October 31, 2006

NaNoSeconds, Part III

And now, at the eleventh hour, I reveal my Big Secrets. Attend:

How I Hit 50k Four Years Running and You Probably Can, Too

It occurs to me that, this being my fifth (!!) year participating in NaNoWriMo, and having four-for-four shiny Winner bars to my credit for it, I might count as something like a Veteran; and it may be useful to share such wisdom as I have for how you might do the same.

And it should be cleared up now that I didn't have any particular breaks in being able to accomplish this. I work full-time and don't take vacation in November, and one year I did this around a three-and-a-half-hour roundtrip commute. I've written around massive depressive breakdowns, packing to move, weekends out of town, and the more mundane sort of complications of just maintaining life on top of everything else. This is all to say: Stuff will come up, and you can still manage this. And I am a spectacularly lazy person, and if I can pull this off four times in a row, there's hope for you.

Also, stuff I did not do includes many of the tricks mentioned by other forumites: no search-and-replace three-word names, no avoiding contractions, no extended dream sequences or excessive porn (note I did not say "none") - so help me and against all advice, I always come to this with a desire to write a good book, or at least one that doesn't make me cringe too badly on the reread. This is not meant to discourage any of you who want to use that sort of thing to pull you through, nor to speak ill of those who do, only to make the point again that they aren't necessary to succeeding in this.

The biggest thing - the simplest and hardest idea behind getting from Word 1 to Word 50,001 - is that you need to put one word after another until it's done. The truth is that it really comes down to that. Outlining is not writing; worldbuilding is not writing; making lists of your dramatis personae is not writing. Those can all be useful things, and I don't want to downplay them as helpful devices. But only writing is writing; anything that doesn't lead you right into the business of producing prose in a story might be getting in your way. You need to give yourself, or steal, as many hours of Butt-In-Chair time as it takes to do the actual writing of story. These don't need to be all in a row every day, depending on your schedule and particular needs (though it does help a great deal if you can break yourself of as many fetishistic crutches as you can - the Writing Hats and Special Tea Mugs and all the other stuff you're convinced you just can't be creative without - so you can better allow yourself to work anywhere), but you do need a number of them, and you need to put them to use without distracting youself too badly. Get your family on board if you can (this is one area in which I'm very lucky) so you can get sufficient time to isolate yourself and work.

And here's some slightly bad news: It's very true that some days the prose will flow out of your fingertips in golden splendor, and some days will feel like bricklaying with a hangover. You will look back at your manuscript three months later and not be able to tell which was which. There's no workaround for this, except to do your best to get your inner critic to shut up so you can work, and repeat for yourself the mantra "Keep going and fix it in the rewrite." (By the way, about half the stuff you hate the first time around will look good later, just as about half the stuff that feels brilliant will feel sort of lame in the long run. So it goes.)

All that being said, here are a few things that have made the above just a bit easier and smoother. I will not claim that they have anything like universal application, but I offer them up here nonetheless, in the hopes that some other poor bastard will find a gem among the dross and be inspired to keep on going through to the 50 large.

1. I write about people who interest me. This seems like a "well, hello" data point, except that I understand there are folks who find theselves saddled with stupid, insipid, boring people in their novels. Cut that out. Find some people who are intersting enough to obsess over; you'll be spending many, many waking hours in their company, so you might as well have them be people you want to get to know better. If that means you get a Mary Sue or two, so be it; better than the alternative. Keep going, and fix it in the rewrite.

2. I like doing multi-threaded narratives. This gives me a chance to alternate storylines and POV and such every other scene, and also gives me more Cool Shit to throw in. Even if I'm doing first-person, there are ways of breaking it up so that there's more than one linear plotline to be stuck with: backstory, digressions, vision quests, nonlinear plot tricks. Build stuff into your narrative that lets you do something different from one scene to the next, and the project's more likely to hold your interest.

3. That Cool Shit I mentioned? I don't hold back on it. My stories are always about the stuff that obsesses me. I like occult imagery, mysterious immortals, dimension-hopping, cities at night, tentacled monsters, smart, tough women, and Magicians in Big Coats. My intended audience is Other People Who Think That Stuff Is Cool. I couldn't function if I allowed myself to be self-conscious about all that; as with characters, it's going to be what I'm immersed in for as long as I'm working on the novel, so I'd better be keeping my own interest in it while I'm there.

4. I do a very broad outline beforehand - enough to have certain things I'm working towards just to keep things moving, but not enough to feel restrained if new ideas present themselves. I also keep a list of bits - ideas or scenes - I'd like to include, so I have some things to fall back on if I really get stuck. A lot of these are diversions; this is in some ways easier because I'm a genre writer, and I can usually find a place where it's useful to stop and explain something about my world or cosmology that's good for an easy five hundred words. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it's better to put it in when you're thinking about it - you can change, move, or delete it later as needed, and in the meantime you've distracted yourself enough that you can probably pick your storyline back up again. (Keep going, and fix it in the rewrite.)

5. I make sure there are lots of reversals going on to keep the plot itself moving. Again, this is probably easier because I'm doing pulpy adventure fantasy, where fights, captures, escapes, attacks by gruesome Things, and other derring-do are de rigeur, but I'm sure that sort of thing can be transposed or translated to whatever you're doing. If the people I'm writing about are bored, I'm not doing my job. A sticky situation to get out of is good for an awful lot of words.

6. Keep going, and fix it in the rewrite.

And, uh, that's about it. The rest is detail. I'm happy to take questions if there's anyone who wants to ask 'em.

October 27, 2006

Bear Witness

John M. Ford's memorial service was today. I post this shortly before his wake is scheduled to begin.

(That first link, by the way, has a couple of excellent places to make memorial donations, if you're of such a mind.)

I cannot be with his friends and admirers today except in spirit, but I can make this offering; as I said in the thread on ML, everybody got a little Mike Ford in 'em now.
Justice? We're in the wrong cosmos for that.
Only in Story is all that should be, fair.
Here, deus exes aren't drawn from a hat
Nor complications vanish into air.
Meanwhile, we do our best with what we've got,
Imagining what could be, only If;
Light-conjuring, as though all life were not
One foot still on the shore, one on the skiff.
Might some of this playacting, in the end,
Keep just a little Entropy at bay?
Far worse games have been played of Let's Pretend;
Our hope's high, though the House wins anyway.
Regret's beside the point; things fall apart.
Do what you must. Be honest. Increase Art.

October 26, 2006

Ten Forgives All Kinds of Sins, at Ten Begin Again-O

Ten years ago tonight - and probably about this time too! - I was in a little bar in Parkersburg, WV where I'd gone to see a really excellent band called Jimmy Clinton and His Mean Red Spiders, when I got a drink sent to me (for the first time in my life, no less) by attractive young woman in glasses and a black pleather skirt. Turns out she'd seen me play a couple of times in the same place, where in those days I was hosting an open mic on Tuesday nights and performing my first round of off-color folksongs.* We talked a bit, and she asked me, "If I give you my number, will you call?" And because I am a sucker for women in glasses, I said Yes, and she wrote it on a cocktail napkin, and I did.

She's asleep upstairs now, in the house we own together. We have a dog and a cat and a collection of DVDs and neither of us is working retail any more. If you'd have told me then that this would be the outcome of that first night, I might not have believed you.

It's been a good ten years. Strange and sometimes trying, as life often is, but good. I marvel still that she's stuck around this long; I am, when all's weighed, an extraordinarily fortunate guy.

Here's to many more decades to come.

*See, kids? Being a musician really will get you laid.

October 25, 2006

NaNoSeconds, Part II

This one I posted to the Plot Doctoring section of the NaNoForums. It's long, and substantial, and probably mostly speaks for itself. I should make the point here, once again, that I am in no position at all to be dispensing writing advice, callow amateur that I am, but I'm not really letting that get in my way. And it's proven to be a popular thread on the boards, which certainly warms my dark little Gothic dilettante heart.

I suppose I should also confess that, in addition to having lifted many of the ideas from my playwrighting and directing classes back in my miscreant Theatre Major days, I recycled some of this from one of my Last Dark Art columns on RPG.net a coupla years back. I figure if you can't cannibalize yourself, there's no point even getting into the biz at all.

Dramatic Plotting Made Simple

...if not, perhaps, "easy" as such.


What follows is a very particular slant on the idea of plot-engineering, designed to (hopefully) jog the writing of those who do character well but couldn't outline with a Maguffin to their head, or who intend to spend their precious October prep time creating a really amazing setting without being bothered to decide ahead of time what happens there. It's founded on the principles of playwrighting as I learned them as a wee dramaturg at the knees of several learned gurus of the Theatre some witch's dozen years ago, though the application is very broad and flexible; thus, Dramatic Plotting, in several senses of the word.

To understand plot, it is necessary to understand the smallest unit of plot: the event.

An event happens when pressure is applied to the characters in sufficient quantity to force one or more of them to take action to relieve it. If this is done right, the resolution creates a new pressure which must be dealt with in turn, and so on until the force of the narrative winds itself down in a satisfactory way.

Constructing an event can be tricky, especially if you have any inclination to resist being cruel to your cast. A general guideline is that the bigger the initial pressure, the more momentum the events that follow from it will have. Pressure is the fuel that drives the engine of plot; don't underfuel your story vehicle. Turn the pressure on early, and crank it high.

(So what makes a good source of pressure? It depends on the people it's happening to. The key is that it doesn't have to be earth-shaking - it just has to shake up the world of the characters. People are very capable of blowing up trivial matters to life-and-death proportions, as long as something they care enough about is in the balance. Know the needs and desires of your characters; find out something they want badly, and take it away from them.)

The other thing that makes event-construction challenging is that it's very tempting to create a good, solid event that resolves too easily and ends the story. Once again, avoiding this requires being mean to your characters. This is where you need to stack the deck: create dilemmas where the only choices are two bad ones. Force them between desires that are mutually exclusive. Set up conflicts that aren't good vs. evil, but good vs. good (or bad vs. bad, even). Make them give up something else they treasure in order to something they want just a little bit more, and then give them a reason to regret it. Do whatever you have to do to keep the pressure not only on, but escalating, so that each new solution has inherent in it a new problem (or two, or three). And remember that, very broadly speaking, happy and contented people make for lousy stories. Give them a reason to be miserable, and watch events unfold.

The advantage of this method of constructing (and thinking about) plot is that, done right, it develops organically, out of the characters' own conflicting motivations; events that are created out of pressure don't feel artificial or contrived, as if the author is simply moving the cast around like pieces on a board. The disadvantage, of course, is that it has the tendency to take on a great deal of runaway momentum, and may not end up having much to do with where the author intended it all to go. This is Okay, of course (and after you do it for a while, you learn to nudge the pressures to put people where you want them to go), but may not be satisfactory to those who like a great deal of structure.

Not the only way to run a novel, obviously, and certainly not the only useful one; but an approach with a great deal of potential for breaking the writer out of the trap of having a lot of cool ideas and nowhere to go with them, and keeping the wheels of what-happens-next turning until you find a way to wind them down.


(Several posters come in with good questions.)

An example of an event? Okay - a well-known one, even. (I'm assuming y'all speak Fannish, or at least have been to the movies in the last few years.)

Frodo finds out his crazy uncle's magic trinket is actually the legendary One Ring - and not only is Sauron trying to get it back, he probably knows where it is and is sending the Black Riders to collect it as we speak. When, and not if, they get to the Shire, they'll tear the place apart until they get what they came for. Pressure abounds! Frodo takes the Ring and hits the road. That's an event.

Of course, that means now he's on the road, in territory he's never been, hunted, and by the way trying to keep his friends and his gardener from getting themselves inadvertently killed for his sake. Lots of new pressure, and that's not even including the fact that Gandalf doesn't show at the planned rendezvous, and now there's some shady guy in a cloak eyeballing him, and the enemy's closing in... and so on and so on all the way to Mount Doom.

Or how about this one, from more literal drama: Lear is King of Britain, but he's getting old and tired. He decides he's going to divide up his kindom among his three daughters and retire to a life of leisure. (This is arguably the first event, and note how it's a small pressure and a relatively minor event - and note too that the action is already in motion when the curtain comes up, and how we're coming in just as things begin to get interesting. This is an Important Lesson.) But just as the ceremony's going well, Lear springs on everyone his wacky idea of asking his daughters how much they love him - in front of the court and all the nobles - and rewarding them in proportion to how much they stroke his regal ego. Pressure in spades! And it turns out that his youngest is caught between her duty and her integrity (or possibly stubbornness) and just will not play along with Dad in his quest for empty flattery; she's caught between two bad choices and makes the only one she can. That's an event. So Lear goes apeshit, declares her banished and by the way disinherited, and generally makes a big ugly scene in front of the gods and everyone. New pressure! So now Lear's right-hand man Kent decides he can't keep his mouth shut or leave well enough alone either, and calls the king out... and so on. You get the idea.

As to how many events are necessary for a decent novel - well, "as many as it takes" is the wiseass answer, but also maybe the best one. You need to start building to an event every time it looks like nothing is in danger of happening. This is the idea behind the "When in doubt, send in two men with guns" advice or its several variants. It means that when things are floundering, it's probably because the pressure's letting up before it needs to. Turn up the pressure! Spin the dials until something breaks!

A better answer, maybe, is: Look through the books you love - the ones that were real page-turners. Find the events - the places where Something Happened that made you say "Oh my god! What's next?" Events, and the new pressures that result from them, are the hook that keeps the reader in the tale. You need as many as necessary to keep the story in motion and the reader hooked.



It occurs to me that I might not have answered the questions of yesterday's responders as fully and well as I should ought to have done; and that Examples from Lit'rature, however well-diagrammed, might not offer much help in how to build your own. So.

How do you create an initial event? Well, you (presumably) have your characters, and you have your setting, and you have an understanding of how the one interacts with the other. Somebody here wants something (and if they don't, you better get in there and make damn sure they do). Whatever initial pressure you introduce has to engage the characters in what they desire.

Desires come in a lot of flavors, but you can do well by the basics: Love. Comfort. Home. Dignity. Honor. Those come up all the time because they're things lots of people can relate to wanting, and wanting badly. (And by the way, lots of other needs boil down, in the end, to one of these.) But the trick is, too, that you need to be specific. What are the boundaries of this person's honor? What are the requirements of home? What sort of love does this person need to find to be truly happy? Once you establish this, you should also pinpoint whether this want is something they're looking for, or something they have that you can take away. This is going to determine the nature of the pressure you exert, and how you're going to really get them where it hurts.

So if you're going with love (and there's no reason why you shouldn't), and you're further exploring your protagonist's need for romantic love, and you know exactly the kind of Honorific Right they're seeking, you've got a nice little hook you can slip into them to begin to apply your pressure. Now you can start throwing obstacles between them and the thing they're after. Boy Meets Girl And They Fall In Love And Are Happy does not make good story. Boy Meets Girl and one of them loves another; or their love is forbidden; or one of them has Other Obligations; or one of them dies - all do. This is why love triangles, Romeo-and-Juliet scenarios, and tragic marriages of one kind or another are such popular and durable ideas. They're cliches because they continue to work.

Now - whatever obstacles are messing up your characters' lives (creating pressure), they have to be present and immediate, or nothing is going to happen: no event. And part of the trick of making it work right is that the characters' desires have to measure up to the pressure at hand. Boy meets girl (or whatever recombination or variant tickles your squid, natch), and one of them loves another, and the other shrugs and moves on: Also not a story. For a proper, solid event, people need to be, in some measure, desperate.

This is where you need to make sure the pressure is at a high enough level. "The love of my life doesn't love me, but I can wait" is probably not sufficient to create an event on its own. "The love of my life is marrying Bruno Brutenheim unless I do something about it TONIGHT" - probably is.

The exact nature of the event depends very much on the nature of the people involved. In the scenario above, what our hapless romantic hero will do to resolve the pressure depends on what kind of guy he is. Does he try and serenade his beloved with her favorite lovesong? Propose to her himself? Seduce her after the rehearsal dinner? Kidnap her? Kill Bruno? The important thing is that he has to take a big acton, and that the action has consequences. Those consequences are the source of your new pressure.

One more thing I should note: As the pressures escalate, you'll probably notice very quickly that things will build to the point where the entire world of your cast threatens to go nova. This is a good thing, and you should at least consider letting it.You are in the business of breaking stuff and finding out what people do afterwards. Be fearless about exploring what happens when everything implodes; the fact that you pushed it that far is a sign you're doing it right. Over-the-top is preferable to underwhelming. An author is a Shiva, a god of destruction - just keep in mind that Shiva destroys so that new things may come into being. So burn it all down, and see what springs up out of the ashes.


(Later still.)

Right. Now, a bit more about pressure:

As noted previously, a pressure doesn't have to be objectively big to be sufficient; it only has to be important enough to the characters. Of course, if the pressure involves a need or want for something with little or no significance outside the context of the story, you've got a Maguffin and a particular challenge in making the pressure believable. The Maltese Falcon and the One Ring are the standard classic examples of Maguffins, which just goes to show that it can be an effective device; another one I'm fond of is in Clive Barker's Tyl Eulenspiegel play Crazyface, set in a medieval world where the characters are willing to kill or die for the secret of making chocolate.

It probably goes without saying that pressures can be imposed from within as well, as long as there's something getting in the way of the character satisfying whatever need it is that's creating the pressure. Someone wants to do something they know they shouldn't ought to, or will be censured for, or will face the opposition of another character in; these all illustrate the dynamic that can happen very effectively between desires and obstacles to build pressure. Even boredom can be a source of pressure under the right circumstances (ask any Chekhov character), as long as you're dealing with the right combination of situation and personality to build up enough tension for something to need to happen.

The one thing that truly makes a source of pressure effective is a component of time. In some sense, the clock needs to be ticking down on the characters' situation, or they'll be able to sit it out as long as you can. Don't let them! Even if this time component is itself internally imposed - "that was the last straw, and I can't stand it a moment longer!" - the reader has to be ready to go along with the need for something to happen right now.

This points to another question it's useful to answer for yourself in creating Dramatic Plots: Why is this day different? What happens in the story you want to tell should be different in some significant way from any other day in the lives of your characters, and the sooner you get to that thing the better. That advice you've probably heard about tossing out the first three chapters of your novel, because that's where the real beginning is? Get to the Why Is This Day Different (and the pressure) right away and you won't have to. You don't have to linger over establishing your characters and setting nearly as much as you think you do; dive right into the Martian ship landing, or the caper that goes all wrong, or Johnny Poor Impulse Control finally getting restless enough to do something picturesque to Mr. Higgins.

If you're still stuck on how to jumpstart your plot: One of the best pieces of advice I've read on running roleplaying games is Attack the Party Right Away. If you're not familiar with RPGs, there's a danger at the start of every session where the players will want to wander and explore and get drnk and go gear-shopping before getting down to the business of going on the adventure, but if the gamemaster makes sure everyone gets in a fight right off the bat, this is not going to happen; what's more, the characters get a chance to interact immediately in a high-stakes situation, and you'll have the rapt attention of the players right from the beginning. The same principle works in prose fiction, too. Needless to say, the "fight" doesn't have to be a literal violent skirmish, but the idea of having a high-stakes conflict happen right away (or at least in the first few scenes) has broad application, and may give you additional ideas for building pressure and keeping it on.

One more thing bears mentioning. It's very popular for writers, especially young ones, to claim that their characters get away from them and run off with the plot. Of course, if you're enjoying where they go and the progress of events stays exciting - no worries, and more power to you. But if they're just being stubborn and short-circuiting the story, it's your job to assert authority as author and intoduce whatever pressure you need to get them back on track. Raise the stakes, set off new timebombs, send in two men with guns - do whatever you have to do to keep things moving and the pressure on. You are the author and you are in control, and if you need the characters to be in Cairo on the Equinox, it's your job to make sure the mule-headed little bastards get there on schedule.

"Nobody says the B-word"

The ever-sensible piny has started (well, a couple of days ago now, but never mind) a Feministe thread on bisexuality; I contribute, way down the line.

October 24, 2006

Lie In Bed Like Steven Wilson Did

I have returned from another long weekend in the West Virginia hills, this time for a session of recording with two-thirds of OVO to lay down the first serious tracks for Supplicant, our debut LP.

Of course, we started things off in proper rockstar fashion by finishing half a bottle of amaretto and sleeping till Saturday afternoon, so while we weren't quite as productive as we might have been, we nonetheless got some very decent material out of it. And considering that I loaded up the wagon with guitar, bass, mandolin, strumsticks, violin, whistles, recorders, drum, and wok and managed to use almost everything I brought along, I feel a good deal was accomplished in an all-too-brief time.

More to come.

October 19, 2006

NaNoSeconds, Part I

Most of my online writing these days, it seems, is on the NaNoWriMo fora, where, contrary to my presence almost everywhere else on Teh Internets, I can't seem to shut up. I have, indeed, been well-nigh pontificating on a number of writing-related subjects, for all that in measurable terms I have as much authorial cred as your average poetry.com prizewinner. But I've never let that sort of thing stop me before, and I'm not about to start learning humility now.

So, this being the case, I figured I may as well spread the ego-onanism around as much as I can manage before all my writerly energies are directed elsewhere, and I'm reposting some of my Collected Dubious Wisdom here. For posterity. Or something.

Anyway, this first one is from the Fantasy genre forum, where every year the NaNoZeitgeist seems to bring a new tide of neurosis about something or other; one year it was everyone worried about writing Mary Sues, and another it was avoiding cliches. This time around it's a sort of free-floating anxiety about what actually qualifies as Fantasy, and you can probably imagine about how much patience I have for that. It was quickly apparent that expecting my little screed be a preemptive strike against every young fantasist's genre dysphoria was too much to ask, but I suppose it was worth a try. So, then:

Some Not-Rules

In an effort, however futile, to hopefully forestall a tide of threads on some variant of "Does This Qualify As Fantasy Or Will The Genre Police Come Get Me In The Night," a few points bear making. Thus, a preliminary-if-of-necessity-incomplete list:

1. Not setting your novel on another world does not disqualify it as fantasy.

2. The absence of magic in your novel does not disqualify it as fantasy.

3. The absence of elves (dragons, unicorns, cockatrices, manticora, Generic Evil Hordes, or what-have-you) does not disqualify it as fantasy.

(3a. The absence of elves-as-rock-stars does not disqualify it as urban fantasy, but that's really another rant.)

4. The absence of epic quests, bildungsroman'd formerly-humble heroes, Feudalism Lite, and/or the stark division of the fictional cosmos into Good and Evil, singly or in any combination, does not disqualify it as fantasy.

5. The subtlety with which you treat the otherworldly element(s), whatever they may be (and however you want to stretch, bend, fold, or spindle the meaning of "otherworldly"), does not disqualify it as fantasy.

6. The presence of gunpowder, clockwork, the printing press, the seed drill, the steam engine, the incandescent lightbulb, or any other technology that would have given Paracelsus a headache does not disqualify it as fantasy.

7. The presence of rayguns, supercomputers, antigravity, faster-than-light travel, or any other fx-laden ultratech shininess does not disqualify it as fantasy.

8. The presence of elements, either of plot, style, or tone, normally associated with the various modes of Horror does not disqualify it as fantasy.

9. The use of any narrative or character voice other than the stentorian and faintly purple This Be a High and Valorous Narrative, Forsooth does not disqualify it as fantasy.

10. And so on. You get the idea.

...which is not to say, by the by, that there's anything at all wrong with doing fantasy that's Exactly What You'd Expect. This is not a discussion about cliches or the anxieties thereof, which is probably also worth having, but not on this thread, i'faith. If that's the book you're doing, you are almost certainly confident in its fantasyness, and this list is not about you.

This list is about everyone who approaches genre with a great idea dampened by fear of breaking the Rules.

And I am here to say: Cut it out. The Rules you're worried about don't exist, or they've been broken already so badly they might as well not. If you think you might be writing fantasy but are concerned that you're violating some sort of protocol if you deviate from the standard (whatever that is), I can give you a long list of folks who have already shattered those icons and danced among the shards.

(Oh, alright: Gene Wolfe. Jack Vance. Ellen Kushner. China Mieville. Kelly Link. Jeff Vandermeer. John Crowley. Sarah Monette. Garth Nix. Hal Duncan. And that's just for starters.)

Look: Genres (and subgenres) are not checklists, they're not pigeonholes, and they're most definitely not straightjackets. Genre is not prescriptive; when it works, it's descriptive, saying "If you liked that, you might also like this." (Or not.) Fantasy in particular is an elusive quarry, and changes shape as soon as you pin it down, but it's enough to say that it isn't only what's considered "generic." It probably has room for whatever it is you're doing too, so for the love of all the gods and muses, resist the urge to second-guess yourself on whether or not it "fits" and come let your work join the conversation already in progress. (And if you're still worried that it doesn't fall under the definition, consider the possibility that the definition could stand to be expanded; fantasy, of all the modes of Lit'rature, has enormous capacity to grow and include.)

Here endeth the ranting. Additions and expansions welcome.

October 18, 2006

Remember, Remember

Yes, as I mentioned previously, it's about that time again.

This has not exactly been my best year for writing (prose, anyway; songwriting I've actually managed a bit of); that rather impressive breakdown I had right at the end of last year's effort seems to have taken some of the wind out of my sails, especially as far as trying to continue Otherwood goes. We'll see if this time around does better for my momentum.

So, to that end, I am already wading out into the uncharted waters of the planning stage for this year's NaNovel. It will indeed be another Jenny book; I am, in fact, thinking of this as a kind of proving ground for the voice and style of the revision of The Vasty Deep, which I promise I haven't forgotten about finishing. (Hey, V's taken five years to get back to his and it was much better the first time around than most of my first drafts actually mumble mumble razafrazzin expletive deleted.)

I remain ambivalent about circulating the work-in-progress this time; while I certainly like the added incentive to keep producing story for a (presumably) committed audience, it also presents me the unfortunate temptation of wanting to be a participant in my own fandom, which probably isn't quite fair to all you folks. I definitely won't be posting it publicly to the Intarwebs, since I might actually be getting over myself enough to be concerned about first-publication rights; I'm considering putting it in friends-locked posts on the LJ, which may be either the best or worst of both worlds. We'll see. I still have at least another two weeks of vacillation before I sort that out, which will frankly be the least of my concerns by then.

Otherwise, though, let me toss this out: I have a vague and general idea of what I'd like to do with this year's effort, but I'm still early enough in the outline that I can incorporate some Audience Participation. If you've got a request of something you think I ought to put in this year, let me know; if I can incorporate it into what I've got planned so far, I might just do it. (Yeah, I know: "Finish it." Everyone's a frickin' commedian.)

Threefold Law

Oh, all right, one more (since Aishwarya tagged "you," and I, like Vishal, am taking it personally):

Three, Three, Three Things

3 books:
  • Imajica, Clive Barker
  • Riddle-Master, Patricia McKillip
  • The Nightmare Factory, Thomas Ligotti
3 albums:
  • In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson
  • Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre, Current 93
  • Hoofbeat Caw & Thunder, Timothy, Revelator
3 movies:
  • Se7en
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Night Watch
3 thoughts:
  • I'd gladly eat this Boston Creme doughnut even if it was considerably more stale than it already is.
  • Why haven't I discovered the Decemberists before now? They're like if Jethro Tull had somehow halfway turned into the Smiths. On a pirate ship.
  • I can tell I'm rapidly approaching the point where I'm going to be obsessed with next month's novel all the time. Is it too early to say Sorry, and Goodbye To You All?
(Still not tagging. This is yours if you want it.)

October 09, 2006

"There's trees in the desert since you moved out"

Tagged again, this time by belledame, who caught it from feministe; and who am I to refuse? So, then: five things (hail Eris!) Feminism Has Done For Me:

1. I work as a Filthy Assistant at a small woman-owned company, and am the only male out of ten employees at corporate HQ. Aside from having feminism to thank for making it possible for me to have the Best Boss Ever, I also don't have to feel like this situation is some sort of failing on my part.

2. Thanks to my feminist mom's unwillingness to believe that having a dick makes certain kinds of work impossible, I am self-sufficent: I know how to cook, clean, do my own laundry, buy my own clothes and groceries, and generally see to it on my own that any place I live remains livable. Of course, the fact that I'm not especially good about doing all of those things regularly is another of feminism's lessons, in that I also realize that if they don't all happen every day the world will, by some miracle, consistently fail to end.

3. The work of Ellen Kushner, Susanna Clarke, Patricia McKillip, Carla Speed McNeil, Elizabeth Bear, Jill Thompson, Joolie Wood, Carla Kihlstedt, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and many others has had a profound influence on my life and my work. Not only am I proud to list those women among my heroes, I'm glad to live in a world where I have access to their work and can pick it up without the fear of getting Girl Cooties all over me.

4. I've kept my hair long for the last four vaguely respectable jobs I've held, and worn an earring to interview for the last three. The breakdown of strict patriarchal standards has given me a great deal more freedom to be who I am without sacrificing material success. (And I don't worry about losing my job if I get spotted by a coworker on the weekend while I'm in nail polish and eyeliner, either.)

5. Some of My Best Friends are Chicks, Really! Er, that is: I feel confident in saying that having an alternative framework for interacting with women (i.e., as actual, yanno, people), without needing to dominate, condescend to, or try and fuck them, has given me a long list of satisfying friendships I wouldn't otherwise have had, and my life would be poorer without them. And I have the pleasure of a marriage that's a geniune partnership; in addition to not needing to be the sole breadwinner/caretaker/responsible adult in my house, I get to spend my life with someone who's actually my friend along with everything else. The whole thing makes me wonder why we didn't start to figure all this nonsense out a long time ago.

...all of which, btw, feels just slightly uncomfortably like I'm pointing out my Feminist Cred, something I generally hate to do (I've said elsewhere that I suspect it's one of those things like cool or Zen, in that if you think you have enough of it to draw attention to, you don't), but the benefits of having one or two bona fide hairy males joining in on this is probably to the greater good. (If it makes you feel any better, The Missus just observed that the bespectacled Naughty Librarian look is suddenly in all over the place, and that's a benefit of feminism I can get behind for almost no altruistic reasons whatsoever.)

Um, not going to tag anyone on this one, I think. I'll leave it to those Fawning Admirers who feels sufficiently inspired to do their own if they like. But I'll point out here that there's also a fine list over at Butterfly Cauldron, and that both Jean and A White Bear are using this meme to launch promising-looking series. Go and read.