Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Fin

Oh yeah, tomorrow's December. I forgot about that. This month was all about goofing off a bit and writing just for fun. I did an alright job of that. I added a bit here and there to the Cass stories. My progress on those has slowed, thanks to other priorities and running low on ideas and wrestling with exactly how I'm going to structure them. But, still, not too shabby.

Thanksgiving break helped a lot with the goofing off part, though in terms of non-writing things there. I've got five new necklaces on my wall and a lot of being a bum and watching TV under my belt. It's back into the trenches tomorrow, and a new month to start. Then, before we know it, a brand new year, too. Wow. Things are moving fast these days.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dead Until Dark vs. True Blood: Take 2

Finished the book. Still liking the series better. Not only does Sookie cry less (she cries all the damn time in the book), most of the supporting characters, especially Bill, are more interesting and that makes me like them more. And, most sadly, Tara doesn't even exist in the first book.

So, at the end of competition: TV beats book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dead Until Dark vs. True Blood

Deb brought a bag of books to the last Pirate meeting and among them was Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books which the new TV show True Blood is based on. Since I'm keen on the show, I snagged the book.

Right now I'm about half way through the book. Far enough to see how closely the TV show generally is, and where the differences are. There are a few things where I'm interested to see how it works out, logistically, in the book because it's different - namely, the show has revealed the killer and there are some basic details in that regard where, in the book, my first thought was, "really?"

We'll see how it plays out with the book in the end, but overall, I have to confess I'm liking the TV version a little better. Mainly for two reasons:
1. The book is 1st person and Sookie's kinda annoying. Most of her commentary is fine, funny even, but there are definite "I'm so adorable" moments, which are irritating.
2. The book does a little bit of over-explaining at times where the TV show streamlines and sometimes combines things by sneaking one sentence of explanation into a scene that's got some action, instead of having a whole paragraph of just exposition in the book. It's, in short, a classic example of showing instead of telling.

Because they're two different media, it's no big mystery why some characters and scenes got expanded in the show, but it's interesting to see the other changes and think about why they were made.

P.S. Also in my stack from Deb, Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, aka the series which birthed the show The Dresden Files. I think I might have to read that one next.

Taking the Plunge

As an extra incentive to get my thesis revised and wrapped up, last night I asked the CWCers if it'd be okay for me to monopolize January and give them the whole thesis + intro to critique. They looked relieved.

This 50 + pages every other month thing is taking its toll, that's for sure.

Now I'm committed to polishing the thesis fast, not only to keep me on my new timeline, but in order to get it ready to hand off to the gang in December. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving In the Garage

This semester Amanda is taking a creative non-fiction class. A few days ago, she asked me to look at one of her pieces. I asked her about what kind of feedback she'd like, so I had guidelines on how grammatical, blunt, etc. to be. Amanda said, "Be gentle."

This morning I read a story she wrote about her family and Thanksgiving. I made minimal marks and those marks were just lines beside things that stuck out to me, no actual words. Then we chatted about 'em. I went gently.

Biggest victory of the chat was adjusting her story telling structure and, my favorite, naming it. She had a title, but it didn't quite fit. When I asked her why she titled it that, she kinda shrugged and said she has a hard time with titles.

"Okay," I said. "When you think about this story, what's the biggest thing that sticks in your mind?"

"My aunt continuing to eat the stuffing, even though she kept complaining about it."

"But that's something that happened that day, not something you wrote on the page. On the page, what sticks out to you?"

"Me and my brother sitting in the garage."

"That's perfect!"

You see, the story starts off with Amanda having a conversation with her mom about why Amanda can't host Thanksgiving this year (because the only place there's room is in the garage). Then you go back a few years to Thanksgiving at Amanda's parents' and there's an argument going on over dinner. To escape, Amanda and her brother duck into the garage. It's beautifully parallel.

I feel like helping Amanda get a new title (a perfect title, if I do say so myself) is my biggest accomplishment for today. I just can't help wondering if that might be a bad sign.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hey Look, It's Sunday Again

The last bit of fall semester is always a bit chaotic. This go 'round, things just seem to be picking up speed as I near the end of it. Everything's kind of going "whoosh" right now. Two weeks of class left, and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter.

First, though, Thanksgiving break. Three class periods to go, then a whole week off. People keep asking, what I'm going to do. Beats me, but there will be much goofing off, that I do know.

But now, it's Sunday. Again. Which makes tomorrow Monday. Next Monday though, guys, is going to be lovely.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Momentum Is Good

Here's a shout out to Deb, who's on a roll with this whole NaNo business. Looks like she's found her rythm and now she's speeding away so fast, she's blurry.

That's the fun thing about momentum, it's easier to keep running than to start running.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bullet Biting

I've been avoiding working on my thesis preface about as long as I've been working on my thesis. The whole idea of talking critically about my own work just felt wrong. One of the reasons I write fiction is so it can stand on its own, so I don't have to explain everything. Not to mention the part where talking about myself seemed awful egocentric.

Last week I promised Juan preface pages by today. This morning I had none. An hour before our meeting I had none. But, I had a deadline. I chomped down and came up with two pages.

Me: I know it's not much, but it should be enough for you to tell if I've got the right approach or if I'm doing it all wrong.
Juan: Alright, let me have a look.

I handed it to him and watched him read it. Physically watching people read my work is always unnerving. Takes an eternity too. He nodded a couple of times. Make a couple of marks, and then looked up at me.
Juan: There are things you'll need to work on more, but you've got the jist.

My reaction surprised me. It was along the lines of, "Oh, really? I actually have an idea of what this should look like? Wow."

I'm still not incredibly excited about this part of my thesis, but something's clicked in my head. After so much time going around and around and talking with different people about what this needs to be, I think I finally get it. Big relief, let me tell you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anthology Edits

Right now I'm a short ways away from finishing my first run-through of edits on the latest Writing Marathon anthology. One interesting thing about these anthologies is the variety of writers who contribute - some who're professionally published writers, some who are just now dipping their toes in, and everything in between.

Another interesting thing is the number of people whose writing reflects a desire to articulate the purpose of the act itself. It's almost as if people feel the need to define writing before they can say they are a writer themself.

Makes me wonder - how necessary is it to define writing for yourself? How necessary to define it before you do it?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Pen Gods Doth Smile Upon Me

Ask anybody who knows me a little bit. They can tell you I have an obsession with pens. I'm a bit of a pen snob, too. Get thee behind me, ball point! So, I like to periodically buy a new pen/set of pens to see if I like 'em.

Yesterday I hit the art department at Hobby Lobb and found a set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens. I eyeballed the 20 pack, but couldn't justify paying that much for pens right now, so I opted for the 10 pack. Though, even then, it was a splurge. Then I got to the check out and learned they were 1/2 off.

I think it's a karmic payoff for all of the out-of-the-house pages I've been doing on Cass. Today, since my office mate Amanda needed the office for student conferences, I stopped by the bookstore. I wrote for about a solid hour (+4 pages) and said "howdy" to Jenny.

By the way, the Staedtler pens are very cool. I love the ink quality and the extra fine points (.3m). I'm thinking I'll have to get more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thesis Decision

I'm off to see Juan in a couple of minutes. I feel like a slacker 'cause I haven't got any more pages of any sort for him, but I also feel a bit relieved because I've made my decision. Yes, I think I could manage to get my thesis ready in a week or two, but I'm going to allow myself more time.

New plan: Take the whole rest of the semester to finish the thesis. Defend in Spring.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Relevance and "Papa Legba" by the Talking Heads

There's a principle based on the idea of relevance. Once you're aware of, or thinking about, something, you see it everywhere. You buy a new car and suddenly notice that model everywhere.

I've been studying up on magical lore for the Cass stories, and Voodoo specifically. I like Voodoo for the Cass stories because Voodoo takes things from a variety of lores and blends them together. A little bit of Catholicism, a little bit of ancient African tribal mythology, and mix it all together.

This weekend I read through Kenaz Filan's The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa. Interesting stuff. My vision for Cass is that she doesn't have specific allegiance to any one school of mysticism, but rather picks and chooses among them. After reading the book, I fleshed out my idea for the first Cass story to introduce the batch I'm working on. Featured in it, the Voodoo Loa, Papa Legba.

Then, a little bit later over the weekend I stumbled onto a bizarre movie, True Stories. Toward the end, one of the characters goes to none other than a Voodoo mambo and then there's a scene with the song "Papa Legba" by the Talking Heads.

Small world, isn't it?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For Yourself

The biggest thing I'm taking from October is getting back to before I was a "serious" writer, back to when I did it just because I liked telling myself stories. It was more fun then, and I didn't have to worry about anyone else's opinion on what I wrote. It was all just for me.

This month I'm using October momentum to keep on with the Cass stories. They seem to be falling together almost on their own, figuring out how they all fit together with little help from my part. It's fun. There's no pressure for me to do it any particular way, because right now I don't especially plan on them being seen by anyone else any time soon. Maybe, after a while, I'll run them through the CWC. Maybe I won't. Doesn't matter. They're just for me right now, and I'm liking that.

My challenge for you is to spend some time this month writing something just for yourself. What's that story you've always wanted to write, but haven't? What's that idea you've put on the shelf because it'd never fly in your critique group? Now's the time for you to write it. Whatever else you've got on your writing plate, find a little time to write something that's just for you, and to write it exactly the way you, and only you, like it.

A Whole Month

Seemed like October was a long one. At the least, it was quite eventful. Neil Gaiman and thesis adventures were the highlights. Lots of reading, too. It's been a fun month (except for the recent thesis stuff, which has been stressful.)

The main thing I'm taking away from October is a reminder to myself that I should lighten up. Drafting is drafting, it's about getting the jist down on the page so you have raw materials to go back and polish up later. More than ever, I find myself making margin notes as I go along, things where as I write the next paragraph, or the next page, I think, "Oh yeah, I should add X in." Then I make a note and get on with things. I'm thinking of it as a drawing process - 1st you just get some shapes outlined, then you go back and refine those sketched lines, then you add detail, etc. It's a multi-step process.

Bottom line: It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be a story. Anything that's not quite right can always get fixed later.

How did your October go?