Tuesday, July 05, 2005

This has been a long time in coming

Today, I rock.
//insert happy dance here//

Maybe the planets have finally aligned
...well, actually, from what I understand, Saturn (who has been retrograde in Cancer for over 3 years) finally decided to put his boots on and get the hell out of there. (Like I needed more challenge in my home life...see-ya, Saturn! Looking forward to seeing you in Leo, moving in the CORRECT direction...)

Maybe I've been seeing the right therapist
...could be all the folks I played with at Opus in May... Wynette Hoffman, Carol Berg, Phil Brucato, Maggie Bonham, Jan Scott-Frazier -- and did I mention Wynette?? -- collectively and individually helped me re-find my missing groove. They sent me home ready to rock out, but of course only I could clear the stage...

Maybe it's because Mark & I actually got off our asses and went out while it was cool enough to do our walk thing this morning...

But more than anything, I think, it's because I just gave it all up to the muse today. I didn't *care* about productivity; I hung out near the keyboard, reading, and when he decided he knew what the next paragraph, the next sentence, the next image was, I got out of his way. Next thing I knew, I'd forgotten the book I was reading (a nice change of pace: Xtian conspiracy theory. Grist for the mill...) existed.

Yeah, and I went out to the garden.

Do you care? Not nearly as much as I do. But next time I'm stuck, I can come back here and remember what I did right today:



Monday, June 06, 2005

A Writer's Desiderata

With apologies to Max Ehrmann...

Go placidly amid the critique groups and competition,
and remember what creativity there may be in
your own locked study.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all editors, publishers, and fellow writers.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
Or go to cons, get liquored up, and pick senseless fights on panels;
and listen to others,
even the pompous and their sycophantic followings.
They too have their stories, even if they are cautionary ones.

Avoid panels populated by loud and obnoxious persons,
and aggressive handselling;
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare your sales figures with others',
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser sellers than yourself.
Enjoy your published works as well as your current draft.

Keep interested in your own stories, however humble;
and don't forget to feed the muse;
he/she/it/they is the only thing that can keep you out of the Pit of Writer's Block.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of vanity publishers, incomprehensible contracts, and useless literary agents.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for a piece of the next bestseller;
and everywhere life is full of kick-ass marketing schemes.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign talent you haven't got.
Neither be cynical about multiple drafts;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
rewriting is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of those whose careers will never see the far side of the midlist,
gracefully surrendering the illusions of the unready-to-publish.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden bad reviews.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of the distance between yourself and New York.
Beyond what is required to make your deadlines,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a descendant of the greats,
no less than Roger Zelazny and Stephen King;
you have a right to be on this side of the panel table.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the con is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with your publisher,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your plot and characterization methods,
in the noisy confusion of publishing keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful business.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Amen, and Amen; and again, Amen

The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told

Is it me, or is it getting a little straight-laced in here? Frank Rich sheds light on emboldened cockroaches...and no, I don't mean the guys with potty-mouth.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Writing Down the Crap

I'm sure he doesn't like to admit it, but about a million years ago I participated in Max Apple's short fiction workshop at Rice. He had a saying: "Writers are the most sentimental people in the world." I always figured this was just his way of saying that people attempting fiction have a tendency to write sentimental crap.

It seems to me that there is truth in this, but that it's slightly off the mark: most of the writers I know are not so much sentimentalists as closet drama queens. The closet part, you see, is why we *write* rather than acting out.

Yesterday, I had a reasonably good cut (so I felt) at the first 90% of a rather information-packed scene. That last 10%, of course, is the part for which the reader shows up at the page -- and today, in between continued nursing of the ailing princess, I took a shot at bringing that scene in for a landing. In short order I found myself writing crap. (This is much of why my page count only went up by 3.)

I mean, it was bad, this crap coming out the ends of my fingers. I knew it was bad. It set off my crap detector right away. To add insult to injury, I discovered I was writing a page-and-a-half of exposition...stuff that felt like one of those film-noir voice-overs. But the muse wanted to stay with it, so I just let him have his head. Information-heavy scenes are always the most difficult for me to carry off, I felt I'd lost my sense of direction now that the *information* part of the scene was out there, and I was just waiting to see what he was getting at. Finally, after I wrote to the end of that godawful expository lump, I condemned it as drivelly drama, got up, and walked away. Fortunately there was an ailing princess to take care of.

About two hours later, I came back in and looked at it again. I rescued paragraphs I thought might be useful later and fussed with some other elements of the scene. Gradually I realized that the scene was ailing, too: while I'd known what my conflict was for the scene when I sat down to write it, I'd lost track of it in the sea of information. The muse, in his godawful page-and-a-half of exposition, had been trying to sneak the conflict in around back.

Ooooooohhhhhhhhh. ::smacks forehead::

This is why information-heavy scenes always take me at least three drafts.

Reader, beware...

I am having a hard time deciding which is more upsetting: the fact that the Patriot Act exists, or people who just don't *get it*.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

This ought to be more momentous

The beginning of anything ought to have something important or hookish to say. But there are days when it's all about showing up: doing what has to be done for kids, for family; showing up at the page whether or not the muse has dragged you there or looks as if he'll show up at all. This is one of my big lessons this year, especially in my writing life.

So, today, I have shown up. And evidently you have, too. So let's go.

A pretty typical day for this particular sector:
Mark is out of town, for the 9th day in the past two weeks. Hey, at least he's on *this* side of the Pacific, which means we get to hold a phone conversation each day...
Rachael is home sick. The second incarnation of "flulike" in the past six weeks. So the last 24 hours have featured cleaning carpets, washing bedding, trying various components of the BRAT diet, massages for aching muscles, and just laying around holding her. At least Daniel is weathering this one, and in school. I plan to take Arsenicum again tonight, in my continuing effort to hold it at bay. Maybe if I can get real sleep tonight...
Work continues on The Affairs of Dragons. I showed up at the page today, and am pretty pleased with five decent first-cut-at-a-scene pages. Especially considering how much time I've spent with Rachael today. As of today, I am on the 50th page of this draft. I would feel better about this if I had a firmer handle on how many pages it will total, in the end.

For the moment, I believe, it's more important to retain my sense of wonder and *cool* about this project than to keep it controlled in the Gantt-chart sense. As many times as I've gone to the mat with this project, this time it is so different from previous attempts that it really feels like a first draft. So, for now, while I'm working from a pretty detailed outline, I'm also trusting the muse.

As every writer knows, a day when you write 5 pretty good pages can't be all that bad.