my previous post reveals she has read it, too, also likes it.

It's not a perfect story. It needs work. There are things which even I see as obvious. And those are the things I am going to work on. What's the term? Low-hanging fruit.

I'm still early in the first chapter, but I'm making adjustments here and there. It's coming along. I read fast, write fast, and edit quickly. So perhaps in a week or so I will have a "polished" draft. Kind of brassy of me to say that. And, like all brass, to TRULY polish it will require some heavy elbow grease and hard work.

That will be the third write.

Maybe I'll just have it plated. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chalk Another One Up

Well, I have done it. I have completed my latest draft. It's a 42,000-word story about my latest super hero. Began it ten days ago. Or was it eleven?

I love it when things come together and a story just flows. That's what happened with Fire Red: Hot Times.

Now comes the hard part: Editing.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just write great pieces of art on our first try? Supposedly, there are writers who do that. I'm told Dick Frances never changed a word once he wrote it. He did all of his editing in his head beforehand. Not sure I believe it, but as I can't disprove it I'll accept it until I hear otherwise.

Unfortunately, I'm not like that. My first drafts read like, well, first drafts. And that means I have to rewrite them. Not fun.

In the meantime I intend to revel in the fact that I wrote another story. Huzzah, huzzah.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finding a Story

Been writing my new hero story, and it's been coming along nicely. Not perfectly. Nicely.

Most of my writing has been taking place in the early hours, between four and eight in the morning. But I have done some during the day, too.

The story hasn't gone completely as I originally planned. But then how could it? When I began writing I had little idea of the plot. However, by the end of the first paragraph I understood my character's inner conflict. Halfway through the first chapter I knew my antagonist. Well, I knew him from the first. What I didn't know was how he would work his way into the story.

It's a risky way to write - beginning without knowing when one is going. I've done it many times, and I must confess that most of the time it just plain does not work. I start writing without knowing where I'm going and that's exactly where I wind up. Not knowing where I'm at.

But sometimes it works. It worked this time. I'm glad.

Do you ever write like that? You have an interesting character, but you don't know what to do with her? So you just start writing and let her tell you her problems, and she and the characters she meets let you know what the story conflict is. Like I said, it doesn't always work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Works - All Small

Well, thanks to some very good help I should be submitting my Little Red Riding Hood spoof later this week. I don't know that it's what they want, but they say they take all genres as long as the stories are flash fiction - 500 to 1,000 words.

Meanwhile, I have begun a new hero story. Only don't look for it on the Legion Blog. I haven't completely abandoned it, but this new story doesn't really fit that mold.

The story I'm working on should be less silly. I intend to focus more on character than abilities. Who is this hero? Why is she a hero? What is it costing her to be a hero?

There is nothing wrong with a basic story about heroes and villains, but sometimes it's good to know more about a character. Helps the reader identify.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Task Completed

So the week's just over half over (I still don't count weekend days as part of "the week") and I have completed the next rewrite of my Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale spoof.

I always worry about my rewrites. Did I make my story better? Or worse? Did I add life in? Or did I take the guts out of it? I never know.

That's the problem with not having confidence in an area. One can actually do well and not ever realize it. Just as one can do poorly and not realize it, too. We've all seen that. And since some of what I've written and thought was good has been returned to me shredded, and soaked in red ink, I guess I have fallen into the second category more than once, I'm ashamed to admit.

My problem is I do not know how to measure quality. I only know what I like. And sometimes what I like is not considered quality by others. And sometimes what's considered quality by others I don't like at all.

I get this with music and film all the time. The top rated television shows? The ones people record while they're at work so they don't miss an episode? I never watch them. Ever. B-O-O-O-O-R-R-R-R-I-I-I-I-N-G.

And/or annoying.

There are plenty of comedians I don't laugh at. And plenty I laugh at that others don't.

The same is true with books. A lot of what others rave about I find dull. Even with the fantasy genre, which is my favorite reading. But just because it's fantasy doesn't mean I'll like it. And just because it's not doesn't mean I won't. I like what I like, whether it was done well or not. Those awful monster movies from the 1940s and 50s? I love em. Yeah, they're hokey. The writing sucks. The special effects suck. The acting is embarrassing. But I like em. Well, a lot of em. Not all.

And so I never know what's good. My assumption now about my own work has changed. Since I seem to be so out of step with the majority on everything, the likelihood is that my own work sucks. But this only bothers me because it means I will probably never be paid for it, and not many people besides myself will ever derive enjoyment from it.

And that's a shame. There are few things more pitiful than a story that isn't shared.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A DIfficult Week Ahead

Been unable to edit due to family being around almost constantly. If writing is difficult to do under those circumstances, editing is nigh impossible.

Writing is a free time, when the body does all it can to keep up with the mind. It can't, so the mind gets to take frequent rests.

Editing is the exact opposite. The body can relax because the mind is struggling to figure out just why that sentence sucks, and why that paragraph is nothing more than infodump, so how can it be rewritten to be interesting? Do these other scenes actually contribute to the story, or take the reader away from it? Not easy. Not easy. Not easy.

And yet I get the impression there are people who actually prefer editing to original writing.

I knew a guy who wrote computer software who was like that. He hated writing new programs from scratch. However, he just loved doing maintenance work on existing programs.

For myself, I'm a creator. I like ruminating about stories in my head, and I love telling them. But I struggle with the actual language when editing. I miss so much of what is so obvious to others.

Well, if I'm given the time I will be working on editing this coming week. Hopefully, I will see the things which need to be seen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rewriting Again

So I've rewritten my fairy tale. Not going to post it. Got a critique for it and I've got a bit of work yet to do. And when I finish the next rewrite I intend to submit it for publication.

Not quite thirty years ago I had a writing instructor tell me she believed me to be a natural novel writer. So here I am: writing flash fiction.

Guess I'm starting over again. The who fairy tale parody thing is something from my teenage and early twenties years. Back then I loved to make fun of common stories, movies and television shows. It had always been in my mind to submit things to Mad Magazine. Back in my youth that was one of the premier comic books. It cost 50-cents (compared to 3-for-a-quarter), but it was well worth the money. I kind of got in tune with their writing staff, for it was not uncommon to see things I was working on show up in the magazine a couple of months later.

So I have returned to editing my own work. Something I had not expected to do much of this year. But in order to get my fairy tale spoof up to speed I'm going to have to work at it.

Who'd of thought?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Fairy Tales: Little Red Riding Hood - Removed by Author

I'm sorry. I felt like being whimsical, and Writtenwyrdd suggested I might try rewriting an old fairy tale or two. But here it is: My retake on Little Red Riding Hood. Done in a whimsical style. Be warned: This is the unedited version. (I'm not editing much of anything lately.)

Well, if you didn't read it before you won't be reading it now. I've removed the actual story from this post in order to rewrite it.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How it Began - Kind Of

Been in an awful writing rut of late. This hasn't happened in a good many years. I don't much care for it.

Writing small pieces helps. I think. At least I feel like I've written something. There may not have been any point to it, but at least I've put words into the computer.

I wrote my first story when I was in grade school. That was such a long time ago. I have no recollection of my earliest stories, other than that I wrote them. Most tended to revolve around dogs, cats - and ghosts.

It was a ghost-mystery story which brought me my first acclaim. I was in fourth grade. That would have made me nine-years-old. We were given an assignment to write a ghost story for Halloween. It had to be at least two pages long - hand written. There was no limit to its length. That was a mistake my teacher would not make with me again. You see, while everyone else wrote two - or almost two - pages of story, I wrote ten or twenty pages. I forget now if each chapter was one page or two.

The story was about a family of six taking a vacation at a castle overlooking a small lake. There were several ghost sitings, disappearances, and missing treasure. My hero and heroine (brother and sister) ultimately solved the mystery by proving the castle caretaker responsible for the ghostly hoax. He was a smuggler. (If this sounds strangely like Scooby Doo you must remember that I was only nine - and Scooby Doo wouldn't be on television for several more years.)

A few things stick out in my mind about that story. First, I left a loose end, which I didn't realize until after the story was "published". Amazingly, I was the only one who saw it. Second, my sister, Gayanne, who was an avid reader and considered herself a better storyteller than me, was quite jealous of the attention I got throughout the school as a result of that story. And third, I was hauled around to every classroom in school throughout the day so I could read my story to each class. (This was my "publication".)

For years I devoted myself to ghostly tales. Not all were hoaxes. Living in what I (and nearly everyone else) believed to be a haunted house gave me what I considered to be a certain level of credibility. After all, I knew first hand some of the manifestations which happened in a haunted house.

By the time I was through with junior high I had added another dimension to my writing: sarcasm. Parents (mainly my mother) and teachers and certain older siblings filled me with enough anger and disgust at how foolish people in charge can be. But in those days I was completely powerless to say just how foolish. Until I discovered I could disguise it in stories. The more clever knew exactly what I was doing, but they also tended to let me get away with it.

In high school I discovered true fantasy. It was like coming home.

Probably my most popular stories were those which involved the people I knew in real life. I wouldn't even bother to change names. They were all comedies along the vein of the Airplane movies. I would take one dominant trait or behavior from each person in real life and make them be like that ALL the time. Or, even more amusing sometimes, make them the exact opposite. Most found it both amusing and flattering. Some were offended. My response to them was always the same: If you don't like how I portrayed you then don't be like that.

I did several plays. My favorite is lost. The Monsters. I wrote that after my mother gave me five packs of bubble gum cards. The cards were monster cards. On the back was a piece to a puzzle. Being a bit of a puzzle addict I found myself going to the drug store and buying every pack of cards they had until I could complete the puzzle. It was a collage of monsters. One in particular was a very sexy looking vampire. This inspired me to write my play. It was a comedy. It's gone now. Probably thrown away. I've tried several times to rewrite it, but lightning seldom strikes twice you know.

It's been years since I've seriously tried writing a play. I wish I was more involved with theatre, but there is no theatre near here. The closest is forty miles away, and that's just too far to justify the expense of getting there and back.

Meanwhile, I write small pieces of a story which currently has no plot. It's just a bunch of events. I know what I want the conflict to be, but I have to think it through properly so that all of the motivations and plans make sense within the world I have created. Sometimes that can be quite difficult to do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Lot of Nothing Has Been Written

Wishing I could write again, but feeling my creative wheels spinning against the muddy ground of de-inspiration, I decided to update my yearly word counts. What this is is an Excel workbook with a worksheet listing every writing project I've undertaken in any fashion or form this year. This includes novels (attempts at), poetry, short stories, writing exercises for other blogs, plays, and my own blogs.

I was surprised at the quantity of things I've tried to write thus far in 2010. Forty projects started. Most fall into the poetry-blog categories, so I guess that's kind of cheating. The word count for all of this is 20,000-words for the Month of January. What a far cry from the 60,000-word novel started and finished months of past September, October and November. And only about a tenth of the way toward my one-time goal of a million words for 2010. I don't think so anymore. I would really have to go on a writing spree to catch up. I'm a complete epic novel behind. [smiles]

Part of my problem is that my mind moves on to something else before I can settle down and begin writing what I've been thinking about. My creative thoughts are like a butterfly which cannot make up its mind where the best pollen is. No story thought seems to stick around long. I've been trying to corral a certain one, but it's proving elusive.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nothing I Want to Write

Got no work in progress. Not really. I'm working on background data from a story, but I'm not actually writing the story. Not even thinking heavily about a story. Just working on the background data.

I feel drained. It's coming up on two years since I was last kicked out of the work force. I've spent most of that time writing. Not getting paid for it, mind you. But writing just the same.

It's hard to be a writer when one no longer believes one can write. It's like, why bother? Right?

But it's even harder being a writer when one has no inspiration to write.

Right now I have no story I want to tell. But I want to tell a story. Does that make sense? Not really, I suppose. Despite all I have written in the past eighteen months I am less confident in my writing now than I have ever been in my life. It is why bother time.


A Tentative Schedule

Monday - Progress Report
Where am I with regard to the Current Book

Tuesday - Thoughts About Writing
I was going to be profound, but let's be real

Wednesday - What Am I Learning
What can I take from what I am doing

Thursday - Work Sent Out For Review
Respondes to my submissions

Friday - Other Works of Fantasy
Some of my other fantasy writing

Saturday - The Impact of Music
How music has influenced what I write

Sunday - Venting
My 'morbid' time. A safe compromise, I think