Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Style or Substance?

As I've mentioned a couple of times in this blog already, I'm struggling with my second novel right now. The more I write, the harder it gets to write. You'd figure that once the words got flowing, it would get easier, but instead, it's getting more difficult, and that confuses me as much as it frustrates and disheartens me.

One of the things that makes this story a departure for me is that the focal point stays with a single character. All of my other longer works (namely, my first novel and my serial-installment short stories) jump around from character to character, in an 'ensemble cast' sort of way. I'm admittedly a fan of TV shows that follow that sort of format, where there's no single "main character," but honestly, that's just kind of the way I've written longer pieces for a while (my multiple aborted attempts at a first novel back in the day even followed that structure).

Yesterday, during one of my many, many sessions of pondering how to get my novel to work better, I began to wonder if the story wouldn't be better told if the point of view alternated between the two main characters instead of just sticking with the one. It would certainly give me more room to flesh some characterization out, and it would also let me throw in some different perspective.

Then I had to stop and wonder whether the inclination to do that wasn't so much due to the fact that the story would be better told that way as much it was just a sign that I'm not comfortable and not experienced enough at writing longer stories from a single viewpoint. I'm left second-guessing whether my story needs to be tweaked to fit a different narrative style, or whether I'm simply not capable, at my current level of skill, of telling the story the way it should be told.

I'm still not sure which it is.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Writing Meme

Taken from Tim Susman, transitively taken from Kelly McCullough at Wyrdsmiths.

What do you find _______ about writing?

Hardest? Continuing to write when I don't feel like the words are coming out exactly how I want them to. I try very hard to just write through the tough spots, but I tend to niggle. Excessively.

Easiest? Finding ideas for things to write. At any given moment, there are always a number of story ideas floating around, many of which I know I'll never even get to.

Most fun? Being surprised by the turn of events of a story I myself came up with. Oftentimes, I'll have an idea, but when it ends up on paper, things go differently than even I imagined, and it's a neat sensation when my own stories catch me off guard.

Most Tedious? Waiting the requisite amount of time to go back and look at a story with an objective eye in order to make changes. When I get a story out of my head and onto the page, I kind of want to hold it close like a baby, and I have to force myself to give it space, first and foremost.

Coolest? Knowing that I can write things that other people actively want to read.

Least cool? The fact that writing takes so much time, energy, effort and passion, and that so few people seem to realize that. Sometimes it's easy to feel jaded at being unappreciated.

Best? Knowing that a stray or silly idea can pop into my head at any point, and that someday done the line, someone else might get the chance to read and enjoy the tale that it could grow into.

Worst? The unfinished stories that I know, in my heart, I'll never go back to and finish. I think about them sometimes, and feel sad and even a bit guilty that those stories will never finish being told.

Join in below, or comment with a link to your own post...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Errant Captive Audience

Malin wrote an entry in his blog about writing for your audience. I think he makes a lot of good points, and I take a lot of that to heart, since I, too, write for what is a niche of a niche audience.

Thinking about this over the last several days, though, I'm finding myself increasingly more distraught about the reality of writing in general, and also in writing furry fiction.

Having writing as a hobby is like a two-edged sword: by definition, you need to set yourself apart from other people in order to make good on it, but people like writers. Or, at least, they profess to like writers and they claim an interest in writing. That's kind of one my sorest spots, actually.

See, when you're a writer, your friends always say stuff along the lines of, "Oh, you're a writer? That's so cool. I've love to see your stuff sometime." Except they... don't. Most of the time, your friends, even your good friends, don't actually want to read the things you've written. I've lost track of the number of times that I've specifically sent or even handed a story of mine to someone after they'd asked to read it, only to come back to them months later to find that, surprise surprise, they never bothered to.

It's extra-frustrating when you've got an pseudonym under which you write erotica. In that same period of time where you might've been hoping to have Friend A read the story you'd given for them specifically to read, you'll post an adult story online without even bringing it to their attention, but of course, they'll have read that story without being prompted, regardless of whether or not they knew said pseudonym belonged to you.

Write for your audience. That's what I'm trying to do. Furries normally latch on to anything furry with a fervor that's rarely seen elsewhere--give a TV show or a movie the faintest hint of anthropomorphics and you'll have furries lining up outside the door for a shot of Van Helsing as a sexy werewolf or to see the cat-shaped aliens or whatever. When it's the written word, though, it's like it doesn't matter what you write if you forget to include a scene where a fox gets a dick in his mouth.

I don't mean to sound like I'm griping pointlessly, but that's what I see. I see the furry fandom, pretty much the only audience anywhere who would ever want to read furry stuff, and even they don't want to read it.

So then, I look at the stuff I'm writing, and I feel self-conscious about it already in terms of content and quality, and I get to thinking, "If I pour my heart and soul into this to make it better, who the hell is even going to care?"

I am passionate about my writing. It's the thing I want to do with my life. I put so much time and effort and emotion into what I do because I have these stories I want to tell, and in the end, I have nobody to listen. I have to wonder if it's worth taking the years it takes to write and rewrite and polish and pitch and publish a novel that will fall by the wayside because it's not about animal-people having sex.

I'm usually more optimistic than this. But I'm writing for my audience, and it's an audience that I can see, and I'm writing directly at them, and they can't even see that they're being hit.

It's distressing. I don't want to give up. I don't want to not care. But I can't just write into the void. A storyteller can't sit in front of the fireplace and tell his story to an empty room.

So what do I do?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Step One: Identify the Problem

...and think I have.

It occurs to me, now that I'm at a certain point in my novel, that I'm not entirely sure what the details of the next big plot point are.

Like, not the intricate, specific details that fill themselves out during the course of actually writing the scene in which these events occur. I'm talking like, on the whole, I don't know what the next logical step in the plot is or what it entails.

This is a bad sign. I know where the story goes after that, but... well, that's not much help to me in my current position, is it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Getting the Words Out

I've been letting my writing blog collect dust. That's not a good thing. If I stay out of touch with writing about writing, then what does that say about my writing? Actually, what does that say about my logic process?

Well, anyhow, I thought I should blow off the dust and get back to talking about what I'm doing, since if I know that people are looking at me, I'll be less inclined to just sit there like a tool.

I was hitting some snags with writing the novel I'm currently working on. Even when I wasn't stuck trying to figure out what to write, the actual writing was really starting to grind for a while. It's not often that the act of sitting and writing feels like a chore to me, but in this case, it was. I've looked at things and I've tried to figure out why that was, but I can't find a satisfying answer; the immediate problem seems to have resolved itself, though, and so long as it doesn't recur, I guess I don't need to fret too much about the reason.

I took a spring writing class that focused on dialogue. It was technically a screenwriting class, and so I didn't quite get the usual in-class banter that I normally find helpful in writing classes (since I didn't have a lot in common with what other folks were writing), but the instructor himself was extremely helpful and intelligent, and I got a lot of good feedback on what I was doing, if nothing else. One of the things that the instructor liked to stress, though, was the methodology of just getting your shitty first draft onto the page. That's something I can empathize with, since after writing my first novel and redrafting it several times, I've seen how much work goes into changing things, but I can also see how much work is accomplished just by getting the damn story out of the way, first.

So, even while embracing the idea that I just need to write the story even if the draft itself sucks, I was still trudging and plodding through actually writing this new novel over the last few months. It seemed kind of counterintuitive to myself, since I knew I didn't want or even expect it to be any good, and yet even just trying to fling words onto the page that got the general point across wasn't working.

But, like I already said, I seem to have somehow gotten over that, and as long as I stay gotten over it, that's fine by me.

For those curious, this first draft of this new novel is still nowhere near complete: I'm only on Chapter Six after, oh, many, many months of writing. I hope that the same thing that happened with my last novel happens with this one, where I hit the halfway point, stall for a week, and then have the most awesome epiphany ever and even up churning out the second half of the book in a frenzied month of writing bliss. I'm not sure that'll happen here, though, since the story itself is so different, and it just requires a different treatment overall. Maybe it's the "being different" part that's got me all wonky.

In the meantime, I think it'll be helpful to focus on additional, smaller side-projects. That's hard to do when taking a class (and it's what happened when I was writing my old novel last year, too). Now that I'm class-free (wait, is that how I want to phrase that?), I can probably find some time to get some short stories out of my brain on the side, too. Though actually, I do still have close to half a dozen short stories that died on the page from last year, and I'm not sure I have the heart, the mind, or the patience to go back and resurrect any of them, even if one or two of them probably deserve to be finished.

The other thing that should inspire further writing on my behalf is the fact that, earlier this month, I finally got published for legit, for real-reals!

My first story can be found in Sofawolf Press's new anthology, New Fables. I'm actually pretty proud of this story; it takes place in a fantasy world that I've accidentally continued to write in, the same world featured in my story "The Peculiar Quandary of Simon Canopus Artyle". I actually really like writing in this world, and I daresay that I find enough potential in it that I'll almost certainly write more for it.

I've got another story in Bad Dog Books' anthology ROAR, Volume 1. This is a story that takes place in the same world that the novels I keep talking about take place in. It's not directly related to either of them, but I like to think it fleshes out the setting in... well, in an admittedly unusual way. It was very much an experimental piece for me, but in the end, I'm happy enough with it.

Anyhow, that's what's been happening with me and writing, lately. I'll make a point to not let this place decay and go dead like it's been for the last few months.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beginning Anew

I've begun serious work on a second novel, now. Technically, I started another novel at the end of 2006, but I realized that I wasn't quite ready to write that one just yet, so I put it back on the shelf for the time being. At present, there are no fewer than four distinct ideas for novels in my head, and I wasn't quite sure which one I'd end up writing first; it came as something of a surprise, actually, when I decided to work on the one that I'm now writing.

I find it interesting how so much of what I'm doing feels different and how so much feels the same when I think of what it was like to write my last novel. It's certainly a long, involved, highly daunting process, but despite how timid I might still be about the whole thing, I know from experience that it's a very rewarding one. There's a story in my head, and like most of the stories in my head, I don't know precisely where it came from--I know only that it's asking to be told, and it's my job to channel it. That makes it sound like a chore, but it's not (even though, at times, the process of sitting down to type things out can feel a little bit grueling; usually it's a lot more enjoyable, though).

One of the scariest things about the whole thing, though, is facing an unwritten novel as some kind of Great Unknown. For me, the elements of my stories and the world around them are almost like things that I discover more than things I make up; so, when I'm writing the novel I am now, I need to remind myself that it's okay that I'm not 100% sure where everything is going or how all of the pieces are going to line up. The word I like to use for storytelling that goes smoothly is organic--and I forget, very often, that there was a time when my first novel was only a string of vaguely-connected ideas, and it was up to me to determine how it all went together.

Thinking about that, it's comforting to see the similarities to my current novel and my previous one, here in the planning stages: I have the conflict, I have the characters, I have the setting, a very strong visual image of the climax, and half of the ending. I have a vague idea of what's going on during the middle of the story.

But really, I think that's part of the fun of actually writing a big story like this: I get to find out for myself what happens as I fill in those blanks, and if I'm telling the story correctly, it'll all grow organically into place in order to end up where it needs to.

The other exciting thing about that is that I know that there are events and characters and happenings that are going to surprise me. There are things in store that I'm 100% unaware of, and when I figure out what they are, I will probably squeak with delight as I fervently jot down a note in my notebook or pound out a paragraph on my keyboard. I recall quite clearly the moment of epiphany that I had at Burbank Airport when I was halfway through my last novel and the events of the second half just suddenly fell into place inside my head, and I look forward to that "Eureka!" happening to me again this second time around.

Most importantly, though, I think that I have a fun, engaging, and meaningful story that folks will enjoy reading, and I'll be very happy if I can get all of those words out into a form that other people get to see someday.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hard at Work

Well, I'm still definitely writing--although I can't say I'm doing a good job of finishing a lot. I still have a lot of half-finished and just-barely-started projects in hand, and I also put a few more nails in my own coffin by starting up another novel. I'm at least doing better, lately, with forcing myself to sit down and write when the time arises (and in forcing time in my schedule to arise), so hopefully, sometime semi-soon, I'll start putting the finishing touches on some short stories.

Last month, I took a two-week seminar course on how to incorporate tension and conflict into writing, and that was actually incredibly helpful. It's hard not to keep what I learned in mind as I write, which is a good thing. After all, as much as writing might be a talent, it's also a skill, and like any skill, if you want to do it well, you can't let yourself be sloppy. In a way, the more I learn, the harder writing gets, since there's more and more to be consciously aware of while actually in the process, but I think that the writing I end up with turns out better, as a result, and if that's the case, I'm all for it.

On a more specifically-furry note, the 2006 Ursa Major Awards open voting on this coming Saturday, March 10. The nominations are already set, but we don't get to see what's up for voting until then. I'm actually kind of excited about that: I'm eligible for at least, er, one piece, I think, personally, but there are a lot of other great works of furry fiction that I had the pleasure to read last year that I hope get the recognition they deserve. Time will tell!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Summer's Fire

This is a story of mine from a couple of years ago. It's a bit on the gay side, and all, so keep that in mind if you don't (or do!) want to read that sort of thing. It's not explicit or anything, but it may not leave a lot to the imagination, either.

"Summer's Fire"

The idea for this story came into being while listening to Heather Alexander's album A Gypsy's Home, and, in particular, to the song "Gypsy's Fire." I had this wonderful mental image to go with it, and I based the story on getting up to that point.

In the end, I ended up scrapping that scene entirely, which I find amusingly ironic. I also think it's a good sign, though, since it implies to myself that the rest of the story stands on its own merits.

The Peculiar Quandary of Simon Canopus Artyle

First off, after some literary housecleaning, I finally seem to have broken back through into my writing groove. I've dusted off some of my older pieces that needed polishing and fixing, and while I'm far from done yet, I've gotten through at least a few, and even that amount of progress is making the rest seem a lot easier. See how cautiously optimistic I can be?

Speaking of which, seeing as this is my writing blog, I figure that I should actually direct folks to some of my writing that's available online. Granted, there isn't a whole lot of it, but what there is, I feel comfortable sharing.

The first one up here is a piece that takes place in a fantasy world of my creation:

This is a strange piece for me, because ever since finishing my first draft of it, I've been really unsure of how to 'fix' it to get it to be presentable. Feedback on earlier drafts was very good, but also very varied, and so in the end, I just needed to get over my fears and make a judgment call. Now, I suppose it's up to you guys to pass judgment on what I've got as a result.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Further Difficulties

This year just hasn't been kind to me in terms of getting writing done. For whatever reason, I'm not getting a lot of time to write, and even when I do, my motivation to do so is very low, and I get very little done.

I think a lot of it might relate to the fact that I'm doing a lot of editing and reworking of pieces and not writing anything new. I mean, I know that editing and redrafting is all still very important, but it might just be that I'm just a bit underexcited, since the pieces I am working on are all old enough that they're not firmly entrenched in my mind. It may also be one of those feedback loops where I fall further behind due to the discouragement I feel at falling behind.

I've got a few deadlines to work with on a few of my pieces, though, so hopefully, that'll help convince me to get back to the keyboard and get things done like I need to start doing.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Groove

So, I've been quiet for a while, but I've also been very busy for a while, as I imagine all of you have been, as well.

I admit to having had some difficulty getting back into the swing of things after the holidays, insofar as writing is concerned. Maybe I just need to shake out some residual brain-dust, or maybe I just need to try harder to make the time to do it. When all else fails, I can always blame work.

At any rate, I do have several projects on both my front and my back burners, so I should hopefully start churning things out soon. Um, fairly soon. I hope.