Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Card #84, by matt cavotta

I'm in a productive place today. Sunday, I wrote after almost deliberately putting it off on Saturday, and coming up with a weak excuse on Friday. As the weekend progressed, the chapter in question occurred to me in the morning and in my still moments in the afternoon until I could almost recite it. Sitting down and putting it on paper was more therapeutic than it was strictly work-a-day. And I guess that makes me sound (more) crazy, but I stand firm on my position that this is a good thing.

The drafted chapter marks my fifteen thousandth approximate word for this project, which isn't a quarter of a way through, but it still feels like something to celebrate. I discovered that at least for this particular series, I always start with several, disparate plots, and then wind them together like a stiff braid as the story goes on. I think when it's all said and done I'll refer to this technique as "something I just came up with," though I'm sure any number of how-to books have this method named and detailed.

And it did occur to me that 15,000 words could be a quarter of a way through. I think on average my books so far hover around the 70k mark (and you thought I was really writing, pfft) and even back in college I was accused of possessing "an economy of words." That bared itself out in a recent review of the book, and I think the reviewer was spot on, both in what I was trying to do, and how I was trying to do it. And all of that is to say that maybe shorter is okay. Books are getting more brief, and not just books, but language. I asked a co-worker about a someday universal language of images projected directly into the eye that could stand for a message, a passage, a book, like a kaleidoscope for the mind. Recently I was asked what I enjoyed more, books or television, and of course the writer in me demanded I answer one way but the honesty in me made me think hard about my reply.

Months ago, maybe years, I remarked on the odd situation of Frank Miller condescending to the very popular movies his very popular graphic novels had become in the same way the literati condescends to Miller's own claims to fame. It struck me that all of this was simply the old resenting the new for being different.

I had a Shakespeare class once where a paper was due every week. The assignments had very specific guidelines: they were to be single-spaced and one page, no more and no less. The professor told us that if done correctly, no more words than could fit on a sheet of paper were needed to convey our ideas. More than that and we were wasting our breath. Less, and we clearly didn't understand what we were talking about. Perhaps that message touched me (at least, I'd prefer to blame my brevity on someone else).

The point is, the future isn't coming. It's here, and I think we can all admit that we'd much rather be on the train than standing on the tracks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A strange polling

A few weeks ago a co worker complimented me on the poetry I had up on my website. Suave and debonair as always, my reply was something mystifying like "Er... uh... yeah." Nothing like praise you don't anticipate, I guess. It made me want to put more stuff up on the site, or at least update it more regularly. Currently, I make changes a couple times a season, if that. Guess I'll have to get better at that, too, presenting myself I mean.

The writing progresses, if still sluggishly. I feel like the edits to the fantasy book are doable, but will also be extensive. Something I didn't much anticipate was how the editor's comments affect the writing I'm doing now. Part of me thinks, "Oh, well, if I just write differently now then I'll have to do less editing on the back end" or worse, "Oh wait, you're about to use passive voice, tsk tsk." The words at those points don't come as easily. I find myself actually thinking about the words instead of... well, instead of them just coming. As you might can tell, I'm slightly worried, but cannot exactly articulate about what.

Someone asked me about NaNoWriMo, and I blinked in realization that it was nearing that time of year again (this after finally figuring out what was up with horror movie after horror movie after horror movie after horror movie showing on tv and cheap candy being advertised in the paper). I was happy to say that while I had never participated in it, I had written a novel in a month. This year I doubt I'll be participating again, but the communal initiative is something I'll likely try to tap into. Maybe that month will prompt the quickening of the pace that I keep failing to adopt.

I also finally finished the judging on the last round of the eBook competition. The director was nice enough to send that reminder email (which was funny, because when she sent it in the first round my reaction was "Psh, like I'd forget," and this time I was like "Oh wait, crap") and I got it done. It was interesting how the judge's form changed for the final round. Instead of  "does this book deserve to move forward" the question was "is this the best book in category" which I found pretty interesting because really, I had no way of answering that. The round robin manner of judging (I did one category for the prelims, a different category for the first round, and yet another category for this final round) sort of made answering that particular question impossible. I thought about butting heads with people I'd never meet about what sort of qualities made an award-winning book. I figured what they meant was "is this the best book out of the ones we've showed you" and just went with that.

On accident, I happened upon a political debate, and was a bit aghast at some grown people's inability to have a conversation. I wasn't on the debate team in college, and it's a good thing too, because I'd suck at politics. Apparently, talking over another person, and attacking them rather than their argument are both winning strategies. It turns out that this morning I was reprimanding two of my students for acting like nominee competitors. I think I'm sadder now than I was then. But now, I will digress off of my soap box. Until next time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dangerous concessions

The desktop having definite issues is in its final stages, which is to say I haven't turned it on in weeks and I'm slowly weening myself off of using it. With that though, came the trappings of a very negative situation where I wouldn't be writing. I think like most people, I made plans to make myself feel better, but had little to no earnest commitment at following through: I'd stay after work and write, or go in early, reserve days just to hang about the library. Fate intervened though, and I ended up getting Word on my laptop so I could help a friend out with his academic work. At that point it was easy (easier). All I had to do was open the program and write. And then...

So I'm pretty happy to say that the writing got done. It was strange to feel the difference in the key strokes, the placement of my hands, the sounds in my ears as I pecked along, but I made it through. I sigh a bit though to think that for the next few months (at least) this will be the new routine. I never realized (but could've guessed) how stuck I was in sitting in a given chair, in a certain room, typing on a specific kind of keyboard and staring at a distinct screen. Now I can write anywhere (technically). My old man urges cause me to grumble at that. What's the saying, to live is to change...

I've started to have a good back and forth about my fantasy novel with an editor at the other publisher. It was a bit like pulling teeth, but things are coming out now that I can appreciate. The story is interesting enough, but I'm not making it as easy as I could for readers to receive all the detail I worked so hard at putting in. I've been assured that the changes won't muddle my voice and the story will be better for it, which are all things I can get behind. I suppose I can't complain too much that it took so much back and forth to get to this point. Reading over the notes, it's somewhat interesting to note how things are different from editor to editor. I have more than a few decisions to make, and as usual my feet are dragging.

I think also that the promotional momentum concerning the March release has gone properly dark. I haven't thought twice about even looking at any sort of review or interview in weeks, and I can't really be sure why. Consciously, I know that if I were to push at that particular boulder week in and week out there would be some progress, however small. I presume (read: hope) I'll get the hang of that particular situation one of these days. That and selling myself to others (which is a trend that keeps going into and out of vogue, imagine that).

I should also get on the last round of judging for the ebook competition I signed up for. Even though I'm not participating in the category I entered my book, the list of finalists was released and mine wasn't on it. And I'd be lying if I said that didn't take some of the wind out of my sails. I figured it wouldn't break through, though. The editing wasn't great, and the writing could've been better, but I guess even though I self deprecate, part of me was still holding out for a miracle. On the other hand, I also try to hold out for the kind of miracle that would make my decade rather than my day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Technical-ology

My mentor told me a story once about an old transient author (redundant) writing poetry on napkins in a bar. The man would scribble his verses down and do nothing with his stories. He didn't talk to anyone while doing so, or socialize much at all. One day, an inquisitive type found one of his little balled up passages and praised the man, asking him how it was that he was able to write so clearly and with such truth. He was shocked to find out the old man had no family and no place, given his gift. The reply, my mentor told, was something to the effect of "I love the individual, but I hate people." As usual, my mentor didn't tell me much of what I was supposed to get out of the story; he was a good person to learn from, I think.

So, Google has reached out and sunk its teeth into social networking (finally finished with its meal of Mapquest). Before they made their little engine public, a friend was nice enough to invite me to join. I only made a profile today though, because that's just who I am. I did not indulge the widgets or gadgets in investigation, and over time, I imagine I will transport the various links from my facebook page to the new one. If anyone asks, I'm all over the social networking thing. A writer in the guild I belong to says she devotes no less than two hours a day to promoting herself and her work. Perhaps that is the me of tomorrow, but I can tell you the me of today is unenthused at the prospect.

The writing done this weekend is a different matter. The chapter drafted was "important" in that it introduced the bad guy, which is not something I typically do. I think in most situations I try to present round characters that have differences of opinion and ideology with the characters driving the action, however in this situation there were nefarious arrows and insidious pointers to the figure in question. I don't think it's going to be much of a chore to get readers to hate the guy; it might even be a little fun. I did come across a bit of a problem, though, which is that on the pace that I'm on, I won't be done with the book until next year. Mathematically, I think I'll have to ramp it up to two chapters a week rather than just the one (and that's just a guess, I only do actual math at work).

So, naturally, when it's time for me to write more, my primary instrument for such (my desktop; I'm new/old school) decides to slow down in fits and starts. The monitor today did something I've only seen CRT televisions do, which prompted me to launch into my diagnosing methods: first, waggle the various cords and connections, and second, when that doesn't work, turn the machine off and walk away from it. The last step of any process I enact is to ruminate and plot. Doubtful that I could afford a new machine, so perhaps all the blogging and surfing I've done on this laptop was in preparation to write an entire novel on this handy machine. Challenges are simply opportunities to prove oneself greater, or some such.

To date, I've attempted plays, and scripts, completed novels and poems, and short stories in both of those categories. Now I think I'll swing for the collection fence. In the past, I always imagined myself lumping all my shorter work together and publishing it, all the while thumbing my nose at all those places that told me no (perhaps sticking the majority of them here is the high road?). The stories in question all deal with projections into the future, so it would make some degree of sense, but with this new idea all the stories orbit around a central concept dealing with a futuristic speculation. I've talked it over with one person, and they said it sounded feasible, cool even. Maybe I'll be responsible and update this new project to my website.

No promises.