Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Advice, on receiving

I wish I remember how we got on the subject, but I don't so I suppose I should let it go. But Ed asked me would I take advice from Anne McCaffrey (yes), Robert Jordan (yes), Nathaniel Brandon (yes), GRRM (yes), Orson Scott Card (yes).* And then he said "who wouldn't you take writing advice from?"

I can't think of anyone.

Advice is what it is, I think. As a writer, I'm open to people giving it, though I can pick through and choose the bits I want to actually use -- an acquired skill, from OWW and VP and working as a TW.

But then, later this may change.

Updated to add:  I just remembered who I said I might not take advice from, after thinking and thinking. I said William Shatner, because I'm not sure he really wrote all those Tekwar books. But thinking about it later, being an actor and having read many, many scripts, I bet he's got a really good sense of plot.

*Not sure I got all the names right, but they're not important -- the gist is.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fairfax: milestone

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment very early in the morning (8:30), and so I didn't have a chance to do my normal Fairfax writing routine. Normally I sit down and write as fast as possible to get the page (250 words) down before 8:15 when it's time to nag the boy and go to work. So I wrote my page in the evening instead. And because I was avoiding an editing project, I wrote it much earlier than I normally would have, for an evening. On weekends I write my page in the evening because I'm asleep at 8-8:15 in the morning, and when I get up I have a different routine that doesn't end with nagging the boy before going to work, or start with making myself a lunch to take with me.

Anyway, all of this is to say, that I wrote p. 367 on the top of the page and had a mild epiphany. I have been working on this thing for over a year. If you subtract out the times when I had punishment pages (where I forgot or was too extremely exhausted to write my page one day, so the next day I have to write the missed page, plus the day's page, plus a punishment page -- doesn't happen very often, but does progress the story), and the days where I had the urge to write more than one page (doesn't happen very often either, primarily due to morning time constraints), but add in the 16 pages I've got that aren't included in the page counts because they started as Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenges, I really have been at this thing for over a year.

I don't know if that's a bad thing or not. But it confirms that now is the time where the story should be wrapping up. Come on, Fairfax, Preston, and Abigail, finish things up!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I am totally a three-day monk

One of the places I go when I need a brain break is I don’t always agree with Leo, but he’s got an interesting perspective. He recently did a post called “the three-day monk habit” (go read the post  and poke around, he’s got lots of good ideas, and come back). This one is one of the ones I disagree with. See, I write every day, and I don’t do any of the stuff he suggests.  I write 1st thing in the morning so I circumvent free will, I don’t listen to music because it would distract me, I doubt constantly, I don’t gradually increase because there’s no time in my 20-minute writing block, and I don’t have any momentum. 

I am apparently totally a three-day monk. The best way for me to do something is to find a way to turn it into a sprint. Editing, I have to sit down and slog through as fast as possible. Last year when I was editing that novel, I broke it into six sprints, and sat down with it for hours at a stretch, then took some days off from it to recharge and let my subconscious have at. 

Short stories lately, the same thing. The best thing for me to do is sit down at the kitchen table (having washed the dishes, wiped down the counter, and tidied up the piles of paper) and just write for about 90 minutes. I can write two or three thousand words that way. 

Of course I have to have all my stuff lined up first. I find I need to know where it's going now. I have an outline, even though I'll probably ignore it. I need my phone because I have to answer questions right away or I can't keep going. What color is a mishepishu? What did that purple dye come from? How is Roundup sold? So many distractions! And yet, for that 90 minutes, I can focus like a three-day monk. 

Maybe that's why I like writing short stories so much -- you can just punch through like that.

Friday, June 01, 2012

In progress May 2012

First Draft

 “Fairfax”. Yeah, so I’m up around 85,000 words now. I may be eight chapters from the end, so I’m going to wind up with about 105,000 words. That’s more than I’d planned, but gets it done before November. This year I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again, so I’m already planning for that.

When this is done, one of my activities will be to type up one of the other novels, I think “St. Praxis”.

These are the carrots I hold out in front of myself to keep things progressing.

 “Lucky Kate”. First draft started.


Wrote about 15,000 words into something that I won’t really talk about right now, that I also took some words out of. Might have written more than 15K there, actually, as I did remove some blocks of text as I was putting in those other ones. The net gain was 15K.

What I read -- May 2012

Two of these I had started in April, so that month wasn’t as much a wasteland as it looked like (and I was sidetracked for a good reason!), and this month isn’t as awesomely prolific as it looks, either.

“Headhunter” by Timothy Findley. At Ad Astra, this was described as an urban gothic fantasy, so I thought I’d read it. I’ve read at least one other of his books, “Not wanted on the voyage”, which I read at least twice, so I figured I’d like the style. The story is Heart of Darkness but takes place in Toronto, which even if I didn’t like the story and the characters would make it an entertaining read for me, since I’m deeply involved with the setting. (I often say that there are a whole lot of different reasons I’ll watch a movie, and it doesn’t necessarily have to have a good plot, decent characters, or engaging acting to keep me entertained – it can also have really awesome art direction or fabulous costumes or an amazing setting. Many people are not so tolerant. Books are similar. Sometimes it’s just the research that keeps me going.) It’s a tale of psychiatrists and their patients and their patients’ families. I sometimes had a hard time keeping the characters straight, because there were a lot of them.

Written by someone else, this might have been classified as science fiction, but if it had been, people would probably expect more rigor from the science. I wanted an explanation of who wanted to kill the birds, but that wasn’t forthcoming. The ending was satisfying and rather dark.

“Boys Adrift” by Leonard Sax. The Amazon reviews led me to believe I was going to find this book irritating, but it was recommended by the other oboist in my band, so I gave it a shot. The first page described the boy really well, but I was already seething by page three. I thought the problem was going to be I’m female, and I’ve gone through some pretty un-motivated periods too, and he keeps saying rather gender-specific things and then saying he’s not being gender-specific here. I find that disingenuous. But actually, Leonard Sax has a tin ear for dialog. And also, I found the book a bit thin, padded perhaps. It seems like it was written a little too much for a grade six audience, like if you read only one non-fiction book a year, it’s probably a book like this.

He proposes five reasons why boys are unmotivated: changes in the school system, video games, plastic, ADD drugs, and lack of intergenerational ritual. I’d like to propose a sixth: tree pollen. I read in the National Post a few days ago that cities plant predominantly boy trees because girl trees are messy. But boy trees put out tons of pollen in a desperate attempt to find girl trees. The hopeless despair of this tree pollen demotivates boys. It also makes preteen girls dress like prostitutes. Argue with me, Leonard Sax!

“Wado Ryu Karate” by Hironori Otsuka. This is the style I practice, and one of my friends lent me this book by the founder of the style. He asked for it back, so I read it. The first section about the role of martial arts was interesting. The katas and pictures were less so, being very repetitive, and because you can’t learn a martial art from a book. It really takes interaction with others. As I told a student last night, you can’t do karate without occasionally touching people.

“The Thornbirds” by Colleen McCollough. Candice at work wanted me to read this, to the point where she started putting quotes from it on her status report. OMG, melodrama may not be the genre for me. There’s kind of no plot. It reminded me of “who has seen the wind” by WO Mitchell, which I had to read in Grade 10. I remember writing an essay about that one, the theme of which was “things go along for a while, and then somebody dies”, on which my teacher wrote something like “Yes, that’s the point.”

“Magic Bites” by Ilona Andrews. I read her blog sometimes. A couple of years ago she did a series where she had people send in the first hundred or so words of a piece, and then she would take it apart the way she would take her own work apart. It was really fascinating, and I wish she’d do something like that again, though I can see where it would take up a huge amount of time. So, I was at the library having one of those “I should really get something out since I’m here” moments, and picked this up because I didn’t want something that would take up too much time and effort. I found myself while reading having an interesting dichotomy of hating all the exposition while at the same time wanting more explanation of the world.

“1491” by Charles C. Mann. At Farthing Party, someone asked the room who had read this book, and most of the hands went up. I might have lied and raised my hand too, but I’d meant to read it, and I even bought it! It must have been TNH, because then she bragged that she read 1493 in ARC. Anyway, in order to turn the lie into a truth, I read the book.
It’s the sort of thing I like to talk about at the dinner table. For some reason, the boy was resistant to the idea that there were so many more people here prior to Columbus than convention indicates. Usually he’s pretty open-minded, so it struck me as odd. 
I was worried this would be one of those books that starts with an awesome premise but gets really repetitive towards the halfway point. I need not have been concerned, this book sustained itself well. I'm glad I read it.