magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I mentioned this over at [community profile] allbingo, but I'm working on a bunch of challenges to get me thinking about short-form plot. Basically, I'm taking the following plot structures:

Four structures below the cut. )

...three of which I found discussed at Philip Brewer's blog, and one of which I put together after thinking about successful short stories on my own.

I'm trying to take these structures and write extremely short stories/synopses with them – using one sentence for each point in the list.

I'm also finding it surprisingly difficult.

But I figured that while I was striving and trying new things, I might as well put the results up for people to see (and quite possibly best :P ). Just to keep things organized in this post, the card I'm using is below, and I'll link my fills for the squares.

Card below the cut. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)


Ran across this in my Twitter reading today. Made me stop and raise an eyebrow. Because, really – "grim" and "bleak" are the descriptors they've chosen to entice me to see this film? (Well, there's also "incredible", but that gives me little insight into what sets this film apart, and thus does little to capture my interest.)

Now, possibly I just haven't read widely enough in the genre to realize that there's a strong undercurrent of happy, lush, uplifting post-apocalyptic fiction out there. Something like that. But to me, grim, bleak landscapes aren't exactly the aspects of a post-apocalyptic work you need to advertise – they're more or less to be expected from the genre. Advertising those, especially when you have a medium such as Twitter and have to seriously consider which few, precious words you're going to use, makes it sound to me like you just don't have anything more interesting to say than "This work competently executes the tropes it's expected to." It's the "square house, door in front" of the review world.

...which all basically means that, in a fit of pique, I have decided that I want beautifully optimistic post-apocalyptic fiction to exist. If someone else doesn't write it, I may have to.

(It's not even that I dislike grimdark post-apoc. I do enjoy it, when it's done well. But sometimes you just have to go for the subversions.)
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I want to see a dense-packed dystopian urban setting... surrounded by incredibly lush, dense wilderness. As in, the reason that everything is piled up on top of everything else and people are living stacked like cords of wood isn't because they've destroyed everything and their cities have taken over the world like a bacterial culture, it's that the rest of the world is too damn poisonous and too fast-growing and too interested in cracking open your buggies and eating the nummy human interiors for anything to survive outside of these narrow strips of otherwise-dead land. (I imagine that'd be the way you'd answer the question of how you'd get enough resources in the first place to build a dense urban setting: you're in the equivalent of the Atacama or the Dry Valleys or something, only with bonus high concentrations of minable minerals.)

I have not thought through the logistics, here. I came up with this idea about two minutes ago.

In other news, I recently learned that the Sahara was a fertile region up until about 3000 BCE, and that is immensely cool.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] sholio and I are testing out an accountability buddies setup, where we meet to talk writing shop, discuss goals, and analyze how well we're meeting them. (We're still in the first week, so neither of us have any idea how well it will work. But one of the best pieces of advice I got last year was "Failures are just experiments that yield negative results," so even if we find that this format doesn't work well, that's useful information! And I'm hopeful that it will work, and be awesome for both of us.)

The theme I want to engage with this year is of productivity, and constant storytelling: I want to be creating and putting out a lot more work than I do currently. Getting back to my Clarion West levels of a short story per week would be amazing, and the fact that I'm making my living off freelance stuff which doesn't eat as much time as a full-time job tips it into the realm of possibility. (If I could transition to making my money off writing, that would be incredible. I am looking into ways to start on that path, specifically through Patreon, but my ability to write and produce complete works on a consistent schedule is something of a prerequisite for that, so that's where I'm starting.)

The two goals I had for this week, to support my theme of producing lots of fiction, were:

1) To take a look at how I choose stories to work on, and

2) To take a look at how I go about moving stories through to completion.

This is about how I work, which informs how I choose stuff to work on. )

This is about how I choose stuff to work on. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So let's talk about Rust City.

Rust City began as a thought experiment as to whether or not I could write something Bizarro. (The verdict is: I couldn't. The closest I've ever come is probably The Relative Densities of Seawater and Blood, and it's not very bizarre, compared to anything, say, Carlton Mellick III has ever written. I think that in order to write Bizarro, you have to have the abilites (1)Not to take yourself so damn seriously, and (2)Let go of the need to explain or at least justify everything, and I score pretty badly on those rubrics.)

The story follows Ferro, a man with a condition that's given him the primary sex characteristics of an standard XX physiology but a standard set of XY secondary sex characteristics. He falls in with a pair of cousins named Wolf and Sela, who may or may not be genetically-engineered remnants of the war that screwed up the entire planet, either decades or centuries ago.

The full title of the project is Rust City (a love story), though I remain unsure of what the love story actually is. (Wolf and Sela have an extremely broken familial relationship they both want fixed but don't know how to fix, Wolf and Ferro sleep together, Ferro is fascinated and stalked by Sela, and for all this time Ferro is crushing on a woman named Kyoto who has burn scars covering most of her chest. There's a lot of thematic body stuff going on here, and it's all kind of a mess.)

Also, there are molemen, which aren't actually molemen. They're more like some kind of cavefish-esque offshoot of Homo sapiens who live in the old (but expanded) sewer system beneath the city. (I'm not sure that's better.) They communicate with Ferro by exploiting a trick of his synaesthesia – yes, Ferro also has synaesthesia, as well as hypertactility and haptophilia – which also has a tinge of the supernatural to it.

It's resisting being written, for the most part, because I honestly have no idea where it's going or why half the stuff is happening. You know, conventional wisdom says that you should have your story worked out before you start writing it. At least you should know what the major players and motivations will be. Possibly have some understanding of the plot. That's just not how I roll; I tend to slap stuff that sounds pretty on a page and hope that eventually my brain will start supplying all the connective tissue, musculature, and skeletal structure. Sometimes in that order.

But I wrote a slim 655 words on it last night, and now I'm sharing an excerpt with you!

He felt himself sailing down, through the floor, drawn toward the molten center of the world, but before he could come anywhere near it he was caught in a noise like spidersilk. It wrapped around him, twining through his pores in a rhythm like words.

They were words. Maybe not in a classical sense, but something intelligible without being sound. Something like,

(intruder)

And then, by more voices, closer to his skin,

(brightseer, sunfucker)

(up him)

(yeah)

(up)


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop which has supported real live Bizarro authors! And many, many others.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
It's always an interesting feeling when you've been completely paralyzed by the sight of the blank (or unfinished, or finished but requiring revision) Word document for days, weeks, or months, only to discover when a deadline looms that yes, if it comes down to it, you still can pound out 2500 words in a single Sunday. When 100 words have been giving every indication of being a Sisyphean task, you have to wonder where the switch got flipped.

I have a feeling it's in the "deadline" part.

When I was taking classes at the University of Iowa, one of my major complaints was that their fiction writing courses were non-graduated. There was no beginning, intermediate, advanced path to take – everyone, including the people just looking for three easy credits and with no passion for writing, got tossed into the same courses, and with the added complication that a lot of them thought "science fiction and fantasy" meant "you can't say anything about it because it's all just made up and doesn't have to make sense" meant that, with the exception of classes run by a couple excellent people, I didn't often get a lot out of the critiquing parts of the workshops. But they were still invaluable to me.

Why?

Because sometimes, all you need is the magical combination of time to write, the expectation that you'll write, and a commitment to persons outside of yourself that you'll produce something, even if it isn't a lofty piece of literature which will stand the test of ages.

Which is why Clarion West is such an amazing place, to be honest. Well, one of the reasons. I can't ignore the chance to learn from six amazing teachers with six different strengths and styles, or the amazing families you can form there, but what makes it a truly mind-altering experience is the fact that for six weeks, your entire life can be writing. You can saturate yourself with your fiction. Set aside work, cares, feeding the cats (or the kids), making yourself dinner, all the niggling cares of the so-called real world. All that's expected of you is fiction. The world is built around your fiction. And for your fiction, you are welcomed, supported, honored.

There's a reason so many of us join the Write-a-thon every year, hoping to grab back some vestige of what the workshop experience is like.

Anyway, now that I've tricked my brain into admitting that it hasn't burnt out forever and ever and that it can still string words together into a somewhat coherent narrative and that all the rest is just whining, I'm going to see where I get by the end of this week. This Friday, I have the first meeting of my new job; immediately thereafter, I'm going to be helping to launch a company. It'll be an exciting and busy time, and pretty much the opposite of the workshop in terms of the precedence my immediate world accords my writing.

But, you know, it's okay. As ever, we'll see how it goes.

...

There aren't any really good Write-a-thon-quotable passages from the 2500 words of yesterday, so I'll give you a snatch of one of the next projects I'm going to be working on: the post-apocalyptic pseudo-moleman-infested extremely unromantic love story Rust City.

"Do people do that?"

"Look to sex for comfort?" Ferro asked. "It's a thing people do, yeah."


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that makes it all but impossible for authors not to produce. And producing is half the battle.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If you wanted to count the combined wordcounts of everything I've worked on since the start of the Write-a-thon, we'd be up to 624 now! If you wanted to count the actual words I've written since the start, we'd be at... something more like 87.

Neither of these are particularly inspiring numbers, but I'll take them, because they're greater than 0.

Today's 87 words went to The Angel at the Gate, a story inspired by a YouTube video of Silent Hill: Homecoming, the long-completed webcomic 1/0, and thinking about Biblical cherubs. Naturally, the story is about a group of friends who were tossed out of another world after fighting for and saving it as destined heroes, and who find themselves unable to leave the city they've been thrown into because there's a supernatural phenomenon which blocks their way out.

(They name the phenomenon Azrael. Who was not a cherub, if you were wondering.)

Long story short, my fiction rarely bears any resemblance to its inspiration, so I hope the preceding explanation made no sense to you.

...

...hey, who wants an excerpt!

I look up to see Zeph straddling the peak of the roof, nailing down siding, and the arc of the hammer in his hand takes my breath away. It doesn't take long for him to look down and see me, loitering in the middle of the road.

I sign, Remember the flight to the burning cathedral? Your sword scattered the sunlight and gave you wings.

Zeph grins and hefts the hammer, then sees something in my face and sets it down. And he signs back, with emphasis on every word:

Don't. Start. Crying. Here.


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that allows its students to create quality work like mine! Except often better, and coherent.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Staring down the beginning of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, two things seem especially important.

First, that I just re-ran-into the Adrienne Rich quote which reads, "To know we are not alone, that our identity is not random but has a history and a meaning shared with others—that our existence has its own special kind of beauty—this is the great force of art to people moving against alienation."

And second, that I'm about to start a new job at the beginning of July, and that I am, even now, searching for a new apartment and preparing to turn my life upside-down again.

Second explanation first: my big barrier to completing my Write-a-thon goals in years past was that the WAT always corresponded with the end of the fiscal year at the University where I worked, and I happened to work in a financial department. Apparently the theme of my life getting really busy as soon as the WAT rears its formidable head is not going away with the passing of the job.

And the first explanation second: well, if there's a pie-in-the-sky idealistic goal, not just for my Write-a-thon writing but also for my writing in general, it's to wedge a few more ideas into the ever-evolving discussion that is fiction. Gender is one I keep coming back to; so are cultural estrangement, signification, relationships, power, the inability to communicate, the majesty of the known and unknown, and the existence of questions which have neither easy nor satisfying answers. I spend a lot of time circling around those high, idealistic goals, though how well I achieve them is another question entirely.

(And here I'm reminded of another quote, Michael Cunningham's: "You have, for months or years, been walking around with the idea of a novel in your mind, and in your mind it’s transcendent, it’s brilliantly comic and howlingly tragic, it contains everything you know, and everything you can imagine, about human life on the planet earth. It is vast and mysterious and awe-inspiring. It is a cathedral made of fire. But even if the book in question turns out fairly well, it’s never the book that you’d hoped to write. It’s smaller than the book you’d hoped to write. It is an object, a collection of sentences, and it does not remotely resemble a cathedral made of fire."

As I've said on my Write-a-thon page, I don't know what I'll write, or how much I'll write. But you can expect to see some of the above themes cropping up alongside the other, more magpie-minded projects.

Anyway, I hope the writing (and writing about writing) will be entertaining to those of you reading, and I hope you'll consider sponsoring me or any one of the many, many other fine writers in the Write-a-thon this year. There's a wealth of talent banding together to support a new crop of talent which, in turn, is being taught by a roster of extraordinary talent, and I, for one, am excited to get started.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
...meanwhile, my brain is giving me someone named Tether, an aromantic, touch-hungry, skin-averse, heterophysical, sex-repulsed asexual who undergoes violence-hunger cycles in accordance with lunar cycles, peaking at the new moon. She gets paired with some guy called Knife, who as far as I can tell is a fairly vanilla heterosexual guy somewhere on the aspie spectrum, with a nearly eidetic memory and somewhat decentralized cognition. Who may also be a high-functioning sociopath.

I have no idea where my brain is going with this, but I suspect they fight crime.

Stalling

Oct. 4th, 2011 06:57 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Around the end of August, I finished the first draft of the first novel I've ever felt confident enough about to start shopping out. (The last original novel I finished before that was... in sixth grade. I probably still have the completed draft on my flash drive or harddrive somewhere, but it very much reads like something a sixth-grader wrote. And we won't get into fanworks.)

Throughout September, I let it sit and didn't even open the file, and I threw all my effort into writing the sequel while a bunch of incredibly wonderful beta readers went through my story and gave me feedback covering a wide range of topics – conventions expected by the target audience, questions left unanswered, plot snarls, places where the prose or plot was unclear, places where they were hooked or lost, strengths and weaknesses.

Now, I've compiled all those responses into a document – a sort of menu of things to fix – and I've been ticking off each issue, one by one. Except that now I'm stalling.

It's strange. I remember this sort of hand-wringing and avoidance (because a part of this is that I know once I'm done with revisions, I'll have to send out the novel to agents, and whatever I've done or failed to do will have to stand on its own merits, and that's scary, yo) – I remember it from when I started submitting short stories. Now, approaching my 80th short story submission (I just got a response – a rejection – on my 78th submission of all time), I'm used to that process, and while there's still a flutter of anticipation every time I send a short story out or get a response back, for the most part, it's routine.

But shopping out a novel is a completely different beast.

Sort of. From what I've researched of the process, there are a lot of similarities, and even some of the differences (synopses, partials) just seem like short-form submissions' big sibling. There's a bit more weight to the process, which is understandable given the heft of the work you're submitting.

But there are palpable differences. For one thing, generally a relationship with an agent is a long-term one; a relationship with an editor can evolve to the point where they'll drop you a line once in a while and ask if you've got anything new, but the expectation is that every story is a new deal. For another, an agent takes a lot of the responsibility off your back, and that means trusting them with something precious to you, if you value your writing at all. They take stewardship of your work in a very real way. Even before you internalize the prevailing wisdom that a bad first book can torpedo you as a novelist, there's a lot at stake.

The writing style I use means a lot of revision and rework during the process of writing. After that, I did a first-pass revision. Then I got crits on it and I'm doing a second revision now. Once those edits are in place, I'm going to do a final readthrough to make sure I haven't introduced new problems or errors. When I send this out it's going to be polished, and even after that, I'm fairly sure my (eventual, hopeful) agent and/or editor will come back with yet more crits. Everything is going to be done to give my book the best chance it can have. I'm just dragging my feet because even the steps to move forward are scary.

Still. This is about how I felt when I started submitting short stories too, and that turned out all right. I'll just keep telling myself that, then taking a deep breath, and addressing the next challenge on the list.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I feel like I did this last year, too. Dove into the Write-a-thon with both feet, conveniently forgetting a few salient facts. In this year's case, the facts I overlooked are these:

1) The end of June is the end of the fiscal year for the University of Iowa, and I support and develop financial applications for the University; and

2) I'm going to spend just about every waking hour of next week in Laramie (or driving to and from Laramie) to learn about astronomy.

In short, I haven't had the time to work on fiction, nor will I.

But I have this week, and let's hope I can get something done this week.

What do we have up? *drumroll, please*

After The Land of Dragons


(A working title, which cribs too much from the excellent After the Dragon by Sarah Monette, which you should definitely read.)


It's a story about shattered communities, altered bodies, collateral damage, and unexploded landmines, except that the landmines are really dragon bits. Fun times!

It's a thinly-scaled political allegory. And that was a horrible pun. )

I wrote the first draft of this for my Iowa City crit group, who unanimously told me that it needed to be a novel. I think that with a bit of tinkering and clarifying the arc and focus, I can make it work as a short story first. Let's see if I can, this week.

Oh, and have an excerpt, too!

Excerpt under the cut. )


There's still time to sponsor me and help out an awesome workshop! Clarion West is supported by cool folks like you.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
In true Clarion West Alum style, I am diving into this week slightly belatedly and with no clue what I'm doing! Join me for the ride.

THE CHARACTER: An Owomoyela, your narrator, a graduate of the 2008 class of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, author of various and sundry things.

THE CONFLICT: Your intrepid narrator has agreed to work on a different writing project every week for six weeks and blog about the results, in the hopes that you, O Readers, will sponsor hir and hir cause. In return for your money, your encouragement, or simply your occasional attention, you'll receive ramblings, blatherings and excerpts from a variety of different thingbobs!

THE FIRST CHAPTER: An will be – and hang on, se's just deciding this now – working on (drum roll, please)...

Slivers, (or) The Child Born With Fangs

A xenofictive fantasy YA novel concerning gender and the nature of humanity.


Slivers begins with a child named Rankiryo, a name meaning "Child of the Old Ways." He's a lyncis by species, and I'll provide a link to a visual aid for what lyncis folk look like. So, yes, I'm writing a fairly shameless catperson novel, but that's alright, 'cause I'm an author, and I can do what I want.

Continue reading on the subject of lynxes... )

Or perhaps you'd like an excerpt? )

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