Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dreaming

When people talk about dreaming and writing, it’s usually along these lines–Keep a dream journal. Write them down, and you’ll have all kinds of ideas for stories!

I don’t disagree with that in general. I disagree with it in specific– specifically, its completely useless for me. First off, I don’t dream a lot. Or at least I don’t remember my dreams often, because I usually sleep pretty well, without popping awake in the middle, which is when I remember my dreams. And when I do remember them, they generally managed to combine a certain quality of bizarre banality that is completely useless. A dream about trying to sort letters, except they keep turning into squirrels, and my third grade teacher is yelling at me– that might seem interesting right when I wake up, but no, really, it’s not. Finally, yeah, ideas. Those I’ve got. If I could dream up more time to write them down, that would be useful.

But I had a different intersection of dreaming and writing this week.

My youngest had an upset stomach a few nights ago, which resulted in me doing a lot of waking up to… let’s just say deal with the aftermath and leave it at that. In between these lovely parenting moments, I would drowse. So, yes, dreams. One in particular stood out.

I ‘woke’ up, and all the lights were on. In my room, in every room. Annoyed, I got up and started shutting them off, wondering who had turned them on. I noticed as I was doing this that the house was strangely quiet. Empty. No wife, no kids in their beds, just me. Then I noticed that the door to the attic was open, and the lights were on up there.

I started up the stairs. It’s an old house, and the attic lights are on pull strings. I walked around, clicking each one off, the house getting darker and darker behind me. Overhead, rain drummed on the roof, the only sound. Then there was just one light left, the farthest one, the one behind the chimney. I couldn’t see around its bulk, but suddenly I knew there was something back there, something waiting for me in that last dusty pool of light. I didn’t want to go forward, but I had to, and I rounded the chimney and…

Woke up. Which would have been good, except right then, in the dark, with the rain falling outside, my writer brain kicked into gear and started spinning out the scenarios. It was this! Or that! Or even better, one of these!

Most of the rest of my brain was unappreciative of the suggestions.

Luckily, my daughter needed me again, and taking care of that bit of unpleasantness turned out to be a good way to scrub that nightmare out of my brain.

But, still, maybe a cool scene for a horror story, right?

Sure. Which is probably why I have a scene almost just like it in the horror book I’ve already written.

So, in addition to the issues above, my dreams are also apparently just too derivative.

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The blank page

So I officially started working on the new novel on Sunday. (Yes, I’d already sort-of started it a while back, but I chucked that beginning and started fresh.) It’s the sequel to my still-unsold World Domination YA novel.

This post isn’t about the fool-hardiness of writing a sequel to an unsold book. It’s about the blank page.

Starting a new short story doesn’t intimidate me. I know it’s going to be a few day’s or a week’s worth of work, that it’ll turn out much like I envisioned, and that it’ll be a reasonably good story once I’m done. I may or may not sell it, true, but I have a handle on it. I can do it. Even if I don’t know precisely what the short story is about, I know deep down that I’ll be able to pull it off.

I don’t quite have that faith with novels yet. Every time I start a new novel I’m pretty convinced that I’ve completely forgotten how to write one. I’m starting my *mumble mumble* ninth *mumble mumble* novel and I still have the fear that this novel will be crap. I’m convinced that I’ll spend a year out of my life writing an unreadable book. That might have something to do with the notion that since every novel is different, you don’t know how to write it until you’ve written it. In essence, each novel teaches you how to write it. The only way to do it is to … do it.

Into the mines.

 

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Being the dumb one

This morning, I ran across a blog post by Ferrett Steinmetz, “My Secret To Success: I’m The Dumb One.” Go read it, I’ll wait.

Parts of that post reminded me of some thinking I did a while back. I was feeling like I was never going to get anywhere with my writing, never going to be good enough, never going to get a big sale, blah blah blah. If you’re a writer you probably know the feeling. If you do anything you care about, you probably know the feeling.

Then I realized: Most of the writers I hang out with are “ahead” of me. It makes it easier to get discouraged, because I see them getting things I’m not (sales, invites, acknowledgement of existence). But I shouldn’t be comparing myself to them now, I should compare myself to where they were N years ago.

Ok, ok. I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone, everyone’s path is different, etc etc etc. Anyone who says they don’t ever do that is either a liar or a candidate for Buddhist monkhood.

Many of my writer acquaintances have been doing this longer or working harder than I have. Many of them are also more talented, but I try not to think about that, because that way lies madness, or at least severe depression.

There are great benefits, like Ferrett says, to being the dumb one in the room, and to be able to ask the dumb questions, and learn from the smart people. It’s how you get smarter. Just don’t let the discouragement stand in the way.

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Research

Busy week- mostly good, and mostly about writing. I’ll go into that soon, but right now, worky work work.

Part of the work today was doing some research for the WIP. Research is usually fun, as long as its carefully contained. It’s far too easy to fall into the wiki-rabbit hole. Here’s an example.

I needed a tropical fruit or nut tree for the story. I need them for the evil monkeys. So I’m poking around and find Kola trees, which I had been woefully ignorant of. They are an African tree whose fruit contains caffeine. Perfect– evil hyper monkeys. Of course I get distracted, realizing that this is the origin of Cola. Which makes me think about Coca-Cola, my personal addiction. So I’m looking up Coca-Cola, and its history and…

Stop. Kola trees. Right.

But damn, really? I knew about the cocaine, but then they dropped in caffeine. Cocaine and caffeine. No wonder that stuff took off.

The nineteenth century had to be all sorts of interesting.

And no, I’m not looking up nineteenth century patent medicines now. I’m not.

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The agony of defeat

Rejection is a constant companion when you’re a writer.

When I first started out, everything I wrote got rejected. It didn’t deter me, though–I knew I just had to get better. Work on my craft. Network. Write write write. Read read read. Read about writing. And write more. And that’s just what I did. Gradually I sold my work and people asked me to be a part of their anthologies. The rejections for my novels went from photocopied form rejections to personal emails.

A personal rejection is very much a double-edged sword. The agent or editor obviously liked my work enough to read it, usually to the end. They tell me my work has merit, they enjoyed the story, they loved the characters. It’s just not exactly what they’re looking for, or maybe they can’t sell it. It’s frustrating because while I know I’ll continue to get better at my craft, the fact is they’re rejecting my work for subjective reasons. It wasn’t for them. I can relate to this. There’s been plenty of times when someone’s favorite book leaves me cold or someone points out all the flaws in my all-time favorite book. IT means that I’m at the stage where luck plays a big role. Right agent at the right time and all that.

Luck favors the prepared, as they say.

Excuse me. I’m going to go write now.

 

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Prolificity vs Monomania

I saved David Farland’s recent post on Being Prolific to my “to blog” folder twice, so I guess I should actually blog about it.

Except there isn’t really much to say. Work harder and longer, stay focused, and get more done. There you go.

Ideally, I suppose, we’d work 24-hour days. As long as we’re getting rid of dreaming and parties and television and lunch breaks, we might as well get rid of sleep too. Imagine how much we’d get written if all we did was write!

I also recently read an essay by Benjamin Nugent, “The Upside of Distraction,” which describes the unfortunate effect of spending all his time writing (and focusing on “good writing”) and how he eventually improved:

I purged myself of monomania — slowly, and somewhat unwittingly. I fell in love, an overpowering diversion, and began to spend more time at my girlfriend’s place, where she had Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV and a DVD player. I joined a cover band that held live karaoke parties. One morning, after I diversified my mania, my writing no longer stank of decay. Eventually, it sat up and took food.

Farland has some good advice on being more productive. (He doesn’t actually suggest writing for 24 hours a day.) And I could stand to get more done. But if all I did was work and write, I’d be a pretty boring person–and that would come through in my writing.

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Morgan Monday

Okay, so Morgan Mondays aren’t working out so hot for a couple of reasons. For one, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around blogging on Mondays. And two … there’s no easy way to say this … my kitty Morgan died on Sunday. So, you know. Death sucks.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Morgan fresh from the shower. May he rest in peace.

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