Writer’s Lock

First, via @BluePrintReview: How to be a Writer Part I by Kirsty Logan | Metazen

This comes closest to my experience of "becoming a writer." Unlike many authors, I didn’t start writing stories as soon as I could hold a pencil. I spent my childhood imagining. And reading. I didn’t write my first story until college.

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Been suffering from writer’s lock this week.

Not writer’s block, writer’s lock. Due to the way we work, it can strike at any time, but it especially occurs during editing. In my mind, I have trouble reframing a scene enough to do the necessary rewrites to it. My concept of the scene becomes locked down. To some degree this is related to killing the beauties (as my teacher Marly Swick put it; also known as murdering your darlings). My brain has trouble accepting that a scene could be written as well as it already has been; that the perfect flow cannot be tampered with. Even when the scene is lacking important narrative information.

For example, I’m working on what will potentially be Ch. 1 of Luck for Hire. One of the main points of the scene is to establish Aleister’s adversarial relationship with Devine, Chance and Merit and their security head, Davis. Our original talk about the scene included the two meeting. Eric felt that was an important point. I agreed. And then promptly wrote the scene in a different, less effective way. Eric called me on it, though not immediately. My broken scene was enough to make him briefly forget what was originally intended. I’ve been fiddling with the changes since Wednesday. While I understand how the scene needs to go, it’s been locked.

The solution, to belabor an analogy, is a mental door-breaking of the scene. I can try starting over with a blank slate, but the previous version of the scene can’t be un-thought. I jimmy the edges of the scene until I let myself back in. Or something like that. In the case of this Luck scene, a real-world logistics problem cropped up and broke the spiffy beginning I’d written. I’m still not done writing the chapter and I’ve lost confidence that it is well written. That doesn’t mean it isn’t or that my opinion won’t change in time. It’s just not the zippy little collection of scenes that it was.

Edit, 15:03:
Finished scene.

Recently Watched

Aside from Inception at the theater, I plowed through a few other movies on DVD and Netflix Instant View while Eric was away:

In preference order:

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – It deserved the Best Picture Oscar it received. I held out on watching this film because I had feared would be like Crash or Babel: issue-centered, preachy, and with a plot centered around very bad things continuously happening to the characters. Reif’s recommendation of it prompted my viewing. Considering that it’s a Danny Boyle film, I should have known better. Yes, while bad things happen to characters, Slumdog Millionaire finds beauty in the setting, much in the same way that City of God does. Plot-wise, I think you have to look at it as a morality tale, or maybe even fairy tale. Virtue is definitely rewarded.

Steel Toes (2006) – Pretty much a two-actor piece starring David Strathairn and Andrew W. Walker. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t based on a stage production because it very well could be. It’s writing is that fine.

Below (2002) – A classic Western-style ghost story set on a WWII submarine. Creepy, but with the occasional cheap scare.

The Governess
(1998) – Set in the 1830s about a Sephardi Jew that becomes the governess for a Protestant Scottish family after her father is killed. Gorgeous movie. Every shot is lush and beautiful. I knew nothing of Sephardi Jews and the Scottish patriarch is obsessed with fixing photographic images, a science that is just taking off in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, the drama between the character got in the way of these more interesting, but non-story based aspects.

Milk (2008) – Sean Penn is a great actor, but the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) covers this story better.

De-Lovely (2004) – Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd are good in this, but it ended up being much too musical for me.

A Single Man
(2009) – The most boring movie about gay relationships since Brokeback Mountain.

Australia (2008) – Haven’t finished this movie yet. I checked how much movie was left at the 1 hour, 38 minute mark and was shocked to see there was an hour left. That was a looong 1:38. Kelli says the rest is worth it. I’ll get back to it one day.

Two films I watched with Eric:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
(2009) – We watched this about a month back and I sort of forgot about it. I liked it when I watched it. Terry Gilliam films are variable and this is my favorite since 12 Monkeys. The change in actors (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrel all playing Tony) works very well. But, in the end it just wasn’t a movie that stuck with me.

Book of Eli (2010) – I really liked the Hughes Brothers’ last film, From Hell. The washed out look of this film was intriguing to me, and who doesn’t want to see Denzel Washington kicking bad guy ass? Alas, there’s a catch to this movie. A twist. And they cheat.

Being Unprofessional, 52|250, Reading Doldrums

Received some good writing news Saturday night. "Breakfast in the Garden" was accepted for publication by Bards and Sages Quarterly. I wrote this story in 2008 and had it critiqued via Critters. The critiques were, of course, mixed. Amid the usual line edits, there were a few suggestions for rewrites. Some of the suggestions were good. I noted them and set the story aside to be rewritten at some later point. Except the longer I waited, the more distasteful the thought of reworking the story became. In May, I did the unprofessional thing.  I figured, "Screw it." I was never going to make time for the revisions and the piece was just gathering dust. And…I liked the story as it was. I cleaned it up, made a few minor changes, and shipped it of to a few short story markets. At worst after a couple months of emailing it around, it would end up as more free fiction by me on the web.

The "screw it" philosophy is probably not the best way to get fiction published. Or maybe it is. The only thing I know about the publishing biz is that no one knows anything definite about the publishing biz.

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In the land of more free fiction, I returned to 52|250 this week with a piece called "RA." The theme was Red Meat. I kept picturing a gruesomely wounded knee, but then added a little auto-biographical to my fiction. My hands and feet have been aching since Friday. I took liberties with the actual medical science.

I like 52|250. It’s interesting to see what other authors decide to do with a theme, and  in bite-sized chunks!

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The doldrums of summer creep into my reading.

I couldn’t get caught up in The Strain. I may be forever vampired out.

I moved on to Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. Luck for Hire has some potentially noir qualities to it, so I figured it was about time I tasted that genre. After fifty pages, I find that there is so much distance between the tale and reader that I have no feelings for the characters. I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them either. I simply don’t care what happens to them. This doesn’t make me compelled to read on.

I’m going to putter through some short fiction on my defunct reading list.

Where’s Mr. Luck & #FridayFlash?

I decided to give Mr. Luck his own home: http://entangledcontinua.com/luck. I don’t intend to crosspost to here unless readers here really, really want me to. In fact, process stuff will probably still end up here and crossposted there because this where I talk about day to day stuff. Other #FridayFlash pieces will still end up here.

As for Mr. Luck, having Eric back in town is good. We pow-wowed Wednesday morning and pieces are starting to fall together in that exciting/satisfying way. The extended plan is to have the novel, around 80K words, done by the end of the year. How much of it will end up online in some form, I don’t know. Obscurity is my enemy, and I’m still pretty bad at being social, even online.

Picture in a Cloud

Josie posted a link to Wordle, a word cloud toy that I couldn’t resist. It’s always interesting to take a look at word frequencies. While I input my LJ’s RSS feed, I think it only used the last ten entries. The frequencies of certain words are definitely centered toward the last two weeks or so:

Well, I wanted an image to put up on my board for Luck for Hire and for my "vacation" while Eric was gone. This will do! I find my use of direction words interesting: left, back, behind, last. (Though Eric notes that "back" might be related to my complaining about my anatomical back.) Happily, "up" is not readily evident. That is a word I’ve tried to get rid of.

Book #18 – False Gods

Short review. A windy, not-very-cool storm front woke me up and I’m having trouble getting back to sleep with all the window rattling. But am also not very awake and have no desire to blow the rest of the night with a pot of coffee.

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Book #18 – False Gods by Graham McNeill

This is the second Horus Heresy novel. The first I read earlier this year and enjoyed quite a bit. Plot-wise, False Gods pays off many of the circumstances set in motion by Horus Rising. While I feel that Dan Abnett (the author of the first book) is a better military sci-fi author, McNeill is the better horror writer. It struck me half way through this book that as Chaos becomes more of a player, these novels have the potential to be a superb sci-fi/horror hybrid. And since Chris left this books here, I can read them at my leisure.

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Next up, finish The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan before my digital copy expires. Which shouldn’t be hard. I have 15 days left and intend to finish it in ten. Adobe Digital Editions is annoying me somewhat with it lack of smooth scroll on most of these books. Page by page is not ideal when reading from a monitor.

Attention span; Weekend movies

BBC News – Traditional books ‘may not survive electronic age’:

There’s an older generation who might complain about shorter attention spans but there is a new literacy which has emerged among younger users and readers who are incredibly adept at multi-tasking.

Two things:

Before we label the younger generation with irreparably short attention spans, can we for a moment back up and note that two of the biggest publishing phenomena in the last decade, Harry Porter and Twilight, are youth-oriented, thick, multi-volume works?

Second, as was noted by JT (either here or on Facebook), I have a tendency to skip back and forth between books–the paper, ink, and glue sort as well as electronic texts. I’ve always done this. There have always been people who do this.

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On Friday in Omaha, Eric went to see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Chad, Michelle, and possibly a niece/nephew or two. On Sunday, I went to see Inception with Reif. It occurs to me that the former is probably getting worse reviews than it deserves and the latter getting better reviews than it deserves. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Inception. I especially appreciated the heist aspect, but it isn’t a perfect movie.) It will be interesting to see how long it is before I end up seeing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Eric sees Inception. I predict that I will cave first…