( For one thing, "first draft" with me does not mean "unrevised". )
( For one thing, "first draft" with me does not mean "unrevised". )
As an exercise, to try to ease my brain up out of its months-long stress-induced no-writing slump, I sat down and copied out the first sentence (or two; the first lines of If The Mountain Comes really don't work if you only take the first sentence) of all the short stories I've had published in various markets, and then grouped them by whether I (personally) thought they were engaging or not.
( Read more... )
In any case, it's something I don't think I'd really sat down to examine in any depth before, so now I can say I've done that. And hopefully have a better sense of how this particular mechanic works in the stories I write in the future.
Anyway, it tossed me what may or may not be an urban fantasy Noir about a freelance detective gal who gets commissioned for some enigmatic person named North, and ends up having to navigate her own undeath. As well as her life, one universe over. And the one may not be more complicated than the other.
Here's the beginning my brain handed me:
I knew I was digging myself into it when I signed the contract. It's not like I couldn't see it coming; on the highway of life, this was the lane with the orange cones and the lit-up roadside sign saying THE BRIDGE IS OUT and the police lights and the oily smoke coming up. But, you know, if I'd had another option, I wouldn't have taken this one.
That's the way it always is.
I've also worked more on Rust City. You know, when I started it, I was pretty sure it would be a novella – but then it just kept growing. I only have about 8k words in it now, but given the way I structure things and how the scope is expanding (the love-fascination-need-triangle is now more of a connect-the-dots), I'd be surprised if the finished draft clocked in under 70 or 80k. Y'know, if it ever fights its way through the shiny new upstarts.
It's a wonder I've ever finished anything.
He drew up beside her. She was framed in the gristle of the building, the rebar and wire and crumbled cement like a nest around her. Across the city blocks, the Moonlit moon was glowing. Its light was softened by the distance, and softened Sela's face.
"You smell like him," Sela said.
Ferro looked at her, then ducked his head. Hoped that what he was about to say would be permissible. "How do you know what he smells like?"
Sela glanced at him askance. "You have to remember which one of us is the dog," she said.
[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 failed to teach me the fine art of controlling my wordcounts, but which did teach me many and varied other valuable things.]
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.
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.]
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.]
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*
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.
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 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? )
John Scalzi has written an eloquent, elegant, and brilliant post up on Whatever: Things I Don't Have To Think About Today.
[...] Today I don’t have to think about the people who’d consider torching my house of prayer a patriotic act.
Today I don’t have to think about a pharmacist telling me his conscience keeps him from filling my prescription.
Today I don’t have to think about being asked if I’m bleeding when I’m just having a bad day.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the one drug that lets me live my life will be taken off the market.
Today I don’t have to think about the odds of getting jumped at the bar I like to go to.
Today I don’t have to think about “vote fraud” theater showing up at my poll station.
Today I don’t have to think about turning on the news to see people planning to burn my holy book.
Today I don’t have to think about others demanding I apologize for hateful people who have nothing to do with me.
Today I don’t have to think about my child being seen as a detriment to my career. [...]
And Patrick Nielsen Hayden sums it all up:
Spot on. The essence of privilege isn’t wearing a top hat and cackling yar har har while lighting expensive cigars with $100 bills. The essence of privilege is not having to worry about the crap that the unprivileged do.
In fact, these kinds of experiences within the black community led Dubois to perceive the nature of the shared but fractured Soul of Blacks/Whites in America as well as the double consciousness of the Black Soul. Dubois is quoted by Long: "A Double consciouness … this sense of always looking at one's self through the eye of another, measuring one's soul by the type of a world which looks on in amused contempt and pity … two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
Out of this strength to maintain a double consciousness of mind and history comes the awareness that the hermeneutical circle of the signifier can be broken, the hierarchy can be rearranged by the community of interpreters who have been signified. You must be in two places at once to have insight!
– Davíd Carrasco, Proem to Significations, by Charles Long
"At first I thought, all the more reason to say nothing. But the I thought, that wouldn't be fair. To me, partly. Love has a right to be spoken. And you have a right to know that somebody loves you. That somebody has loved you, could love you. We all need to know that. Maybe it's what we need most."
–Isidra; "Another Story (or) A Fisherman of the Inland Sea", Ursula K. LeGuin
Years later, I was at a con with Chip when a young man asked him a question. That young man, gay and black, as Chip is, had just attended a writing workshop where he'd found it very difficult to get recognition about why the things he was writing about were important. He asked Chip how a black gay man could find his voice in science fiction. Almost before the words were out of his mouth, a white woman overrode him with, "Well, I just don't see race in my life. I don't make it a problem. I don't see race. It just doesn't exist as an issue."
Very gently, Chip replied, "If you can't see something that threatens my life daily, then you can't help me fight it. You can't be my ally."
–Nalo Hopkinson, Looking for Clues
Plus, as a political matter, it’s important that the unmarked “defaults” have names. Imagine if, instead of the words “Jewish” and “Christian,” we had only “Jewish” and “normal.” Or if, instead of “heterosexual” and “homosexual,” we had only “normal” and “homosexual.” We can’t discuss things on an equal basis without an equal vocabulary.