Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Attachment to Detail

"I got a lot of good ideas!  Trouble is, most of 'em suck."  --George Carlin

For once, I'm actually not being down on myself with that line.  (Mark your calendars.)  But it's the first quote that came to mind when I started thinking about this.  I do have a lot of good ideas, and the problem isn't that most of them suck.

The problem is that I want to keep all of them.

Most of my early creative process consists of throwing a whole lot of stuff against the metaphorical wall, then trying to sift through everything that's on the wall until I can figure out what's going to stick and what's not.  (It also consists of abusing the hell out of the wall metaphor.)  But no matter how many times I do this, or how many things I come up with while I'm trying to figure out what a story's really about, the same thing always happens: I have stuff that I really want to keep, but it doesn't work with the rest of the story.

Too much of the time, that moment is the one really cool idea that started the whole thing.  So once I've figured out what the story is really about, I still want that thing to happen, but odds are good I've bent some part of the plot into a pretzel trying to accommodate it.

Everything would work better if I didn't need that scene.  Or that aspect of that character.  Or that bit of world-building that's going to be much fun to work with.

I found the phrase 'attachment to detail' in an update for a game I've supported on Kickstarter, and it stuck with me, because I realized it's something I'm stuck on.  It is really hard for me to leave story stuff behind.  And I can see how this has caused me problems in the past - book #13, The Book of Lost Runes, ended up feeling like I mashed two stories together because it changed so much in development but I couldn't give up the original concept.  As much as I once liked it (clearly I must have, as I sent out nearly a hundred query letters), I can now see that I should have reworked it to go with one major concept instead of trying to blend the two together.

As proof that knowing a problem doesn't means solving a problem, this is giving me trouble even now.  The main plot-in-progress that I'm trying to get to work has hit a wall and I think a lot of it is because my original concept for one of the three main characters just doesn't work.  So I'm trying to figure out how to re-conceptualize her and seeing how the story's going to change, and . . . and I don't know what to do with it anymore.  And it just starts to fall apart.

So in not knowing what to throw away, or sometimes how to throw it away, I can end up losing everything.  This is nothing new, but still.

As usual, I now ask: what about the rest of you?  How much do you stick to your original ideas?  Are you good at getting rid of what doesn't work?  And how much do your stories change from your first concepts to the final piece?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Comfort Writing

Once in a while, someone asks me why I don't have dessert foods in my house.  My answer is a simple one - "I'd eat them."  Sweets are a major comfort food for me, and a big part of the reason my weight has stayed largely the same for years is that I don't keep that sort of food around and I only bake when it's for others.

Which is kind of a shame sometimes, because I make some damn good pies.

Anyway, the idea of comfort food fits with something I discovered when I was looking through my idea file.  I found a story idea I'd largely forgotten about (yes, I wrote it down so I wouldn't have to remember it), partly inspired by a song and set in a place I thought up long ago.  I started wondering if I could make something of this, and then I ran into something that made me stop, blink, and sigh.

I'd noted that this idea could be yet another attempt to write two characters I've written as the lead couple of seven different books.  They've been through multiple names and incarnations, many of which I've talked about here, and I set them aside about two years ago, figuring I needed to write some other people.

This made me wonder if trying to write something with them, yet again, might actually be a good thing.

As anyone who's read this blog over the past few months can tell, I'm not in a good place with my writing.  I've gone from not being able to make plots-in-progress work, to getting frustrated with everything and closing my documents after less than five minutes, to not even trying to write or plot anything.  So the idea of writing some characters I know well, in a world that's been in my head since 2003, has a certain appeal.

This, I think, is a kind of comfort writing.  When everything else is too damn difficult, fall back on something that I know works, something I can hash out without getting frustrated.  Because it's better to work on something than nothing, right?

Granted, I still don't know if I'm going to pursue this; I looked over the notes when I was tired and frustrated and I know better than to make decisions when I feel like that.  And the story notes are a rough collection of vague ideas that I'd need to filter down to a single concept to make a story out of it.  But there's potential there, and it's been a long time since I wrote in an academic setting.  Also, a possible title for this thing was "Thesis Papers and Magic Vapors", which is kind of funny but suggests entirely wrong things about the story.  I probably won't use it, but I had to share it.

To be fair to myself, this might be a non-issue.  I've managed to take down some notes on other projects recently and I feel like my enthusiasm and desire to get to work is slowly coming back.  So we'll see how it goes.

So, what about the rest of you?  Do you have things in your writing that you fall back on when it gets difficult?  What would your comfort writing be?  And is it Thanksgiving yet?  Because I kind of want to make a pie.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG: Lost

So.  Something happened a few weeks ago, something good, something that will have me nervous about checking my e-mail every day for the next three to four months.  I'd like to say this was inspiring.  I'd like to say this was what I needed to have more confidence in my work, and that I've been getting more done lately.  I'd like to say that this has led to me querying more, in hopes of making it happen again.  I'd like to say I think it's going to turn out well.

But I can't say any of that.

I haven't felt the desire to write anything in the past week.  I haven't felt the desire to write anything in the past damn month except for the character bits I posted over the past few weeks, and those were done half out of desperation to get something, anything, done and half out of feeling like I should have something for the blog besides more of my whining.

Even the blog's not an exception - every post I've made lately, I've wondered if it would be the last one, if I'd close it off with "I'm putting this thing on indefinite hiatus, maybe I'll start it up again when I have something worth saying."  Hell, I wasn't even going to make a blog post this week.  I thought a lot about just not updating anymore and seeing if anybody noticed.  That felt a little too dramatic, though.

So here I am, halfway through a post and feeling like I've said nothing of note because I don't know what to do.  I've tried everything I can think of to pull myself together and get back to work.  I've taken breaks, to no avail.  The short stuff last month was another attempt, and it was all right, but feeling like I still couldn't get a hold of that last character despite living with her in my head for at least a year killed it for me.  I've tried being easier on myself about this whole mess, but that's something I just plain don't know how to do; my therapist has tried to help me figure out how to not be so hard on myself about damn near everything but nothing's worked so far.

Everything I think about working on, I just... I don't even want to try.  Because everything I've tried for the past year and more has fallen apart.  And I don't even remember the last time I had a new idea to write down.

I'm sorry that, yet again, this is all I have to talk about.  I'm sick of it myself.  I wish I had anything else to share.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Short Fiction: Princess

Welcome to the conclusion of my unintended Short Fiction September.  :P  As with the others, this is a character study for a plot-in-progress, and the third of the three main characters.  This is also the one I had the hardest time getting a hold of.  While this character has been in my head for years, this is the first time I really tried to capture her, and she's not one to easily be tamed.  I feel a little better about writing her, but I do think she's going to cause me a lot of trouble.

And in case anyone asks, I don't know her name.  I've never given her one.  She's always only been Princess.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Short Fiction: Aklin

Since this seems to work pretty well, here's another character study for a current project.  She's loosely based on a concept for a character I played in a tabletop RPG years ago, mostly so I could use the name again.  I was having trouble getting a hold of her in the new world I'm working with, and wasn't even sure how to write her character study, until I realized I needed to let her talk.  I feel a lot better about working with her now.

Here's the bit; hope y'all enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Short Fiction: Sophie

Since I don't have anything worth writing about this week, here's a small character study from something I'm trying to work on.  It's not much of a story, just me trying to get into a character's head and life a little.  I've been having trouble with, well, everything, so I thought trying a different approach might help.  No idea if it will.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: All the Things They Say

They tell me to write what I want to write.  That's all I've ever done.  I've never tried to follow a trend or anything like that.  But it's never worked out.

They tell me that if it doesn't work out with one book, write another.  Again, that's all I've ever done.  After fifteen books, I'm still wondering when it's going to work, when someone will actually want my stuff.

They tell me to just write.  Third in a row, that's all I've ever done.  I never think about whether something will be publishable or what-have-you when I'm still in the creating part of the process.  And that's never made a difference anyway.

They tell me I'm getting better.  Maybe I am.  But it doesn't matter how good something I write is if nobody ever reads it.  Writing that no one reads might as well not exist.

They tell me to try different approaches.  I do, and it makes no difference - query or contest, I maintain a perfect streak of absolutely nothing.  Hell, I haven't even received a rejection letter in months.  Just silence.

They tell me not to compare myself to others.  I do my best not to.  But it's hard, if not nigh-impossible, when there are so many amazing success stories out there, and I'm... here.  It feels like everyone I talk about writing stuff with has at least one book out, if not more.  (Do not bring up self-publishing in response to this; I've said my piece on that many times and I'm not having that conversation again.)

They tell me things to try to make me feel better.  I appreciate it, but I don't even hear the encouragement anymore.  It's always the same stuff, and words lose their meaning when you say them over and over again.

They tell me my efforts aren't futile.  I look at an unending streak of rejections and silence and wonder how we're defining "futile" differently.

They tell me to keep trying, that I'll make it someday.

I've seen no reason to believe this.