Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Acid Etched.

A horror writer's mind is a very bizarre place.

I had to buy a new battery (again!) for my scooter today. To prep the battery, one needs to fill it with the enclosed solution of sulfuric acid.

I, doing this, realized that one could conceivably purchase enough untraceable sulfuric acid to dispose of an organic mass--say, a body--through the mass purchase, in cash, of small liquid-cell batteries. This was my first thought, and one that predominated any thoughts that came after, remaining in the priority position as my mind wandered through a thousand brief scenarios in which this knowledge may one day be useful to me.

So I file it away, with the reckoning number adjacent to the other one which deals with manufacturers, costs, and delivery fees for the 55-gallon drums of sulfuric acid in case I write a character that has access to such things without it being trite or cliche.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day One

As an aspect of my goal to finish the rough draft of the remaining three stories in my cycle, I have forsaken most of my social life for the month of September. Unless it's something I've already committed to, work related, a date, or one of those things that is so immeasurably Awesome that I really have no choice but to do it, I'm not going out. This essentially eliminates chill gatherings at friends' houses (which is the bulk of my outings), birthday parties (which is most of the rest of my outings), concerts, movies, events, lunches, dinners, and the like.

Last night I came home right after work, had dinner, and by 11:30 p.m. was writing. Considering I leave work at 9:30 p.m. that's actually a fairly good turnaround on time.

I set a glass of wine and some chocolate next to me on one side, had some incense burning on the other, and my chill ambient music playing in the background from my computer. I opened up the Word document and started to write. After some pacing, jumping, cursing, and flailing I finally figured out the beginning of the story and began ACTUALLY writing. Four pages later, I'd completed the first scene and decided to hit the hay.

The hardest thing to recognize with writing creative works is that, compared to academic papers--or, indeed, one's own expectations--four pages is quite a lot to write in one night. There's a feeling of "only four pages? Really?" that must be reconciled with the flip side, that coming up with four pages of fiction can--and often does--take the better part of an evening. And that has to be okay. I can't allow myself to feel punished or inadequate for not completing more than that. Sure, sometimes I hit The Zone and can write 20 pages without being aware of my time, but when I'm not there, when it's skill as much as talent in play, four pages has to be sufficient. And it has to be okay. Especially considering how much time and energy I put into the structure, the format, and the conventions that are all factors in the subtleties of my writing.

Next round, we'll see how much I write. But I've begun it, and that is the important part right now. This story will live outside of my brain.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Tactic

I have given myself the month of September to finish the rough draft of my whole collection of short stories. This will, in theory, leave me with a novel-length collection that will serve as the foundation series for my own universe/mythos. The particulars will be for a later entry, that's not what this is about.

My tactic has, thus far, been to finish the rough draft of an individual story and then send it out for comments, critique, feedback, notes, what have you. This has proven to be rather a poor idea, as nobody save for one former classmate of mine has ever actually gotten back to me with any sort of feedback. What it has served to do is enable my procrastination and slovenly behavior by allowing me to put off writing anything new until I "finished" my current story. I haven't written anything since completing my last short story several months ago because I have been waiting on feedback from people.

This, it occurred to me recently, is not only an untenable situation, but a completely unnecessary one. I know the direction I intend to go, as well as many of the particulars of how I intend to get there. I do not need each individual story to be completed in order to progress to the next one. All that waiting around has done is a fat load of nothing. And while it did allow me time to steep my brainmeats in their juices, unless I act on them while the flavor is full and the aroma is fragrant, that marinating time will quickly turn to fermentation. Stagnant creativity often leads to unhappiness with the very ideas come upon in the creative process. So rather than wait around for the never-to-arrive feedback or story notes, I am going to simply move forward with rough drafts of all my remaining stories and then edit them all later.

What remains is only two short stories and one novella. I am going to be diminishing my social activities so that I may devote extra time to completing these tasks--which is a task well within my capabilities, I wrote this much when I was in school. Once these are completed, I will begin revisions and edits to all the stories, as well as ordering them and making the superstructure more cohesive for the reader.

TL;DR: Do not feel obligated through some sense of thoroughness to stop all progress in a creative work simply because you've asked for feedback. Feel confident enough in yourself to move forward. You can always go back and edit later, but you should never forgo an opportunity to create something new.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Writing theories

When I was an undergraduate student, I took a class called "Major Critical Theories." This course was, in essence, an applied philosophy survey. We studied Plato and Aristotle, all the way up through contemporary theorists like Derrida (and even newer).

The theory that I enjoyed most at the time was deconstruction. Basically a "fuck the rules" kind of theory, where words can be redefined, concepts can be taken down, inverted, subverted, or just plain ignored. I liked that concept.

The counterweight to this is structuralism. Deconstruction exists within the framework of structuralism, since the latter applies the structure that the former seeks to subvert. Structuralism posits that the form the story is told determines the type of story it is. I thought that was so confining and so...well...rule-oriented, that the iconoclast within me railed against it.

Since then, I have come increasingly to the inevitable conclusion that structuralism is much more than something to be railed against, and I am using it with increasing frequency in my writing as well as my critiques of other stories (books, movies, anything).

The younger version of me detests that I have become a structuralist, citing the "damn the man" attitude that I held in such high regard in my youth. As a theorist, I still enjoy the idea that all our constructs, all our conventions, all of our rules, can be undone simply by deciding not to engage in them anymore--or to deliberately seek to subvert them. However, as a writer, I was finding that deconstruction simply does not make me a better artist. The idea of writing with no rules or conventions wasn't helping me hone my craft.

Aaaand then it hit me. I use the structure, the convention, as a structuralist in order to understand which rules to skirt, which paradigms to invert or subvert, how to make my story unique. When applied to my writing, I have become a structuralist who uses deconstruction. As a theorist, in my critiques of other stories, I have become a deconstructionist who determines success based on structuralism.

It took about three years, but I finally synthesized the information from that class.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Story

Well, I finished the rough draft of a new story.

It's called "Beyond the Sea" and it's 24 pages long, clocking in at just over 5,700 words. It is, I believe, the longest piece I have written with the exception of my novella, which is three times that length.

It felt good to be writing again, but it feels great to have completed a draft of a new story. It's encouraging, empowering, and other positive words as well. Knowing that I can still do that, that I haven't lost the knack completely, is putting the thoughts into my head to re-read my older stories and revise them, tighten them up as well. I may not write an entirely new work for a little bit, but I will improve on the works I already have. Maybe making one or more of them ready for publication, at which point I will start submitting them to magazines and competitions.

Today though, I'm giving my brain a rest. I need to relax my mind so I can start fresh on either a new story or a new draft of an old story without carrying this into it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Deadlines, and sex

Since my last entry, I've begun writing a new short story.

I have another entry that I want to post some time soon about the constant "starting" of writing, but that will wait.

I have respected the deadline from my meeting with my writer friend, and as the 20th approaches I am finding myself under the gun--where most writers find themselves, I'm told--and the creative juices are flowing.

This story has helped me accept my strengths and craft stories focusing on them, while still finding ways to push boundaries and explore new areas of writing.

As part of the current story, I realized as I was writing that the plot requires a sex scene. I, however, have never written a sex scene. I knew what it required though. It couldn't be graphic, because then it's erotica and that's not what I want. It couldn't be too long, because that would make it the focus of the story and that's also not what I want. I didn't want a Danielle Steele scene, basically. I wanted to treat the scene with decorum and respect, not divert the reader.

I think I did it alright. I'll know when I get the feedback from it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Abandonment (in regards to writing)

I can't believe I haven't posted in this since Feb of last year. Yet realizing that fits nicely in with what I intended to post in here about. Watch, it's gonna be Awesome.

I met with my friend Chris for a drink a couple nights ago. Chris and I were writing students together at CSUN, and he was one of the few people who instantly got what I was aiming for with my writing before I got better at--for lack of a better term--mass appeal. His critiques of my earlier works helped me find my footing and expand on what I was good at while improving on what I needed to improve on.

When I made my various attempts at forming a writer's group, Chris was constantly the only one who would respond. Ten or eleven e-mail recipients and he and I were the only two who were willing to put the effort in to actually starting the group. Neither of us felt that was enough at the time, so the writer's group never formed.

Roll forward, skip ahead a few chapters.

I haven't written anything of note since I graduated in December of 2009. Chris, it turns out, hasn't written anything of note since he graduated in May of 2010. We discussed this, framing our discussion in terms of having no deadlines. Neither of us had anybody to write for, nor any reason to generate works. I've told myself I'm writing to get my graduate school submission ready, and yet I still can't overcome my inertia. I feel the need to write, I just seem to lack the capacity. Our discussion then turned to the failed attempts at writers' groups. We both felt that we were abandoning our writing skills and neither of us was happy about that.

Aaaand then we had our moment of clarity. The two of us can easily be enough justification for the other to write. A group may be ideal, but in the absence of the ideal one must work within the reality he/she has. My reality is that Chris and I are willing to write and trade stories, to critique our works for one another, and keep each other honest about writing. We are willing to generate deadlines for ourselves.

I took a year off from writing to focus on my growth as a person. I have matured, changed, and undergone a serious psychological overhaul. Now it's time for me to open up that blackness and stare into it as the New Me. I've abandoned that blackness for long enough, and it's long overdue that I allow it to stare back into me. I need to know what it sees now that I've become the person I am now. That may be the subject of my next post here.