December 14th, 2007

spies avengers steed and peel needed

full moon lures the waves, waves of desperation, empty hearts and mouths wither away

Well, the bout of reasonably normal neurochemistry was nice while it lasted. Maybe if I take my supplements and get enough exercise, it will come back once in a while. I kind of like it.

I kind of shocked the Viable Paradise students, I think, when I told them of my complete and utter loathing for most of my own work. This has actually gotten worse as I've become a better writer, because at this juncture, my critical skill set is good enough, and my standards are high enough, that all I can see about one of my own stories anymore is how it fails. I'm experiencing this now, actually, because I am thinking about the two stories I'm going to start revising soon, and how unutterably inadequate they are, and how much work they need, and how incompetent I am to give it to them.

And then starting tomorrow, I'm going to pick one of them up and start picking it apart at the sentence and story and structure level, trying to rebuild it nd make it faster and stronger and more like a functional machine. But all my prose seems to me at best workmanlike, my combat scenes are uninteresting, my POVs don't reveal motive or characterization. The exposition is clunky, the resolutions crudely handled, and the whole thing goes over like a lead balloon. It's all full of structural issues. The few sentences I do like, nobody else does.

Also, thematically, it's all just shit.

I've become such a freaking whiner. I can't stand myself.

And it's such an odd thing, because my editorial hand with other people's work has gotten reasonably deft. I'm pretty good at critique, and I can spot what's working, analyze structure, complicate a plot. I can usually even find things to praise.

But when it comes to writing my own stuff it all feels like dross, and all I can see is where it could be better.

Some of it, I think, is that I since I learned to write, I've lost the ability to just write. It's all hyperintellectualized, thought through, and every sentence goes through a series of wringers trying to make it tighter and smarter and harder-working. It's all got to pull its weight. I can't slip into that trance-state I used to anymore, and emerge with 1500 words on the page and no clear recollection of how they got there.

The downside to this, of course, is that those easy altered-state words were lousy words, in rotten stories.

On the other hand, now I can write stories that people understand. Because back in the day, I wasn't so good at translating the weird pattern-building of my nonstandard brain for others. And actually, I suspect that's why, these days, so much of what I write feels flatter to me, even though it gets better critical and reader response. Because I have trained myself to translate from how I think to how other people think, to put stuff in linear order and make sure there's a clearly-defined through-line rather than a pointillist series of events that makes what is to me a subtle and inexprable pattern, but to everybody else looks like a bunch of random dots.

That through-line thing is hard. Easy to recognize, when something doesn't have it--or doesn't have the right kind of through-line for your own particular thought patterns to pick up on. It seems to lack causality. There does not seem to be an evolution of motive and action that brings each character though the story.

But so much of it, for me, is what I sense--the shape of the story--and those things that seem perfectly obvious and inevitable to me often make no sense to others. So I worry about belaboring the point.

I'm very good, naturally, at induction. Not so good at deduction or following rigid sequences of things. But I've learned, and in the process, that part of my brain that sees stories as a gestalt has gotten very frustrated with the writing. Because these new stories are not webworks but chains, I don't love them, because I am predisposed to love webworks.

So I'm trying to figure out how to do things that are both--chains for you guys, and webworks for me, and it's hard and frustrating. And I'm pretty savage to myself when I think I've made an inadequate effort. Which is, of course, in everything I do.

Intellectually, I know I'm pretty good at this. And yet--all I can see is how it's never good enough.

(Yes, I pretty much bring this attitude to every endeavor in my life. Is it any wonder that I'm single?)
  • Current Music
    Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head to the Left
  • Tags
writing headbang

do you feel anything?

Jeff and Toby are talking about their work schedules. I.E., "How do you get so much done?"

In the spirit of freelancer solidarity, here's what mine looks like:

(Weekday schedule, with liner notes)

0600: alarm goes off. moan, roll over.
0630: second alarm goes off. cat announces imminent death by starvation. rise, feed cat who still has food in bowl from last night, sit down at computer and check email and livejournal comments. Answer some of same while brain boots.
0700: Make tea. Futz on internet somewhat. Remember to turn on the radio and listen to NPR, reassure self that world has not ended in night. If world has ended, realize that deadlines no longer matter, and go back to bed.

If it's a weekend, figure out what the day's assigment is and get to work, dammit.

0700: really get out of bed now, Bear, or you will be late.
0730: put on pants. get ass out door for gym
0800: work out for 1 hour-90 minutes
0930: Morning errands. Possibly massage therapist appointment at 11:30, if it's Monday. Otherwise, come home and get to work on whatever the project du jour is. I'm a blitz worker, so I don't tend to work on multiple projects in a day unless I finish one. Multitasking is a tool of the man.
1300: At absolute latest, get home and get butt in front of the computer. open chatroom with writer's group. Bitch to them intermittently about how much work I have to do, and listen while they bitch back. Occasional outbursts of hilarity, interpsersed with work work work work work, with occasional breaks for email and livejournal when my brain stalls. Work may include: long fiction, short fiction, Secrit Projekt, emailing collaborators, talking to editors, nonfiction, blogging, editorial work, slush, answering email from conventions or agents or readers, research, watching David Bowie concert videos on Youtube.
1300: Remember I forgot to eat lunch. Make some  more tea while I'm up.
1830: Go to archery if it's Thursday or climbing if it's Monday. Otherwise, work. (And occasionally fuck around on the internet.) Try to remember to take a break to practice guitar or math. Usually fail. Sometimes, have a social engagement and bemoan it until I get there, then enjoy it after all.
2100: Come home if I went out. Check email. Try to get another 500 words before bed. If it's Wednesday, watch Mythbusters or Criminal Minds.
2300: Realize I'm not getting anything else done tonight, write some kind of a whiny blog post, and start screwing around on the internet in earnest.
0100: Bed. Lie staring at ceiling wondering what I forgot to do today.
  • Current Music
    Happy Rhodes - Words Weren't Made for Cowards / Underworld - Beautiful Burnout
  • Tags

it's lovely weather for a sleighride together with you.

More sentence-level work:

How to take a flabby sentence and make it buff!: I scorched my palm on the painted wood.

Painted wood scorched my palm.

via tanaise

This Sunday, on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl will look into the U.S.military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, offering evidence in the form of Army Sgt. Darren Manzella that the armed forces look the other way during wartime, refusing to discharge troops even in the face of"graphic proof" that they are gay.

Some Youtube from Andrew Bird, since my flist has earwormed me....

ETA Some A/V from Mr. Bird's website, including downloadables of "Heretics," "Fiery Crash," and "A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left." His stuff is good. No, really.

It's a song about tardive dyskinesia. How geeky can you get?

And also:

I can see why coffeeem keeps saying he looks like cvillette, only Caucasian and without the scary cheekbones. He's nearly skinny enough. (Sorry, Coyote. That's not intended as a cut. I have a thing for skinny geeky boys, anyway. *loff*)

Speaking of which, did you see this? From Neil Gaiman's blog today:

Sometimes making stuff up feels a lot like Coyote* running across the empty space between one rocky pinnacle and the next, and as long as you keep moving you're fine. When you stop and look down, it's suddenly all too apparent that there's absolutely nothing underneath and that you're keeping in the air by a peculiar effort of will.

And then a good day comes, and you start running through the air once again, and, if you're smart, you resolutely don't look down.

* Wile E, or the American Indian one who created the world.


I read that and thought, "I know that guy."

But what if there's bears?

Because I am sneaky, I have renamed the "secrit projekt" tag "wtf". So if you wondered where it went, or wanted to go back and look at stillsostrange's pretty art (more to come) that's where you'll find it.

JJA (John Joseph Adams, to those of you whom he does not regularly reject) is going to be on NPR's All Things Considered tomorrow talking about I Am Legend.

writing genocide

(no subject)

Fiction is like music. Either a particular writer hits your groove and you can dance to it, or she doesn't. And if she doesn't, there's nothing you can do about it.

That said, this is really an infelicitous turn of phrase, and I am glad I found it before Ansible did:

...and when the elephants went off...
  • Current Music
    Calexico - Nom De Plume