Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Whooo, thought I had lost my computer for a couple of days there, but it is still among the living, and I resume my blog and
web page updates (see Explorations and the Homeworld) after a short delay.
24 feb 09 @ 8:20 pm
I've done quite a bit of writing the past week, all sorts of odd bits, not least of which is my retirement planning. Though
long in the future, I am as apt to write of plans for then as current journal mussings and story notes (a character idea here,
a scene idea there, a new approach to a problematical story line). I started writing lesson plans for my imagined second
career as writer and part time guest lecturer/writing teacher (based on my yet-to-be-achieved credentials of publishing fame).
It's a good mental excercise even if the teaching career never comes to pass, and includes a few lessons I can use in my current
This week's lesson plan notions included a discussion exercise (with my own teacher's cheat sheet of ideas to get things going
and make sure they hit the key points) on definitions of genre writing. What elements make a book fit into one genre or another
(sometimes two, rarely three successfully except if the third is histical fiction)? The latter is a cross-cutting genre of
sorts that fits into many genres, but of course every rule has its exceptions and deviants. The definitions of them all overlap
to varying degree, but still, most people recognise the primary genre when they see it.
I think of genres as the not-so-mainstream, the stuff the stuffy don't consider literature (unless you remind them that certain
"classics" fall into those genre's and helped define them): romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, westerns
are the ones that come first to mind. There are others, too, and sub genres and I tried to list some defining elements of
each. I was alittle surprized then, later in the week, to realize that those are not the genres being refered to when some
of the literary prizes allow submissions from "any genre". They mean only the big three: fiction, creative non-fiction,
and poetry, alas for us genre writers. It's as if genre writing didn't exist, which would be fine if they meant that all
fiction genre's count as fiction, but a perusal of past winning entries in the fiction category reveals no such interpretation,
not even a classic romantic comedy in the bunch. Still, we march on, and eventually someone will notice that the best writing
of the genre is the best writing, too.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I have written a lot over the years. Much of it will never be seen by anyone, both because it is so badly written and because
one of the reasons I didn't revise it more was that the story and characters moved on and I decided that the real story came
further along in their lives. Still, I've reused the old stuff as the basis of later stories or other characters, and I find
myself going back to those earlier writings repeatedly, for flash backs, to explain the nature of a character and their reactions
to present circumstances, to show how hard it is for them to face something because of the memories it stirs, and as material
for dream sequences, historical to the character or just an enlightening dream.
18 feb 09 @ 6:54 pm
With all of those uses, I never throw anything away, but that doesn't mean it is easy to find. The last several years I have
been putting story matieral, drafts, notes and--believe-it-or-not--entire novels from their hand-written form into the computer
for revision, but in order to make progress towards doing the much needed revisions, I have not been typing in the history
of the characters and other background notes and story versions, except that which has already been incorporated into the
draft books as flashbacks or whatever.
That means the history notes are in ever more deeply buried piles of notes, dusty files, and piles of papers with the drafts
i did use as "not useful" (until I remember just enough to realize that it might be useful afterall). More recently,
I have been typing in less finished stories, where I have something of a story line but lack many scenes, and certainly haven't
fleshed them out with background and flashbacks and other important historical substance, as well as still needing ideas to
flesh out the story with meaty scenes. I have started typing in the history more as a matter of course for these, when I
can find the required notes, and when they actually exist.
I've encountered two phenomenon. One I expected: horribly written history that I originally thought would be THE story (with
a rare great description or setting), and one I had forgotten about: one of the reason they seem so badly written was because,
unrevised, they failed to capture the essence I had been aiming for. I have filled in the scenes in my own memory, but having
never gone back to revise the written material, I find the written material missing elements I thought were there. They all
I can do is use the old, incomplete notes to jog my memory as I write the backflash or dream sequence, wondering--possibly
forever--if I will ever come across the scene I thought I had written or if it really was just my imagination filling in
the past over time, as I'm sure we do to our own lives, too.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Romance in Fantasy and SF
Since it is the 14th, I figure I must say something of romance. It's easy to think about and talk about romance when it comes
to fantasy. Like fairy tales, most fantasy has strong romantic elements, the lady for whom the hero fights, the true love
that holds out against all the forces set to destroy it, the unreturned love of one character for another that may be tragic
or sweet. The story ongoing on the Fantasy Explorations page has a couple of romance tales going on in the background: Tei
and Marlatta, Mikkel and Onaline, though the latter is one-sided.
14 feb 09 @ 1:32 pm
In science Fiction, except science fiction that borders on being fantasy, anyway, like Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern
books, romance is usually more minor if it can be found at all. Relationships between men and women, if they exist, tend
to be more about sex or friendship than love and romance, although there are plenty of exceptions. Pip and Flinx, rarely
had anyone that could be called a love interest, except the bond between each other, and even side characters rarely had a
life-long love interest that played any role in the story. (There was a character that had married presumably for money,
but he stayed faithful to her in all his wanderings, but I can't think of a single other love relationship in those stories.
Many friendships of many sorts, but not the classical romantic love.)
I have wondered often and remain without an answer: Do the topics of SF, frequently of metal ships and technology, strange
science and elusive math, make it more difficult to incorporate the soft words of love and romance? Do future and space writers
see an advancing culture where love and romance, traditional partnerships and families are no longer a part of life? Or is
it just a pattern of the genre, a habit born of perceived interests in the readers (true or false) that pushes writers and/or
editors to leave love out?
I suspect that I have strong fantasy leanings, even when I write science fiction stories. Even my space fiction stories all
have a minor romance thread, usually for the main chanracter but distant from the main action of the story. For Qiri, her
love interest is merely a framework, the unrequited lover around for openning and ending scenes but only a subject of thoughts
and dreams, as often painful as pleasant, and a cause of reactions and decisions in between. Mxyra has several romantic interludes
with different potential lovers, as the object of affection and one willing to give it due consideration and only toward the
end of her tales does she find and accept one who may mean more. Linnel and Kanter, paired central characters, go so far
as to follow the fantasy ideal of a true love pairing that outside forces would destroy if they could. That story, though,
is one of the SF stories that has more than romance to give it a srong fantasy flavor. All those stories make progress, but
they are not yet nearly as done as Beyond the Wall and the Paths of magic tales and are not yet really ready for review, unless
I post a scene or two here for ideas and feedback on a more narrow scale.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Motivational Speakers, success planners, many self-help sources suggest envisioning success, picturing yourself in the future,
imagining yourself in the future, what it will be like when you achieve success: only then can you get there. It's a good
idea, I'm sure, if only as a means of setting a more clear goal and providing yourself an incentive for achieving it. Many
successful business people, sports players, artists seem to do it, from what I've seen on news clips and such. It isn't as
easy, though as it sounds.
10 feb 09 @ 7:07 pm
I do make efforts to imagine what it could be like, will be like, when i get the successful book sale Iím aiming for. My
mind can go on wild flights of fancy about late night talk shows and midday talk shows (I presume they will have them) and
speaker events at SF cons. (Iím not quick witted with verbal reparteeí but I have given speeches to varying degrees of success).
I imagine movie opening nights and book signings, royalty checks and fan mail.
Often though, my visions of the future end more toward smaller events, less success, and more challenge. (The presence of
a challenge would at least mean i got noticed...) and questions of the sort that make me feel obligated to defend and justify,
explain and excuse. Why did you...? Why didnít you...? How could you think...?
(I didnít blog the the story line like I planned because I couldnít figure out how to run parallel blogs and decided separate
pages were better than confusion besides all those pesky issues of copy right protection. I add the occasional mushy scene
or almost sexually violent scene because it seems right for the story and all too acceptable in modern popular lit, but the
worst such scenes never go out to my readers, at least not in their original graphic detail or as I imagine them, because
no one needs to be told how its done. if they donít know, they donít need to know. Their imagination will fill in more than
enough, Iím sure.)
These imagined dialogs (with disappointed would-be fans, frustrated agents, declining publishers...) serve their purpose.
They are, i suppose, a way of dealing with issues i remain undecided on (I keep working on one story i will probably never
offer to a reader much less publication because I really like the character and really cant put most of what i put her through
in print, not as is. is it evil of me to think up such tortures? Is it purging inner demons or encouraging them?) I would
prefer, though, to discuss the more borderline scenes with someone in the business, like an agent or editor, instead of only
Meanwhile, I must work through and fight past such concerns lest they keep me from continuing. I must persevere, like my
willful, witty torture victim, in working toward that more desirable scene of unquestioned success until I reach that glowing
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Community doesn't quite mean what it used to. I've often recieved the advice, in various jobs, as a writer, from self-help
books, to be part of the community, to engage, to exchange ideas with people who have similar interests. It is easily said
but community seems to be increasingly difficult to find and harder to join, harder to be part of, so it seems to me.
7 feb 09 @ 5:51 pm
Part of it, I'm sure, is that my main communities are communities of writers, and that goes hand-in-hand with introverts,
but not with writing letters or communicating in direct dialog. Writers, at least fiction and report writers, tend to write
to the world as their primary mode of communication. The writing can be "engaging", it can "communicate a
message" effectively, but it is hard to be part of except in a collaborative writing project.
I have occasionally found groups of writers that I felt part of: several people back in college also wrote, an APA exchange
for a few years with ten or so writers, and briefly a group of women writers who had taken a summer class together and several
of whom stayed in touch for awhile after. All of those, though, were local to where I was living at the time. Now my target
community is scattered; I have no one local. With technology and social software and all, locality isn't supposed to matter,
but the online world has its own limitations, and engaging remains as challenging as forming a new group of people. It still
requires finding others with similar interests, similar willingness to commit time, and some ability to navigate digital channels
that continue to elude me. Still, with all communities, they can't form in a day, and I keep exploring the possibilities.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I don't know if its's allergies (the brief thaw encouraged the leaf molds and mildew, though it's cold again), or yet another
cold to make up for years without, but it's making my head a bit foggy, and my thoughts also.
3 feb 09 @ 6:34 pm
I like to give advice and spend much time at work answering questions on many topics, a few of them writing. Those who mostly
see my typing don't know I can spell but those who see my editing notes know I can and often ask for a quick check, but there
are exceptions. I haven't yet sorted out those pesky words ending in ence and ance, endt and andt: independence, for instance,
or correspondence as a happenstance. Is it independent of the word form, or a dependent circumstance? Perchance, do you
know a way to racall?
I also find that while I always edit certain phrases out, I'm likely to put them in the next piece (until revision, then out
it goes again. Doing a grammer check, I found that 'but" was one of the common oversuses in my collection. i like the
sense of contrast and compare, the almost, but not quite. Now I look for it and find better ways. If the contrast is obvious,
what need to point it out? And sometimes it isn't even a contrast so much as just an "and" in need of variety.
There are, there were, there was were also commmon in my drafts (and not only mine). Forcing myself to take them out has
sometimes been a challenge but forced me to put yet more into active voice, action, and to encouraged more distinct phrases
with better meat and clearer meaning. Identifying such things in my own work is well worth the hunt, but they have proven
habbits hard to break and remain in the edit stage.