30 March 2019

On Berating My Obstinacy and Resolving to Try Something Different

I reread my last blog post and thought, man, what mule-headed stubbornness. Is that really me? Turns out it is. So my goal the past few weeks was to do some research into what I disdain in writing advice, and find a way to give it a try. I researched some authors I like that offer classes and books on the very things I don’t like to do. I read through every page of their website, read their philosophies, and picked one I thought I would be able to work with.

Cautiously optimistic, I bought a writing e-book by the author and dug in. Right in the first chapter I ran up against my prejudice. It had exercises. Exercises that were intended to make me do things. I think exercises are useless, I should be using my limited writing time to work on my novel. Write, write, write, right?

Turns out there is a reason for these exercises. To make my pea brain stretch, and think beyond my novel to the future. Where I want to be instead of where I am, and drill down to what my novel is about. When did I get so prejudiced against homework? I was a book nerd in high school, doing my homework and even extras for the sheer joy of learning. When did I lose that?

Turns out it wasn't lost, just buried deep beneath a layer of inexperience and attitude. In trying so hard to convince myself I could do this, I convinced myself I knew HOW to do this. One of these things is not like the other.

So I cautiously printed out the exercise pages from the pdf, and began to read the damn directions. I did the exercises. In order. (A first.) I actually got excited to write a scene to the specified criteria. (Of course I had to stop in the middle to research exactly what shade of brown I needed to describe. For the record, it was Raw Umber.) I was pretty happy with the scene I wrote. So happy I'm thinking it needs to go in the novel and I know just where to put it.

You'll be pleased to know, I'm 2/3 less stubborn about writing advice than when I started. There's some things I still have a difficult time believing is going to help. But I won't discard the advice, until I give it a try or two. What works might not be readily apparent at first impatient glance. If it still doesn't work for me, why then I'll fold the exercise into an origami mule, and place it by my computer as a reminder.

Sometimes you just have to slap your own hand, loosen the reins, and gallop wildly forward, careening over half-baked, rainbow hued obstacles until you crash through the brick wall.

Or is that just me?

14 March 2019

Ignoring Writing Advice

I've never been much for following the rules. Which may or may not be why it takes me a year or more to write a novel. There is so much advice out there on how to get started, how to write, how to edit, etc. that is sometimes contradictory. I've sifted through the Internet, bought books, and quizzed author friends. Worksheets abound on outlining, beats, plotting, character development, character motivation, scenes, POV, world building, query, synopsis and more story ideas than you can shake a computer mouse at.


I'm a pantser. I tried being a plotter, I really did. It didn't work for me. I went back to pantsing, and I'm much happier. I prefer to do all my organizing afterwards. Which may not be the best way, but it's the way I like, and it may take longer. It works for me. It may drive me crazy at times, because conventional advice insists you do certain things at certain times in the noveling process. Good luck with that.

I jump right in, feet first, without looking to see if there are rocks below. I have an idea, it's usually is in my head a year or two before I start writing. I ponder the characters, run scenarios through my mind, over and over. I play the 'What If' game. I love the What If game. I love circling around and around ideas until the story firms in my mind. Or turns to Jello.

Then I write.

I sit down and write frantically, from beginning to end, seeing where the story takes me. Then I rewrite. Then I do a third draft, fine tuning. I've been informed this is not the way to do it. That I waste a lot of time with the rewrites. I probably do. For me, it's like building a sculpture.
I smooth layers of clay over the foundation, and little by little the form emerges. Sometimes things jump out at me like a boogeyman from the closet. Other times it's the drip-drip of a leaky faucet.

In my current novel, the first draft was in first person. Reading it through, I realized the story wasn't solely about her, and another character needed his time on stage. Demanded it. Since I hate multiple first person POV novels, I changed it to third person, and immediately felt more comfortable. My other novels are in third person, that's my happy place. I always wanted to try first person, and now I feel I can do it. When the right character comes along and is greedy enough not to share stage space.

So, rules. Like making up a character sheet for each character—I don't do them. I carry the characters in my head, (it gets crowded in there). The problem with character sheets, is, they're not made for fantasy characters. I suppose you could twist them to fit, but the character's magic ability, and what effect it has on them and the world needs to be addressed. So I made up my own character sheet of sorts for fantasy folks. And quit using it as soon as I figure out the elements that fit the story. Yes, they are useful for things like height-weight, eye color, hair color and the like. But I've never 'interviewed' my characters, or built a character arc step by step according to formula. After a year of thinking, I know what they want, where they start, and where they should end up. Figure out what works, and go from there. Doesn't work? Toss it in the cut file. For me, it's all about the journey.

What am I trying to say? To quote Fleetwood Mac, "Go your own way". It could be messy, it could explode in your face. It could take time. It could be a hell of a lot of fun. That's why I'm in it, for the fun of creating my own world, and populating it with characters I like. Or hate. And guess what? Most of my characters don't follow the rules, either.

Imagine that.

22 February 2019

An Indulgent Rant on Why I Hate the Internet

As I get older I notice I have less and less inclination to spend time on the Internet. I've reduced my time to using it as a research tool and research starting spot, a place to buy books and other things I can't get in my hometown, and as a source of news I have to cross check to get an idea of the real story. I pop in on Facebook to keep up with friends, but seldom interact. I much prefer the friendlier confines of Ravelry.

I also use it to look up recipes, since physical cookbooks only have a few recipes I want. I hate spending big money on a special cookbook to find there's really nothing I want to cook from it. Amazon's Look Inside feature is no guarantee the recipes don't require 'Essence of Peacock' oil, or a whole durian fruit in all its stinky glory.

One thing I've come to hate about recipe blogs and other sites are the continual pop-ups, moving ads, and self playing videos. Let me peruse the site before shoving a "Subscribe to my Newsletter" pop-up in my face 4 seconds after I land. Better yet, make the link prominent at the side or top. I'll find it if I like what you offer. I stop self playing videos. News sites are the worst with this. The constantly twirling sidebar ads make me crazy. Popovers are the absolute worst, tricking you into clicking on them as you go to click on a website link, because they load late in order to screw you over.

 Everything screams, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!

I don't look. I've trained myself to ignore the side bars and ads in the middle of a story. I mute my computer, stop the self playing ads, and close the popups. All without taking in what they are advertising. It can be done. I have no idea what was advertised on the sidebar of the NY Times today. It could have been something I'm actually interested in, courtesy of tracking cookies following me around the Internet. (They are insidious, even if you have blockers turned on.) But NO. I don't care to see them.

"Think of the poor sites, they need the advertising money!" comes the whine. I sympathize with running a website. It's expensive. But it doesn't have to be so in your face. I will look at static ads that don't bleed my eyeballs. I will listen to a plea from a site asking me to use their Amazon link to buy something. But no twirly, bossy, whining ads. Just say no. Your ads fail anyhow, since I ignore them. And I refuse to feel guilty. And I won't click on them.

After so much of this intrusion, I've reduced the places I go for my information, ideas and shopping. I haven't missed any one of them. I use the browsers that block the most pop-ups and auto-playing. When the websites come to their senses and stop the overly obnoxious, intrusive stuff, I'll pay more attention. It's like back in the 90's, when everyone used blinking type on their personal (and some professional) websites. That went away fast as people said "No more".

I choose the way I want to use the Internet, although advertising tries to choose for me. So I ignore. My small way of fighting back. Sure, it's like spitting in the ocean, but a person has to start somewhere, and take a stand. Is this the hill I die on? Today, it sure feels like it.