Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Overstand

Tis the season. For falling into funks. The writing has been proceeding, albeit at a slow pace. I've been hamstrung by the start and stop pace created by the research required to keep this off the ground. Normally, my chapters hover around 2,500 words. That's been strangely consistent across series, across genres, across years. I theorized early on that a specific amount of detail is required, like the rubber casing surrounding copper wires, to transmit understanding and create immersion for the reader. And it depends a lot on where the author is starting, what needs to be explained for the story elements to make sense, so the narrative can proceed. In more modern settings, I found the chapter word count dropping, because everything was so very similar to our modern world. In fantasy settings, not medieval but different worlds entirely, certain things had to be clarified, but where I didn't explain, the trappings created a safety netting in the medieval understanding. Somewhere, someone was churning butter. There were cows. Sky was still blue on good days and the grass was still green. In science fiction, sometimes the water is red and the leaves are purple, the ground is poisonous green sand and clouds are alive. For the current project, which is set in modernity, I'm up to 4,000 words. I wouldn't call it a slog, but it's as if the opposite has become true. The world is the world we all remember, but the changes are important, and there is a non-trivial amount of them.

On that note, story detail, a writer friend asked me for my opinion on a she's been working on, and how it looks in today's political climate. She made specific decisions with skin tone and melanin content in her fantasy story and worried that it would be misinterpreted in certain, damaging ways. I told her that so long as the decisions were deliberate, and not chosen in spite or anger, then it should be fine. Just be ready for questions. We have different backgrounds, so I was able to provide some alternative perspective on how I saw things, and why. I told her that stories are blank canvasses, for me, and every single dab of paint is a choice the author makes. Lots of decisions get made arbitrarily in lots of stories, and even though I do that myself, I still think it is a weaker move. Because every decision made is an opportunity for distinction. I told her I was curious how she even came up with the idea to use darker peoples in certain ways, and she explained that, for her, it was a point of representation. I respected that, even agreed with it, but there were some other concerns I vocalized. All in all, it was an interesting discussion, and made me reflect on my own choices, past and present, and why I made them, and what I would do differently if I had them to do all over again. This writing process for the current project has been even more introspect than others, which, if you know me, is saying a lot. I have had to confront my own ignorance of certain topics directly, and accept the fact that I was a bit lost, in trying to find my way. I never did go camping, yet I find myself in even deeper woods.

And almost as if I needed an example, I happened upon a video of the creator of a show I watch, talking about how he came to create one of the characters. The character in question is very distinctive, with several traits that connected in such a way that the origin seemed assured. The video even went on to explain why it was perfectly reasonable to assume the character came from that certain place, was built on top of specific stereotypes. The video went on to explain how all of that was false, with testimony from the author, who walked through who the character was, and where the idea had come from. I never could have imagined. It transported me back to my reaction to my writer friend's question, about being ready for questions. Without that explanation, I, and apparently many others, would've made some wholly incorrect assumptions (and this is important because the character, at times, borders on being generalizing, if not racist). It taught me that there are so many different computations of understanding. It was amazing, but also terrifying, and I wondered about what things I had created that were innocently, and dangerously, misunderstood. And again, I turned to my current project, where I am not shying away from certain things, but rather addressing them very directly.

Today, I am not especially sure where I'm going, but I think I know where I am.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Seasonal work

Been under the weather. Yet another phrase I cannot parse. The sickness delayed some things, but only delayed. However, even healthy I likely would've procrastinated in doing the research needed to get the latest project off the ground. I never did go back to looking into agents or researching publishers. I just don't feel right unless I'm writing. Maybe I should talk to someone about that.

So, for a few different reasons, waking up at 5 with a story playing in my head was less than ideal. And for a few different other reasons, I rolled out of bed at 5:30 with my hands out, trying to catch the thoughts tumbling out of my mind.

Two thousand words in, chiding the sun about finally getting up, I was happier, in general, and I think I was better, too, having learned some things already about my world and the characters in it. It's going to be a longer prologue, I think, an introduction to the internal logic of the space and some of the major actors moving about. I also think I'm going to confuse some people when they find out the innocently likeable character at the center of things is actually an antagonist. I wasn't sure how to feel about that. Wasn't on purpose, it just sort of happened.

I was recently given another name for this part of the year in America: Native American Maafa. I don't have any indigenous people friends, so I had no one to bounce that off of, in regards to which, if either, is more offensive. I quite like the idea of bending the popular name towards the short supply of thanks already being distributed. I feel like that yearly uptick, if that's all it ever is, is good. It's also interesting to note that the timing of all of this also coincided with the research I had to do for my story, concerning the culture and myths of native peoples. It's almost enough to think that there's more than coincidence at work.

Mysticism aside, I am very thankful today, for this tumbleweed in my brain. It turns and turns and spins and spins and rolls, on and on. It almost feels like it isn't me, like I'm holding onto something else, simply along for the ride. And I love it. It doesn't always love me, but I think today might just be the best day to make friends out of family.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Either, or

"I want them to be great writers."

I'm not sure why I jumped at that, but I did, as if I didn't need, or want, to hear anything else. Thinking back, there wasn't an ounce of pause in me, not a mote of modesty to wonder at my inability to help with that, or to wonder just how far I had to go to be great myself. Today I start a new job with that as my mission statement.

Some years back, a bunch actually, my mentor told me about his lament at discovering the distinction between "a writer who teaches" and a "teacher who writes," and how he had looked up in recent days and discovered that he had become the latter, and the former, his goal, had gotten away from him who knows when. Like a lot of my lessons, I recall thinking to myself, "well, I don't want that to happen to me." So far, it hasn't.

Speaking of things that haven't been happening. NaNoSubMo is tanking. I started research only yesterday about publishing and submitting and agents. I learned that August is known as the Dead Month, and is a industry-wide period where most gate keepers take vacations. That was interesting enough. I also began the slow, slow process of combing through agent entries, looking for what I have no idea. The right smiling face or a write-up. Everything I've read so far seems to imply that step 1 is accruing a list of agents that are looking for manuscript(s) like mine, and step 2 is develop submission packets to the letter for each. Step 3 is send them all. Non-discriminatory submission, big small near far. I cannot help but think of the Last Starfighter. Spinning in a frenzy shooting in all directions, and then the panicked calm, the nothing and the waiting and the hoping.

And to counter that, as always, the writing is going well. I'm still in the brainstorming phase, linking together concepts and ideas and researching the tactile aspects of what I'll be writing about, what the characters will see, how those things will affect the story, and where the story will be able to go as a result. I have a soft date with a friend to let her poke holes in what I've got set up, a safety check before I actually put weight on things to make sure nothing falls through. After that, I think I will be just about ready to commit to a chapter, and then another. These stages are familiar, these steps, even though they are a little different every time. As per usual, these realizations led me to decide I had learned something about myself. I tried out my knowledge on a friend, to which they say "I could've told you that."

So, there are some things that I am hesitant to be sure about. I have a certain disdain for arrogance, and I think it's foolish to assume that one knows anything. And then there are things that move me to action prior to even a whisper of thought. I jaunt, and before I know it I'm somewhere else.