Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 2 of My 10 Pages per Week Pledge!

Yeah, I'd love to report it that writing Humanesque was going gang-busters, but I wouldn't be me, if it were!

Plus I wouldn't have all kinds of fears and freak outs to report and what would be the fun in that? :-)

So I sat down to write my pages for Humanesque yesterday and realized I didn't know if I wanted to start with a prologue or first chapter.  I seriously spent an hour hashing this over, then went, "DUH!"

I just did an entire podcast on this, ya dork, and explained one method of deciding.  So I took my own advice and went and looked through the best sellers in my genre.  Now, remember I'm not really big into literary novels so this took me a while since I'm not as familiar with the genre as let's say sci fi or horror.

In the end I realized that the guidelines I laid out in the podcast were right on the money.  Literary novels rarely had a prologue and the novel's first paragraph typically stared out with the hero's name.

So I sat down at the keyboard and...

Wrote a prologue!  I now knew the rules, so I could break them!  

But with a purpose.  You see I knew I wanted the novel to start, in a very different, unusual, disorienting way but if I started a first chapter like that, it could turn off a lot of readers.  But if I set this weird, squirrel talk off into a prologue, the audience will hopefully role with it.

Because we have to remember engendering reader's trust.  This was a great example.  Set off in a prologue I could start Humanesque off inside my lead character's POV, who is a squirrel don't forget so its not the typical thought process on the page, and the reader would trust that I wasn't going to do the entire book in this fragmented way.

Plus, in the end, I just liked it that way.  I also started the first chapter with action rather than with another lead character.

I've decided to forge my own genre.  Literary Action.  Or Actiony Lit.  I'm not sure, I'm still working on the details.

In the end, I was happy with my decision.  And as a bonus it helps me clarify between Taskmaster and Zen.  

By far the most consistent criticism of my philosophy is that I am advocating an 'auto-maton' type writing style.  That I allow formula to get in the way of art.

Which sounds just silly to me, but I get that comment a lot so this feels like the perfect place to address the concern.

Yes, absolutely, one-thousand percent Taskmaster demands that you know the rules.  She made me look up all those best-selling Oprah books.  I fastidiously noted what worked in the marketplace and what the precedence had been.  I know the typical formula (and YES literary novels, the creme de la creme of the literary world, follow formula) of my genre.

Then Zen kicks in and says, you know what, thank you Taskmaster for your diligent work, but our story needs a different flavor.  A different opening.

So, to clarify, I always listen to Taskmaster then honor Zen.  Its the only way I've found that works for me :-)

Because at the end of the day, it's your novel.  I want you to be as well informed and educated on your craft as possible so that you can make intelligent, well connected, artistic decisions.

Then once you've made a decision, especially if it goes against the grain of your genre, you have got to sell it.  Which to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if I did, but ya know what?  I liked it, and for now that's enough.  Plus  in a rough draft, my opinion is all that matters.  I might make a different choice once I get feedback and write deeper into the novel.  Because as much as its my novel, I am writing for an audience so I have to take feedback seriously.

But for now, I'm swimming upstream for a while, and it feels kind of nice to take a chance.  Risk being criticized.  

So Taskmaster encourages you to know your craft.  Know your genre.  Then Zen would like you to take a risk today.  Have you been itching to do an entire fight scene without dialogue?  A western without guns?  Or maybe just a paragraph without commas?

Thank Taskmaster for all her hard-core researching, then go for it.  Throw convention to the wind and see how the breeze feels through your hair!

Until next time, keep on writing and let me know how your risks pay off.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Writing Without The Drama - Day One - The Launch is Here!

July 18th, 2008

Day 1 of the Writing Without The Drama podcast.  Thought I was ready for it.  As a matter of fact, I was almost blaise. 

Yeah, sure, whatever.

Then I was on iTunes and went to look it up and got all these butterflies.  The old voices started up again, "How dare you?"  "What makes you think you have anything to offer?"  "Whose going to listen anyway?"

So I started wishing I had never started the series.  But then, wait!  Suddenly it didn't show up on the iTunes search.  Turns out the upload didn't work.  We weren't launched.

Devastation.  Panic.  Disappointment.

So basically in the space of like two seconds I went from being in denial to how excited I was for the podcast to complete despair I didn't even deserve a podcast to true disappointment that it didn't launch.

Yikes!  I might want to work on that whole resiliency thing.

Then strangely, I felt a little gleeful that I didn't have to blog today and could delay the start of writing my new novel, Humanesque.

I really am a dork.

You see, I really thought I had worked so much of this out.  The flickering in and out of my creative voice.  Taming the wild horses that so desperately want to work on a project then run off on the next exciting project without ever finishing any.

The magpie syndrome where whatever the next pretty, shining idea is more interesting than the one I'm committed to work on.  I think I'll go peak on that one for a while until I get distracted again.

So, guess I'm not over that yet! :-)

Which is so very perfect.  Its just interesting information that the old fears are still kicking around in there somewhere.  By coming out and being so chatty, the voices are actually asking to be parented through their issues.

It's not a set back that after a read of a really rough draft of a script that I felt the old harsh criticism of myself.  That I felt a complete failure despite the fact that everyone else at the read was completely jazzed about the script and impressed by what good shape it was in given that I had written the entire thing in 5 days.

It's not a set back that I'm still really nervous to write Humanesque.

All of these things are just a reminder that I have so much further to grow.  That I get to choose a gentler path for my creative journey.  That if I insist that you guys never be harsh with yourselves and turn off your inner critic, I might want to practice what I preach.

I love it when I have to turn to my own podcasts for guidance.

I can't tell you how excited Zen is right now.  She loves it when the path ahead clears.  When you can see that there are sharp, ragged boulders before you, yet just to the left there is a smooth, gentle trail with a great view we could take instead.

Taskmaster, of course, is slightly impatient (okay, really impatient but even she is trying to grow) that we have work to do.  Those ten pages to fulfill our pledge this week, aren't going to write themselves.

I have to pause though to thank Taskmaster.  She's the one that's gotten me through all these years.  Because she really doesn't give a crap about angst.

If we said we were going to write ten pages, we are going to write ten pages.  She doesn't care how good they are.  Ten pages, baby, ten freaking pages.

While I am now making a conscious choice to not muscle my way through my creative issues anymore and not write with my fingers in my ears singing 'lalalalalalalala' to the negative voices, just barely eeking out pages, I do have to thank Taskmaster for never letting me give up.  For always insisting on putting fingers on the keyboard even when I thought they might electrocute me.

So, no matter how busy, or afraid, or paralyzed you feel today, write.

Listen to your Taskmaster.  Two crappy pages are ten thousand times better than no pages at all.

Then embrace your Zen.  Enjoy those two crappy pages.  Revel in your storytelling.  You liked that idea for some reason.  At one point you felt passion enough about it to commit to tell that story.  So sink into it.  Remember your original excitement, tap into that.  But if all else fails remember...

Writers write.  That's what we do.  We're not called whiners or slackers or scardy-cats.  We're called WRITERS because, duh, we write.

And I'm going to let you in on a little secret that your negative voices have been hiding from you for years.


Nope, I don't want to hear any nay-saying.  No demurring.  No obfuscating.


So go write already!

:-)  'Til next time.