Monday, January 31, 2011

Speaking on myselves

And January had seemed like such an interminably long month... I had told myself I'd start writing in February, and that I'd give myself until the end of summer to finish these next projects. I couldn't remember how long the previous craziness took me, but that seemed feasible. And if not feasible, then necessary. There are whispers of my position becoming full time in the fall, with benefits and responsibilities and that oppressive weight which I've heard that smites writers (hm, I think I just indirectly characterized myself as a writer). But then things got lost in the weekend as I discovered old friends. January 31st. It's the end of February, my calendar shouted at me, and I woke from something like a dream.

Because in my driving to this place and that, pumping gas and putting cheese squares on bread, checking the mail and brushing my teeth, I discovered holes in the narratives I've been trying to build. "Hey, wasn't there some villain I wrote about in the previous book?" I asked myself. "Yeah..." I answered, "hey, they're not in the outline, what gives?" To make myselves feel better, I sat down to more thoroughly outline, sketching for antagonists this time, and ins and outs of police cases and criminal records, online maps of places I've never been and investigation of terms I had planned on using flippantly. But the feeling didn't go away. I realized, or rather I thought to myself that I'd have to do a lot of reading before the writing. And not just of other people's stuff, but specifically my own. "Where were you even going with this?" Reading three novels though would set me back a ways. "Can you even get started when you wanted to? And finished?"

But then, I believe completely in my story being carried along by people I've met on the way. A writer friend gave me a laptop. And a bag and a wall adapter and a tiny mouse and a net card. He even gave me a compliment, saying that it belonged with "a great science fiction writer." Telling this story to a friend, I said that I would be holding onto the device covetously until such a person came to claim the prize. Similarly useful, a different friend told me about one particular author that cares much less about continuity from novel to novel (and by much less I mean not at all). The author, I'm told, argued that verisimilitude mattered less across works, and bridging things so had little effect on telling a good story. My friend added to my ambivalence by saying that he had read the man's first work (of which there are many, popular tomes. I hear he's getting a television show, or a movie or some such, also). I questioned the irresponsibility of that, saying that one ought to make things seamless, or try to; my friend rebutted by asking me would I not go back and attempt to change something already published if it would make that thing better. Silence was my retort to that.

So I'm left clueless again. Is such a thing necessary? Is not doing so, whatever the explanation, simply shoveling rhetoric on crass laziness? Are book sales any real indication of craft? There are roads to follow, but there is also no guarantee that where one person found minor trouble and major riches another will reap equally. Certainly, there are generally helpful techniques for any such traveler choosing to trek at all. Keep your feet dry. Avoid feeding the bears. Don't piss into the wind. But aside from common wisdom, all we have are the meddling voices. I shake my head at the mystery of it all as I go my own way.

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