jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I've been rethinking this whiteboard schedule thing lately, and it occurred to me: I don't think I need to assign days for my creativity anymore...I think I need to assign a schedule for when to go online.

Let me explain this: after a good couple of weeks of ignoring the whiteboard due to work events, personal events and a vacation, I've come to the conclusion that my productivity issues aren't really based on the Don't Wanna's, but the Ooh Shiny's.

This is especially apparent since I've started a new Mendaihu Universe story a few weeks back by writing it completely longhand. I went over this on one of my other blogs a while back, but here's the thing: one of the reasons I'm writing longhand is that I wanted to try to return to the writing processes that I know truly worked for me. In this case, it's a mixture of the longhand writing of The Phoenix Effect in the late 90s (outcome: forces me to write without internal editing and trying to get it perfect first time out) and the lack of internet distractions in the early 00s during the trilogy writing (outcome: 'nuff said).

The end result of the longhand sessions so far has been extremely fruitful: I'm going by page count rather than word count and averaging about 1.5 to 2 pages a day, the story feels more organic, and I'm not feeling nearly as frustrated in general because I'm letting myself make the typical writing mistakes that I know can be fixed in rewrite/revision. And more to the point: I'm sitting all the way across the room on the loveseat here in Spare Oom, well away from the computer. My only distraction is deciding which music to play for that session's writing.

I like this new setup. A LOT. I could get used to this again. And considering nearly all of my creative works are offline (drawing, journaling, music, poetry), I see no reason not to expand it more. And as for the Daily 750: that too fell by the wayside due to personal and work issues, but I can just as easily pick it up again organically...I can just as easily hit those numbers longhand as well, and keep them in a single notebook for easier access.

Which brought me to the other elephant in the room: the social media and the two WordPress blogs.

To be honest, I have no problem with the blogs. I can keep up with those with minimal reminders. No, the big problem is my addiction to social media. There, I said it: addiction. It's not necessarily at detrimental level, but I'm catching myself refreshing the feeds more often than I'd like. Really, was I like this with LiveJournal? I don't believe I was, because that feed wasn't nearly as refreshable. But really--I know my weaknesses, I know how I react to certain subjects, and I've gone on about this for quite a while now. I keep saying I'm backing away, but I keep falling off that damn wagon. And that needs to stop.

So how about this:

How about using the whiteboard not as a writing schedule...but times I should pop online? Now, I'm not about to write "4pm - 6pm: check day's Twitter feed", which would be kind of silly. This is more like taking all the extraneous stuff off the whiteboard that I do anyway without reminders, and keep only the online stuff up: the blogs and the photo posts. Really, that's it. I'll still read my webcomics in the morning, check my emails and messages and whatnot. Keep a browser open if I'm streaming a station. Other than that, let's turn off the browsers we really don't need up. Bring one up if I need it for reference or any other valid reason? Sure. But otherwise, let's back away from distraction, for reals this time.

Here's to hoping it works.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
For those of you who follow me over on my Tumblr site, you may have noticed I've decided to take part in Inktober, which I would describe as an artist's version of NaNoWriMo--draw something every day of the month and post it somewhere using the #inktober hashtag. The only rule being the end result has to be in ink (and again that leaves it wide open--I've used both my art pens and a ballpoint Bic from my back pocket). It's been fun so far, because I get to doodle something every day! I'm not going out of my way to make a masterpiece...just a caricature or a Murph drawing or something that usually takes no more than a half-hour tops to make, and post it using my phone.

This is on top of my ongoing attempt to ramp up the output. Per my last post, I did pretty good with hitting goal at 29 out of the 30 days. Some of those entries were just personal ramblings, but many of them ended up being exercises in figuring out who the characters in my latest project are. I'd have conversations with myself, asking 'what does [character] look like?' or 'what's their ultimate goal in the story?' and so on, and it really helped me figure out where it's going. The other goal of using 750Words is that it forces me to sit down and think about writing-related things for a bit--it's breaking the wall of procrastination that bites me in the ass so often. And ultimately, it's gotten me back to the 2001-2003 levels of dedication to my writing, which is what I've been aiming for. Those were the Trilogy years where I was down in the Belfry without fail, every single day, working on something...and this is exactly what I've been aiming for, and I'm quite happy about that.

Oh! And also, we have a new modem/router! Yay! Our 2Wire has been in the apartment for a few good years, and it was starting to crap out more than usual. It would drop at the most inopportune times, especially while we were working. I'll admit we were taxing it during the day, what with her terminal, my work router, and me streaming a radio station. This new one's a Pace and it's working a treat. Quite happy with it so far.

So. Today's goal, outside of writing? Ice cream! I heard tell that there's a nifty ice cream shop down in the Sunset on Noriega that we should check out. Has numerous flavors and they're made locally, and it's quite a find. We may just jump on the 29 today and check it out. :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Okay, summer technically ends tomorrow, but Q4 is already here. School has already started, retail has started to ramp up their sales, and soon enough we'll start seeing holiday-themed things in the stores. And of course, it's time for the big-name bands to release their albums.

So what's in store for me this autumn? I mean, aside from me getting all wistful and thinking about 1988 (more than usual, I mean), and writing bad poetry and yet more nostalgic blog posts?

Well, Q4 pretty much kicked in at the start of September for me, and that's when I restarted the whiteboard schedule, and I'm happy to say I've been sticking to it pretty tightly. I've had a few days where I don't get to a poem, or I missed a day of writing my 750 Words, or some such...but I'm okay with that. In most cases (aside from the 750), I can make up for it a day or so later, and I'm okay with that. In fact, I may not get to the schedule today due to the fact that we have plans with the in-laws later today. But the point of the schedule is not to assign myself strict deadlines--it's to ensure I get off my duff and do these things.

So for the long-term goals? That's a good question. There are a few book-related things I have in mind that I won't go into here just yet. I'm still near the beginning of Two Thousand so I can't quite tell when that one's going to be finished. Walk in Silence will also take much longer than anticipated, but on the other hand that one's a lot further along than I expected it to be. And do I have any projects that I'll start after that? Well, good question. I'm not focusing on that too much just yet. I have a few vague ideas, but that's about it. I'm not looking at them for the moment because I want to devote as much time as I can on my present projects.

Other than that? Having a pretty relaxing weekend! Hope everyone's doing well!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Oof. It seems one well-meant system rollout at work that went awry made my productivity go all pear-shaped in January. Thankfully it's sort of back to normal, but I did a lot less work than I'd wanted. Having to do the financial equivalent of medical triage all day for about week and a half can really take a lot out of you. Still...things have calmed down, so it's time to turn it around and get things done again.

One of the things that immediately fell by the wayside was the 750 Words. I just had no time or inclination to do morning words (or in this case, "early evening words just before I start up on revision again"). However, it's a new week and a new month, so it's a perfect time to get back on the horse. I kind of cheated last night with my daily words, but I figure I can accept it this time, as these words for a long-delayed post. These were the 2k-plus words to finish off the most recent Blogging the Beatles installment, which means we have one left to go!

So...was January a wash? Far from it. I finished off the main revision sweep of A Division of Souls, and though I'm sure it can probably use one more go-round, I'm happy with the work I put into it. The very next day I started in on the revision of The Process of Belief, and BOY was Chapter One a doozy. I definitely need to work on that one again. Thankfully I did a marathon eight pages of Chapter Two the other day, and it looks pretty I'm not too worried. I just have to remember that this novel has a different voice from the first two, and for a reason: things have changed for all the characters, and they're definitely not the same people they were just months previous.

I did manage to get a number of journal entries and even a few poems in here and there. This side of the writing is a more personal tug of war, as part of me wants to tackle something every day--a journal entry, the daily words, and some kind of poetry--but some days I just don't have time for it. January was packed with events in and outside the house, so I had to remind myself that it was okay to miss a day if it comes to it.

So what does February have in store for me? Aside from the major revision work for Book 3, I'm going to try to get back into the schedule I'd planned. I also want to get cracking on a few new things as well--specifically, start making notes for future proejcts, as well as get some actual writing work done on Walk in Silence--both the blog and the book. Thirdly, it's high time I picked up the Wacom again after running out of time to play with it. I have a few interesting plans for that little project.

So yes--February looks to be equally busy, but in a good way!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I'm not going to post a picture of the whiteboard this time out, because for the most part it remains the same:

Mon-Fri: Revision of Bridgetown Trilogy
Wed: Photo post
Sat: Art, Music
Sun: Walk in Silence, Music

The whiteboard will most likely change as necessary, depending on what major project I'll be working on and anything new that comes up.

What's important here is the goals:

Revision of the Bridgetown Trilogy, and Related Projects.
I'm a few chapters short of finishing the first revision run-through of The Persistence of Memories, and will be picking up The Process of Belief soon after. As time permits (and if, by chance, I get a bite from Angry Robot or an agent or someone), I will also be tidying up A Division of Souls. This trilogy remains my main project for the time being.

I will also be updating the Welcome to Bridgetown blog with new related posts as well. I have a bunch of fun ideas for that one.

I have also previously commented on wanting to write further stories in this universe. I have a few vague ideas and a few stronger ones, and plan on working on a few of those as well as time permits.

That said...the related goal here is to get the Mendaihu Universe stories out into the wild this year.

Can't Find My Way Home.
I've decided that this one may end up being my next project unrelated to the above. I recently read through the outline I'd worked on a few years previous, and a lot of it still stands up well. The few chapters I worked on in the past a little less so, but it's nothing a little revision can't help. It's also a story that's not nearly as intensive in worldbuilding as the above, so there's not as much prewriting work to do.

Another idea I'd had for this novel was to post it online in installments. It's supposed to be read that way anyway--its episodic nature was inspired by the various anime series I've watched over the years, with a finite set of chapters (twenty-four), many of them with self-contained minor storylines with the overall plot showing up tangentially. I'm seeing this novel more as an experiment more than as a publishable novel (although I'd be happy with that as the end result), so I'm totally fine with self-publishing this online. As soon as I've come up with a bit of a backlog and a set schedule, I will of course let everyone know of its debut.

The YA Novels (Angela Death and The Children of Dun Corran).
These two may be a little further out on the schedule, maybe third or fourth quarter, but I'd like to at least work on outlines. I recently read through the outtakes and notes on these as well, and found them strong, if lacking in extension at this time. If anything, I believe I'd started these too early--I wasn't ready to write them just yet. I'd like to think I'm at the point where I may be able to try them out now.

Journaling, Poetry, Music, Photography and Art.
After much deliberation, I've reevaluated these five things in my life--many of them pastimes that I've taken part in for decades now, but never expanded on professionally. I've come to the conclusion that these will most likely remain personal endeavors, things for me to work on in spare moments, avenues to let off steam or play around without trying to make them professional. Over the last few years I found that the onus of trying to create everything to publication was actually inhibiting me rather than giving me a personal creative outlet, and that was exactly why I'd had such a dry spell. For 2014, I plan on using these five as a personal and emotional outlet rather than a professional one, as that is precisely what they were back in the day, and should probably remain. Most if not all of what comes out of this will most likely remain offline.

That said, if I do in fact create something I feel is worth sharing, I will of course post it. And I will of course show up from time to time on LJ and elsewhere when time and mood allows!

Walk in Silence, the book and the blog.
As said previously, this one fell by the wayside due to other more important deadlines. I am hoping to pick this up again on the weekends. This project has changed quite a number of times over the last few years, going from a book to a blog and back again, and I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to do with it, but for now I'm going to focus primarily on the blog. The reason for this is that much of what I'm going to be posting will most likely end up in the book anyway, if it comes to fruition. I do not have a set deadline for this book at this time, given my other self-imposed deadlines, so this one will most likely meander here and there until next year.

So yes...I have given myself a shit-ton of homework for the year, all due by December 31. And most of this will be worked on in tandem with everything else in my life. I'll be squeezing these things in between the cracks of my day; a slow day at work, at the gym, on vacation, what have you. Like I said in my previous post, I was able to handle my schedule last year, so I think I should be able to ramp it up a bit this year. I'm not sure if I've given any room for anything else to work on, but I know that I'll be working on all this on a day-to-day basis, and if time frees up for me to do something new, I will by all means embrace it.

Here's to an insanely busy 2014. Despite the workload, I'm looking forward to it.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I've been thinking lately about how a reader would digest my trilogy. By digest, I mean how they would understand it, process it, and what their reactions would be. What would be their take on it? Would they love it? Hate it? Be indifferent? Of course, a lot of writers think this at any given time. Some obsess over it, some dismiss it. You can't avoid it, but you probably shouldn't let it ruin you either.

I've also been thinking about how some manga artists and writers react to this as well. Every now and again if you pick up a tankobon (one of the bounded volumes), you'll often see the occasional afterword page often adorned with a silly self-portrait, with the artist/writer saying something to the effect of a humbled "thank you for buying the book/following this series!" and a promise to do the best they can ("Ganbatteimasu!") to keep you entertained with the story and hope you stay until the end.

I've been taking that to heart over the last few years--not the American "do your best" (i.e., aim for bestseller) (yes, I mean that with tongue firmly in cheek) but the Japanese "do your best" (i.e., aim for the best that you can possibly achieve). I don't want my book to be a bestseller or get all the awards. I want someone to read my book and say "wow, that was impressive." I want them to have the same reaction I have when I read a book or see a movie that moves me that much.

I'm curious as to what the reaction to my trilogy will be. If anything, I want to say it's Science Fiction, maybe with some Fantasy elements to it. It's not a typical adventure or quest, or a war against overlords, or a political thriller, or an allegory about the world we live in. If anything, it's an internal quest--it's a story about being given an ultimate goal and how tough it is to keep focused on it. It's a war of one's own being against outside influence. It's a spiritual thriller (not a religious one--and this isn't Christian fiction, in case you were wondering). It's an allegory about our inner worlds, our mind and heart. I often wonder if the reader will get all that. I'm doing my best to convey those things, without forcing it or making it too vague, and at the same time making sure it's not too fantastical.

When I first started trying out this whole writing thing, I of course thought the same as every other beginner--my stuff is awesome! It's got cool scenes! People are going to love it! We all know how that usually ends...! The second stage is usually 'okay, I know better now, this is more professional...people really will love it this time!'...which usually ends the same way. It's that third stage, the make-or-break, the "oh GOD my stuff sucks ass, who will even read this crap?", that really tests you. That's where you make the real decision to move ever forward, or give it up and become a register jockey at a shopping mall. Thankfully, I was stubborn and crazy enough to still enjoy this writing thing, and kept with it.

It's been thirty years since I thought of taking writing seriously, and twenty since that first initial "Vigil" idea that eventually came the trilogy. It's been a long haul with plenty of hard work, sweat, wrong turns, laughter, tears, annoyance, disappointment, half-assed attempts, trunked ideas, naivete, amusement, entertainment, and learning between then and now. It's not for the weak, I'll tell you that. But I'm doing my best, and I'm glad I am.
jon_chaisson: (The Norm Hairy Dream)
This past year has been an interesting one, personally. In a way it seems the Mayans got it right--it seems a lot of things going on in my life are finishing a cycle. I've done a lot of purging of things that have had a negative effect on me over the past few years--bad habits, stress triggers, toxic things. Stepping away from politics online. Changing mindsets. Realizing I just didn't care about certain things anymore. Not a willful ignorance or giving up, but a realization that I didn't need to have this stuff constantly on the front burners of my brain. Life will indeed proceed as normal if I let them go.

And with such endings come new beginnings. I realized over the course of the last few years, especially where creativity is concerned, that what I needed to do was start over from the beginning. This showed up quite often with my revision of A Division of Souls. I found that instead of trying to rework scenes I already had, I had to back up even further, and treat this revision as if I was completely rewriting the novel over, much like I did when I wrote it the first time. In doing this, I was able to pay full attention to how I was telling the story, as well as being able to see what I was doing wrong. I was also able to reach that level where I got the story, where it clicked in my head and I knew what I needed to do with it.

I started using this "start over from the beginning" mantra elsewhere, not just in my writing but with life in general, and I started reconnecting with more positive things--good habits, knowing when to let things go, creating things I enjoy creating, being more thoughtful about my ideas and actions. [Of course, [ profile] emmalyon hasn't seen the full extent of this due to my penchant for joking; I enjoy coming up with increasingly ridiculous excuses for not going to the gym or eating badly!] Mantras ended up being a good idea for me, actually. One of my worst habits is that my brain gets stuck in overdrive when I'm just about to fall asleep, and in the process I get all twitchy and restless, which frustrates Emm to no end. Some months back when I caught myself doing this, I'd just repeat "Okay, just stop. Just STOP it." in my head, and after awhile, it started working. The stress would vanish and my runaway brain would come back down to earth. I still twitch and move around, but I'm not as bad as I was.

Part of this "start over" was brought on by trying to rechannel what it was that got me into 80s college rock in the first place, for my Walk In Silence project. There is that long-lasting love for the genre and the memories that came with them, but I wanted to try to reconnect with what it was that got me interested in it in the first place. I wanted to try to remember what I was thinking at the time and what my outlook on life was, what I wanted my future to be. The trick was not to see it as a "what could have been" meandering, but more to reconnect with my original wishes and plans and see if they were still feasible.

Surprisingly, a lot of them still are, given a bit of updating and tweaking. Some of them I've already achieved, but there's more for me to do.

The next year promises to be interesting in a number of ways. I've got a lot of things planned, things I want to do, changes I want to make, projects I want to finish. I'm in a place where I can do that, so I'm not going to pass up the opportunity.

Here's to hoping 2013 is positive, creative, and fruitful.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
This past year has been pretty interesting for me...on the one hand, I dropped the self-imposed weekly schedule and some of the side projects, and stopped updating (or closed down) a handful of my blogs. On the other hand, however, I focused solely on this current revision of A Division of Souls, which I'm finding is infinitely better than the last few revisions I'd made, and I've also made some interesting strides on my posts over at Walk in Silence, specificaly with the Blogging the Beatles series I started. I think this move was the right one, as I'm feeling a lot more confident in my output. That was the main aim this year--to focus more on the quality than the quantity, and I think the end result is quite positive.

That said, I would like to return to the weekly schedule again. It probably won't be nearly as packed as it was in the last few years, however. I'm going to remain focused on the Eden Cycle revisions, but I would also like to reintroduce more time to working on Walk in Silence, assigning myself a daily or weekly poem or passage to write (the main focus there being to work on something completely new, however small). I'm going to sit on Love Like Blood a little while longer. If I have time and the inclination, one of my other backburner projects might pop up later in the year...we'll see.

I also enjoyed the weekend/midweek posts of poetry and pictures, and I'd like to revive that again. Those were fun mini-projects to work on, and I think are worth revisiting. They only took maybe an hour or so out of my day, so it wasn't as if they were intrusive. If anything, that's the same amount of time I'd probably be wasting online or goofing off. This will help eliminate that to some degree. I don't mind the goofing off, it's quite a normal thing to do--but I feel I do too much of it.

So for now, I'm going to finish out 2012 with what I've been doing for the last few months...I'm continuing with the ADoS revision and doing the occasional blog post, and that's it. I'll toy around with schedule ideas this coming month, and post it come the first of January.

Hope everyone's had a great 2012! :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
As promised, the writing post!

Lots of thinks about what's going on with A Division of Souls as of late, pretty much along with my writing in general. Lots of I really need to make a serious decision here thinks, to put it bluntly.

It's kind of hard to put into words, but I'll do my best.

As I'd mentioned in the previous post (and in many tweets), I've been doing some seriously heavy revision on the novel, specifically with the last few chapters. As in deleting passages, revising others, and completely rewriting still more. Although I'm deeply proud of this trilogy, I'm also deeply frustrated that it's nowhere near as professional as it could be. The emotions feel flat; the action feels forced. The prose feels thin--or as I like to say, it's all surface and not much underneath. Over the last few months I've been digging through the prologue and the last five chapters, and they sound a hell of a lot better than they did when I first wrote them in the late 90s, and even better than the rewrite I did in 1999-2001. But it's still not there. That's the thing--for the five or so years, I've felt that I'm "almost there...but not quite." I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that held me back, but I knew my writing was stuck at some middle level and wasn't moving any further.

It wasn't until recently, probably in the last month, that I finally got it, or at least understood what I was doing wrong. Thanks to a lot of help from [ profile] dancinghorse's critiques, a lot of chat with [ profile] emmalyon, and a lot of paying attention to what I was reading, I think I finally figured out what it was that was missing.

Or more to the point, I figured out the self-made walls I'd put up that held me back. I've already torn down the "but I shouldn't have to change it, it's great how it is!" wall LONG ago. I've also torn down the "I don't want to change it, I might lose the story idea I had!" wall and the "it's good enough" wall. The "I will always suck" wall never quite goes away, but it's low enough that I can just jump over it without a problem.

The main wall left? It doesn't have a funny description as the above. It's called the "professional-grade" wall. It's that moment where you understand the blood, sweat and tears that need to go into the prose and the plot and everything else. It's not a game, making shit up as you go along. It's where you realize that you can't just use fluffy, neat-sounding words willy-nilly to tell the story. It's where you use craft. And most importantly? IT CANNOT BE HALF-ASSED. As Judy said to me, readers can tell when you're phoning it in.

It's hard work, and it's definitely been pushing all my "don't wanna" buttons to the point that I want to do anything else but work on it. This is why I find myself goofing off online, checking my Twitter feed, watching stupid YouTube videos, playing with my music collection...anything except what I SHOULD be doing. But I've been slogging through it, giving myself fifteen minutes to play before I close all my browsers and get work done.

Because that's what I have to do. I've said it to my friends and family, and to everyone else: my current job is just my money-paying job to pay the rent and buy music. My writing is my career.

Let's emphasize that: My writing is my career.

If I'm going to say that to people and try to make myself believe it, then I'd better fucking follow through.

That said...

This is not a personal crisis, more like a revelation. Not a "sing Hallelujah" revelation, but more like a weight lifted. Now that I understand what my issues are and how I need to fix them, I'm no longer dwelling in self-pity and frustration. Well, at least not the "I suck" frustration, at any rate. The "GAH I need to fix this crap" frustration will always be there.

The last time I felt this was back in 2002, when I was writing the sequel to ADoS, The Persistence of Memories. For the longest time I misunderstood that excitement of writing as having plenty of time to do it and enjoying my schedule at the time. That was part of it, but not the entirety. When I reread TPoM, I can tell things started clicking then. The prose isn't the best, but it's a damn sight better than a lot of other work I've done before or since. For various reasons I lost sight of that, which I won't go into. Point being, I got it then, and I get it again now, and it's great to be back again.

As said...I have a lot of thinks about how I'm going to proceed from here. A lot of good ideas, a lot of processes that I'd like to try that might help me hone my craft. There are a few weak spots I'd like to work on, and I think I might have a few ideas to strengthen them.

I like having these downed walls...makes the sky that much clearer. :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Another week in which it feels like I kinda-sorta-but-not-quite got work done writingwise. On the one hand, I felt I wasted too much time goofing around on the internets...but on the other hand, I finally finished Chapter 5 to the point that it works a hell of a lot better...and in the process, moved a scene that was originally after that chapter back to Chapter 3 where it made more sense and had a lot more bite...and in the process did a little more editing to Chapter 5 (ultimately deleting about ten lines) so the scene move would make more sense...and finally getting to start in on Chapter 6.

This revision feels very strange in that I'm reading it with an extremely clinical eye. In this sense, I'm focusing more on how I told the story. This is where I think I got confused, and where a lot of starting writers stumble...when you're reading a story that is completely you--that is, when you're going over a story or a novel that is completely from your imagination, created solely by your brain creating scenes and your fingers dancing across the keyboard--it's kind of hard to distance yourself from that extremely personal relationship you have with those words. There's that fear that any clinical dissection of these words is a dissection and perhaps ultimately a disconnect in that relationship, making it seem less than what you want it to be.

I can't talk for anyone else here, but personally, I think I finally got over the fear of dissecting my words and exposing the cracks. I finally got over the fear that I would personally lose interest in my own words--a long-standing fear instilled in me in high school when I was taught to brutally dissect Lord of the Flies. [Aside: it's been over 25 years of me complaining about how much I loathed that book...I just picked up a used copy at Green Apple today to see if my feelings have changed any.] There's this common misconception as a beginning writer, where one thinks that in order to get to a professional level of writing, one has to give up words that you've slaved over, and writers HATE having to make that sacrifice. I still hate it, but it makes sense to sacrifice if you're going to replace your work with even better work. In the end, it's totally worth it.

But really, I've finally come to learn that storytelling isn't just about using words creatively and making up really neat scenes. It's a crapload of things, really...there's creating a plot that is never (or rarely) static; there's keeping some sort of essential logic, real or created; there's knowing when to expand and when to contract the scene; and with the point of this post, there's coming to terms with the reality that sometimes, the words you used or the scene you wrote may not quite work. There's a lot more of course, this is just a part of it. The trick is knowing when it's good and when it needs fixing...and it's different for each writer.

Personally, each level of writing a story has a distinct feeling for me:

When I'm writing new words and unfolding a scene for the first time, either straight from my head or using the sparsest of outlines, there's that thrill--that excitement of, for the lack of a better term, 'making shit up as you go along and getting away with it.' I absolutely love that feeling of the words spilling out as I'm writing them, because it's something I know I'm good at, and something that's truly from me and not somewhere else. I get the same feeling when I'm writing poetry, or drawing and sketching. In a weird way, I envision word count as getting a High Score on some old school videogame like Galaga or something...the higher it is, the prouder I am that I got some serious work done.

When I'm planning out a story, the excitement of creation is there as well, but it's different. It's not the thrill of getting words down; rather, it's the thrill of personally unfolding a story. Back in 2002-04 when I was working at Yankee Candle during the day and writing in the Belfry at night, at work I'd grab a blank piece of paper and plot out the next few scenes when the days were slow, and write them out when I got home. Given that this job was primarily physical, I'd save a lot of my mental gymnastics for the writing sessions. I don't get to do this nearly as much as I'd like to nowadays, but I'm slowly making the change so I can do taht again.

And now, for probably the first time, I'm finding out how it feels to revise. Not just reading the story for grammar and spelling, and not just to make sure the logic works, and not just to fix any plot holes. For the first time, I'm finding out how it feels to look at my own work clinically and unemotionally. I'm not letting myself get lost in the made world. I'm looking at the scene, paragraph, and sentence levels, parsing what works and what needs work, and editing and revising where it's needed.

So how does it feel?

It's strange, really. Like I said, there are days when I feel like I didn't get anything done and I'm still focusing on the same damn sentences I was staring at three days ago, and then I look at the end of week tally and find that I've revised a good fifteen to twenty pages over the course of a week. There's definitely progress, it's just less obvious. It's a hell of a lot different than trying to make wordcount--you're not creating new words or aiming for X number of words. If anything, my aim is to get it done and polished, period. I don't know how long it'll take, but it'll have been worth it by the end.
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)
No new project as of yet, and nothing of note, but I'm writing on a daily basis again. I've returned to 750 Words and I've been making myself hit a daily goal again, just to get back into practice. Most of it has been rambling and inconsequential, but it's something, at least. The main reason for doing it is to get myself back into the habit. I have the time to do it throughout the day, so I've been entering a little bit here and there.

I started doing this on a whim this past Monday and have been hitting goal every day since then, so I'm quite happy about that. I think the trick is that I'm not trying to get these words down in a finite amount of time--that is, during a specific writing session--which is helping them come more freely. I have the entries in locked status so they're not readable to the public, mainly because a lot of what I'm tying is semi-personal and not really something I want to share at this point. I'm considering this, though, as a sort of 'Roughdraftland' for possible future things to work on.

Another reason to do this is that I've never been one to be able to write stream-of-conscious style, unless I was playing with words in the style of John Lennon (which I've done many times and let me tell you it's a HELL of a lot of fun!). Playing on this site is curing me of that, however, because I'm laying a few ground rules:

1) No revising. Translation: No sweating and slaving over the correct words to use.
2) Slight editing is okay if I'm repeating myself or see a better direction in which to go.
3) No holding back. Feel free to get as personal or as extreme as possible.
4) 750 is just the finish line. Going over it is totally fine if you're on a roll.
5) Alternately, it's okay if you're short. Consider the goal-reaching filler as a fun extra credit.

These ground rules are put there basically because those are the biggest obstacles I have with my writing in general. I'm using this site as a way to break free of them. I'd like to think that it's worked pretty well so far.
jon_chaisson: (Default)


Main Goals
--Finish and prepare front burner projects
      --A Division of Souls (revision, submission)
      --Love Like Blood (revision, submission)
      --Walk in Silence (writing, interviews, research)
--Prepare secondary projects for shift to front burner
      --The Persistence of Memories (revision)
      --Can’t Find My Way Home (revision of outline, writing)
      --Angela Death (revamp of story/outline, writing)
--Utilize time available for new projects
      --Longhand writing when away from PC/laptop
      --Weekends for non-writing projects

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/workout, etc.) should follow the "By Week" schedule below. Minimum productive writing time: 1.5 hours, more if time allows.

By Day

--Outlining current and future projects
--Post poem on Dreamwidth account (worked on over the week or at that moment)
--Walk in Silence project
      --Research or writing
      --Update WordPress WiS website
--2x a month: Artwork--work on a project or scan and post

--New Words


--New Words

--Update WordPress WiS website (optional)

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

--Outlining current and future projects
--New Words and/or Revision
--Tumblr picture post

--New words or revision as time allows
--Any additional work/posting is of course acceptable, if time allows.

By Project

Current projects/works in progress to be worked on:

--Update reference files and character sheets

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


--Outline revision
--Character sheets
--Longhand writing

--Revamp of characters and story
--Character sheets
--Longhand writing


Non-Writing Projects (Long-Term)

--Guitar practice
--Record demos on PC software
--Dub/Remix older songs from cassette

--Murph strips/storyline
--scanning of older work
--posting online

--Learn more about what I can do with new camera
--Utilize Photoshop for editing, etc.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
On the first day of 2011, I posted my writing schedule for the year. It included the picture of the whiteboard on the wall above my desk that I referred to over the course of the last twelve months. I tried to even things out so I was always doing something every single day, even if it was something quick and easy or fun, like posting a picture or writing a poem. The post also included a suggested schedule to work off of, similar to the whiteboard but in more detail. It wasn't something I had to adhere to, only a suggestion. I tried to include my multiple open projects when I could.

So, how did it work out? Let's do a review:

--The whiteboard schedule worked out nicely and to my advantage, actually. It was a great daily reminder to get something done, even if it wasn't exactly what I should have been writing on. If I was already in Spare Oom (usually if I'd been working from home that day), all I needed to do was pop my head up and see what I needed to do on that day. If I was out in the living room instead, I'd just pop into the room to review.

--The 'suggested schedule' part of the post didn't quite pan out the way I wanted it to due to different reasons (wanting to catch up on something else, lack of time/inspiration, etc.), but in the end I'm looking on the positive end of it. After awhile I dropped the "project #2" (at the time it was the Love Like Blood revision) and focused most of my time on the major revision of A Division of Souls, and I'm glad to say I'm about halfway done with it already. I also got a lot farther with Walk In Silence than I expected, even though I have a lot more writing to do for it. I didn't get as much poetry written as I'd wanted (I'd originally planned on twice a week), but 51 poems of substance over the course of a year is actually pretty good for me, considering I only wrote about twenty total over the last five years. The writing LJ (the one with my name on it) kind of fell by the wayside too, and my last post there is two months old. All that said, I'm not exactly frustrated or annoyed that this part didn't pan out. I just need to adjust it more to my abilities.

So where do I go from here? What should I change and what should I keep? What should I adjust? More to the point, what are my goals?

Well, more on that tomorrow, when I post a new Day One writing schedule for 2012. For now I'm doing something slightly different here...I'm playing around with my schedule by using a legal pad and working it out longhand (longhand itself being another goal). I'm aiming for this coming year to be more creative than ever, and I'm really looking forward to it.

For now I'll just say that my plan for 2012 is to take It would be a neat idea to eventually _______ and reword it to say _______ is a neat idea--let's find the time to do it!
jon_chaisson: (Default)
As I've said earlier, I hadn't done a lick of writing work since we took off last Monday on our trip down the coast. It wasn't until yesterday evening, a day after we returned home, when I turned on the PC again and started getting something done. I opened up the latest version of A Division of Souls and got a good few pages of revision done. It still isn't quite up to my liking, but at the same time I think I may have my standards set a bit too high. That's partly why I took the time off--to clear my head of everything.

Speaking of revision, I had a short but interesting conversation with [ profile] aberwyn at her LJ about it...I will admit here and now that I do a lot of hemming and hawing and getting all stressed out about revision, specifically of the "I suck" variety, but once I get it out of my system, I shut up and get it done anyway. Revision isn't my favorite thing to do, but it's necessary and there are worse things in the world that need doing, and I know I'm not the only writer who feels that way. I think my biggest issue with revising my own work is that, on the outset, I really look forward to fixing any problems and making the story better...only to see the reality of what needs fixing and how far from perfect it may be.

Which brings me to the next thing--perfection. I think my latest self-destructive writing hangup is that I seem to forget the difference between professional writing and my own personal style. All writers have their own specific personal style (usually described using their last name with an "-ian" suffix, natch--I'll leave examples to you, humble reader), and I know I have mine. I tend to stay with a blue-collar, working-man dialogue and a very visual and aural exposition, with simple sentences and words rather than being technical or verbose. I think over the last few months (and before I started my schedule) I began to get frustrated because I was starting to see my work as crap, mainly due to the fact that I was comparing it to other writers' styles. It might be that I'm at the tail end of [ profile] kateelliott's Crossroads trilogy and I've always loved her richly descriptive style, and yet that's a style that I don't think I would ever be able to reach unless given years of practice, more education, and a hell of a lot more spare time. During this vacation, while deliberately keeping away from my writing, I came to the conclusion that that was precisely my problem--I was trying to revise these books by writing like someone else, not myself. That's all fine and dandy if I'm deliberately trying to emulate someone I'm not, but that's not what I'm trying to do. SO--upon picking up A Division of Souls last night, I started looking at my writing not as craptastic drivel written by a hack, but decent prose that just needs a bit of cleaning up.

That said, onto the next item--productivity. One of the strangest things about recently turning 40 is discarding one of my original thoughts about my writing career--that I wanted to get as many stories out there as I could. Not exactly on a yearly basis like Stephen King used to, or have an output of every half-hour like Tyler Perry. Granted, as I've mentioned many times before, I wrote The Persistence of Memories (Book 2 in the trilogy) in exactly one year, but that was during a very productive (and very open-scheduled) time, and I think more of a fluke than anything. The fact that I did it is good enough for me--I'm proud that I wrote it that fast, and if given time and directive, I could probably do it again. That said, I began to realize that maybe I only have a dozen story ideas in me and not an infinite number, and I'm okay with that now. If something new and unexpected comes along, I'm fine with that. I'm also fine with letting some story ideas go (such as most of the ones I worked on in my youth that weren't reworked into other projects later on) to become trunk novels. All of us writers have those. This realization lifted a lot of the frustration I'd had in the past. Added to the fact that when I created my schedule, while I haven't exactly been following it to the letter this past month, I've been consistent in at least getting something done. More importantly, I can safely say that I've grown out of giving up the schedule because I fell off that particular wagon. As long as I'm going in the right direction, that's all that truly matters. I can get back on schedule easily enough.

Lastly, clarity. This is more about the revision of A Division of Souls, but I think it's worth mentioning. I admit that, due to a lack of a complete outline for the trilogy, there are a number of things wrong with it. Inconsistencies abound, not to mention dead-end subplots (and, near the end, a 'seemed like a good idea at the time' plot device that needs replacing). And worse, a lot of exposition passages were, of course, mini-infodumps that took away from the flow. At this point in my career, I think I've become more aware of when these problems arise and how to fix them. That is, to give my prose clarity and get rid of the clunkiness. As I said above, my mistake is that I was mistaking clarity for needing to change my style. Now that I've realized the difference, the road ahead seems...well, clearer.

And that's what I've been thinking about during vacation. :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
So not only did I forget about posting every Wednesday at my writing block, I completely forgot to write a poem at my Dreamwidth blog! Further proof that I desperately need to make deadlines for myself, or I'm never going to get anything done.

Okay, to be fair, I didn't post anything Sunday because I had a busy weekend--between going to the Symphony on Saturday night, going to the opera Sunday afternoon, and watching football and doing other things once I got home, I simply forgot about it. Not bad, considering I've written fourteen poems there every Sunday and only barely missed it once.

Tomorrow, if we're both up to it, we may head down to Target and buy random things (we need more Christmas wrapping, as the rolls I snagged at World Market last weekend are almost out already), and one of the things I had thought of was a marker board and a corkboard. The corkboard I'd put near the door, next to the calendar, as that'll be where the bills, coming attractions and whatnot can be placed (instead of on my desk). The marker board? Well, I'm thinking of looking for one similar to the one I had down in the Belfry for a few that has a blank calendar template. As stated above, I'm thinking my 2011 goals are doable but I need to give them a deadline, or else they'll never get done. That worked pretty well with the trilogy for the most part, so I'd like to give that a try and see where it goes.

Speaking of which, I've been disgustingly lazy and not done any writing work since Saturday. THAT WILL BE RECTIFIED TOMORROW!


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