Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

Aha! I bet you thought you were going to catch me, I bet you were thinking, oh Ben won't update his blog this Sunday because it's Christmas Day and then I'll get him, I'll say, hey you didn't update every Sunday like you said you were going to! But I've got you now! Because I am writing a post, so there. Bam. I win. One to Nothing. Game over.

I know, I know, I gave in. I put Happy Holidays in the title, rather than Merry Christmas. Oh boy, that's nearly as bad as putting up a tree, decorating it, and calling it a Holiday Tree rather than a Christmas tree. Thing is I don't give a damn. You can put up a tree on July 4th, decorate it red, white and blue, and call it a damn Indepence Tree. Who gives a shit? Not me. Have a happy December 25th, whatever that means to you. It's a time of giving and loving, right? So why do people get all bent out of shape about the name of a decorative tree? When did a tree even become a part of Christmas? I guess I forgot the part where Mary and Joseph had a pine tree in the shed where Jesus was born and threw lights all over the freaking thing. Maybe Jesus mentioned wanting a "really bitchin' pine tree, man, with like, lights and colored balls and shit all over it," on his birthday. Anyways, this is just a rant about people getting upset because in some town, some government figure called the tree a Holiday Tree instead of a Christmas Tree. It's a tad ridiculous, the sorts of things that people get upset about.

But regardless, it was a day of fun and feasts, presents in packages and the presence of family. See what I did there? Pretty slick, huh? I thought so.

The novel's coming along. I actually got alot of editing done on the bus ride home, so I'm about 35 pages or so through it, with 40-ish left to go. Whether I finish by January 1st or not...Well it's up in the air. Either way, that is the date where I will send it to close friends and family who wish to take a look at it and will be so kind as to tell me what they think.

So sit by the fire, look at your holiday tree, play with your holiday presents, and have fun with what you got, not what you didn't get, because let's face it, you could've have gotten nothing and you'd still have alot more than many others in the world.

Now I'm going to enjoy some eggnog and rum and maybe do some writing or editing. Enjoy yourselves.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Editing Woes

The process of working on my novel is stalled and stagnant. It is a slimy disgusting swamp, impossible to navigate, every step a boot-sucking hole that pulls you down into murky depths. Editing is simply something I'm not that familiar with I guess. Even in school I rarely wrote more than one draft of a paper. It's simply how I work, I think, at least when it comes to reports and such like that. With fiction, it's entirely different, and considering this is the first time I've really finished a novel, it's not really something I've done before. I've editted and rewritten short stories before, but that's about it. Even then, it's hard to know what to keep, what to change, and what to add. How much detail do you need? The answer is enough so that the reader has an idea of the place, but not so much that the reader cannot use his own imagination to fill in the blanks. That isn't exactly an easy line to toe.

So it's been slow. I've finally decided I'm going to give my novel a full read through, changing what I feel needs to be changed as I go, keeping a list of notes as I read, and simply powering through it. So far I've gotten through four pages out of 75. I guess part of the problem is editing is worse than writing, I'm not even coming up with new ideas, characters or stories, I'm simply going through the same situations, which isn't nearly as fun. I'm going to get through it, though, eventually.

I'm nearly finished with the Millennium series, which consists of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. All three are very good, the plot is a winding twisting and interesting tale, and the characters are fantastic. The story starts off relatively simple, but gets more intricate and complicated(though never needlessly so) throughout the three novels. The whole story is about Lisbeth Salander, who is an utterly believable and tragic character who is very different from most 'heroes' in fiction. She is fascinating and badass.

When I was working last night, I heard someone say "I haven't read since I got out of college," and I thought that was sad. Reading, in many ways, is better than watching movies, or tv, or playing a video game. I'm not sure how to describe it, but reading gives you worlds and characters which you imagine in your mind, you do not see the characters, so you must visualize them yourself. In this way, reading is entirely different from anything else. There is much less limitation. This is why when a book is made into a movie, many people become distraught that the character does not look like the one they imagined. A movie shows only one way to see a character, where as a line of description can be read and visualized in an infinite amount of ways. It just seems too many people these days have stopped reading, they are distracted by everything else, they became jaded by all the crap that we're forced to read in school, not to mention the fact that reading has become 'work' and is seen as 'lame' and 'boring'. Blah I sound like I'm an old man. Try reading something, anything. There's books that are more exciting and fast than action movies, more intriguing and mysterious than any spy movie, books that are about murders much more interesting than CSI, books with serial killers and thrilling car chases and brutal bloodbaths and anything you could think of or be interested in. If you enjoy any kind of movie or fictional tv show, then there is a book out there that you would enjoy reading.

Or not. Don't read. See if I care.   

"I suppose some editors are failed writers; but so are most writers." T.S. Eliot

"When in doubt, delete it." Philip Cosby

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Random Thoughts

A new story idea has been floating in my head, about a depressed lonely substitute teacher. Every day, he gets up and asks 'Who am I today?', goes to work, meets people that he knows he will likely never or very rarely see again, and then goes home. He's in a new city without friends or family around and has difficulty making new friendships, especially because everybody he meets he only sees for a day and then they are gone. Not sure where the story would go, other than perhaps the guy spirals down and down, becoming more and more crazy, losing his own identity in the process. Before anyone asks, no I am not lonely or depressed. Perhaps I would be like the character I'm describing if I had no family or friends, but I do, so don't get any ideas. Yes, alot of what I write has some basis or comes from my every day life. My life inspires me to write, but that does not mean I am writing about myself, if that makes any sense. I just think the profession of essentially 'being' somebody else every day is interesting. In fact, I have another idea that goes with this one.

It's a science-fiction set in the future, idea where, instead of being a substitute teacher, the protagonist is a substitute person. This means in some way he becomes the person he is substituting for. He downloads the persons thoughts and memories and anything he needs to know to perform the job he is subbing. This would be more than just teaching, could be anything, in fact. He really does ask 'Who am I today?', and he really does 'become' somebody else for a day. Now, I've been playing with this around in my head, either as it's own separate idea, or as connected with the previous one. Perhaps the lonely sub-teacher is struggling to write a story about a sci-fi substitute. Or something. Maybe that's dumb. Anyways, the idea of someone who, for a job, becomes somebody else for a day just really interests me, as it very much deals with one's identity.

Anyways, process on my novel is slow. I am finding it difficult to motivate myself to write without Nano breathing down my neck. Part of it might be that rewriting and editing sucks balls, but oh well. Needs to be done. Most people cut down their writing while they are editing but mostly I'm adding in scenes that I believe need to be there. I guess most over-write in their first draft, but I wonder if that's really a problem for me. I think my writing is pretty sparse, a few bare details to give you an impression of the scene, rare thoughts from characters and such. There isn't much that I write that seems excessive. I could be entirely wrong, though. It is tough to tell. I do feel, however, that the deadline of January 1st, when I reveal my novel to close friends and family, is coming very quickly. I hope that I can finish up the last scenes I wish to add, give it a full thorough read through, then hopefully a quick edit and polishing up. We'll see if I have time.

I recently read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is very good. It is an excellent mystery which actually reminded me why I like mystery fiction. I haven't read a mystery in awhile, I think because in my Detective Fiction class I read too much of it at once. It all seemed too similar, detective-case-investigation-revelation. But I am glad I picked up this one. It has alot of backstory, suspects, investigation and twists, all that is required for a good old mystery novel. I also watched the movie, with subtitles(the horror!) which was also quite good.

I guess that's all for now. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday, December 4th

With Nano finished, I've taken somewhat of a break from writing constantly. It felt good to write every day and create a story that grew and grew and to finally come to an end. It is nice to have a couple days off from it though, a break in the creative outflow, regenerate my imaginary well, and generally not care if I write 1667 words today or not. That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about my novel, though, which still needs alot of work. I've written a timeline, some scenes I believe I need to add in, and there's definitely some pacing issues as well. You need some slow casual scenes in between the violent brutal action, which I think I need more of.

Now, I know some folks want to read it, and I will definitely let you do so, if you wish, in the near future. I would like to do some more work on it before that happens though. I know you may perhaps be groaning, be saying 'what if you simply never feel it's finished or it's good enough or simply forget about it, then we will never read it!' Which is why I promise to give it to anyone who wants to read it by January 1st, 2012. There, less than a month to go, I think you can wait that long. This way, I have a deadline to work towards and you have the satisfaction of knowing you'll be able to read it no matter what. In the meantime I can hopefully finish it up. Now, don't get your hopes up about it. It will be rough and likely need more editting and rewriting. It may also feel short. I know I said it is a fantasy epic, but to be honest, it's more the very beginning of an epic. Lord of The Rings and the Wheel of Time both have books that are much longer than 50k. Consider this novel the very beginning. 50k is only around 175 pages or so, which is very short for any fantasy novel.

There's one thing about fantasy writing that is interesting and irritating at the same time, and that is the language. Tolkien created his own actual languages, others seem to just make up their own strange words in 'ancient languages' made up in their world. In my novel, there is this sort of ancient language, from which some words and names come from. The problem for me is whether the names feel realistic and cool, or are they just kind of lame and uninspiring. Do I have everyone speak the Common language, (english) like other books or does each race have their own language and on and on. It is a very difficult thing to create. In mine, Elves, Dwarves and Humans all speak the same language, but then, they are considered more of a single race and species, (they call eachother 'Cousins') so having a common language is perhaps plausible. I guess that's just one of those difficult things about creating your own world, you have to create entire cultures, including languages and essentially how they came to be.

Another thing about language is the swearing. How do fantasy folk swear? By their Gods, often, but what else? I use 'blood' and 'ashes' because of a famous battle, as well as 'hell' and 'damn'. I would like to use 'fuck' but would that feel modern? Unrealistic in a fantasy world? And why, I mean, why wouldn't a culture come up with Fuck as a swear word just as we did? I'd like to go the route of Deadwood, fuck the actual logic of how fantasy people would swear and just use the swears we do, so that it actually feels visceral, like swearing in real life, to the reader.

Anyways, such is what a fantasy writer must deal with. It's a great deal of fun as well as a great deal of work. Such is life.

This is a short post because I've got other shit to do, so there.