Monday, April 25, 2011

Inescapable, air quotes

I used to think that I was being spied on, that literally people had installed microphones and cameras into the places I most frequented just to eavesdrop on my ideas. Yesterday I was catching up on one of "my shows" on internet television, and one of the main characters outlined, almost verbatim, a concept I wrote down in my recently published book. I was shocked to say the least. But then, I'd  also long abandoned the notion that people would go that far to listen to me prattle in hopes of a golden nugget. After all, while Newton was brainstorming on falling apples, on the opposite side of the world another guy, little known in the West, was doing more or less the same thing. I like to think that some good ideas are more obvious, they simply follow certain observations of nature, and it's the brave, or perhaps lucky, that are in a position to write them down and show them to others, to claim that they thought of them first. Somehow, I imagine that if given the opportunity, there's many a transient burdened with a useless wealth of cool ideas. They just don't have agents, much less pocket change.

I was sick last week, but I'm proud to say that I did the writing. I stayed in doors all Friday, went to bed early, and powered through two morning chapters on Saturday. Then, for boredom's sake, I did a third that afternoon. That was a bad idea. I can't remember the last time I wrote when I was bored, but I know full well what kind of effort I get from myself when I commit to something under those conditions. When painting a wall, for instance, I'll make a big X first, then work through circles and other designs. I'll yawn, figuring as long as the paint gets on the wall, as long as the words get on the page, then it's a job completed. Yesterday, I was sure not to look at anything I put down, giving myself a full two days of other thoughts and other activities so I could work on the chapters with the freshest mind possible. I might even give it until tomorrow. I'm almost far enough removed that I can't even rightly recall what I put down, only that it was terrible, like peeking into a cracked cellar door to catch a glimpse of a murder scene below.

And speaking of other thoughts, I think I'm going to start outlining the book I'll be working on next. The outlining process is working marvelously, and seems to only require that I prep my mental engines before writing, and then glancing at what I've already carefully written down as a skeleton for the story, a target to aim at. Then when I'm done, I just adjust it, from what I planned on writing, to what I actually did write. The two have thus far been close enough to the same that the story can be steered comfortably. However this has also given me extra time to spout off random ideas about that next book. I work through concepts and talk out scenes and organize timelines weekly, and every now and then I'll realize I've forgotten something.  Or even worse, that a new detail contradicts an earlier one, and even that older thought is a bit fuzzy. Because I don't write any of it down. So, I feel mostly good about planning out a new novel even when I'm writing on others. I guess that's the difference between cheating and "testing the waters."

Speaking of scatter brained thoughts, I remembered the other day, or rather I was reminded, that I could join the electronic publishing's version of sffwa (science fiction and fantasy writers of america). All writing professionals have guilds, little camps where they can feel good about themselves collectively, protect and bolster one another, and when necessary throw rocks at the other groups. I forget what the literati group is called, but they refer to the writing produced by members of sffwa as "genre fiction" and sffwa calls their stuff "contemporary fiction." I have no idea what either group calls the stuff done by the group I'm trying to join. It's an interesting situation because the group is very young, relatively, because the internet has only been utilized to the degree to make e-publishing marketable for a few years. So I'll see where this takes me. That is, if I can make paypal work. I was able to avoid using the service all throughout college but now not only is it how I'll receive my royalties, it's also how I have to pay my membership dues.

Perhaps technology being inescapable will work to my favor?

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