Friday, July 31, 2009

Aside: As the Brain 'Splodes

Nothing provides me with a wellspring of glee so much as dipping pen to paper and forming words on a page. Novels, short stories, poems, or general world-building -- as long as I'm creating, molding, weaving, bliss is mine.

The instruments of my happiness in the writing endevour are firstly my brain, which recognizes the true joy of building and spinning tales from the ether, and secondly my muse, a whimsical mind sprite who graces me with her presence from time to time in the form of Brilliance (which my inner editor assures me is all in the mind of the writer).

A couple of weeks ago, needing a break from relentless editing, I delved into the realm of a new short story and decided to play there for a while, spinning it on the pottery wheel of my earstwhile brain. The brain was pleased, as was my muse, who clapped her hands in fiendish delight as the words tumbled out onto the computer screen.

But brains, like muses, are fickle creatures. Possibly in reaction to a looming zombie threat, my brain decided to pull a garden gnome on me -- it split for better pastures. Oh sure, I got postcards with big glossy pictures and fluffy, loopy text: "The plot's here, wish you wrote this well!" and "This is your brain on books." and "Viva l'Existance!" I got tales of how my brain was feverishly editing elsewhere, working for someone else, enjoying the greener grasses. I got a lot of pictures of blue phone boxes and fireplaces, which are apparently all the rage in the travelsphere these days. (They never appear on Expedia or Priceline - I can only assume they're so popular the tickets go as soon as they appear on the sites.)

The messages became more obscure as the week passed - something about harsh labor conditions and no regrets. The last photo I saw of my missing gray matter was on the back of a lunchroom milk carton, just moments before the news broke -- "Brain declared DED". Depleted, Exploited, and Dead.** The shockwave of my brain's explosion had killed three innocent pencils and twice as many trees. I was in shock. That was ALL? Just how depleted was my brain when it went, anyway?

So this week I set about reborning a brain for myself. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it takes a lot of clay, paint, precision, and a well-ventilated oven. Once the process is complete, it looks quite brain-like. And once you stuff it with polyfill pellets no one's the wiser.

Except for my muse. She popped in rather tentatively Wednesday, just to make sure my mind had returned, and made it quite clear she despised the echo, found the lighting dreary, and would have demanded HER money back for the decorative travesty. After declaring the whole place positively unfit for her dwelling, she vanished. Usually she makes a ruckus on departure, screaming and ranting about some injustice or another, but this time there was nothing. Only silence.

Sometime between Thursday and this morning she returned with piles of designer throwrugs, a tiffany lamp, a papasan chair, and a pack of popped corn. This afternoon, I checked back to see an outrageous, expensive wardrobe had found a home, along with her favorite pet quartz and several pounds of chocolate. (Apparently the fact that I can no longer indulge in solid chocolate does nothing to stop my muse from flaunting her personal stash.) Yes folks, it looks like she's here to stay.

Now me, my muse, and my brain return to our regularly scheduled Plan Hours. Will we meet our word count goal? Will we ever finish our short story and return to the enduring tale of StarStones? Tune in next week for another installment of "As the Brain 'Splodes"...

**And remember, kids, don't loan out your brain to timelords.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A New Procrastinateling

A few months ago, I blogged on the procrastinatelings that inhibit our ability to write or work on novels. One in particular, blogging, has not plagued me this summer. In fact, I have been so remiss in my blogging that I wonder the TriMu keeps my ugly mug up on the sidebar.

Although I have not been hounded by the blogging procrastinateling, I have met with a new one, so powerful, it ripped me away from my assigned blog days. The dread procrastinateling has a foreign and exotic sounding name--noveling.

Yes, friends, my novel (and those of other members of this group, but I'll let someone else blog about that) has invaded my brain to the point that the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning is that I actually want to open up Chapter 7 and rip into yet another scene revision. The last thing I want to do when I sit down to my computer is blog.

So, this is all you get for now--a brief recognition that, yes, I am still alive. And now it's time to feed my happy new procrastinateling while he is with me. If the past is any indication, he won't be here long.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking a Sounding

Today has snuck up on me. Well, not really. But I have had a hard time finding a topic to blog about for this week. Sure I could continue my meta musings (not to be confused with similarly named fiber product), but... frankly, I didn't feel like it. :)

So instead, I will meander briefly on the subject of dimensionality. Every character, place, scene even, needs depth in it. As a reader, I only have a certain amount of attention to spare for elements that are shallow or superficial. Therefore, as a writer, I owe it to my putative readers to make sure that my elements don't come off as cardboard cut-outs.

That being said, I also have to make sure that I am not just producing collages for the senses, without underlying activity.

Is it a balancing act? Will I get better at it as I go? I have no idea really. I hope so. :)

And since, in order for me to get better at introducing depth without inducing the floundering response in my critique partners and beta readers, I need more practice at the craft, I'll end here, and head back to other writing activities, in this case, exploring the Mongol lifestyle.

See you next time!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Letting Art Imitate Life

I spoke back in June about paying attention to the reality around me and injecting that into the lives of my characters. I really think there is no better research opportunity in the world than a cruise. So many people from so many places in such an odd circumstance, where the mundane parts of reality are gone and all you have left is the real stuff about them, the people they are when they don't have ten million other things going on. Plus, cruises are fun.

Unfortunately, there are some less than fun experiences in life that can be good sources of research material too. For example, last Thursday night, on my way to meet Tori and Darlene for our weekly dinner/write in/social hour, I was in a car accident.

First, I'm fine. Thank you in advance for your concern, but there's nothing to worry about. No one was hurt. My car is totaled, and that is sad, but both I and the other driver are uninjured and that's all you can reasonably hope for in a car accident.

I did notice something in the aftermath of the accident though, something that made me very happy. (Well, it made me happy later, once all the shock and adrenaline and general freaking out was past and I was capable of achieving "happy".) I had a little video recorder running in my brain the whole time, taking notes about everything that happened and everything I thought about, with the express purpose of using that information in a future novel somehow.

It made me happy because it means that I've now turned looking at life through a novelist's eye from a habit into an instinct. I didn't consciously decide to take detailed notes in my head of how the scream that came out of me when the airbags deployed sounded or what my thought process was when I finally worked up the courage to look at the damage to my car. I just did it. It was automatic and effortless, like breathing.

Now I don't have a project in the works just now that involves a car accident, but you can bet there will be one in my future. And when that project comes along, I'm reasonably confident you'll see the following little scene in there somewhere:

"I'm fine" I told the paramedic who'd come to check me over. "I broke a nail and I scraped my arm on the airbag, but I'm okay."

I confirmed that I didn't need to go to the hospital and signed the release. I listened politely while he told me where the nearest urgent care was in case I changed my mind, knowing that I wasn't taking any of it in and that I probably wouldn't need to go anyway. My injuries weren't bothering me and I was pretty sure they weren't going to.

What was bothering me was that I'd actually listed a broken nail as an injury. And I'd given it top billing, no less. Oy!

Yes, that actually happened, just like that. Yes, that is exactly what was running through my head at the time. I advise everyone who writes to start running that little video camera in their head; you can't pay a Muse for that kind of stuff.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meta Musings_4

If you have someone who figures they are going crazy because they hear voices, and there is no one to make a diagnosis of either demon possession or schizophrenia, what happens when that person meets another person who makes the voices stop?

Gale (we met her a little while ago) hears voices. And they aren't talking to her at all. They're talking about politics and succession, and killing people who get in their way. Sometimes they talk about sex. Obviously they have nothing in common with her and the village wherein her family lives, but their voices are so loud that they are all she can hear. The voices of everybody around her are reduced to moving lips and pantomime.

Gale has been hanging on to her sanity by working with the dye pots. It is a job that she knows by heart and she finds herself again and again when she is putting colors on fabric.

Loren is a traveling story collector. He bumps into Gale as she is on her way back to the dyehouse after bathing, and she notices the temporary absence of all thought but her own.

She discovers that when she is around Loren, the voices are quiet. The conversations continue, but they are outside of her hearing. However Loren is a traveller, so after collecting stories, his plan is to leave.

Is this enough of a motivator for Gale to leave her village and travel with him?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Aside: FullTime DayTime Jobber, HalfTime NightTime Writer Part Deux

Shhhh...I know I'm sneaking a post in, and late, but don't tell!

The Plan hours for the first week and a half were a blessing. I made progress on a chapter that I hadn't been able to move for over a month. I penned scenes for a new short story on my "off Plan hours" and got in exercise every day (because, as you may or may not know - exercise is AWESOME for creativity). I posted my blogs on time and let myself get wrapped up in my galaxies.

Last week, however, was a little rougher. It started out well, but I came down with a cold which led to the inevitable "sick day". And since I had a dr. test run on Thursday to make sure I wasn't dying of the dreaded "John Hurt" moment, that meant I felt even worse for the rest of the week. I edited Friday because of my wonderfully supportive TriMu (helping me out of my "after anesthesia funk"), but I could barely convince myself to move on Saturday except to do major research on what I now can and cannot eat.

Yesterday was better. Whether that came from feeling better from eating food that didn't kill me or the calm, cool acceptance of the fact that I'll never be able to look at a strawberry/peanut butter M&M or ice cream or yogurt or pizza ever again - I don't know. And really, all that mattered was that I felt good enough to get out and socialize again - and write. Edits happened slowly, but it made me feel like the whole week wasn't a waste.

So now I'm back to the Plan - with a new diet and a new determination for progress. I doubt I'll make up my lost ground, so there's no way I'll make my September deadline - but this isn't about guilt for lost writing time or sadness over missed self-imposed goals. This is about shaking off the perfection and making progress.