Amazon Kindle 3 Review

KindleFoot

Yes, I’ve been sucked into the e-reader craze and bought the latest Kindle from Amazon.  I can now read Twilight without carrying those really big books around (must be filled with really big words)!  I can even read books on my feet, which has long been a dream!

What do I think of the device so far?  Here are my quick thoughts:

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Growing Up With a Hero

AminalPeople often ask where I came up with my ideas.  For most of the random writing I do, I have no good answer–it just sort of pops into my head and I run with it.  But for Far From Light, it’s different.

Far From Light sprang from my childhood mind that was rarely attached to reality.  I would make up adventures in my head, but whether it be a knight fighting evil wizards (never dragons, because they’re actually good), or a space warrior freeing the universe of all sorts of bad, I always had the same hero.  He was my personal champion, and he’s grown up with me.  Even now as an adult, I admit that sometimes when I’m having a rough day, or if I’m just a little bored with my life, I’ll daydream that I walk around a corner and see Kyn Landric there, and I never think of anything good to say to him, so I just repeat the moment I first see him over and over in my head until I realize I’m twenty-something and I’ve been walking around with a dopey smile for God knows how long.  I guess there’s a part of me that wants to pretend he’s real because it made me so happy when I was little(er).

I got to an age and stage of creativity where I realized that Kyn needed his own place in the world.  It wasn’t fair to keep him in my head all the time–the rest of the planet needs him!  I needed him as a kid, but now we’re both grown-ups, I have a job, and he’s homeless.  I feel like I owe it to him to figure out where he came from and how he can get back.  The problem with having so much history with a character is I have this heavy burden to tell his story right or he might hate me, but there’s also fear that once it’s told, he’ll be gone from my head forever.

When I finally forced myself to get to business and finish a rough draft, I discovered that what was really spectacular about my hero was that he didn’t care that he was one at all.  His story became greater than him, and the themes behind it stole the spotlight, even though Kyn was center stage.  Was he mad?  Had I cheated him after all he had done for me?  No, and that’s what’s so great about him!  The whole reason for his being was to help me see beyond the hero, and I don’t think the two of us have ever been happier now that we know this.

So basically, I’ve just admitted that my whole story is about my imaginary friend that I’ve never been able to abandon.  Maybe story is where imaginary friends go when kids leave them behind, and the good ones were the most loved.

Trimming the Fat

First of all, I am immensely proud of myself for managing to keep up my early morning regimen.  Getting up at this hour is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, much like root canal wasn’t quite as unpleasant as I thought it would be.

I thought I had already discovered while doing my rough, rough, rough draft that a lot of writing is just getting the crap out on paper and dealing with the mess later.  This first revision has quite a few giant, gaping holes that beg to be shat in.  As an example, I had to write a piece of backstory to reveal some key facts and transition story lines smoothly.  I have no ability to be brief when it comes to history, however, so my “quick summary” of a past event turned into twenty pages.  I knew if I attempted to bring any of it to my writing group that I would be drawn and quartered, so I set to trimming it down.  I got it to four pages, and they were actually pretty good.

It doesn’t matter how much practice I get at spinning story—I will always have mostly crap and a little bit of good in the midst of it.  As another, less filthy analogy, it’s sort of like having several puzzles mixed up in your head, and you have to throw it all on the table and find just the pieces that matter for your story.

It’s a messy process, but worth it for the end result!

***Completely unrelated side note:  I watched Misery again last night.  Dear God, don’t let me have fans like that!  I’d rather have no fans than a crazed Kathy Bates (love her)!  I wonder if when Stephen King was hit by a van, he worried that his own nightmare was about to become reality.  Thoughts?!

The Ugly Necessity of Pre-Dawn Writing

It’s been forever and a day since I updated, and I have no good excuse expect that I started a new job, moved into a new place, and had some other fun stuff shake up my life a bit.  None of this is reason to stop writing, of course.  If anything, I should have kept on it to use the stress and tension as fuel.  The worst part was for me to get back into the habit of writing on a consistent basis.  I would tell myself every day that I would get at least a page done before bed.  More often than not I would end up eating a less than splendid dinner and passing out after an episode of Family Guy.  I know, I know–brain junk-food, but it’s so funny!

The solution to my problem was MorningMonstera sinister beast lurking in a dark corner–no–he was just sitting in the middle of the room,  behemothic and ready to devour me as soon as I gave in to the urge to face it (I think there is some cardinal rule that you must actually see a monster before it eats your  head off).  Every book on writing states that you must set aside a specific time slot for writing and make it holy, and nearly every one of them also says that morning is best–not because the creative juices are flowing  at an ungodly hour, (trust me, you have to hack your creative head with an ice pick to get any crap out of it before the sun comes up) but because it is the only way you get to it before something else comes up and forces you to put it off.

I managed to get my butt in bed by 11:00 last night and thought I was so cleverly tricking my early-morning self into being productive.  Let me say that I am actually somewhat a morning person.  Even if I am traveling and staying out until 3 in the morning, I have trouble sleeping in past 8:00.  Expecting me to be up and functioning before 6:00 AM is absurd though, and when my alarm went off at 5:15, I wanted to travel back in time seven hours so I could kick myself for thinking of this moronic idea.  I hit snooze once, then forced myself up, cussing like an arthritic geriatric as I fumbled to the kitchen and the coffee machine altar.

All that bitching aside, I wrote two pages in an hour.  I know I was cranking out four or five during NaNoWriMo, but I’m happy enough about the progress that I thought I’d brag about it on here for all two of my fans.  Of course, tonight I will have to drug myself silly to get to bed at 10:30 and not be so haggard, but I am determined to make this habit.  I am imposing a deadline that I will not wake up 35 years old and still be an accountant.  I have 8.5 years to do that, and even if I’m just doing two pages a day, that’s 6,200+ pages of horse shit I could have as proof that I tried by then.

Don’t put me to sleep

bulldog_frances In an effort to make sure that I’m not writing something that’s already been done, I have been less selective in books I’ve read attempted to read lately.  Before I started doing this, there was only one novel I had never finished: the colossally terrible Wuthering Heights, which I had always hailed as the worst book ever written because I couldn’t get past chapter five no matter how many times I tried.  Well, it’s still one of the worst books declared a “classic” that has ever haunted bookshelves.  Why is it and so many other books so perfectly wretched? It’s effing boring!  One should not have to labor that long and still not give half a damn about the characters and their attempt at plot.

Write out all that crappy backstory to help you figure out your characters, but if your opening page (or opening chapters, God forbid) reads like a biography, I’m gonna throw your book across the room and contemplate some voodoo to perform on it that will involve dog poop.  Make a little timeline of your plot, and put your “play button” where it actually gets interesting.  Anything critical that the reader needs to know should be creatively revealed later.

For you visual people, I crafted this handy infographic (click to view larger):

Timeline2

I’m behind!

So, George R.R. Martin has been making significant progress on his long-awaited sequel in the Song of Ice & Fire series this weekend, and it reminded me that I am horribly behind on the revision process.  I’ve brought nothing to writing group the past four weeks.  Every day people ask me “how’s the book coming along?” or “you still moving to Paris?”  Sometimes they ask both at once, and I have to fight the urge to scream and demand updates on progress of their ultimate life goals.  Harsh, huh?  I never do it, but I sure am tempted on Mondays.

warmfuzzy I’m doing this strategic revision series and currently I’m working on characters.  Specifically, I’m working on who and what characters are in the story, which involves these God-awful bio sketches for each of them.  Sitting down to write these is like trying to write something meaningful on a greeting card.  No, it’s worse than that.  Did you ever have a teacher that made you write “warm fuzzies?”  You know, where you get a ‘lil slip of paper and have to write something nice about the person two rows across or whatever.  It was never your friend you got to write about.  Instead, it was someone you barely knew and all you could think of was the time you saw him digging a finger in his nose in the restroom, or it was someone you couldn’t tolerate and you can’t think of anything but “you look so great wearing fire,” or it’s this guy you’ve always thought was super cute and your head is filled with completely inappropriate comments about his dimples or how hot his back looks when he takes his shirt off in the locker room.  I swear he waited to do that until he knew I was looking….

So these bios are just like that.  The reader doesn’t care what I think about my characters, so I can’t write, “he has the best lines because I wrote them and I’m funny.”  Giving meaning to characters and writing down their importance is completely unnatural.  Characters grow in your head organically, much like friends become part of your life over time.

Yup, totally just wasted 10 minutes writing this instead of working on bio sketches.  Ugh!

Inspirational Jealousy

In the pain-staking process of revision, I’ve made a terrible discovery: my characters have better lives than me. Yes, some of them are better-looking, smarter, and richer than me, but that’s not what I mean. Most of them are simply more developed individuals with more cool stuff going on in their lives.  Their drama is more exciting than mine, they’re going on fun adventures, and I’m pretty sure they’re having hot sex when I’m not looking.  But this is part of why we read and watch TV, right? To escape our mediocre lives centered around work, CPA test prep, and the occasional drunken night to temporarily feel really neat.

That all seems pretty obvious, but it still kind of irks me that these imaginary people have  jealous_dogsgrown up into such interesting personalities. The problem is I’m the uncool and out-of-touch parent who is trying to connect with his grown children, who think I did a terrible job of raising them and want nothing more than to lock me away in a home with a bunch of ugly sweater vests and a bedpan. Bastards.

Okay, it doesn’t really bother me—in fact, it makes me happy that most of them are coming along well enough in tangibility that they warrant jealousy.  It reminds me of a funny story Kayla tells.  I’m going to butcher it right now in front of God and everyone.  Kayla was in class working on a group project or something.  One of the girls was super dramatic, like Bella from Twilight.  She didn’t think she was pretty or popular or good at ANYTHING.  Anyway, emo-girl, whom I’ll call Marlene, fusses about some part of the assignment and mutters under her breath (though loud enough for everyone to hear), “Frodo would never have to deal with this!”  That’s right:  Frodo.  She was relating her life to the legendary hobbit.  Now I love Frodo too, but I would rather wet myself than relate to him on such a level and confess it.

I do hope I can make my characters real enough (though not necessarily likeable enough) that they linger in people’s thoughts.  I’ll even admit I hope some whack jobs like Marlene connect with them and say crap like, “I wouldn’t be single if Kyn were here right now.”  Yeah, keep dreaming you deranged boob.

Here’s to real characters! [Raises Mickey Mouse mug filled with coffee]

Sound off, all 3 devoted readers!  What characters from books have you related with?  Wanna confess anything embarrassing?  Comment!

Would I rather write or….

pepe

“Writing is a lot like sex. At first you do it because you like it. Then you find yourself doing it for a few close friends and people you like.   But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing  it for money.” - Unknown

If only writing really were more like sex.  No, I’m not going to start bragging about how good of a lay I am (although anyone who knows is free to comment) but I’m not yet at the same comfort level with writing as I am with rolling around in the sack.  Both involve sharing an experience with another, or if you’re lucky, with lots of people, but here’s why I think sex is a bit easier:

  • Most people will say no to sleeping with you if they’re not really attracted to you, but a story doesn’t have that superficial convenience, so you might get pretty far into it and realize things just aren’t working out.
  • You can get feedback while you’re getting frisky, but a reader can’t tell an author they don’t like the way they’re moving so the author can adjust their position.
  • If the sex is really bad and you can’t just quit, you can finish quick and be gone in under five minutes, but if you’ve asked someone to read your work and it sucks monkey balls, they’re stuck with it for the long, flaccid haul.
  • Adding more characters to a story doesn’t automatically make it more interesting, whereas adding more people to a bed/shower/couch/pool/pool table…
  • When a reader has your story’s clothes off and realizes they don’t like what they see, you can’t just blow them and send them happily on their way.
  • Talking about God or Satan might get a creep out of your apartment, but it won’t get a bad character or plot out of your story.
  • If you’re not really enjoying writing, you can’t just make convincing noises and think of something else to fool the reader that you’re good.
  • People can’t turn the lights off to hide your bad words.
  • Not everyone will spread the word that you’re a bad lay, but if you’re a shitty writer, the whole world will know.
  • If your story isn’t exciting, there isn’t a pill you can take to perk it up.

Okay, I could just go on (add your own if you have good ones), but my point is that writing is an intimate experience with one writer and (hopefully) a whole lot of people.  I love reading stories that friends write, because I feel like I’ve taken a trip in their private, dirty mind.  I know a lot of my thoughts are daydreams about my stories, and I love that I can enjoy them anywhere without anyone else knowing that I’m off in my own world.  So, reading someone else’s daydream means you play the fly on their mental wall, watching every perverted idea wander in and out.

I don’t ever want to find out someone thinks I’m lousy in bed or on paper.  What if I was told both in the same day?!  I’d DIE!  Oooh, story idea…

Finding Real Story

maze

Revision time!  I broke out the red pen and started marking up that fancy-bound copy of Far From Light.  The quote that is ruling me throughout this process is:

“If you wrote the book you want to read, you should enjoy reading the book you wrote.”

Currently, I only enjoy reading one in four pages of what I wrote, so I have a long way to go.  Revising is not going through line by line and changing words with thesaurus in hand, that’s editing, and I’ll labor through that later.  What I am trying to do now is make sure I have nothing but pure story on every page.  This makes me think of Michelangelo’s statue of David.  When asked how he could possibly have carved such perfection out of a single block of marble 18 ft high Michelangelo replied, “David was in the marble all the time – I just had to chip away the pieces.”  A story is the same way.  It’s so easy to throw in my own words, my own ideas, and make the characters dance for my pleasure, but all that crap has to be removed so that the reader is presented with the truest image of the idea that is in my head.

Another way to look at this is a bit Neoplatonic: the idea that originated in the head (perhaps by divine frenzy, for those familiar with Plato’s Phaedrus), diminishes as it travels through the mind and becomes physical in the form of the written word, so that it is but a shadow of the real idea.  Am I reaching a bit?  Not really.  Consider mythology and classical drama.  Those stories were passed on by oral tradition for generations, gradually being perfected as people threw out the silly parts and added their own twists to make the tales more complete, more believable–more real.  When they were finally written, they were in a perfect state, and that’s why they’re still so loved and revered today.  People love real stories.  It takes time and effort to listen to the idea and present it to the world in its purest form.

The temptation is to just fix the madness that is the first draft, but a writer has to go back to the original idea and see what it was, and what it became as it was written.  This often means throwing out a whole pile of pages and starting over, completely reworking the story.  In my case, some of it came out well, much of came out like a rabid, blaspheming bastard, and then there were plenty of surprises, like a part of a song I’ve never noticed before.  I now have to reshape the story so that it has more of its true form, and finally becomes what I wanted it to be.  It’s like a constant process of discovery, where I’m realizing, “Oh, that’s what I meant,” or, “this is how it’s supposed to be.”

I had hopes of burning through a revision fast and furious so I could have a readable draft by January.  We’ll see how real that idea is as I go along :-)  I certainly surprised myself during NaNoWriMo, so it just might happen!

Conlangs & Paper

It’s only been a week since I finished the rough draft of my book, and I am just itching to start the first revision.  I resist with the iron will of a horny chipmunk….or something.  I started another story and got through about 45 pages, but I keep thinking about my geeky fantasy story.  How am I supposed to work on a modern comedy when I’ve got swords and shit just a click away?!

ConlangsYesterday I allowed myself to start a project related to The Book, as I’ll call it (I so clever).  I did some research on conlangs, or constructed languages, which super dweebs make up so that their elves, dragons, and wizards can sound even more impressive dorky when they throw curses of doom at each other.  So yeah, I started making up a language for the world my head keeps drifting back into.  It’s filled (the world, not necessarily my head) with only sounds I like, such as both th sounds and more v’s and vowels than you can shake an elvish walking stick at.  I’ve omitted those I’ve never found too aesthetically pleasing, like the nasty ch and qu sounds.

Creating your own language is easier than it sounds.  It really depends how complete you want it to be.  If you just need to be able to name things quickly, you could have a functional language within a few hours of creativity.  If you plan on using an occasional verse written in the new tongue, you’ll have to devote at least a few more hours.  If your inner linguistic/sci-fi/fantasy geek has got a hankerin’ to make up your very own vernacular, take a peek at Holly Lisle’s Create a Language Clinic.  Hers is the easiest I found to sit down with and start cranking out usable crap.  If you’re hard-core or just a special kind of crazy, there are some more in-depth sites to explore:

Language Creation Society

Conlang wiki

In other news, I wanted to at least prepare myself for my eventual slash-and-burn revision process, so I compiled my story (The Book) into one Word doc just to see what it looked like.  I practically had to chew off my hand to keep me from hitting the print button, mostly just because I don’t have that much ink and paper at home.  Instead, I put it on a flash drive and went to FedEx Office/Kinkos/whatever-the-hell-they-call-themselves-now, and had them print one bound copy of horse shit.  It cost me $28.  I wanted to run through the streets skipping with that thing when the guy handed it to me.  I think most of it is embarrassingly awful writing, but it was so damn cool to see all those pages printed.  Don’t worry–I put it away on my bookshelf, which was a bit of a moment for me.  As I slid it onto the shelf, I thought, “someday soon, you’ll be a real published copy.”

Someday soon!