Yeah, I missed my usual update day, sorry. My life has pretty much whittled down to one job, the other job, and basic human functions like sleeping. And stealing time from somewhere (let's be honest, from the sleeping) to try to polish up a short story due at the end of this month. I've managed to write, I think, about 300 words of my Nano, in a week. Mostly in a five-minute "oh crap I have to go to Job A and I haven't written anything" scrabble of a few sentences in the morning.
Not all of it is lack of time. I had set aside Sunday afternoon to do story work. I'd been looking forward to it all weekend. But by the time it rolled around, I was in the most uncreative mood imaginable, and the last thing I wanted to do was look at critique feedback of all the ways my story wasn't working. Sometimes you're just not in a receptive, problem-solving mood, and all you're going to see is "this story sucks and you suck and you should just go make catbeds for a living in a tree". For all we say "you gotta learn to write no matter what", you also gotta learn to pay attention to what your head's doing. Sometimes the energy you need to work just isn't there. Provided you're not making a habit of that, then it's no harm to listen to it. It's like laying off the gym weights when you've just injured yourself.
So I did more work on Job B instead, to purchase a little more time later, and I ended up not really getting to the writing, other than my scraps of sentences.
Meh. I'm okay with that, frankly. I know what my brain is trying to do right now, and I'm gonna cut it some slack. And I still wrote every day. Even if it was a sentence. I haven't given up on the project, even though my mini-retreat is drawing ever nearer and I still only have scraps of ideas. It's okay.
December is going to kick arse.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
When I conceived yesterday what this post could be about, I had awesome plans. I was going to smash though 6000 words of my Nano in the one afternoon I had off this week, hit 10k which, while still behind, isn't too shabby, and then be decidedly smug about how I'd done it. Because life is pretty much insane right now, and I managed to do the word thing anyway.
That rather fell to pieces when I managed only 1300 words yesterday before other things took over. So I'm still sitting on 6k. 6000 words in eleven days. But you know? I'm okay with that.
You see, I have a new job. I've gone freelance, I'm really excited by it, I have a new contract lined up. I've resigned my current job, but I'm still working there until the end of November. However, due to some happy-fun-lawyer-times (pro-tip: asking a lawyer for anything immediately quintuples that amount of time you think it will take. It took me five weeks to get a simple ten-page contractor agreement together, 70% of which is boilerplate and 20% of which is directly copied from the directions I emailed them.) the start date for my new contract came around before I could resign. So I'm working both jobs, at the same time. The contract is work-from-home, so I can fit it around my office hours, but it still eats every spare moment I have. The only writing time I have is my morning moments (and I lost most of those last week to the "five more minutes" monster, because you know what? Resigning from small companies is stressful. Stress makes me want to sleep in. Go figure.)
But I'm working two jobs at once, while trying to do Nano, and I still managed to write every day, even though some days it was only a few hundred words. I wrote every day. Suddenly 6k is not so bad.
My next trick will be not giving up on it now that it's almost certain I can't reach my 50k psychological carrot - especially when for the rest of November my writing-attention will actually be finishing up a short story for a submission deadline I have. I only started writing this because of Nano. I have no idea what's going on - the characters have long since disobeyed my scrappy plotting, and keep gluing guns to mantelpieces like it's christmas, and I've no idea when or where I can pull all those shots off. But if I'm still actively working on this by the end of November, even if I don't hit anywhere near 50k, I'll be pretty happy.
It's all about reasonable expectations, really.
Monday, 11 November 2013
I've signed up for National Novel Writing Month this year. Which, looking at what's happened my November this year, is a little insane (hello, 70-80 hour working weeks, I'm looking at you). I don't have a plot, yet. I have half a character-sketch, the germ of an idea, some vague magic rules and the notion that maybe A Guy turns up in there somewhere. It's probably YA-Dark-Urban-Fantasy but it could go anywhere, really.
I am not a pantser. I hate trying to see big picture while I'm coming up with sentences, and I hate fumbling around in the dark with no idea where I'm going. Or at least, I hate it when I try to do it for any story longer than 500 words, it's almost an instant recipe for procrastination and my so-called "writer's block". So: I have three post-work evenings to work out enough of a plot of my novel that I know roughly where the arcs should take me, and enough of an idea of the first few scenes to start writing on Friday.
That was the sound of despairing, maniacal laughter. But this is, in theory, possible.
I will have almost zero time to write, except before work. This might actually be to my advantage, though: when I have deadlines, when I don't have other times I can put the writing off to, I tend to get off my butt and get it done. Case in point: 2500 words this morning before work because I needed to get the story written to send in to my critique group by 9am. Bam. Done. Though I'll admit I was late to work because of it. Priorities.
In a sprint, I've written 1000 words in twenty minutes. Let's call it thirty for the fact that I have no idea what these scenes are doing or where the story's going. I need 1700 a day to make Nano; I'd rather have 2000. So that's an hour every morning, before work.
There's a challenge. I've managed to write every day, every single day, since I started my paperclip chain. There are no silver clips in the chain. There is a shiny bauble that indicates when I last actually submitted anything to market, but pay it no mind.
But on quite a lot of those days, what I wrote amounted to a handful of sentences, or even just one sentence. It does not represent a significant daily output. That's my next challenge.
I honestly don't know if this will completely fall apart. November is going to be a nightmare workload, and the sheer stress may will push my "stuff this" button on anything voluntary. But if I can do it--if I can get some novel written when I'm working hours like this--it will be an awesome addition to my anti-excuse arsenal when I'm faffing around not getting things written.
Monday, 28 October 2013
Everyone has their 'things' that they're a little odd about. Pictures hanging crooked, things not being exactly halved, buttons done up oddly, notes sung out of tune. One of mine is colour - it bugs me if there are several colours of the spectrum (for example, a set of coloured pens, a stack of post-its) and they're in a random order. My brain itches to put them in a gradient, so there's a smooth flow of colour through the spectrum. It's a thing. Don't judge me, you have things too.
I had been struggling to keep writing every day post-Odyssey. Not just recovering from the intensity of the experience and the resulting blues, but also switching from the luxury of having nothing to do over there but write, to having so much random life stuff squabble for attention. A common technique passed around by my Od-classmates was the paperclip chain.
Similar to Seinfeld's Don't Break The Chain, you build chains of paperclips for each day that you write. When I found a box of paperclips in 7-colours-plus-silver, I had an idea... not so much 'don't break the chain', because I'd tried those and I fairly quickly broke them. But: Don't Break The Gradient.
Each day that I write, I add the next colour in the gradient. If I miss a day, that day's colour is replaced by silver, forever glaring at me from its place in my broken rainbow. Photo (includes my new lamp that has a 'Coffee' setting. No, it doesn't make coffee):
You'd be surprised how well this is working. I've had several days where I wrote only because I didn't want to have to put a silver paperclip there. So - what 'things' do you have, and how can you leverage them to get yourself to do something you want?
Sunday, 08 September 2013
There's a great article I found via Neil Gaiman's twitter, about a dream-crusher Mrs Smith, who told an aspiring writer at seventeen that one day she'd find a more realistic goal than writing the books she loved. We've all had a Mrs Smith or two, somewhere in our lives, and only some of us manage to realise she's talking out of orifices not intended for speech.
She's projecting fear - her own fear of failure, the reason she hasn't tried - and she thinks she's doing you a favour. But she's not the only one who does that: we do it to ourselves.
Pre-Odyssey (heads-up, I think you're going to get a lot of those comparisons; my brain is still 'decompressing' and processing those six weeks) I would have told you I was taking writing seriously. I had my novel all over my wall. I was actively working on stories, I was sending them out. I'm not going to tell you how often I was writing or how many stories, because this isn't about "doing it right", this isn't about a cutoff where if you don't do X then you're not taking it seriously.
You know you're taking it seriously when you stop hedging. When you stop letting that fear of failure make you try a little less than your best. Procrastinate until you don't have time to do the best you could do. Let non-life-shattering events get in the way (look, if your hand falls off I'll give you dispensation for not writing that day. But I, personally, know a lot of life stuff that I was putting in the Stops Me From Writing category didn't really deserve to be there). When you stop worrying about hearing yoru inner Mrs Smith say I told you so.
Each person has to find their own way to do it. And to be honst, you probably don't actually have to. Putting aside the things I learned at Odyssey, I was doing okay productivity-wise and motivation-wise. I would have got somewhere eventually. The point is now that I'm happier, working this way on my dream, than I was when I was hedging. Mrs Smith can go to hell.
Sunday, 11 August 2013
And now we come to the portion of the year where I offer hopefully-interesting blog posts of links, resources and images with very little commentary for about two months, because all of these have been created in advance while I'm off at Odyssey.
To start us off, a recent post by maverick musicion Amanda Palmer, famous for her $1 million kickstarter campaign and generally revolutionary approach to making music and getting paid for it. She talks about being an artist in a commercial world. It's a long read, but a well worth it.
Monday, 03 June 2013
I haven't been doing as much techwriting at my day job lately. The company is experimenting with a web app project, and when our initial developer's contract ended, I, as resident Wearer Of All Unclaimed Hats, took over development.
That's not quite as crazy as it sounds - I have a comp sci masters, I used to teach programming at university, I've dabbled with my own projects and the company had sent me on a weeklong course to learn the library I was going to be using. Still, it was a very big shift to go from techwriting-and-occasional-coding to full time all-day all-brain coding.
And at first you notice the achievements. You write some code, and hey - pretty! Look at what I built! Look at that hilarious thing I just made it do because I forgot to put a negative sign in. Look, I fixed it! Look, I added features! I must admit, our initial dev got most of the fun of that; when I inherited the project it was fairly close to release-state on mobile. My job was to create a version that can work on desktop (browser compatability can be an issue), can switch between a mobile and desktop layout depending on the screen size, and polish it to a releasable state.
That last one has shown me a really crucial difference in the psycholog of productivity between coding and techwriting.
When techwriting, if you write for nine hours, you (generally, barring interpreting something incorrectly, hasn't happened to me often) end up with nine hours' worth of document. You come to work, and when you leave there has been a noticable increase in the amount of stuff.
Coding, especially at this, the nitty-gritty-itty-bitty bug fixing end, there's no guarantee. I come into work, and when I leave there have been perhaps three lines of code added (and a few hundred added and thrown away because they don't address the issue, or they do but they break something else". Sometimes I go home and I've made no improvements to the code at all, merely determined a whole lot of ways that don't solve the problem. (That happened a lot this past week with a particularly pernicious iOS browser bug involving the on-screen keyboard and the device reorienting. Which is, in fact, a slightly different bug in every iOS device / OS version I test. And don't even get me started on the hideousness that is the galaxy tab. No glower can express the hatred I have for on-screen keyboards.)
Working in an environment where the main task of the company consistently produces output for hours input, and where I know other people's billable hours are being leveraged to pay my wage for this development time, I get increasingly angsty about a lack of visible progress. And there is always, in the back of your mind, that little running calculation that constantly wonders at what point you should just nuke a particular piece of code from orbit and refactor it into something better-constructed.
I love the quick and decisive achievements that coding offers. But I do also enjoy the steady evidence of productivity that techwriting offers, too. Especially when it's on someone else's dollar.
In related news, an awesome, awesome tumblr my brother sent me: DevOpsReactions. Priceless.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
I've been trying to think of that word for forty minutes, now. Galvanised. I was describing how another writer was responding to the news that Clarion had rejected her - she'd (according to her) done her share of sooking that morning, but by the afternoon she was a blaze of determination on twitter. (The word that kept coming to mind instead was 'garnished', which just makes me visualise plated-up authors with little sprigs of rejection emails on their shoulders. Brain is weird.)
I, sitting mercurially on the Clarion waitlist (yay! they didn't reject me outright! Crap, more waiting! Double-crap, my boss is going to hate me if I get accepted with two weeks' notice!) and knowing my own tendency for not taking failure or rejection particularly well, admired her strength to turn a setback around like that. Both of us were waiting for the response from Clarion West, and I hoped (and didn't believe) that were I to be rejected, I could cope with the same grace she has.
Well it came this morning. As you might guess from the post heading - no, I didn't get in. And yeah, I was pretty crushed: I've long-adored Gaiman's work, and was ecstatic to hear Margo Lanagan (whose work mine has been compared to several times) would be joining the lineup. In the way that we all get slightly superstitious over something we really want that we don't have much control over, it seemed simultaneously 'meant to be' and too good to actually happen. I worked my arse off on the application stories, I took a chance on the application essay in an attempt to stand out. But no banana.
I called my mother, we had a bit of a chat, I had an almost-cry. I was down to single-syllable mumbled responses and "mm"s, and definitely not winning any awards for 'cheeriest acceptance of a rejection'. But then something happened. I started talking about actions, what I could do. What I was going to do, even with just today. And of how I knew that, as a writer, the biggest thing I had to learn was how to not let rejection affect my work and work habits. And my little inner-three-year-old, the one we have on video stamping her little foot and insisting "I can do it myself!" came to the fore.
I don't need Clarion. This is not the dismissal of bitterness - I dearly, dearly wanted to get in. If they turned around and said "oops! we sent you the wrong email by mistake, our bad!" you'd hear my shriek of joy in Canada. But not getting in doesn't prove anything, and it doesn't set me back anywhere I wasn't already. And as much as I wanted to get in, I can get where I want in life without it. And it helps to remind me that, as an author, I can work as hard as humanly possible and still not get what I want. That's just how the world works.
Clarion would have been an awesome opportunity, but there are others. I've just made a bunch of connections with other Clarion-applicants (accepteds, not-accepteds and waitlistees) that I hope we can forge into something beyond April first - I think in honesty I owe quite a bit to them for how I've managed to respond to this. I've just submitted all the application stories I wrote to contests and magazines (don't ask why I hadn't done it before; waiting and hoping for something you really, really want is sometimes rather paralysing.) And the places where I've submitted previously, though they aren't publishing me yet, like my work and ask me to send more. And while I would have learned a lot, no writer whose work I love actually went to Clarion, or anything like it. Clarion is not an essential step in Becoming A Writer.
So I'm going to go now do the only real essential step: write.
Monday, 25 March 2013
Some links to random things of interest that I found over the last two weeks:
A great article on the different kinds of episodic writing. While they're mostly using television as the examples, it matches perfectly to serial writing (which is something that is really starting to interest me.)
Women giving up their femininity to be the man in the family in Albania. I think this is fascinating, though tragic that these women felt this was their best option.
Neil Gaiman's new year's wish for 2013, because he always makes them awesome.
And in case you need more incentive (and not because I'm on a Gaiman kick), Neil Gaiman says you should be writing.
Lastly, here is an absolutely gorgeous piece of fan-art depicting the entire story of the hobbit, stain-glass-window style. I adore this - how bloody amazing would it be to see talented people create things like this inspired by your work?
Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Today's post is taken from a comic called The Oatmeal, which has an awesome (though sweary) strip about being a content-creator (ie writer, blogger, etc, especially on the 'net).
Sunday, 02 December 2012
My brain is not in a writing space right now. It hasn't been for a while - about two months, in fact. Story ideas do not strike me at random times, or often at all. I find it near-impossible to immerse myself in a story long enough to construct a sentence, and the idea of thinking about a plot or emotional arc is just exhausting. The space that is normally filled with writing and story has been hijacked by decisions and ramifications of a Big Life Event, and now that Big Life Event has happened, the energy that I would use to think about story is, I suspect, being used to Not Think About the Big Life Event.
I tried to have a writing afternoon with a friend of mine today. The story I had planned to write didn't work at all. Admittedly, I haven't written in about two months, but even by those standards it was stilted and info-dumpy and I couldn't get into the story that I cared about. I just couldn't make the emotional connection to it.
My brain is running away from itself because there are bills to pay and dinner to cook and and you can't do those things if you're busy falling apart, so instead of writing it insists we have to fill all the holes that were just scooped out of my house. Because that's a problem I can solve, but writing would involve sitting down and being quiet and listening to my thoughts because that's where the writing comes from and above it involves all not running away.
It's goes something like: in order to write, you have to expose yourself, you have to be sensitive to emotion and pain and passion, because otherwise you can't tap into it to communicate it. So to get on with life after Big Life Events, you wall a bit of yourself off so you can deal with it a bit at a time. But to write, you have to tear the walls down.
And to be honest, I think I'm doing okay in the circumstances. I'm "not okay", but I'm okay with that. I'm functioning, I'm making my life work - the bills are paid, the dinner is cooked - and frankly it's quite healthy and normal to be not okay just yet. We set a lot of store by people 'being okay', like if someone isn't okay after something like this, then that's something that has to be fixed. But it isn't. It's something that has to be walked through. This is part of the process. Everyone goes through it and gets through it and we all have our own individual journey, but it's pretty much the same.
I was a little disappointed, because the last time I had a life event like this (admittedly, on a much smaller scale and impact) I threw myself into writing. I wrote 8000 words in an afternoon and finished my first novel. I was, perhaps a little mercinarily, hoping for the same thing, that I could throw myself into the novel.
But no. It is apparently of monumental importance that I buy the right couch.
Monday, 26 November 2012
Oops. Life has been rather hectic lately, to put it mildly, and I must admit that I managed to completely forget last week's posts entirely. First time since I've started this blog that I actually forgot to post... I've sort of been in a place where there's too much in my head, and everyday things - even writing - has been pushed aside for a while.
My novel remains unwritten - it still needs a good going over of the synopsis again, because there are holes. I signed up for nano, but that's a lost cause this year, I think. Life's just taken over. But I'm going to do a similar challenge, just one more suited to my current state. I'm not sure what the time or word limits will be yet, but it's going to be X-Thousand Words Of Play.
Not set writing to get something written that I need. Just playing. Writing whatever. I haven't done that in far too long. I think my brain needs an allowance to puddle around with its shoes off for a while.
Monday, 12 November 2012
I don't read anywhere near as much as I would like to. My pile of to-be-read books long since ceased being a pile; it grew so large that it now in fact outnumbers the books I own that I have read, and now they're all mixed in together in my bookshelves. I keep mental tabs on which ones I have read, it's easier. It also means I can rejoice all the more when new books come into my door, because the list of "things I have to read" doesn't actually get any bigger - I'm not tracking it anymore.
It's just hard to make time to do it. When I have spare time that isn't eaten up with housework or cooking, I'm working on writing. And then it's bedtime.
This is compounded by the fact that even when I do read, there isn't really anything to do with the experience afterwards. I don't really have 'book discussion' friends. I don't have a book club because I already do too many things.
One of my dearest friends found herself (and several other people she knows) in a similar position - would like to read more, but the lack of external motivation means it's so easy to sneak out of it. She suggested starting a virtual book club.
Now, this isn't a new idea - goodreads (and probably every other social-book-reviewing site) has a mechanism set up for exactly this, with thousands of groups already using it. But the notion of book clubs is something that, at least to my mind, belongs more to the previous generation than to mine. I was quite taken with it - discovering new books, and having an external reason to get around to reading the ones that I should, talking about them - but virtually, so there's no time-sensitivity. It's brilliant.
If only we could think of what to name it.
Monday, 22 October 2012
Week 2 of my story challenge and I have yet to write an actual bloody story, but my other projects are going swimmingly. My RP campaign (zombie apocalypse) is settling in, my programming has just started getting itself together again, and my 15-post-it-notes-a-day attempt to actually get the events and finer details of my novel plotted out is actually happening:
Yes, it's all carefully blurred out so you can't actually read anything. Mwahahaha.
I'm not too worried about the lack of story challenge, really. The past week (fortnight, really) has been the end of a huge project at work, and I've been coming hope absolutely wrecked with the stress of getting everything out the door on time. The fact that the other (arguably more important to me) projects have finally started moving again more than makes up for my dithering with the shorts, here.
Monday, 08 October 2012
I had a writing session with a buddy of mine not long ago, and it came to my attention that the number of stories I have sitting waiting to be written is probably not normal. And probably not healthy.
I'll admit, I'm a natural hoarder. I took my grandmother's war-years attitude of "this might be useful someday" and ran with it, and while I'm managed to cull it in response to physical things (mostly by realising that I had to pack all that crap when I moved house) I can't let go of an idea. I love them. And they do come in useful. They mutate and mature and change and merge and turn into new ideas (which also need to be hoarded). My preciousssses.
But the consequence of that is that the 'Ideas' on the Trello board I showed you yesterday outweighs any other list on that board by at least a factor of ten. I didn't screencap the whole board - the ideas list runs much further down the page.
I just counted. More than forty story ideas sitting there. Some of them novels, some shorts, some novellas, some series. Waiting to be written. And more keep being added. I get ideas much faster than I do anything with them, but it's getting to the point that I never know which story to write because there are so many and as soon as I'm writing one, I'm not writing all the others. Classic sweet deprivation, to paraphrase Pratchett.
So I have the idea to set myself a challenge, to write X number of those shorts in a given time frame. Something like NaNoWriMo, and similar to Dan Wells' NaShoStoMo challenge from last year, but for existing ideas for short stories. I haven't yet decided on the particulars, but I suspect it's going to work out to one a week, because it's something I probably can manage with a stretch at the moment, at this end of the year. Stay tuned for updates.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
You know what? This is exactly how I feel about my story ideas... (XKCD).
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
I wrote this post last week, but a perfectly-timed thirty-second DNS outage ate it, and in frustration I that instead of rewriting it, I'd sulk and put a post of videos instead. But now it's next week, and hey, I'll write it again. And this time I'll press Ctl-A, Ctl-C before hitting 'save'. I need to see if Joomla has an autosave plugin somewhere, you'd laugh if I told you how often this happens... Anyway...
I love alien landscapes. When I travel and I go looking at a new country, that's what I'm really looking for. Ancient ruins are a good second; the less-anglo the better (well, the less known about them the better. I like a blank canvas for ideas). But nothing gets my writer-mind flowing like standing in a place that looks like it could double for Mars or Titan.
For a long time, I thought I wasn't going to find that on my trip. Don't get me wrong: California's pretty, but it's a very terrestrial prettiness. Yellow-brown earth with tufts of black-green trees. Mountains of more of the same. There were stunning vistas down at Lake Tahoe, and gorgeous trees and rocks (don't judge me, I like big rocks and I cannot lie...) at Yosemite, but while that was fun for Holiday Brain, it wasn't what Writer Brain (who is always running the show in secret, I suspect) was really looking for.
When I was little, my uncle painted alien landscapes as murals all over the interior walls of his house. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing ever (though spending months and years completing such a project was inconceivable to a six-year-old. That was, like, forever.) I wanted the same - I wanted rooms that were other places, other worlds. Something of the extroadinary in living. Never mind the fact that I was still drawing people as two blobs, four sticks and a belly button (even when they were wearing clothes, I really had a thing for belly buttons.) I wanted alien murals.
This was before I discovered my love of story, before I knew I wanted to write for a living: I wanted a house filled with the wierd and wonderful, the things that would make me imagine, things that would make me create stories to explain them. I still want that.
It's a minor setback that I never really bothered learning to paint. And also that the Australian housing market and my chosen career mean I won't own a house I can paint the insides of until I'm fifty. But hey. Goals, man.
I love cacti and weird plants as well, and coral reefs and bizarre sea creatures like nudibranches. I'd keep a cactus garden, except I've managed to kill every plant ever given to me (including two cacti), but for one which was saved by the intervention of my mother (and has become really-not-my-plant-anymore, since I moved out and completely (honestly) forgot to take it with me. It's happy where it is. It has a balcony view, and shelter from the wind, and someone who actually remembers to water it more than once a year. It's better for everyone, really. Mum, I don't want the plant back. Don't tell my uncle. Yes, it's the same uncle, he gave me the plant. It's a nice plant. But it won't stay a nice plant if it comes and lives with me.)
I think we're perhaps a little egocentrical when we consider alien life - that "life unlike our own" somehow translates into still having limbs and mouths and eyes somewhere, just with a different coloured skin, or maybe some antennae.
We really don't stretch ourselves that much, we don't even look at some of the truly bizarre things on our own planet. I suspect it's partly because we had to limit ourselves to alien creatures that could be performed by a man in a suit, but we're well beyond that need technologically, and I'd really like to think we'll start reaching further ideologically soon.
But I digress - I found what I was looking for, not in California, but Nevada. I went purely for the Grand Canyon, and just booked a tour somewhere else because I was there a few days and really not sure what I was going to do in Vegas otherwise. And I'm glad I did, because while the Grand Canyon is, y'know, Grand, it's still really just a great big hole in the ground. It's pretty enough, I guess, but it was more of that brown-and-yellow-with-green-scrubby-bush that I was (I'm sorry) getting rather tired of after three weeks of driving through nothing but.
But the Fire Canyon (right). That was Roadrunner-and-Wile-E-Coyote country. Red sandstone (actually, very reminiscent of the red earths of Aus) carved into shapes by millenia of wind, set against the yellow natural rock-soil and black granite mountains. And within it, Mouse Canyon (above) named for the Native-American version of Ned Kelly, Mouse, who would retreat here where there was a waterhole and the land was unbreachable.
The silence is unbelievable. Silence and heat aren't two things that I would normally put together. It was silent in Kirkenes, when I was watching the Northern Lights dance over an empty snowfield, but that was different. Like sound completely muffled, rather than the absence of it altogether.
In Australia, there's always noise, though we don't always consciously hear it. Our outback is a desert, but it's full of life and movement. You'd be amazed how much actually lives out there. There's rustling of leaves or dirt shifting in the wind, the skitter of small creatures, even the cry of distant cicacads. (On a side note, I now understand why American literature describes cicadas as singing, as even something pleasant to listen to. As with everything else, Australia's version is bigger, badder and has an Attitude.)
But here, the American desert, there's nothing. You're alone - nobody lives here, they just drive by to look at the scenery, and the sand and rock swallow the sound of them, bury it. You're miles from anyone, and the silence is a presence, like the desert itself is watching you.
The land, in places, is carved into tiny valleys and rivulets like a maze, and you can easily imagine the desert-labyrinth testing heroes, separating the worthy from the not. Or narrow your eyes and lose the scale of the sandstrone sculptures, and they're suddenly massive cliffsides where entire communities live, burrowed into the rock.
This is the kind of stuff I travel for. Not the museums and galleries and libraries (though they can be fun, for a change) and certainly not to "be seen" (as was explained to me by my hair-dresser, who was horrified that I was travelling for three weeks and had only taken hand luggage. The look on her face as she whispered "but... outfit repeating", like I was planning on feeding small children to bears. Priceless). To find the places on our planet that pull me out of the ordinary, that have secrets to be discovered or invented.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Not much room for story - in fact, no room at all, which is generally my idea of a nightmare. But not in this case - the novelty (and freedom!) of trakking around solo like that, facing entirely different challenges from my usual life, was enough for my mind to play with.
I found something interesting when I got home, though: Within 36 hours of stepping off the plane, I'd covered my giant whiteboard in my office with the solution to a major problem that had been dogging my novel/series for months.
There's a "background plot" that runs behind all of the novels, influencing them, but only really tying together in the final books. When I left for California, I had only the vague notion that it was going to be a bit of a kludge to write each book not really knowing what that plotline was, but I didn't think I could plan it to any real accuracy without scening-out all nine books in the series right now. Now, I have it. I know what's going on. No more kludge. It's not scened-out in detail, but it's enough so I know what's going on there at any point in the 'other' story.
We often think of writer-breaks as time to get away and write, but sometimes the break can be to get away from writing. And I don't mean just decide not to write for a while - that can help, but it's not really what's going on here. Put yourself in a situation where you really can't think about it, because whatever you're doing is too new and exciting* to leave room for it. Your creative mind will run off and make new connections under the surface, break old and tired assumptions and be able to approach the whole project refreshed.
*I don't recommend trying to have a writing break by just filling up your life with mundane things, like overworking, or highly stressful environments. At least in my experience, that results in your creative mind shutting down completely, rather than wandering off on its own to have ideas without telling you.
Monday, 13 August 2012
I must admit, I'm feeling particularly uninspired for blog posts this weekend. Plus I owe people critiques that I haven't finished yet. Thankfully, other people wrote interesting stuff that's worth a read.
Toni McGee Causey tells us why, even when the publishing industry is imploding and exploding at the same time, we still need writers. Baldur Bjarnason (who also wins this week's prize for Most Awesome Name I Have Come Across In Quite A While (And I Just Watched A Pixar Movie) has a great post on how the publishing industry is setting us all up for a wonderful world of piracy, just like the comic industry, the movie industry and the music industry. And no, it's not that piracy is inevitable.
Dean Wesley Smith has a great post on ebook pricing, the bane of indie/self publishers everywhere. And Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a must-read about the pitfalls of critiques and edits and the notion of 'perfection' in our work. If you go to one link from this page, make sure it's this one.
Tuesday, 03 July 2012
I swear I'm not lazy, there's just been some really cool stuff out there. I'm carefully going to ignore the whole DOJ Settlement stuff until someone much more lawyer-ful than I comes out with an analysis, because if there's one thing that whole scandal has shown, it's that people really shouldn't mouth off about legal matters they don't fully understand because it rapidly becomes apparent that they're morons or in somebody's pocket. (Seriously, you should read some of the letters being send about the settlement and lawsuit. Misunderstandings of law aside, the sheer contortions of logic required to support their arguments are hilarious.)
2. Some stuff on the legal notion of unconscionability (say it drunk, I dare you. Now try to spell it. Ugh. Lawyers.) in contracts by J. A. Konrath, a discussion on whether the we-all-know-it's-fan-fiction 50 Sahdes od Grey actually violates Meyer's copyright at Passive Voice, and Hugh Howey talks about how his self-published novel WOOL became 'hot movie property'.
And lastly, an entertaining look at a writer's "billable hours" by David Barron.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012