July 13th, 2007

writing whiskey devil

it's time to see the world. it's time to kiss the girl.

Hey! There's a Booklist review of Whiskey & Water which is for a wonder very-nearly spoiler-free... but just in case, it's still Collapse )

I did add a semicolon to that last sentence, for clarity. But I'm not sure I put it in the right place. Seems like they, and Library Journal, either followed the changes better than the PW reviewer, or are less willing to admit that they got lost. ;-)

Sun's up. I might be trapped in the house waiting for the phone guy all day, but at least it looks to be a nice day for it....
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writing gorey earbrass unspeakable horro

you know where it ends yo usually depends on where you start

avocadovpx, who is apparently much in the habit of being linked by me all of a sudden, has a post here on coping with the Dreaded Middle Of The Book.

Anybody who's been here for a while knows that the Middle is not my favorite part. I love beginnings, because it's this delicate balancing act, setting everything up for later use and discovering in the course of it what the book or short story is about. And I love ends, because I am all about the gratification of finishing things. I love that. It makes me happy.

Middles are just the part you need to get across to turn (a) into (b). I never worry about filling them, however, possibly because I have so damned much stuff going on in an average book that I need every column inch. So that's my solution: when you get to that 35K mark, or wherever the dreaded spot where the wall appears for you (it's usually a third of the way into the story, I find, but YMMV) you just start breaking things. Make stuff happen! Kick puppies! Trip the characters into bed! Amputate something! Kill somebody! In other words, make the bastards react.

This is very much on my mind right now because I woke up this morning with a chunk of "Skull Ring" in my head, so I sat down and wrote that out--it turned out to be nearly 8 pages worth (remember what I said about finishing a novel and having short stories start to fall out of my head?)--and then I stalled because I had hit the middle, and don't know what the plot is. So that one goes back into the hopper. Meantime, I also have "Shoggoths in Bloom" stalled because I need to figure out a plot twist," and "King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree" stalled because it needs a plot, and likewise "The Death of Terrestrial Radio."

Which tells me, ma'am, that it's time for the first lines meme.

And so, behind the cut, the current first lines of everything I'm working on right now.

Collapse )

bear by san

if you listen close you'll hear the fairylights and smoke of the east coast calling

This seems like a good time to quote a bit of elaine_andraste's musing, something that might have been in Whiskey & Water if it hadn't been cut for length considerations.

You see, that book is 155 thousand words. And I sweated every single one of them. Talk about being hard up against your length limit....

Anyway, this, in a somewhat different form, never made it in:

I guess I owe you good people some exposition. Well, actually, I owe you the rest of the story about Keith. But for some reason, I'm reluctant to get into that. So I'm going to talk about Faerie.

Faerie is too big to talk about comfortably. Especially today, when the world is grown so narrow, but still has just as much stuff crammed into it as ever before. Any one bit of legend spoken picks up echoes across time and space, and if you cock an ear, you can hear them all. Sometimes the original voice gets lost in the reflections. I imagine it was bad enough when it was this shire and that shire, this county and that county, Wales and Scotland and Ireland and England and maybe Normandy. But now it's changed, and as we're driven into corners and as our rememberers are pushed from place to place, the lines overlap and the legends get tangled.

Morgan, for example. Sometimes I think she changes every time I look at her, and I expect that someday her little cottage will get up on chicken legs and walk away. Especially now that we have all these damned Ukrainian werewolves hanging around.

Well, let me give you an example of what I mean. Like
Black Shuck, for example. Once upon a time, if you came across him in Norfolk, you knew what you were getting into. But nowadays, these days, he's all mixed up in this black dog and that black dog, in Harry Potter and Conan Doyle and who knows who else? So you have to guess.

What story is he this time? What story am
I this time?

I imagine the stories are only going to blend further. Which might not be a bad thing. I wonder if Ameratasu would want my job.

I'm thinking of this now, because of Fionnghuala. The funny thing is, she's dead; she crumbled into dust when her curse was removed, like so many wanderers in Faerie. But I've met her--and I've met Arthur too, though he's dead also.

But, I was talking about Nuala. Like Morgan, like Black Shuck, she persists because her legends is anything but unique. The wide world is wrapped in stories of those transformed into swans, with their more-true-than-human loves and their raw unmelodious voices. The heights and valleys are haunted: white wings swathe a woman's soul--or a man's--from steeping mountain to glacial blue Ural lake, Carpathian forest to Adriatic isle, ghost-wind taiga to sweltering Indian jungle. The whole world plays host all to swanmays and apsaras, Odette and Odile and Olrun, Urvaci and Kessel Djibak and the swan-maid servants of Othinn One-Eye--Sigrdrifa, Mist, Svanrikr, Grimhildr, Skeggjöld, and all their bloody sisters. Cygnus the king (perhaps-son of Poseidon) flies in legend alongside the Swan Mistress of the Ainu, and while the Swan Knight abides in Camelot, the seven Wild Swans return each night to shelter their sister's bed. Bunyip turns Aboriginal hunters into black swans as punishment for stealing her cub. Men in the wild places of Germany and Russia take swans to wife, first stealing their feather dresses to bind their wings, and in New York City, Brother Theodore told the tale of how each day he would walk from Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River at two in the afternoon, there to be transformed into a glorious swan for the swim to Jersey City.

And every story among the stories true. Fionnghuala's brothers and sisters, all. They all exist, or none of them can.

Stories are really tricky that way.

And! another round of book reports, after a long hiatus...

In my defense, I attended a workshop and convention and wrote most of a novel during that gap.

#45: Doris Lessing, The Cleft.

No actual book report for this one, as I have written a review of it for another publication. More to follow.

#46: Elizabeth Hand, Generation Loss

Overall, excellent. Strongly characterized, well-written, fast-paced. The ending might be a bit... facile... in that everything ties up just a little too neatly, and too much by chance. The setting, both in terms of coastal Maine and the derelict NYC punk scene, are quite spectacularly rendered, and as I am currently working on short stories that involve (1) aging rockers and (2) the coast of Maine, I am going to have to be careful not to get infected.

Also, there might be a spec element, if you want to insist on such things in your reading. Then again, there might not.

#47: Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind

I've never seen the movie, but I'm interested in game theory, the manifestations of genius, madness, cognition, and neurology, so this was a natural for me. Dense going in places, remorseless and precise, I liked this a lot, and I hope Sylvia Nasar is never moved to biographize me.
phil ochs troubador

we are dust and shadows, under the naked light

Since this just came up in three different places in the space of the last five days--My Best Writing Advice (TM):

There are no Rules. There are only techniques that work, or don't work.

Sometimes they don't work because they are the wrong technique. Try something else; save that technique for another time.

Sometimes they don't work because you don't have the chops to pull them off yet. Try anyway.

You don't learn things you don't attempt. So go ahead and try: writing is not a performance art: if you break it, you can always go back and start over.