Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Amnesiac and the Gray Slavers

entry the 6th

10:34pm central time zone


my cell in Larkhill detention center, jundland wastes

Spam Count: 86

I decided to skip the treatment and just start on the first draft. First scene is done. I was actually blocked there for a day or two because I couldn't figure out how to end it. And that's just silly. I find this sort of thing happens to me quite a bit when I'm composing, and the solution is always the same: delete the last two paragraphs and try a new direction. I should have that printed on a huge poster and framed. I'll even tantalize you with a specific detail: the change I made involves a hypodermic needle filled with sedative.

So then I wasn't quite sure how to start the next scene. So I skipped it. I'm actually worried that the installments of my trilogy aren't going to be long enough to print as separate books. Imagine my embarassment if I have to publish all three books in one volume. That's like the opposite of what happened with Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote the whole epic before he tried to publish it, and it was only at the editor's insistance that he split it into three books. I'd be, like, the anti-Tolkien.

If, like me, you ever find yourself seriously considering becoming a novelist, I would recommend reading books and articles by other novelists about how they do it. But here's my tip: read stuff by authors with widely different styles. When I was a teenager, I read On Writing by Stephen King. I've only read a couple of Stephen King novels in my time, and I didn't know enough about his style to realize that he's not the same kind of writer that I am. I have great respect for what he's accomplished in his career, it's just that he doesn't work like I do.

He has a whole different philosophy. He doesn't usually outline his books. He just starts with a definite idea for a scenario and a basic knowledge of the main characters who have to survive it. Everything gets fleshed out conceptually as he goes, until he starts on the second draft and reconciles what he wrote at the beginning when he didn't really understand what his characters were about with what he wrote toward the end, when everything was better-focused. King doesn't think about symbolism or theme at all in the beginning. He thinks of stories as fossils that he is digging up--found objects that he meticulously uncovers and gingerly brushes off to reveal a finished product over which he exerts as little conscious control as possible.

And that's a perfectly good way to write a novel. Obviously, it's worked for him. It's just not how I operate.

The more you read what other writers say about writing, you will find at least one piece of advice that pretty much everybody agrees on: write crappy first drafts. Turn your inner critic competely off and just hammer that thing out as fast as you can. Then come back afterwards and fix it.

Also: Omit needless words, show don't tell, employ the active voice, maintain a consistent point of view in each scene, and focus on significant detail in descriptions.

Okay, back to the writing.


fiasco joe

"You're faster than this. Stop trying to hit me, and hit me."

-Inigo Montoya

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