Monthly Archives: January 2010

Update on the Squids from Hell

So, after procrastinating like mad (my specialty), I finally got around to reading the first book of the trilogy that I wrote back in November. Several things stood out to me. The first was that the human part was pretty well developed and pretty interesting. That reflects what I was told by the generous people (of which there were at least three, if I remember right); they continued reading to the second book because they cared about what happened to the humans and their various struggles. For lack of a better word, they seemed human. The bits about the humanoids dragged painfully through most of the story, because I was telling it from one perspective and until the end, he didn’t actually do much. This could have been avoided if his world was developed a bit more, but as it wasn’t, it was him sitting around until he had brief bursts of activity. The squids were worse, and I realized why by the end of it. Except for the bits which were plot relevant, they might as well have simply disappeared. I mean, okay, most of them are more like worker ants than individuals, but it doesn’t go quite that far. There has to be some sort of society, and I know there isn’t the faintest trace of one, because I didn’t come up with it and it’s not like it’s just going to appear because I want it to. By the end of the third book, I’d grabbed in a number of squids about whom nothing had ever been said before because I needed to get my words down, and I think that in a rewrite, most/all of them should be pulled back to the first book so that the reader can get a look at the actual world from their perspective.

But something really hit home about how this is really, really not a first book type of thing unless I was just stupid-lucky and it was stupid-good. (And for the record, while I’m sure that eventually I’m due an attack of stupid-lucky, I don’t think this book is  even close to being stupid-good. I think the idea is really interesting, but I don’t know that I articulated it well). For the sake of clarity, I opened up a new document before I started doing anything with the first book. I wrote down all the characters who should have at least semi-important story arcs. For the first book, there are 19 characters on that list. I could whittle down a few (I could get rid of some of the squids, forex), but I’m not getting the list down to a dozen, I know that. And that’s just the first book. In the second and third books, whole new worlds and characters are introduced. Because I don’t want to think about it, I’d put a rough guess at about three dozen characters by the end of Book 3 which are supposed to have storylines and whose actions are in some way relevant to the grand scheme of things.

Do I think it’ll be a great book/series one day? Absolutely. I’d scrap it if I didn’t think it had real potential. But underneath the crap, I can see that there’s something real there. Once I flesh out the 19 character arcs (in just a couple of sentences, mind. Where they are at the beginning, the middle, and the end is all), I’ll figure out how the squids live when they’re not busy attacking or dying – which is really all they were good for during the books as is, and I’ll figure out more about the humanoid setting, too. And then I’ll start the rewrite. I plan to be ready to start rewriting by the middle of February.

Where are the other pieces at? Well, I gave Just a Glimpse a read, and I struggled through it. I like the idea behind it, but the gem is even more distant than it is in the trilogy. And that makes me a little sad. I haven’t read either of the two 50k ones yet, but I plan to.

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On Arrogance

I’ve been meaning to blog here but I’ve been lazy lately.

Anyway, when I wrote that post down there about books on writing, I didn’t realize as I was writing it that it reeks pretty bad of arrogance. The comments that I got reflect that, too, and it’s not the spirit in which it was meant.  I thought about taking it down, but the comments about why it’s a good idea would be deleted too, and so it’ll stay.

I didn’t mean it to look as though I think I’m good enough to not have to bother. I didn’t mean it to think that there’s nothing worthwhile to be found in those books. And to be honest, I didn’t really think about some of the very good reasons that others mentioned. You tell yourself something often enough, you’ll get tunnel vision, and that’s where I was when I wrote it.

And to properly expose my flaws as a writer and a human being, I tried for fifteen minutes to come up with a sentence that didn’t look arrogant, and couldn’t. Take that for what you like.

As for me, I’m going to extricate the foot from my mouth and see if I can’t keep it out for at least a day or two.

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Comfort Books

Lots of people have comfort foods; I don’t think that I’m one of them. At one point, it was frozen chicken quesadilla rolls, but I think I’ve grown out of that. I used to have an incredible fondness for chicken drumsticks, but I also don’t think I’d call them a comfort food. Chocolate makes me happy, but I don’t reach for it when I’m stressed or sad. To be honest, what I’m more likely to do is reach for a book. (Or, if I’m really angry/upset, play “In the End” by Linkin Park, which is my number one life-sucks-get-over-it song of all time).

Anyway, comfort books. I don’t know if I’m the only one who has them. There’s one book I own, Seven Types of Ambiguity which I have read so many times that I can just pick it up and open it onto any page and just start reading from there. I’ve also read my copy of Ender’s Game so many times that the spine is nearly worn through. And I’ve read the four (*sigh*) books of GRRM’s series A Song of Ice and Fire so many times through that I can read them in any order whatsoever (the third book is my favorite, though).

I don’t know why some books are inherently more comforting than others. The first books I mentioned, Seven Types of Ambiguity, I bought while ignoring texts from a rather needy, obsessive guy I pseudo-dated in my sophomore year. Maybe the taking it home and reading it after the phone had been turned off sort of triggered something in my mind, something that made that association. It is an overall awesome book, though, and I’d highly recommend it to pretty much everyone.

The GRRM books I read because I think they’re a fabulous example of worldbuilding and every time I read them – even though I’ve owned them for years upon years – I find something new that I missed. In contrast (and this isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing), I don’t see any of Steven Erikson’s books as comforting. They are far too incredible and complex for that. His series is also excellent and also highly recommended by me (and writes faster than GRRM – approx one 800-900 page book per year and is writing the last book of his ten book series which should be released later this year), but there’s something fundamentally different between his books and GRRM’s. I love both. I reread both.

Oh, yeah. And then there’s The Name of the Wind.  That’s another one which I can pick up and open in nearly any place and enjoy. One of the best fantasy books out there, IMO, even if the second one isn’t out yet. Here’s to hoping it comes out in 2010!

I realize that this post is kind of disjointed. But it’s like comfort foods. You can’t explain why it is that eating doritos and peanut butter (made up example, I swear) makes you feel better, it just does. And I can’t explain why some awesome books are comfort books for me, and others (which are equally awesome) aren’t.

Does anyone else have comfort books, or is it just me?

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Books on Writing

So I was having a conversation with someone recently (someone who also writes).  The subject turned to writing, and she told me about a couple of books on writing, particularly novel writing, that she’d picked up at the bookstore recently, and she wanted to know if I had any and that maybe we could read&swap, that sort of thing. I had to confess that the only books to do with writing that I own are a copy of Writers Market (from 2008, I think), and a handful of books that my mother bought me that teach you how to write good college application essays from 5 or 6 years ago. She seemed a little baffled that I’ve been writing for a decade and I’ve not bought (or read, for that matter) one.

From the internet looking that I’ve done, there seems to be a bit of a debate on the issue. Are writers born or made? Do you need to go for the advice of the masters? (Or for those who make a living writing books telling you how to write?) Do they have intrinsic value and will they make you a better writer? Or are they just ways for authors to make more money? (And no, I don’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing.)

The problem, which I know a lot of people discuss independent of books on writing, is that everyone writes differently. Everyone’s mind works differently. My writing process looks bizarre to pretty much anyone who isn’t me, but it works for me. I’ve looked at the snowflake method in the past, and I think it would just irritate the fk out of me, going through all those steps. I’m sure those writing books that I’ve never read have their own methods, which presumably work for the authors in question. But do they work for you? Should a budding writer like myself set out to imitate the so-called masters and learn my own style from there, or should I accept that I’ve got a basic grasp of grammar and syntax and blaze forwards on my own?  (I don’t think there’s anyone out there that really thinks an illiterate person should just be given a pen and paper and expect Shakespeare to be produced).

I’ll take my side, which should be fairly obvious. I’m sure that I’ve stumbled this way and that over the past ten years. But I’ve learned what does and doesn’t work for me. Maybe I could have skipped a couple of steps in this process if I’d read some books on writing. Maybe I’d find that Stephen King’s writing methods are perfect for me. I don’t know. Buying books on writing really isn’t on my list of things to do, nor on my list of things that must be purchased. Maybe my writing’s crap, maybe it always will be (and I’ll be the first to tell you that most of it falls close to that description), maybe I’ll never be published. Call me a purist (and I hate that term applied to pretty much anything), but unless someone can give me a good reason to find/read one of these books (except purely for entertainment value – I’ve heard good things about Stephen King’s On Writing, for example), I think I’ll stick with what does and doesn’t work for me, and evolve as the desire takes me.

In other and totally unrelated news, I’ve stumbled onto what looks like an interesting and fun contest. But the deadline is the 12th of February, so if any of you, my dear lurkers, want to enter it you should probably get thinking on it. Even if you don’t, the associated prompt generator looks an incredible amount of fun.

Peace out, lurkers.

EDIT: if you’ve just read this one and not the follow-up post, please do read it before commenting.

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Kate’s story musings

I’ll often get wisps of ideas from other forms of media, as described here.  It’s happened twice in the past week, and I think they’re interesting enough that I’ll share both of them with you, dear lurkers. (Yes, this is a pretty self-indulgent post, but I can’t think of anything clever to write today and I figure I need to at least pretend to attempt to honor my new year’s resolutions).

So, the first one came about while I was watching a history channel show. Yeah, I watch a lot of history channel. In particular, this one was part of the series Ancients Behaving Badly. I don’t think that they were even talking about anything relevant to my train of thought, but I started wondering about what everything we have now would look like in 2000 years (as in how Roman things look to us now). And because I’m not nearly scienc-y enough to try to project what technology looks like in 2000 years, I thought about setting the story in 2035. But not our 2035. You see, at some point in the next 50 years (I’ve not thought about this is fine enough detail to actually decide), the entire system gets thrown over (nuclear war seems like my easiest deus ex machina here), and the calendar restarts. So their year 2035 is our year 4000-something. And there would be a lot of different things if a civilization had to restart from almost scratch. We’ve already mined out a lot of the easily mineable minerals. They would have to deal with the remnants of cities/civilizations. I don’t know if it will ever come to anything, but it’s at least a neat idea that I’m letting the back of my mind play around with.

The second is considerably more morbid, and I don’t actually think that it had to do with much external media at all. I was thinking about reincarnation – something I ponder fairly frequently though I know little about it. And I was wondering about all of the people who remember past lives, and what it would mean if you could actually recall all of your past lives. So what if you had a person who was tired of their life, and decided to kill themselves to get something better? They get a new life, eventually they remember the last one(s), and keep searching and searching for the ‘best’ life?  Again, this one isn’t solidified into anything writeable, but it’s another set of concepts that keep floating around.

As it stands, neither of them is ready to be written yet. They’ll get consigned to my ‘potential’ folder while I let them stew in my head, and if/when more concrete things about them occur to me, they’ll get added to the file.  Maybe they’ll be among this coming year’s Nanos. Dunno yet.

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New Year’s Resolutions

Health

1. drink less

2. lose 5 pounds

3. exercise more (to start with 2x/week)

Creative

1. Finish rewrite of NfH (more concretely: write 3 handwritten pages/day while unemployed)

2. Re-read, edit Nano 2009 novels (reread by mid-February)

3. Do Nano 2010

Grown-up

1. Get a job

2. Get an apartment

3. Get a cat

4. Get an agent.

Other

1. blog more (2x/week

2. get a boyfriend (haha, undateable monstrosity that I am!)

3. learn to drive/get a car

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