April 7th, 2003

bear by san

Hannah is my hero...


It's totally true.

Or, more precisely, there's that long, hard, agonizing struggle to learn stuff, where you become (as a writer) like the proverbial centipede after somebody's asked it to walk, and you need to practice, to be conscious of every step, to find your balance again and learn how to learn.

And then you do that.

And then later, you need to learn to do most of it without thinking, again.

It's simple, but it isn't easy...? Heck, Hannah, I wouldn't say it's simple either. It's incredibly complex, and you just have to keep doing it until you forget how complex it is and just start doing it.

Like driving a stickshift on ice....
bear by san



Pam comments on Caitlin R. Kiernan's comments on narrative and POV choices, in which Ms. Kiernan mentions she isn't fond of first person, necessarily, and really dislikes it if there's no valid way for the narrator to be telling the story to someone, and doesn't wish to be forced to read 2nd person at all. And goes on to discuss the fact that she finds it irritating that people take her to task for being most comfortable in third-person present tense. She goes on to mention that she feels that accomplished/expert writers who feel most comfortable in first person do so because they're not stretching enough. (Forgive me, I may be misinterpreting her words: I'm restating to make plain the position I am arguing from.)

She also says that she got the advice from Neil Gaiman to write in present tense if present tense made her happy.

Now, I'm feeling a bit amused, as it seems likely that the first story Ms. Kiernan ever sees by yours truly is going to be first-person, self-conscious narrator, as she and I are going to be sharing anthology space with the estimable Mr. Gaiman in a Del Rey anthology forthcoming later this year. I hate to think my writing skills are being judged on the basis of my use of first person in a Rudyard Kipling/Arthur Conan Doyle pastiche that I felt rather demanded the POV choice.

So I'm going to weigh in on this one. I write in just about every POV and tense I can imagine, and blends of multiples of the above: I consider it a matter of pride to be flexible enough to find the voice the narrative demands. However, I respect writers who are more comfortable in a single or habitual POV (First person usage certainly didn't limit Roger Zelazny's skill or success, or J.D.Salinger's.)

Now, Silverberg (in the book I mentioned in a previous post) has some salient points to make about first POV. For example, that first-POV can be used by an inexperienced writer to justify infodumps, linguistic failings, and other awkwardnesses. On the other hand, it can also be used very effectively to inclue the reader (term stolen from Jo Walton) as opposed to "infobolusing" (a very short, concentrated, indigestible infodump).

As for second person... well, I don't use it much myself (although I may in fact have a second person flash story brewing... about Cthulhoid interstellar feeding habits, of all things) but I've gotta say that Hannah Wolf Bowen's "Among the Cedars" (readable at http://www.ideomancer.com) and Tom Robbins Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas prove to me that second person can be done, and done well.

So I'm not about to kick any POV, tense, choice of internalization (from very tight to omniscient) out the window.

They're all tools, I would argue, and an irrational dislike for any of them is certainly permitted (I know two or three pro editors hate loathe detest despise and abhor the present tense, but I think that's an irrational bias too.) but I also think it's limiting for a writer to remove any of them from consideration.

When all you have is a hammer, after all, everything looks like a nail. Give a man a screwdriver set, some ratchets, and a few nice saws and suddenly he's got a much better shot at making a usable piece of furniture.

And when you've got to the point where you can break every rule in the book and still make that furniture shiny... well, I think that's something like "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," then.

Anyway--Pam--Ms. Kiernan--if you happen to trip across this, thank you for making me think about this so clearly.
bear by san

Well, that was odd.

I did one round of Chelsea's picture game last night, and got a couple of odd paragraphs. On the way to work this morning, I got a final sentence that turns them (with the instertion of 250 words of connecting material) into a flash.

So I wrote a flash.

My first flash story ever, unless you count my half of the Mek-N-EBear project that's up at Fortean Bureau right now. And I think it is, in fact, a complete flash story. I kind of like it. It's Cthulhoid. And coincidentally, a Cthulhoid pro market just opened up. I wonder if they take flash. I wonder if I should send it to Weird Tales first. I wonder.

Anyway, two firsts, because while I have found ways to use bits from the picture game in other stories, I've never had it kickstart a story idea for me before. And this I totally never would have gotten without it.

I wonder if it happened because it was a picture of CarolHelga's, which she posted to her LJ a while before the game, so it had time to stew. I'm becoming more and more convinced of the vitalness of stewing time to my creative process.
  • Current Music
    Christy Moore - One Last Cold Kiss (m/Donal Lunny m.fl. ) / Shriekback - Nemesis
bear by san

Yawn. Snork.

Okay, that was a productive day. In addition to the flash, I got 1058 good draft words on Scardown and I'm starting to get a feel for the pacing of the damned thing and the way it's going to slide out. Things are starting to happen. Promised conflicts are starting to come together. There's something magical about this part, where the groundwork is laid and the novel starts coalescing. Also a couple of livejournal posts that crystallized some of my thinking on POV, which I'm really excited about.

I had a wonderful experience yesterday morning. I was explaining word choice and sentence level decisions to somebody I was critting a story for, and I sort of went, "Holy! I actually know what I'm talking about." It was a wonderful thing. I know how to write! I actually know how to write! And I can explain it to other people!

And it only took, at a rough estimate, fifteen years to learn? I guess that's not so bad.

So about 1600 words today. Four stories in the mail. And I'm getting that feeling that the book has a shape and an agenda, finally, which is always a good sign. (I say from my lofty perch as the Unpublished Novelist. Hah.) Still, this is number six (not counting all those unfinished false starts back in the day). Hopefully I know what I'm doing by now.

Not bad for a girl with a dayjob. There will be some television allowed tonight, I think.

Unless I pass out on the sofa before my sweetie finishes making dinner.

I think I'll go watch mail call and read some more Jack Vance.
  • Current Music
    Mark Knopfler - Prairie Wedding / Trevor Jones - No More Mr. Quick