Friday, June 22, 2018

Water water everywhere

Just over a week in the new place. I missed my first great opportunity to write, but I only feel a little bad about that. In the time since bringing in the last box, a few different ideas have bubbled up out of my nighttime thoughts, one of them so strong it formed into a kind of sense during the next waking day. I feel good. I will put words on the page again.

It's also June, which is obvious, but was not so apparent to me as when I went over my mental list of things I wanted to accomplish over the next few seasons. Primarily, I'm getting back up onto the submission horse. The house that accepts submissions without an agent will be opening its doors again this winter, and I would like to have another offering. The plan was to write all year on the latest novel. And now it's June.

So, a step back to organize, in a real space others who might keep me accountable could see.

First, the novel. I have things outlined up to a certain point, but I need to go back and familiarize myself, to wade into all of that tone and theme. It's also a modern setting, so all the research I did, and everything I've learned since will be of import. Deadline is Christmas.

Another would be a short story, the thing that came up out of a dream, and stuck. It connects with another novel I wrote, and could serve to wet the appetite, or wet the feet, of someone thinking of diving into that world and story. I think it has good placement; I have good feelings about that, too.

A while back, years, I tried and failed at writing a stage play. In the time since, I've seen more, and read more, and understand more. And in the period when I wasn't devoting so much focus to one specific project, all sorts of things occurred to me. Several of them were scenes for the play. In addition, I got a chance to talk to some professionals in the field, and I feel ready to at least attempt the first couple scenes of the first act.

In that same vein of just sitting back and letting my wheels turn, I also made some headway on a contemporary novel which I have been collecting ideas for, for even longer. Back when I had the support of mentors and advisers and a college campus, I was at a workshop where I received good advice before I knew what good advice sounded like. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to school, but I've always fancied the Twain quote "I've never let schooling get in the way of my education," and so this thing will be written, whether or not I'm in a program designed to get it published.

Which is a lot. After all, I still need to make more submissions and find an agent and network and all of that. The metaphor I will be going with is breaking the surface of the water to find no land in sight. I was drowning, and now I am not drowning. But there is still so much more work to do. I cannot even entertain the thought of rescue. Which is a lot. And I'm sure there will be cramps, and hunger pangs, and so, so many hallucinations. I may even pick the wrong direction, or end up spinning in circles, tossed by powers out of my control.

But if I just keep swimming, I'll make it eventually.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Back in my daze

I've always found journeys interesting, from those most strictly defined to those unbound by figurative language. I find myself in position these days to stare into the back of many a contractor's vehicle. There's a surprising amount of carpet, and a somewhat unexpected amount or pride, also. What perplexes me more than anything though is how often the painter is surprised at how much space they're missing, that there was no plan to haul away what they just purchased. Staring at the back of their head, or the side of their face, all of their posture begs the question of "how did it get like this?" Much like the carpet, the shelves tell a story, the paint splatters, the piles of equipment, the disparate pieces of various machines, broken poles, ruined brushes, scraps of paper and plastic and plans.

Recently, a kind of fog lifted for me. I had a few different things rolling downhill at me, and after dodging a few of them (or, letting a few of them roll over me, then recovering) I cleared a bit of brain space. I wondered what had happened to this blog, and my writing, and my stories, ones I had written, ones I was in the middle of writing, and ones I had only the barest ideas of. I was convinced that for one particular story, I had come up with the greatest name for a character in contemporary American literature. I think I was safe to feel this way because I was also convinced that I would never find the name. I had to go back four years in my catalog of musings and scribbles. I blinked when I looked at the date. Surely, it hadn't been that long. But rolling back the clock also showed me what my productivity was like, month to month, season to season. It had been four years. It had been over a year since I had even thought of this idea. I also found that name. The me of now and the me of 2014 had very different sensibilities. The me of now found the name to be far too unsubtle, clumsy and heavy handed. A small part of me was aware that I was a still growing, my tastes still changing, but mostly I was disappointed in myself. Shaking my head looking at the pile of refuse wondering how things had become so junky and ruined.

After I was done pitying myself, I understood the biggest takeaway was that I found my notes. I knew back then that I wasn't ready to write the story, so I had to put as many notes down as I could conceive, and time capsule them forward to a better, wiser version of myself. And while I can't be sure the package landed on the correct doorstep, I was energized to receive it. I made immediate plans for past novels, current novels, future novels. I didn't have to squint for an inkling of how I would spend this year in my writing. I updated my inventory of people and circumstances and conversations. I even remembered this dusty space and decided on some words to commit to a post. I felt like myself again.

So, the immediate thought would be a question. Where did I go? If I wasn't myself, who was I? If I was lost, how did I tumble off the trail? But, I think with a few steps' distance, the more important piece isn't a question at all, but a statement of fact: you can make it back. Perhaps wherever I was I had to go to find that.

Full is good.

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.