Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Using plagiarism as a prompt


Apparently I'm story line challenged. I'm so stupid I'm incapable of making up a story. Maybe this is all about my subconscious not wanting me digging around and uncovering stuff. So fuck it. I'm FINALLY going to start my first shitty novel draft by plagiarising.  

I'm going to step in Peter Hoeg's footsteps and follow him line by line. Then make  changes, throw in stuff that interests me (aliens, vertical gardening, telepathy) and see where it goes. And NOT think about the finish line yet. NOT think about how lame and ridiculous and boring my effort is.  Just see if an alternative story starts to rise up. 

At least I'll be writing SOMETHING - and hopefully learning more about novel structure.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fear of Writing

I started a writing exercise that involves answering questions about your protagonist. Turns out I can't even finish a simple 30 minute exercise ! 

I got stuck because I was thinking about the nail house idea, and couldn't work out who the MC is, which POV is the lense for this story. And the questions didn't seem to relate to either of the 2 characters. And I thought, fuck I have NO idea what the main tensions and conflicts are. I just have this idea of a feisty old lady who refuses to get kicked out of her house, and is befriended by the building supervisor who works for the evil developer.

And I thought - I can't move forward because I haven't locked onto what I want to say. WHY does the story of Edith Macefield appeal to me so much. And why does the story about 2 old women found dead in their flat fascinate me ?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How I've NOT been going at writing fiction

For the last few weeks I've been a big fat procrastinator. There are 3 budding stories that I turn over and over in my head, but I can't find a whole structure for any of them. I think of a new approach, a new angle, start writing it out, but then decide the story's still not working. I decide I don't have a brilliant idea or some great insight into human nature.

I've tried the 'what if' tool, I've tried free writing in 15 minute sessions.

I've read the advice about switching off the inner editor and just letting stuff pour out in a wonderful creative flow. But I can't switch off my inner editor when I don't really know what I want to say. I just get a vague idea about a vague character in a vague situation and can't keep building on it.

Maybe I should just scribble out the weird or fantastic scenes that pop into my head. While I'm waiting for my brain to form an entire story, at least I'll be practising the craft of writing. Maybe I'll just STOP trying to write a whole story for now and enjoy writing pure crap. At least writing crap is better than watching TV or sitting around getting depressed because I have zero imagination.

Maybe I could write a STORY about some-one who can't complete a story. Maybe they pay a fairy god mother from writer's boot camp to help them. They find this boot camp in a writer's site online. What strategies would a fairy god mother have that would get her client to finish a story ?  

I think I need to stick to something simple. Lock onto one simple theme, or a moment in time. I've been trying to link too many elements together. 

Or should I switch to drafting a novel ? Maybe my brain just isn't wired for the short story.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to generate story Ideas

Re-visited a fantastic post by Kelly Link - I was reminded again about the great advice to try and launch into a piece of writing by getting down DIALOGUE FIRST. 

Also - I need to take another look at my theme list.

How to Generate Story Ideas

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cliche ? - try going deeper

I've been working my way through a collection of American short stories. Today I finished The State of Grace by Harold Brodkey. 

There's a moment where a lonely 7 year old boy is compared to an emerging butterfly. This image could have been a tired cliche. But Brodkey transcends the cliche by going deep into the boy's experience.

. . . the cold winds of insecurity hadn't shredded the dreamy chrysalis of his childhood. He was still immersed in the dim, wet wonder of the folded wings that might open if someone loved him; he still hoped, probably, in a butterfly's unthinking way, for spring and warmth. How the wings ache, folded so, waiting; that is, they ache until they atrophy.

The frustration about cliches is that they work. They work so well, everyone uses them until they become boring. Next time I'm worried about getting into the area of cliche, I hope I'll remember to try going DEEPER into the moment. Maybe I won't need to throw something away just because it's too familiar.

Power of plagiarism as a prompt

Coupla days ago I read that Raymond Chandler taught himself about novel structure by copying out existing novels. He made changes as he went along to better understand how the author had structured the novel.

I remember checking out C. J. Cherryh's site and seeing one of her suggestions for getting started. You take an existing piece of fiction and keep making changes. And keep going and keep going. You can end up with a whole new story by piggy backing on top of an original work this way. 

Since I haven't made any start to my story about a hit woman, thought I'd start copying Ms Smilla's Feeling for Snow - and see if I can use it as a prompt into something else. I also want to do some deconstruction and really understand why this is my favourite novel. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Amazing how much easier it is to write in a private journal !

Yesterday wrote up just over 1,000 words in the diary. I'm so relaxed in that blog. The words flow out in smaller sentences. And I use simpler words. I do less tweaking and revision before I finish a post.  

But when I try to squeeze out fiction I still get bogged down in long sentences and 'big' words.

So ... the experiment for today. I'm going to pretend to be one of the 2 main characters from the nail house story. Pretend that character is making quick diary entries - See if I can uncover the conflicts, and work out how they need to be resolved.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Starting my first shitty novel draft

I still want to write about a female assassin. Of course the people (aliens?) she kills, will be bad guys. And I'm leaning to the idea of her protecting a child. The child of a friend maybe, or a child who just comes into her life.

I've been thinking about stories and films with tough, anti-social MCs. About the problem of keeping a reader interested in some-one who's angry a lot of the time. Or a loner. Especially when that some-one is a woman over 30.

I've been thinking especially about Smilla's Feeling for Snow. Smilla is prickly, angry, bitter, tough as nails. But there's also this hurt, soft side, a side she reveals to her neighbour's child. Her anger comes from being dislocated and stuck between cultures, from feeling orphaned by a distant father who tore Smilla away from her mother's family. The first chapter ends with her resolve not to desert Isaiah after he dies a suspicious death. Smilla is likeable because she's out to avenge an innocent child. And because she's also a victim herself.

It's the same with the Sven Tveskoeg character in the David Gunn books. And the 'preventer' character played by Liam Neeson in the film Taken. Both ruthless bastards, but they're on the side of the weak and vulnerable. You cringe as you watch Liam Neeson torture the bad guy, but he's a father; you understand he needs to do anything that'll get his daughter back.

1st step - ask hundreds of questions, learn everything I can about my female assassin.

Besides Using Google, How Can I Do Research for My Book? | WordServe Water Cooler

Besides Using Google, How Can I Do Research for My Book? | WordServe Water Cooler:

'via Blog this'

Friday, September 30, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Started a Journal


Posted a couple of items in the private journal. As expected, I felt sohh much more relaxed. I ENJOYED the act of writing again. And I liked the sound of the voice coming out. A stronger more chatty voice. I don't sound like a constipated English professor.

That's what drives me nuts when I try to write fiction. It's flat and unemotional. So far, I haven't been able to get inside the head of a character. And I've seen this failing in most of the stories I've critted for other beginner writers.  Beginner writers insert long detailed descriptions on the weather, a description of a building. There's too much focus on the minor stuff happening around the emotional drama.

In published stories I enjoy, I notice the witing focus is locked on the reader having an emotional engagement with a character. Physical descriptions are shown in a beautiful shorthand. Just one telling detail is needed.

I've been going back to fiction I admire. For a third, fourth, fifth reading. Thinking about why it works so beautifully for me. Why did I have such a strong emotional response ?

I'm going to experiment with very short sentences. I've been reading stories with simple wording and short punchy sentences on Strangehorizons. I love the energy, the momentum in this kind of robust writing.  And I want to try it out as a way of moving forward and getting unblocked. I still get bogged down in sentence revision. Fussing about whether to use a comma or semi-comma. I'm thinking there's less opportunity to fuss with bite sized sentences. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

I write with glacial slowness

I love the expression 'glacial slowness'. Could be my Epitaph. 'H moved through life with glacial slowness.'

I like to think long and hard about the best way to do some-thing. I like to analyse and assess. Then go over all the pros and cons carefully again. Things go missing while I'm still thinking about the best way to put them to use.

Meanwhile there are people who write two thousand words a day. And they also tweet, face-book, blog, work 8 hours a day, have an active social life, raise kids, pets, garden, clean the house, exercise, and keep up a couple of other hobbies. I'd struggle to keep up ONE of those tasks on a regular basis.

As for producing two thousand words a day ? Just the thought, and I feel panic rising.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Leaving Live Journal

One day I log onto LJ and I'm greeted by a blonde babe asking me to chat. The babe keeps appearing every time I log in. Then spam starts appearing
disguised as comments.

I've been thinking I don't want to have to pay LJ $25 every year for an ad free account.

So I'm back to try out blogspot. I've begun copying over links and favourite pics. I feel like I'm moving house after the end of a relationship.