jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
It's been a few weeks since my last fly-by post. June was busy with all sorts of things going on--a few weekend events, a half-week hanging out with the in-laws (who were checking out various Bay Area towns as they are contemplating moving this way at some point), a few concerts, and everything else in between. Of course there was also the fact that I've been rereading (and re-rereading) the three Trilogy books while working on Book 2's revision...that's been the bulk of my writing work for a few months now.

I'm hoping to get my schedule straight again this month, and I'm making good progress. Just a day or so behind on one or two things, but I can easily catch up. I also plan on reinstalling the Wacom tablet this weekend so I can continue with the art stuff as well. I do have some pictures I'd like to post, yet for some reason my Tumblr is reading them as upside-down when they're right side up in the pictures folder...will need to fix that before posting.


So over the past few weeks I sat down with my Nook and read all three books in the trilogy, back-to-back. Partly this was done to compare the finished revision to Book 1 against the unrevised Books 2 and 3, and thus get an idea what needs to be fixed and/or changed. [The other reason was to get an idea of the overall flow of the entire trilogy, and to see if I'd indeed wrapped up everything as well as I could. I'm proud to say that it looks a lot better than I'd expected.] One interesting thing is how I'd always touted Book 2 as my favorite to write as it was the smoothest and quickest. However, looking over it with new (and somewhat more professional) eyes, I'm seeing issues that need fixing. Nothing horrible that kills the book, mind you, more like a handful of thin spots and a few passages that could be updated and/or rewritten.

The biggest surprise, however, was rereading Book 3--the once-reviled last book that dogged me for the longest time, the one that I eventually stopped writing for close to five years? The one that in a previous LJ post I'd said it felt like there was no Act I? Yeah, that one.

Reading it in the context of the other two books, it's actually tighter and stronger in plot than I remember. Sure, there are a lot of weak points in it, but nothing I can't fix. Point being--reading the full Book 3 again (and reading it straight through for the first time after FINALLY finishing it in 2010), I was floored by the fact that it's a hell of a lot BETTER than I previously thought it was. Even the opening makes more sense and feels like an Act I than I previously remember it being. I think part of it is because it's the most physical of the three books--Book 1 is spiritual, Book 2 is emotional, and Book 3 is the follow-through, the action result of the previous two. The action starts right off in this one, because at this point, it has to.

That's another thing that surprised me upon reading all three in one go: I'd planned on having the trilogy work as a specific arch, a nearly complete evolution of the characters, their lives and their surroundings, from one end to the other. The trilogy starts as a straight-ahead detective novel but within a chapter or so it's obvious that's not its true direction (I did that on purpose to underline just how deep this story is about to affect the main characters). By the time we hit the last page of Book 3, everyone's irrevocably changed in one way or another, affected by the events of the very first chapter in Book 1. In the end, I think I pulled it off a hell of a lot better than I'd expected.

One last thing about Book 3--given that the last dozen or so chapters were written after a dry spell of about four years, I can definitely see a change in the pacing and a bit in the writing. It's not garishly obvious, but again, it's nothing I can't fix. For the most part, I think posting the chapters on the Eden Cycle LJ and then picking up the chapters right after that helped me get in the mindframe and the flow, so the end result isn't all that bad. I'm actually looking forward to revising this one now.

That said...I've also been thinking about how I'll finally release the trilogy. I'll have a separate post on that later so this post won't turn into yet another novel-sized diatribe. Short version is that I've been thinking more and more about the DIY/self-pub end of it. I've got a few writer friends out there who have already done so, and I've also been thinking a lot about how other media has done it (in particular the whole music end with Bandcamp and elsewhere, and with books). More on that in my next post!

Hope everyone has a lovely Friday and a relaxing weekend! :D
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

May 1987, in which I finally finish my first novel after many false starts...proving to myself that I can do it, and if I can do it once, even if the novel itself is horribly written, I can do it again. And have been doing it since.

September 1992, in which I realize that I'm a hell of a lot better at writing than I am at shooting film, so I tweak my college degree and fill out the remaining prerequisites with screenwriting classes.

September 1995, in which, after moving back in with the family after failing on my own, I get all the anger and depression out of my system and make it a point not to let it happen again. Takes me nine and a half years to move out, but in the meantime I turn my finances around and get my act together.

Spring 1996, in which I leave the radio station after nearly six months, when my hours are cut back. It's the last time I set foot in a radio station as an employee. I still wish I'd followed up on it elsewhere, but I've made my peace.

January 22, 1997--my birthday--in which I stop talking to an ex-girlfriend and an old school friend on the same day, due to various emotional issues concerning all parties. Driving to work and hearing "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp on the radio the next day, and finding myself relieved by the situation, instead of frustrated or angry.

March 3, 1997, in which I sit down in the mall food court before my shift starts at the record store, and begin writing The Phoenix Effect, which in turn begins a habit of daily writing, daily page/word count goals, and eventually the [ profile] edencycle trilogy. I've taken my writing seriously ever since.

September 2000, in which I decide I'd rather quit the record store than deal with the prick of a boss (who had planned to fire me anyway)...another job that I enjoyed but had to leave due to circumstances. I get hired by Yankee Candle within the week.

November 2000, in which my YC schedule changes from second shift (3pm to 11pm) to first (7am to 3pm). By the end of that month, I'm heading down to the basement on a nightly basis, transcribing my longhand writing to my PC. My nightly schedule, with very little change, stays until early 2005.

New Year's Eve 2004, in which I'm hanging out with the gang at Chris' house at one of his overnight gaming parties. I'm (re-)introduced to A. We hit it off and the next morning I offer to drive her down to Rhode Island for a work-related meeting. We chat online via IM and LiveJournal for quite some time. By August I get an email from Chris that "y'know, just sayin', I think there's something there." By October 31 we're officially going out.

March 6, 2005, in which I move out of my parents' house and down to New Jersey to live with A. A few months later she emails me while at work and says "hey...I think I've been offered a position out in San Francisco. What do you think?"

December 2005, in which we make the move out to the other side of the country, to a city only three years previous I'd seen on a news magazine show and thought "I'd like to visit that city one day..."

Autumn 2012, in which I make the decision to pick up the Eden Cycle again after much critiquing from [ profile] dancinghorse and some serious thought about my writing. As of tonight, I'm about six chapters from being done with this go-round and a few months away from submitting it to agents.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
In the process of editing/revising A Division of Souls, I've been preparing a few chapters ahead of time so I can just pick up the next one when I get to it. The preparation has mainly been taking the last version (2011), shifting scenes if need be, and saving them as a new chapter for working on later. It works out well for me, as this is quite similar to how I wrote it in the first place (mapping out a few following scenes before I write them), and any shifting has already taken place. This way I can revise a chapter in a week or two. Added to this, I've been dedicating my weekday writing sessions solely to this project, so I've been getting quite a bit done. This dedication has worked so well that I even want to pick it up on the weekends when I should be working on other things (not that that's a bad thing...).

The other week while preparing the next batch, I suddenly noticed I only had nine chapters left to go and I'd be finished! WOO! Of course, once this is done, then I'd go through one more time specifically for grammar and flow (as well as some serious Find/Replace work on a couple of names). But the fact that it's only the end of February and I'm this close to being done with this round of rewriting/revision makes me extremely happy! This means two things: I get to jump in on revising The Persistence of Memories (probably my favorite in the trilogy), and more importantly, SUBMISSION TIME! I haven't submitted a manuscript anywhere for quite a few years, and I haven't submitted anything from the trilogy since probably 2004, so I'm very excited about this. Yes, even if it does get rejected! It's been WAY too long since I was at this point.

I have to say I've kicked my own ass repeatedly on this revision, and it was worth it. I did some serious overhaul of the first few chapters (as mentioned before, some of the passages hadn't changed much since the original 1999-2000ish versions), killed off quite a lot of deadwood and wrote a hell of a lot of improved sequences to take its place, and in my opinion, made this the best damn version it's ever been. And in the process I've learned a hell of a lot more about my own writing than I ever expected. That ain't bad at all.

All that said, if I keep up the speed I'm at, I think I should have everything done by the middle or end of March. Another month to do the cosmetic fixes, and I should have everything ready to go by May.

Here's to hoping... :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I've been on this big Zen kick lately. I think part of it might be due to the one-a-day calendar I get in my email that gives me daily Zen quotes. There's also the fact that I've been rethinking a LOT lately on my thought processes, habits, and goals.

You've probably noticed I haven't been online nearly as much as I have in the past. I'd like to post here more, and I'd like to interact with my friends on Twitter more, but on the other hand, I've decided to take some things private. I decided that I may still want to work out my thoughts and actions by writing, but instead of doing it online, I bought a moleskine notebook and have been using that as a diary of sorts. I've also taken my poetry offline as well, returning to the composition notebooks. It has nothing to do with fear of lack of privacy; it's more to do with making it more personal for myself. Once again using my latest mantra of "start at the beginning", I thought I'd return to the methods of personal writing that I had when I first started out.

I think it's worked out well so far. One of the benefits is that I'm not editing myself internally, something I've always done online. I can be more random, more stream-of-conscious. I think one of the problems with writing online is that I invariably end up editing myself, probably more than I should. I want to say something, but I end up taking a good hour or so to write a post because I want to think it through so it doesn't sound scattered. I end up holding back, not saying what I really want to say. I've noticed this in my prose and poetry as well. Taking it back to a more private and personal level has let me open up a little, be more spontaneous. I still feel a bit rusty at it, but it feels good to do this again.

I've also been thinking about the idea of balance in my writing, particularly in the Eden Cycle. Balance is a big part of the plot--the polar opposites must coexist in a balance, rather than good triumphing over evil--especially with this latest revision. I keep this in mind every time I've worked on it this round, and I've been able to strengthen a lot of the plot in the process, something I may not have been able to do in the past because I wasn't looking at the story on that level. I haven't utilized this mode of thinking in any of my other works as of yet, but I definitely think it's worth thinking about once I do pick them up.

So I think the first few weeks of January have been good so far, on a personal and also on a creative level. I can go much farther, and I still need to remind myself where I am now and again, but for the most part, I'm happy at how everything's working out at this point. It's an ongoing process, and I think it's one worth working on.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
My writing time was laughable last week, and I admit it was partly by choice. I hadn't planned on watching the DNC, but since Emm had it on I followed suit. And since most of this weekend was spent on the road or in various stores, nothing happened yesterday or today. I did sneak a few poems in during the week during work time, but other than that it's been slim pickins. I plan on fixing that later this week with actual heavy duty revision sessions.

Speaking of which, I'm currently going over Chapter 5 of A Division of Souls (in which Poe meets up with Akaina and Ashyntoya) for a THIRD time, because, as I'd said to Emm during one of our walks, I like the beginning and ending of the chapter but the middle is OH GOD HORRIBLE. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it could still use a hell of a lot of work. The problem is that a lot of the important action isn't typical; it takes place in a sort-of-other-reality that Poe experiences through the other two characters. It doesn't quite take place in his head, but it doesn't quite take place in his normal reality, either. The plot itself is okay, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to get the description right. I had the same problem with Chapters 1 and 3 (I apparently alternate between good and bad chapters!), in which the plot is good but the telling is in dire need of an overhaul. I've got my writing work cut out for me this week. Hopefully the third time's the charm.

Also trilogy related, all the talk about cultural appropriation in SF/F that I've been reading on the internets over the last few months has got me thinking about some of the things I've used in the trilogy. I've mentioned quite often that the Eden Cycle was partially inspired and influenced by anime (specifically the Gall Force series), so there's definitely a few traces of things Japanese in there. All done appropriately of course. However, it got me thinking about the Mihari and the Misuteru--the yin and yang of spiritual power in the Eden Cycle world. The Mihari are hands-off and protect through vigilance, constantly watching, while the Misuteru are hands-on and want to enforce change to ensure peace.

The names are Japanese words (mihari = watch, misuteru = abandon) that I grabbed from a Japanese pocket dictionary I owned. At the time I didn't even think twice about snagging a different language's words because it wasn't a malicious intent; in fact, it was more to the point that I was fascinated by the naming convention in the animes I watched. At the time (the late 90s, when the trilogy was still The Phoenix Effect), the names also tied in with the history of these Meraladians--the Mihari were the proactive aliens watching the future and the past and leaving the homeworld first, and the Misuteru were the ones who wanted to stay behind, and thus felt abandoned by their counterparts.

All this said...even though I've written a complete trilogy that took me pretty much ten years to write, and the Mihari/Misuteru names date back even further (Mihari from around 1994 and Misuteru soon after), I think it's time that I come up with newer names. There's two reasons for this:

1) Logic. I mostly did away with the "abandoned Meraladian" backstory quite a few drafts ago, so "Misuteru" doesn't fit anymore. "Mihari" does fit somewhat, but at this point it feels out of place, like I tried shoehorning it into the story when it no longer quite fits. The Mihari at this point are more active within the storyline so calling them "watchers" is sort of a misnomer.

2) Language. "Mihari" and "Misuteru" are the only two specific real-life words left in the story, as many of the other names have been changed to fit the Anjshe conlang I'd created around 2001. Even the alien race name is officially "Meraladhza" (lit. "people from Meraladh") and "Meraladian" is the "Terranized" corruption of the name. I only kept Mihari and Misuteru because the two sides are so central to the story. More to the point, however, the names themselves are not central, but could be (this would make even more sense, as words have lingual and spiritual meanings in this alien world).

SO! That being said, over the course of the next few weeks or so I will be creating new names for them, and will need to do some serious Find/Replace editing (for three separate novels I should add) to get everything changed over. It's worth it, though. I don't think I'm doing this to avoid real-life cultural appropriation as I am realizing that the appropriating that did take place in the past no longer fits, and needs an update.

Since these two names are going to be extremely important to the story, I'll have to do some serious thinking about it. The good thing is that Anjshe is a very organic language, in which I use specific syllables to mean certain things which I would then combine and perhaps tweak to form more words [for example, mehra (spiritual state) + dea (to be at rest) = mehridhea (peace)]. My plan is to start making a list of names and choose what sounds best and fits best.

This by far has to be the most intensive change in the trilogy that I've ever made, and I'm sure I'll still refer to them by their old names after the fact, but it's a change that needs doing.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
So what have I been doing lately, in terms of my writing? Well, this time out it's a major revision of A Division of Souls. I know, I know...I've tooted that horn quite a few times over the last few years, only to get to a certain point and have it fall apart. Why should this be any different?

I think the difference this time is a confluence of a number of things, of which I'll probably go into in a later post. For now, I'll just say that it's a combination of winding myself up doing the 750 Words, ramping up my reading, focusing on only one fiction project, [ profile] dancinghorse's words of wisdom in the margins, and basically having found that personal sweet spot where I'm in a good writing groove. Or maybe it's just that I'm finally "getting it" in terms of what's good prose and what's half-assed or just plain bad.

Of course, I know that this sweet spot is fleeting. What's perfect for one book might not be for another. I know that the writing for Walk in Silence has been completely different, considering it's nonfic. Then there's the distractions that can take it away or change it without us noticing right off.

Then there's also the method of how I'm reading ADoS. The first draft was definitely an excited freeform of scenes, knowing what was coming next and writing it, but not really "crafting" how it was written. Which is par for the course for me. The next few drafts improve on this freeform, making the story sound better and giving it more logic. Eventually I'll be happy enough with that part of it. [Side note: in the past, this was where I mistakenly thought I was done and started sending a few submissions out. Bad idea.] The trick was to move in the other direction--not so much disassociate myself from the novel, but to see it from a different point of view. But that's not the only thing; revision is a LOT of things other than polishing and making it sound better. You have to figure out HOW you're going to do that.

And to do that, you have to figure out what's wrong in the first place. For me, it was too much internal dialogue and not enough physical action, a few too many in-jokes and Hollywood visuals that served little purpose, a handful of dead-end ideas, and a lot of worldbuilding without much explanation as to why it was there in the first place. There was also a somewhat limited command of the prose...too many weasel words and overused phrases. That's fine during an early draft, considering my main aim is unfurl the story, not create a work of art right out of the gate.

So how am I doing this differently now?

Well, that's a good question, and I'm not sure how I can adequately describe it aside from having hit that "sweet spot" where I know what the hell I'm doing and can innately see what needs fixing or polishing up, and am detached enough from the story where I can let certain passages go without being annoyed by it. I doubt it will be a perfect revision, but I can at least believe that I'm improving on each successive runthrough. I know there's also the fact that my trilogy is ridiculously long (the books average about 115k each, if I'm not mistaken), so I've got quite a long way to go before they're finished. The level of revision will vary as well...I know some of The Process of Belief will need a complete rewrite, but there will also be some passages that need merely a tweak of a sentence or two.

At this point, I'm not on a schedule, other than "work on it every day." And as long as I follow that, I'll be getting ever closer to my goal.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
[ profile] emmalyon and I have been visiting various Boston landmarks the last few days during vacation, so I decided I'd take some pictures of things and places that have influenced my writing over the years, or were at least important to my writing. Enjoy!

There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed... )

I wish I'd have taken more pictures (I would have liked to have gotten pictures of Charlesgate, my apartment in Allston, and a few others), but we didn't have the time. I may grab those pictures from the internet later on and post them in a follow-up, however.

We'll be heading out west to my parents' house tomorrow, so I will most likely be taking more reference pictures as the week progresses.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Q: Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else's.

If people ask me, I say I'm more spiritual than religious. It's not that I disavow any churches or their doctrines (outdated or conflicting though some of them may be)...I'm actually kind of fascinated by the multitude of religions and faiths out there in this crazy world. I love the idea of community in a parish, the peace of meditation, the love of earth and spirit. I was brought up Roman Catholic in a small town and enjoyed the sense of community and friendship it gave, but I walked away in college because I wanted to explore. (That's not to say I denounced my faith or my membership, I just moved away from it is all.)

In the mid-90s I had a few revelations (as it were). The first was an invitation to a circle ritual for a few Wiccans I knew. I found myself fascinated by the idea of--well, not so much a religion or an organized faith, but a mindset of peace and balance, which I desperately needed at the time. Skeptic that I sometimes am, I didn't completely and blindly give in to Wicca, but I studied it quite a bit over the course of a few years. I didn't really focus on the rituals, because they were the main reason I left the Catholic church in the first place--I found that religious ritual, over time, kind of loses its meaning for me unless I change it up now and again. I liked the idea in Wicca of not so much having a set ritual that everyone followed, but to have your own, as long as the outcome was to thank nature for what it's given you, and to follow the tenet of 'an it harm none, do as thou wilt'.

This seeped into my writing about this time. My aborted novel with Diana, True Faith, contained a number of scenes with magic of a spiritual bent. The one problem with the plot, however, was that I was trying to shoehorn a non-diametric belief system into a good-versus-evil story. I was going to hit a lot of roadblocks (not to mention step on some toes) if I kept heading down that road.

By late 1996, I'd moved on from Wicca as well as from that relationship. Not that I'd immersed myself wholly into it to begin with, but I had come to a stagnation point--I was still intrigued by its belief system, but I just couldn't quite bring myself to ever completely give into it.

Then the oddest thing popped into my life--a book about aliens. Hear me out on this one, it's kind of fun. :)

Now, this was one of your typical throwaway paperbacks you'd find in a supermarket about whether or not aliens and alien encounters were real. I picked it up partly as a lark, and partly because I was interested in why someone would believe such--I considered it research for my writing, as I kind of liked the "aliens among us" idea. What got me, though, was an intriguing spiritual theory I'd never heard before: what if the human soul wasn't just bound to Earth? What if the soul reincarnated several lifetimes, not just to learn or to 'spread the message', but just to experience life? And most of all, where would these souls come from?

My first thought was Hot Damn, that's a story line right there! And that's how the Eden Cycle was born, first as a single novel (The Phoenix Effect), then as a trilogy (A Division of Souls, The Persistence of Memories and The Process of Belief) written over the course of nearly ten years. I'm currently revising them now (I have early versions posted at [ profile] edencycle in extremely friends-locked posts, if anyone's interested).

I was so intrigued by that idea that I followed it for a good few years more, reading quite a number of different books. I read Barbara Hand Clow's The Pleiadian Agenda, parts of The Urantia Book, books about Billy Meier and FIGU, visited a number of online bulletin boards, and even tried a bit of automatic writing. I took it all with a good heaping grain of salt, of course, as I wasn't expecting a spaceship to pick me up and "take me home" any time soon. What I got out of it was another sense of community and insight--it was less about blindly following what others claimed to be true, but more about focusing and parsing what I'd learned. It was sort of like a roundabout meditation, in a way.

(ETA: I should probably add that this was why I was so angry when Marshall Applewhite led the Heaven's Gate cult to a mass suicide--this was both blind following and abusive leadership, both of which I find abhorrent in spirituality.)

I let that go probably in 2000 or so, as my focus veered away from the alien spirit idea and more towards my Eden Cycle novels. I haven't really thought about spirituality or religion since then. The current political weather has made me irritable, of course, but that's really due to the blatant misinterpretation and abuse of what religion and spirituality should be about. I'm not angry at believers in general, just the ones who are exploiting their beliefs for selfish and sometimes violent ends.

If anything, I still think of myself as spiritual in a universal sort of way. I still don't expect P'Taah to come picking me up anytime soon...but when I look out into a night sky and see the countless stars out there, I'm glad I'm part of this universe too, in my own way.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
I just need to get over this allergy that's making my head feel all spinny. I have a lot I want to cover, and I'd like to have more of a clear brain before I do so. I'll probably post it at some point this coming weekend.

In the meantime, I'm following the suggestion of one of the panelists and posting my inspirations and reference points for the Eden Cycle trilogy at my Pinterest spot. You can find it here.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Harry Connolly (aka [ profile] burger_eater), author of the Twenty Palaces books I'm currently reading, had an interesting post the other day regarding writing for a specific audience, and it got me thinking about the same thing: Who am I writing for? Who is the audience?

As I'd mentioned in my response to his post, I think a lot of us writer n00bs tend not to think about such things right that point in the game, we're too busy thinking I just wanna get published! and not much else. Maybe, just maybe, we take it a bit further and say I want to publish a science fiction/fantasy/litfic/urban fantasy story because I think it's a neat idea. It's a start, and it's part of the whole writing/publishing experience, but there's more to it than that.

In the barest of terms of why I write certain things: I wrote the Eden Cycle trilogy because I wanted to create a world the alien visitors were actually our distant relations and how that would affect Earth's society. I originally wrote Love Like Blood because I wanted to write an urban fantasy that didn't take itself way too seriously. I'm writing Angela Death because I want to write a YA book about teenagers coming into their magical abilities in a world where magic is the norm. I'm writing The Children of Dun Corran because I want to write a magic-based story set in an enclosed tribal society. And of course, I'm writing Walk in Silence because there's very few books on the "college rock" scene and there's a bajillion books out there about punk and other alt.rock scenes.

Which is all fine and good. I have reasons to write these books "because it's a neat idea". Don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing that as a lame excuse, but why else am I writing them? In fact, WiS is probably the closest in what I'm trying to get at here--the other books are about something I'd like to write about, but WiS is because I want to share my story about one of my obsessions that I think is worth sharing with an audience of other alt.rock obsessives.

So again...who am I writing for? Is there anyone in particular, or even a general audience, that I'm targeting? I mean, aside from your normal everyday reader? It's not something I've actively thought about for a length of time, and I think that's partly because I'm thinking of too wide a margin. Is the Eden Cycle aimed at anyone in particular, other than an audience who would be interested in the differences and similarities of two separate societies?

As [ profile] emmalyon said to me when critting Love Like Blood a few years back, the problem there was that I was trying too hard, and it fell flat more often than not. What I thought was funny and jokey, she thought was a bit too flippant and "funny only to me". I understood what she meant, but at the same time, it's taken me awhile to really understand what she meant by that. And I know exactly where the problem lies--I'm still stuck in the mindset of writing for myself first, and hoping everyone else gets it. It's good that I see that, but it's something I still need to actively remember.

Perhaps it's something to think about further. I'm not about to dismiss any of these stories as wastes of time now because they're not for anyone in particular, mind you--it's more that maybe it's time that I narrow down my focus while I revise. I should still write for myself so that I can infuse some spirit into it, but I should also keep in mind that if these are to be published, I'm writing for potential readers as well. Figuring out who those readers are and how they would take it in is the hard part, but it's a vital one.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
More on Joshua Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein...

One of the things he talks about is the 'OK Plateau', in which, after we've learned a task such as typing, we go from the beginner level (slow two-fingered tapping) to a somewhat higher one (the Qwerty or Dvorak system), until our brain goes to autopilot. Once we're reasonably comfortable with doing the task without having to think about it, we don't focus on the actual performance, we just do it.

Sometime ago I had this niggling feeling that I'd hit that plateau with my writing, that I was afraid I'd hit my limit, and I was just going to have to make do with being a reasonably adequate writer and not a great one. Not great as in Pulitzer prize-winning--I mean this in terms of writing something I'm especially proud of that I think is my best work, and something that would be professional and publishable. This is on a personal level too--I consider myself "reasonably good" at a number of things, but not really "exceptional" at any of them. There's nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as that's pretty much normal for a lot of people...

...except if it's in your field of expertise. Mike Holmes is exceptional in his work because he's an expert in home building and inspection, and who wouldn't want to have him on your side if you're having house problems? And would you trust someone who's "merely adequate"?

Of course, that's an extreme example, but it kind of states my point here, in regards to writing. I've been working on my Eden Cycle trilogy for close to ten years, and though I've made significant strides, I still have that niggling feeling that it's just not a great piece of work. It's a damn sight better than the original stories, but it could be so much better, and I'm vividly aware that it could be. At this point I'm at that OK Plateau, where I know I can do better, yet I'm not exactly sure what needs to be done to break that barrier.

This is often where beta-readers and critiquers usually come in handy, and this is why it's terribly important to have the right beta-readers and critiquers on hand. This of course can be tricky when all you have is close friends and family who will enjoy the story, but may not have the ability to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and find plotholes and weak language. This is why I'm thankful that writers like [ profile] dancinghorse have offered their services as readers...I've learned quite a few things from her, and while I'm still not quite there yet, I can see where more work is needed, thanks to people like her.

But how do I overcome the OK Plateau on my own? What is it that I need to do to write the best damn novels that I can, instead of writing half-assed and calling it good enough? Do I need to start challenging my own vocabulary? Do I need to be less emotionally involved with my stories and become more clinical? Do I need to force myself to write not just a little every day but a lot every day? Do I need to find a job that doesn't demand nearly as much clinical thinking, but perhaps more creative thinking? In all honesty, it's a little of everything here. It's not just one thing, that's for sure.

This is partly why I've given myself such a full plate this new year. I'm trying to force myself out of passive mode by getting out of my comfort zone. I suppose for some, that would be doing something crazy like mountain climbing or bungee jumping or something silly like that, but for me, it would need to be something that's more than a one-time event. I'm 'reasonably good' at music, art, and writing--things I've loved to do since I was a kid--and I'm in a good position where I can actually do such things in my spare time. If I can turn it into a paying gig, all the better.

As long as I'll be doing something I love doing, and getting better at it as I go along, I'll be happy. And I'll have finally gotten past the OK Plateau.
jon_chaisson: (Default)'s the Official Soundtracks of the trilogy, on five cassettes made between 1997 and 2002. For space's sake I'm putting it under a cut.

Eden Cycle OST, Vol 1-5 )
jon_chaisson: (Default)
If anyone asks me how 2011 was for me, I'd really have to think about how I'd answer that. The short version is that I'd say it was a pretty good albeit stressful year. The slightly longer version? Personally, I think I've made some life decisions that were for the better (going to the Y, eating better, etc.). Creatively I got quite a bit done (the revision of A Division of Souls is about halfway done, and I've mapped out most of 1984 in Walk in Silence and also established a few contacts for said project), with room for more improvement. Workwise, well...I'll just say 'stressful but I'm dealing with it' and leave it at that. So yeah, I think for the most part the year was good to me.

I've really been thinking more about what I want to do with my "official" website (the WordPress one), and I have a few ideas. It's still in embryonic stage and I probably have one other reader aside from myself at the moment, but I have some good ideas of what I'd like to do with it in the new year. One of the things I was thinking about while off the radar is how serious I'd like my online footprint to be...I of course have my LJ, Facebook, Twitter, Dreamwidth, and Google+ accounts (and others that I keep forgetting about, of course), and it is fun to pop on and talk with coworkers and friends on those sites, but as a writer I don't have much to show professionally. I have a few excerpts at the WordPress site, and a few long RTS posts that are here at LJ (plus the older versions of the Bridgetown Trilogy at its own LJ), but nothing much else. I'm thinking that starting in the new year, I'll be posting my more serious writing over there and keeping the LJ for more personal and lightweight things. I'm also thinking of using LJ as a daily/weekly aggregator of links to my various writings--this makes sense as I can then have the link post mirrored at Twitter and Facebook.

As mentioned above and in previous posts, I spent most of this year revising A Division of Souls and not much else aside from Walk in Silence prep work and a bunch of poetry. I think that 2012 should contain at least one NEW project, though I'm not sure what yet. It could be one of the backburner ideas (I'm thinking either Angela Death or Can't Find My Way Home, or work on the next Eden Cycle story/stories, or perhaps even something completely new), just to keep the creative juices flowing. If anything, I proved to myself that I can multitask projects if I manage my time correctly. In addition to that, during the next year I should also make some serious submissions. Part of that decision is tied in with the SFWC, in that I will be talking with a few agents/publishers about the two major projects I want to push: the Bridgetown Trilogy and Walk in Silence. I would also like to look into submitting some poetry to various places, as I know I have more than enough that are worthy of submission.

The next year should also be creative musically. The last bit of new music I recorded had to be the next-to-last jeb! session back in 2005, six years ago. I've been picking up my guitar, bass and uke off and on over the past year, and I think it's time for me to start recording some of it. I have the software for it, I just need to sit down and do it. I'm not sure where I'll post it, but I think it's time. I may even do what all other old musicians are doing nowadays and do some rerecordings of Flying Bohemians tunes. Music has always been part of what I am, and I think it's time to share some of it.

So I'm pretty much coasting for the last week of this year...I'll be writing and whatnot, but I won't be too worried if I don't get much done. It's been a long year, and I'm just going to treat this last week as a Christmas vacation of sorts. I'll be posting my Best of 2011 list sometime over the next few days (which of course will include videos again) and adjusting my writing schedule to fit some of the new changes.

Hope everyone has a great holiday season!
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Morning, all...I'm operating on about 4.5 hours of sleep due to our misguided idea that an arrival at SFO at 11pm last night would be a good thing (well, there was little traffic, so it wasn't all bad), so it may take me a few more hours to achieve full coherence. We apologize for any GrammarFail ahead of time.

That said...many things on the table for today as well as in the next few weeks, writing and otherwise.

--Today being August 1st and the 30th Birthday of MTV, I will of course need to write an RTS post about it. I'll try to avoid the trap of complaining that the "M" pretty much stands for Mediocre nowadays, instead focusing on some fun memories and thoughts about the channel that's shaped our listening habits over the years.

--Also starting today will be some serious outline work for The Children of Dun Corran, revision work for A Division of Souls, and preplanning for Eden Cycle Book 4 (I wrote about four pages of notes on the plane last night while flying over the midwest). Also starting today is Daily Poetry. More on that in a later post, but this is another exercise I want to try...

--Time to clean and arrange my stuff in Spare Oom. I want to go through that Blue Bin O' Crap next to the love seat and empty that out, and perhaps use that for real storage in the closet. Plus, I need to refile quite a bit of writing and get it all organized. This of course should be a weekend project, so I'll start doing that soon.

--I also need to go through our cds and weed out again...I think I've amassed enough from the last year or two to be able to sell them at Amoeba for a decent amount of credit. Again, another weekend project.

I'm sure I'll come up with more ideas and projects that will keep me from getting anything done, but we'll see. Have a spiffy day, everyone!
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Just got the critique from [ profile] dancinghorse for A Division of Souls a few moments ago. I haven't read it yet, since I'm still on the work clock.

Let's just say I'm excited and terrified at the same time.

Which is par for the course for us writers when it comes to other people reading our stuff. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Default)

"Cosmic Child", ending credits theme to the anime Gall Force 2: Destruction, by Takako Shirai & Crazy Boys.

translation below the cut )

During the winter of 1993, having just graduated college and living in a shoebox apartment on Beacon Street in Boston, I was pretty much on my own and at the very start of figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wasn't in the best frame of mind (having lost connection with quite a few friends and not having many in town), and had nothing to show for my four years at Emerson, aside from aborted stories and screenplays.

One of the things I did to pass the time was rent out videos from Tower Records--specifically anime, something I'd been interested in but never followed up on. I pretty much schooled myself on various movies and shows that I'd heard of but never seen (or saw only briefly), such as Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, Akira, and so on. One of the titles that caught my eye was Gall Force: Eternal Story, It's not a big-name anime (although the character design is by Kenichi Sonoda, who worked on many 80s animes such as Bubblegum Crisis), but I'd like to think of it as the little anime series that could.

Long story short, it's humans (called "Solnoids" here, and all female) vs their mortal alien enemy (the liqueous "Paranoids", playing the male, natch) in a seemingly never-ending fight for dominance. What the lead characters don't know, at least not right away, is that a secret meeting between the two races have created a project that would finally unite them in peace. The twist is that this story focuses more on a group of Solnoid cadets attempting to keep this forced unity from happening; and finally, once they realize the outcome could save them all, protecting this new "offspring" on a pre-human Earth. This storyline stretched from this movie to two OAVs to an additional three story arcs taking place over the course of many centuries. I was intrigued by its worldbuilding, and its unique take on a space opera/Alien/Creation Myth story.

I bring this up because this was the series that pretty much opened my eyes to science fiction, and changed an overworked Infamous War Novel into a completely new and fresh story called Vigil. Admittedly, this version of the story didn't go too far, but it was the seed that would end up becoming the created world of the entire Eden Cycle universe. In particular, it was this song that inspired me to start toying with the idea of aliens being related to us humans in a very distant way, what that meant to those here on Earth, who would be for it and who would be against it. That idea never made it to Vigil, with that story focusing instead on the titular underground hacker group I'd created--basically the original characters of the IWN dropped into a science fiction plot. Nonetheless, I finally picked up that alien-relation idea in the next version, True Faith...and you know the story from there. That was it--a tired, overworked, trunk novel I'd toyed with since the mid 80s, given a new life and a new universe all because of one anime series, specifically one of its ending theme songs.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
I've decided that I'll be sending the first few chapters and synopsis (once I create a better one) of A Division of Souls to [ profile] dancinghorse for a critique. Though I've had many friends and family read it in the past, this will be the first time I've had a professional writer take a look at this particular story--aside from a few submissions in the early 00's of previous versions--so I guess I'm a little nervous. Not scared, just nervous. She already glanced at Love Like Blood a while back, so I know what I'm getting into.

Of course, I'm already of the mindset that I feel there's something still missing, but I'm not quite sure what it is. This is normal, considering I've had this story in my head for at least 13 or so years, and sometimes it's a hard to be somewhat impartial after being close for so long to it. Still, I'm open-minded, and I'll be glad to see what she makes of it.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Apologies for the duplication in posting, but felt it necessary to cross-post it here as well. And further proof that I'm determined to follow this schedule: I bought a whiteboard with a month matrix on it that's mere inches from my monitor so I don't ignore it:


2011 Schedule

(Subject to change over the course of the year as projects allow.)

By Time
--As time allows, time spent between arriving at work and actual work time (7am-ish to 7:30am) should be utilized by longhand work. This can include poetry, new work, notes, revision, or brainstorming.

--As time allows, time spent after arriving home (minus any errands/dinner/etc.) should follow the "By Week" schedule below. Minimum productive writing time: 1 hour, more if time allows.

By Week

--Longhand @ work
--Revision on current project #1

--Longhand @ work
--New words on current project #1

--Revision on current project #2
--Write poem, post on Dreamwidth account.

--New words on current project #2
--Read-through of any other upcoming projects, notes/revision as necessary
--Update post on [ profile] jonchaisson

--Longhand @ work
--Any transcription/revision of longhand into PC
--Catch-up on any work of current week

--Outlining current and future projects
--New words or revision as time allows

--Outlining current and future projects
--Write poem, post on Dreamwidth account.
--Writing work on nonfiction Walk In Silence project

Any additional work/posting is of course acceptable, if time allows.

By Project

Current projects/works in progress to be worked on:

--New opening of A Division of Souls
--Read-through on Nook of entire trilogy
--Update reference files and character sheets

--Brainstorming new ideas
--Character sheets
--Outlining and plot-mapping
--Outtakes and notes


--Outline revision
--Character sheets

--Character sheets

jon_chaisson: (Default)
Finally! Just finished what had to be one of the most intense (and protracted) series of writing sessions I've had in quite awhile, and I think I'm happy with how it came out. Sure, it could still do with a bit of tidying up, but it sounds a million times better than the original. Hope you enjoy it!

Book I, Prologue )

Of course, any comments/feedback are welcome!

©2010 Jon Chaisson. :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Okay, once I iron out the last few pages of the first scene in A Division of Souls, I am going to post the new version here for your perusal to see what you think. I should have it done by tonight (and if not, by this weekend). Slightly longer, but a HELL of a lot better than the version posted here at [ profile] edencycle (f-locked over there, let me know if you'd like to compare and contrast and I'll add you there).

So yeah...that's what I've been doing in Spare Oom the last few days.


jon_chaisson: (Default)

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