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bear by san

March 2017



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twain & tesla

every heart to love will come, but like a refugee

Progress notes for 10 March 2008

It's helpful to reduce my expectations of perfection. As my critical and editorial acumen has expanded, I've gotten into this mode where I am evaluating each sentence as if it were a line in a poem; scouring out all needless words, trying to make it balance like a spinning plate. I want them all to do work (establish character, move the action forward, worldbuild, increase or resolve tension, and illuminate theme). While being beautiful. And accessible.

This is a laudable goal. We call it lapidary prose. It's a goal, writing like that.

It's also not something I need to be worrying about on a first draft, when I am trying to figure out what the hell the story is. And that's part of what's been paralyzing me.

Just sit and spin the tale, Bear. Worry about that other stuff later.

It bothers me in that I feel like the prose I've been spinning lately (in Undertow and Carnival, in particular, though not quite so much in Dust) is very plain and doesn't hold a lot of tension. But you know, I may not always be the best judge of such things. And comment seems positive.

I'm not looking for frilly prose, mind you. There's a difference between purple and evocative. But the sound of the words, the flow of the language, the emotions it evoke are very important to me. And sometimes lately I feel like I'm not doing that very well anymore. But shut up and write the story, Bear.


New words: 766
Total words: 15808
Deadline: April 15
Mammalian assistance: none
Reason for stopping: quota, after five hours of working, and I have to go to the post office soon.

Darling du jour: "Carry me."
Tyop du jour: cleverkness, the bores of her skin
Jury-rigging: n/a
There's always one more quirk in the character:  n/a

Other writing-related work: post office, figured out something cool for "Ballistic" in the car yesterday
Exercise: none
Miles to Lothlorien: 254.4
Guitar practice: none, because I suck and it took me five freaking hours to write three pages.
Mail:  some, but it's secret.

Today's words Word don't know:   none
Words I'm Surprised Word Do Know: none
Sustenance:  leftover tom kha
Mean Things: disambiguation
The Internet is Full of Things: Not today, it isn't.


Pretty prose is all very well and good, but it can interfere with the story.

Do you want someone to admire your elegant phrasing, or do you want them to be so caught up in the story they can't put the book down? The former usually precludes the latter.
I'm sorry, but I disagree categorically. A great deal of writing well--of really good prose--is making the story unforgettable and strong, with narrative pull.

Elegant and well written are not the same thing as pretty, and it's naive to conflate them.
But you know, I may not always be the best judge of such things.


Heh. Just yesterday I had to give up on a book I was reading--an older SF time travel story that, if the cover blurb is to be believed, is a classic--because after just having finished Dust, this other story's prose was terribly plain and lacking in tension. The author might as well have started most of the sentences with 'And then', it bored me so badly.

I can't see any of your prose being plain and lacking tension, being as you have helped ruin me for the actual plain stuff. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
Thank you.

I'm doing my best, anyway....
You're quite welcome. That you're doing your best shows in your work, to good effect. I know, though, that it isn't something that's easy to see oneself, or believe.
Even lapidaries have to choose the raw stones and make many cutting and polishing passes before a jewel emerges. The fact that it's not beautiful on the first pass doesn't mean that it won't be by the time you're done.

You knew that, of course. But it sounded like you could use the reminder :)
There's something very reassuring in knowing that I'm not the only one this happens to.

I wrote a scene yesterday that has been in my head for years, and I was quite pleased with the prose, which whilst not flowery, did seem quite... well... literary.

Of course this moment of rapture was soon curtailed when I then looked at the previous scenes and got depressed about how mundane they looked.

Still the aim of the first draft is just to fight to the end. I can worry about 'pretty' later.

when slogging feels like... slogging

I hate the parts where I feel I am trudging through mud. I don't write, I make things, but I understand the feeling of staring at something in progress and feeling deeply sorrowful. I don't get drafts so much as passes over an object, because the object stays the same but gets shinier,and more of the structure becomes visible and cleaner.

Re: when slogging feels like... slogging


Persistence really helps, you know.

Re: when slogging feels like... slogging

I can't think, offhand, of a place where persistence doesn't help. Can you? genuine curiosity, furrowed brow... All the things I want or need to do yield to persistence, and patience, and (with luck) a pinch of perversity.

Sometimes, alliteration heps too.

Re: when slogging feels like... slogging

Yes. When you are walking in the wrong direction, or stuck in a crappy relationship or job, persistence is a good way to get yourself fucked.

Re: when slogging feels like... slogging

thank you. and that is the crux of the problem - when to give up.
I rather like 'the bores of her skin'. There's got to be a story to build around a phrase like that.
Language that sounds plain can still take on an evocative air when the subject is surreal.

Plus, I can't help but think that someone who's gotten experienced at that kind of thing becomes like a fish... you don't see the water because it's just a reflex now.
I think you're too hard on yourself. From what I've read of your work, your writing is always evocative and beautifully rendered. Whether it's Undertow or the PA books, there is a certain quality of prose that shines through. Sure, there's a different 'style', but the sentences still sing - just in different ways.

(I probably didn't say any of that very well!)
Thank you.

You must have said it fine, because it cheered me up.
Good. :)
Carnival did seem to me rather plain-spoken, though this worked for the story (especially in the suitably descriptive scene involving Lesa and those thorns--if you'd pumped that up with perty words it would have come across as Christ-like...)

I am now almost halfway through Dust, and I do see the cross between plain-spokeneness and gothic delight. It is mostly your imagery in this book that is beautiful, though it is peppered with those delightful phrases... it's the epigraphs, I think, and the titles, which are suitably poetic.

But I love that kind of synthesis; I love Nix, remember? Though, if one is going for grittily, gothically beautiful yet practical, Holly Black remains the epitome for me...

But *no one* writes stunning scenes of slowly, gruesomely torturing their characters like you, or the most significant sex scenes.

Admittedly, I've only read one and a half books, but that's what's struck me so far...
Thank you! That means a lot!
It's just honesty... I'm also coming to like Rien. At first she seemed a little too jumpy and mousy--but damn girl! Perceval is, of course (again, it seems to me) overly noble, but Rien's got the kind of sense and natural suspicion--I'm up to the part when they find Bene--that I love.

Also, nice choice in names. Doesn't Rien mean 'nothing' in French? And Benedick sounds like it comes from the Italian "benedetto" for blessing. Or maybe he just has a "good dick".

But Perceval and Tristen? This book *is* a medieval-style quest, innit? ;P
Rien is the one I really fell in love with.

And yes, it is that. *g*
Glad I caught on... and I want to be Rien's bitch.
I finished Carnival last night!!!! I liked it very much. (No review yet, though, because this weekend I also broke up with the "man" I was seeing that I met on craigslist, who over the past week and a half of our 3.5 week "relationship" revealed himself to be batshit insane, and I spent today fielding vicious emails from him. So I have a tired heart, too, too tired for the ways of blogging.)

Review this week or next, and now, maybe a book in between, then on to Dust.
Thank you.

I like Carnival a lot. *g*
And sorry about the freaking lunatic. :-P
It's also not something I need to be worrying about on a first draft, when I am trying to figure out what the hell the story is. And that's part of what's been paralyzing me.

Yeah. I got that when I was writing my thesis. Had to keep telling myself that it's like sewing: start with more fabric than you need, and then, once you've laid out the pattern pieces, go back and trim to size...