Monday, March 28, 2011

On Divided Attentions

My good friend and fellow blogger Matt raised an interesting question in one of my posts a while back.

Here's the question:

Matt said...
I was curious: do you divide your attention between different work or are you usually singularly focused on a single project on a given day?
 To which I responded (essentially): "I don't know."

It's a relevant question about work patterns that I haven't really thought about until now. What drives me to work on one project fanatically (as I did at the end of February, making it my most productive weekend in the history of my career)? And what drives me to split my attention among several projects (as I did at the beginning of February, which saw me writing a bunch of character sketches and short stories in addition to my work on "Godchild")?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Like to Disagree With People

This post is a direct result of my reactions to this post by Matt over on The Vanshing Blog from about a week ago. It's not necessary to read the post in order to understand mine here, but it's a thoughtful piece and worth your time.

Now, to draw attention away from Matt's overall point and narrow in on what I want to talk about today, a quote:
I'm not a big fan of MovieBob. Although I find him occasionally interesting, he comes off as something of an elitist to me. Also, he is coming from worldview diametrically opposed to mine. He seems to have no problem insinuating that those who disagree with him are small-minded. Plus, at the end of this video he basically says he'd like to be a supervillain.
That's from Matt's article. It does not reflect the main purpose of the article in any way, shape, or form, but it brings up what I have discovered is a rather fundamental difference between him and me.

I like it when I disagree with someone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Author Roundup

Lightweight day today. Just wanted to mention a few pieces of author news that's interested me lately.

Here's a George R.R. Martin interview over at the Bear Swarm podcast. There's a content warning on this one, but the discussion is interesting. This is less significant now that there's been an announcement about the Dance With Dragons release date, but still...

Here's an interview between Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss up on It's from early March, when Wise Man's Fear was coming out. They talk a lot about some of the nuances of the writer's life, which is always a topic I'm ready to talk about.

A couple weeks ago, London "weird fiction" author China Mieville came to my university and spoke about the renovation of weird fiction in recent years. I had the opportunity to attend. Naturally, I took it.

Now, I have a confession to make. I haven't actually read any of Mieville's books. I know that he's a highly creative and skilled author, and I'm going to read his stuff eventually. Thus far, however, I have not.

That being said, I still really enjoyed the talk.

First of all, this man is well-educated. I mean, really well-educated. He was throwing around high-brow literary terms with a nonchalance and deft skill that kept me swimming furiously just to keep abreast of the discussion for most of the hour. My first reaction to this was intimidation. I was, essentially, thinking "Wow. I'm nowhere near this learned. This guy really knows his stuff; how am I supposed to be a writer if I don't know my genre as well as he knows his?"

Well, then I discovered that he's a creative writing professor at a London university. I guess that explains that.

Follow-up thought to that was, "Well, okay. He's got years of experience. You'll get there."

Second, he's a friendly guy. You listen to him talk and you get a sense of a laid-back, inviting personality. That being said, he's definitely working the "punk edge" look. Bald head, multiple piercings, massive arms. You don't want to tangle with this guy in a dark alley.

Third, this guy is really into octopuses. I mean, really, really into octopuses. To hear Mieville speak, you'd think that octopuses are almost superior to human beings. In a one-and-a-half hour discussion, the group spent at least forty minutes talking about octopuses. Their biology. Their place in weird fiction. Their lack of place in traditional folklore. Their lack of metaphorical impact. Again, a lot of high-brow literary discussion that kept me just gasping for breath... about octopuses.

But hey, it was interesting.

One final note. I've broken 65,000 words on Godchild, making it my longest single work yet. Huge news.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Dance With Dragons Release Date!

So... I had something completely different planned for today, but I just found this out, so it obviously takes precedence:

"A Dance With Dragons," the fifth book of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, finally has an official release date! This isn't just an expected release year, or even a month. It's the exact day.

12 July 2011

So very, very soon...

As anyone who has read Martin's fantasy epic knows, this is huge news, highly anticipated, and about time. Martin has been writing this book for over five years now, and a lot of skeptics have been saying that it will never come out. True, it's still not done yet, according to the man himself, but it's on the last stretch, so it'll be done soon. And Bantam Spectra has been waiting to publish this book since the last one was released (I imagine), so they'll be more than willing to put the tome together in a matter of months.

Seriously, people, I cannot stress how monumental this is. Those who have read the series, as I said, know how big a deal this is. For those of you who haven't, this is easily the most anticipated fantasy release of the year -- and probably the most anticipated fantasy release since the last Harry Potter book (the only other books I can think of that come close are "The Wise Man's Fear," Day 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patric Rothfuss, and the final Wheel of Time book [which is actually three books now, long story.])

Okay, I'm calming down now. For real.


I'm gonna go write something now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Comparing Methods

Here's another interesting note to consider.

With "Godchild," I have an overarching plot in mind, with dozens of locations and characters and events all weaving in and out of each other. However, I don't actually know what's happening when. I have large revelations and theme shifts blocked out, but their placement is very fluid and will change to fit the confines of the story. In addition, my day-to-day writing is generally outlined fairly concretely. I have a good idea of what the characters are doing and where they are going for the foreseeable (which is usually about a week's worth of writing).

What I don't know, however, is that big, fat middle ground between overarching plan and daily grind. So it becomes an interesting mix of discovery-writing meets outline-drafting. There are moments when I discover that a certain character is going to disappear for a few days, or another one is going to stick around longer than I intended, and that's okay, because I'm leaving myself open to the characters' actions. But there are other times where I see a brilliant chance to lay down some foreshadowing or begin to sow the seeds of plotlines that will develop much, much later in the story. And I get to do so because I know (on a grand scale) where the story is going. So, for me, thought it's exhausting and requires continual maintenance and will likely require a very thorough rewrite before any thoughts of publication, the way I'm doing things for "Godchild" is an enjoyable and dynamic way to write the story.

Now, I tell you that to tell you this.

"A Tree in Times Square" is going to be handled in a completely different manner. It's going to be the first book that I try to map out, scene by scene, before sitting down to write it. Yes, this means that I haven't started writing it yet, even thought March is already burning through days. I want to give the story time to grow organically in my mind, even while I'm attempting to codify it with an outline. I've already seen benefits from this approach, as character origins and roles adapt and shift into new flavors, and plot details connect and respond to each other in my head and on the page. The entire climax that I had originally planned has changed itself at least three times since I started working on this outline (for the better, of course).

So that's another bit of trivia about "Tree" that has me excited to be working on it at last. We'll see, in the coming weeks, which method holds up and whether or not I'll want to adopt one or the other for future projects. (It might just be that -- gasp -- each project is different. We'll see.)

Until then,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What I learned in the month of February

As you may have noticed, I disappeared during the second half of February.

Sorry about that.

What you may be wondering is "why?"

Well, I talked briefly about it here, but I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about it independent of any other matter. So if you don't want to read the self-absorbed ramblings of a discouraged loner, then I suggest you move on to the next post. (If you do want to read the self-absorbed ramblings of a discouraged loner... what the hell is wrong with you? Creeper.)

Moving right along.

You see, I came very, very close to giving up on writing. It's hard for me to understand why, sitting where I am now. It was hard for me to understand why while I was in the midst of the doubt, but all I know is that I seriously questioned the purpose behind the daily grind that I have chosen to put myself through.

It didn't help that I was/am isolated from the majority of my friends and family, my easy access to books, and a supportive community for gaming. All of the things that usually remind me of how great this art form is, and how much I can do with it, are absent. These are all elements of my life that enhance my perception of the written word, both as a craft and as a life style, and I have been forced to embrace writing in its rawest form without them around me.

In short, and absent poetical terms, my writing almost ate me. Not consumed, in that I became nothing but the writing -- though that may have been a related danger -- but like a spiny beast it cornered me in a subtle ambush and demanded to know if either of us were worth it.

The spiny beast made me think that my ideas are crap and don't deserve to see themselves written down, much less put into publication. In turn, I convinced the spiny beast that it isn't worth the daily sacrifices that I have to make to live with it. Like a squabbling couple immediately before a messy divorce, craft and craftsman both thought the world was better off without the other.

Fortunately, as far as I'm concerned, we're both too stubborn for our own good. Neither of us agreed to roll over and die, so we persevered. It took a long time and a lot of mental energy and disappointment. But the result of our hard work is apparent in what we have learned and overcome together in these last days of February.

To be a bit more clear:

-I have learned that if I don't get a start on my writing in the morning, the chances that I won't get any writing done at all increase exponentially.
-I have learned that if I do get a start on my writing in the morning, it's likely that I'll exceed my writing goals for the day.
-I have broken down what seems like dozens of mental barriers in the past three days. I never thought I would be able to write more than a thousand words per day before NaNo. Then I never thought I'd be able to write more than two thousand words per day before January. As a result of February: I'm aiming to write over four thousand words per day, just to see if I can keep it up.
-I am learning, slowly, to press on through my doubt, because the writing does get better and the story does come together eventually and the characters really aren't as flat and lifeless as you thought (even if they will look that way when you start your rewrite).
-I am learning, slowly, to forgive myself and get over my disappointment when I fail to be as productive as I think I "need" to be. Beating myself up about my writing only makes it harder to get started the next day, and it prevents me from enjoying time to myself (without the writing) and time with my friends and family.

Okay, that's all. Thank you for bearing with me through all of that. A rough month is behind us now. Let's hope that that's the worst of it for a while.

I promise to be a bit more upbeat in the future (or at least to avoid wallowing about myself.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Introducing: A Tree in Times Square

First of all, I want to mention that I've begun contributing over at The Vanishing Blog. You can find my introduction here.

Alright, moving on.

So you may have seen me mention a new project in passing on Twitter and here in comments. I'm going to take a moment now to formally introduce it to all of you.

"A Tree in Times Square"

What is it?
It's going to be a shorter book (aiming for 40k words) that I hope to write within the month of March. It's about a young boy living in New York city who discovers an affinity for plants. I'm not entirely sure as to the audience for this book, yet, but I imagine it'll end up on a YA or similar market eventually. (However, I am not a publisher, so I don't know these things for sure. Yet.)

Why am I writing it?
Once again, I'm beginning to feel the drag from writing epic tales like "Godchild." This is an effort to complete something, and to do so in a timely manner as well. In addition, it's a story that I've had on my mind for years, so I decided that now was the time to try telling it. That may work, it may not; we'll find out.

What about "Godchild?"
I'm still working on it, and will continue to do so throughout March. Yes, this means I'm going to have to work harder than I did in February, but hopefully it'll earn me a break by April. Again, we'll see.

That's about all I can think of for now. I hope to share more about this project (and "Godchid") as I work on it. It's going to be different than anything else I've worked on (I seem to say that a lot, but it's true).

Until then,