The sitting on one’s hands shall continue!

Every Monday a group of friends and I sit down to write for an hour. This past Monday I was worried I couldn’t write, so one of my friends suggested a challenge–to write about a character cooking–and I agreed. Instead of writing about cooking though, I ended up writing a scene that could follow where I’d last left off in the novel.

Which is a long-winded way of saying clearly my brain would still like to work on the novel.

It’s funny. While I was writing the scene I was fighting myself the whole way through. I finally stopped when that fight just got to be too much and I just hated the last bit of what I’d written. I’m so mad I’ve suddenly allowed that demon of self-doubt back in the door when I’d been pretty good about holding it off for so much of the book. I suspect Sue has the right of it, that I’m afraid of the ending. I also think I’m just plain tired–from writing so much so fast for such a long period of time (for me), from shenanigans at work, from a sudden bout of insomnia and blues.

Speaking of the day job, I really wish I could skip it, some times. Yesterday morning I had this amazing nightmare (hm, should those words really go together) which made me want to write a little scene or short story so badly. I wanted to, but I had to go to work. And then I tried to hold it all day, but by the end of the day it was all tatters. It’s still lurking and lurching around the back of my mind, but now I don’t know that I can do it justice. It was so fresh, and well, terrifying.

Also, someone please explain to me why the most horrifying monsters in my dreams seem to be these skinned/naked wolf-dog creatures? 🙂


In the name of…

… So in “Empire” some of the characters are, at least by what they say, very devout. They speak a lot of their god, who is a four-aspect god collectively named Firkhenn. However, that word, in their language, just means God.

So in the name of being literal, I’ve been having them just say “God” when they speak of Firkhenn, and it’s been bugging me. And the only reason I can figure out is that generally, when we’re speaking English and we say God-with-a-capital-G, we’re speaking of the Judeo-Christian God. We say “Allah” when we mean the Muslim God, and we say the names of the gods when we speak of Greek or Hindu gods, and now I’ve run out of gods I know of since Buddha is not a god or God, really. (Maybe I need more comparative religion.)

What do you think? Have you ever run into this problem before? Have you ever had your fantasy characters speak of their god as God? What were your thoughts about it?

Cat Vacuuming


At the end of this week’s short story workshop with Cat Rambo, she mentioned a particular term I’d never heard before: “cat vacuuming.” The general gist being all the little distracting things writers can do in order to not write.

For me, the necessary step of worldbuilding can rapidly, rapidly turn into cat vacuuming. I learned that with the novel I was trying to write in 2001, where I got cheerfully about halfway through the novel and then decided I really needed to sort out a few things about the world. OK, great, right? Except, I went down that rabbit hole and never came out. I made maps, histories for all the cultures, side stories about future and past people, songs, a language with poetry, a slang for that language and a dialect, and… Well. That story never got finished.

These days I’ve tried many different tactics to combat this. One, just make it all up as I go along and sort it out after the thing is done. (I did this, for the most part, with The Red Box. I got very very briefly distracted for a month or two with trying to determine what sort of planet they were on and then wondering if I shouldn’t have set it on a space station.) I’m not sure it’s the best tactic, as, for instance, I ended up with several *different* sectors all referred to as the 4-2 because I’d just type any old number and figure I’d “sort it out later.” I should’ve doodled a quick, crappy map.

The latest strategy which I’ve used with both The Motley Star (40% done) and the new novel, whatever it’ll be called, is to use a private install of Doku Wiki to keep track of my on-the-fly worldbuilding, AND, to do a little pre-writing worldbuilding. In both cases I let myself play with the world for a few weeks, tried to at least do a very brief outline of the story, and then started writing.

Inevitably, in both stories, stuff changed. Names of races, names of people, languages. But at least there is always a place to keep track of that, where I can flip back and reference. It’s insanely useful to me. I love that it’s online so I can get to it from where ever I have an internet connection, and I love that I can change it as much as I need, but also use it like my own private encyclopedia.

Thus far at least, I haven’t gotten sucked into the worldbuilding black hole of doom. The methodology of entering things into the wiki is JUST fussy enough that sooner or later I get tired of it. So I don’t keep going, and going, and going. I’ve gotten slightly distracted now and then–for Motley Star, it was trying to pick the perfect planet, and then trying to sort out the reasons for various aliens in my story–and for this new novel, it was coming up with sound sets for four different sounding languages–but I hope this keeps up.

Motley Star did get stalled out by plot troubles, which I hope to solve and eventually come back to. With the new novel, I’ve written the first outline I actually feel comfortable with enough to use, instead of fighting every step of the way. (I’m not by nature an outliner. I prefer to follow the story where ever it goes and then go back in and clean up once I’ve hit the end. This works with short stories. It’s really damn hard with longer works.)

But for now, I think I have temporarily averted the cat vacuuming with the wiki method. Wait… except, there’s this blog I seem to have… 😉

So what’s your doom when it comes to writerly distractions? What beckons to you when you sit down to write? The garden? Your next meal? A conlang? How do you beat these distractions and get back to writing–or do you?

The killing word

I have a bizarre urge to write poetry, never mind that I’m not much of a poet. There’s a swell of words and emotions and … tarry black stuff that feels clogged up and impossible to otherwise express. The stifled blackened swollen anal gland of the mind, for some delicious imagery.

I’ve started dabbling in some old habits that long ago I lost love for, through my own impossibly high demands and unfulfillable needs. Secretly I find I still enjoy them and in some ways this perplexes me. In other ways it illuminates. When there isn’t the pressure–the need–the hope and possibility that these creative outlets might become grand, there’s a joy that was once lost, a purity, a freedom. Is the work as good as it might’ve been, at my most disciplined, most demanding? Hardly. But I find myself happy, which I rarely do, these days.

How to balance, then, the drive to improve and not just to improve but also to prove to the world that I have something to say?

I am a silent person by nature. It’s not that I don’t talk, but I rarely express myself well via talking. Better written, better drawn, better screamed in little, controlled letters marching across the screen or the gashing tear of paper under palette knife laden with paint…

Sometimes I think–
Kill that word, kill it dead, HOPE. And while you’re at it… POSSIBILITY, POTENTIAL, PUBLICATION, LEGITIMACY, VALIDITY.

If you expect nothing, everything brings you joy.
Trouble is, if you expect nothing, can you really ever achieve something?

Prêt-à- … écrire?

So, though I’m well aware it’s not perfect, I’ve packaged up the first draft of The Red Box and sent it off to C., who has very kindly been reading through my first-ish draft(s). I was trying to polish up the second half, since the first half of the story can’t really be called “first draft”–it’s really been revised at least three times, if not more for some sections. The second half, though, is definitely a first draft. Much of it is still as it came from my fingers, and I’m already aware of some places where the pacing feels off, where I’m not trusting myself, or not sure if a scene belongs or not.

So why send it off? Well, partly because I’m sick of looking at it–it’s definitely drawer time; and partly because C. has been so encouraging and insightful and motivating that I would appreciate her insight into the “less good” parts.

Which leaves me… still wanting to write, but not sure what to write. There’s an idea that’s nibbling on the back of my brain, but it’s largely unformed as of yet, and to be honest, it’s mostly driven by my current game-infatuation. I know the beginning premise: a woman captain (or other commanding officer) who returns from some great accomplishment (a drastic mission? a search-and-rescue? a great discovery?) unfulfilled, both on a personal and professional level. She drifts away from her previous position for whatever reason (she retires because of her discontent, she saw something that soured her, she feels distanced from her crew, she was driven out by politics) and now does her daily due on the way to retirement. But then an old friend from her past calls…

I could also work on a short story, as the previous idea feels like a novella at least. I’ve got lots of poor, aborted short story ideas lingering: the “zombie” older lady who meets and has a fling with a younger man and all that ensues; the diary livejournal of a teenage werewolf; the spaceman who falls in love with a distant “voice” only to discover not what he expects on the other end. I’ve also got lots of stalled novels: The King of Salem, Under a Dreaming Sky, The Color of Amber… But all those stories have male leads and I wonder if I’m not in the mood to write a female lead for a while.

Or I’ve got a list of prompts from an “original fic bingo card” that I signed up for. Maybe it’s time to just jot out a bunch of short fiction for a while. I did, after all, have a pretty fun time writing a recent Re-Vamp werewolf story…

Writing through the bumps

Had really rough weekend, and all my best-laid plans to tackle the novel fell to the roadside. I could kick myself, but what good would that do? In the meantime, last week I did finally finish a short story I was severely writer’s-blocked on. Once again I find that sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to why one day I can’t focus, and one day I suddenly let loose 2000 words in a sitting.

The story I finished is a free story for the project I’m working on with Die Booth, Re-Vamp, so I’ll share the link once it’s up. I still need a title, though.

You know, I often either start out with a title and use it as an anchor through the time I’m writing, or I have no title by the time I’m done and then I never know what to call the darn thing.

First steps towards the end of a journey

So. In the beginning of January 2009, I started writing what I thought would be a novella. It’s now nearing the end of 2010, and that novella has become nearly novel length. I’ve been stuck for a long time around 2/3rds of the way done, and I haven’t been able to push past. I tried to ask some friends for advice, and the best I got was to stop revising and editing–which I had been repeatedly doing to the earlier parts every time I got stuck–and just finish the damn thing.

So here I am, finishing the damn thing. My goal is to finish it before 2010 is up. That’s one month. Doable? I think so, as long as I don’t get tangled up in my own insecurities.

The hard part will be resisting my need to make things “good” before I can move on.

This blog, hopefully, will be a place I can track my progress, vent, and think about some points out loud. It has the potential to be another distraction, but I’m hoping not.

I’m actually really excited to do this. I hope I can do this. If I can finish The Red Box, it will be the second novel I’ve finished–the first with any seriousness, as the previous one was a NaNoWriMo effort that I wrapped up thoughtlessly just to make the wordcount.

And then who knows what 2011 will bring?