This Is How Odd A Writing Life Can Be

15 06 2017

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I’ve been listening to “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” so this post is coming out of me in Gilbert Gottfried’s voice.

My new novel is blocked up. I’ve done 80K words on a 50K word novel and at the very least I have another 100K words still to write. I have the bones of a plot but no working POV and the realization that the past nine months have not been fun.

Meanwhile, a friend who has a major publisher connected me with his agent. Great, but all agents are busy and finding one is a part-time job in itself. My publisher sent the agent a copy of “The Flesh Sutra” (WHY HAVEN’T YOU BOUGHT THIS BOOK? NANCY HOLDER SAYS IT’S GOOD AND IT COSTS ONLY 99 CENTS).

No response from the agent, okay. Agents are busy and I’ve got a novel making me question my life.

Response today. Agent wants to know if I have anything in the works.

Yes, my current work is a performance art piece titled “Existential Anguish”.

If you keep submitting for 28 years, you can be like me, a Myers-Briggs INTJ overthinking his existence in a 12X12 bedroom and running low on self-delusion just in time for a big break.

Did I mention that I’m away from my job for three weeks? THREE WEEKS! My writer friends who have lives and families and communities would kill for three weeks off so they can write what would be the next best-selling, multi-award winning novel of the ages. I will probably be watching Netflix and plucking hair off my ears.

The last thing I wanted to do was post about “wah wah the writers life sucks” like all the other writers in Writerdom. I hate being a cliche. I want to offer something useful.

Feh. We’ll see what happens.

 





25 Years Of Writing Says: Don’t Write Short Stories

23 05 2017

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As noted before, I’ve been sending stories out since 1989. Am I a famous author? I am not. But I have been professionally published, and for the indulgence of other rewarding interests, I may have been farther along in my writing career.

What I have learned about writing and its profession:

If you are going to write, write novellas or novels. I have always had very good ideas. My interest in getting into short story markets made me edit these ideas down to the market optimum 4000 words. Editors would respond “Needs more”. I would move on to the next idea which I would cut down, etc. I thought ideas were putty that could be massaged into any length. An idea is a block of marble. Cut one wrong and the whole statue is ruined.

If you are going to write short stories, get paid for them. Thankfully, I always had this rule. Getting upvotes in your writing community feels good. Sooner or later you will want more. Cut out the middleman and go straight to market.

If you aren’t getting paid for your story, self-publish. This wasn’t available to me earlier of course, but it is something I will pursue.

Network. Life is all about “who you know.” It’s uncomfortable. The good news is everyone’s uncomfortable too.

Save originality for later. I went straight for “sensational”, “innovative”, and “original”. What I didn’t learn was “structure”, “character development”, and “simplicity”. One idea per plot. Write your slash. File off those serial numbers. Study your authors and write pastiches. That said…

Invent your own magic system. Play in someone else’s sandbox, they get the right to pick nits.

Be nice. Any professional community is like High School. One tweet can set back years of work. Small communities thrive on making outcasts. Be nice.

I used to think “write what makes your mother uncomfortable” and the audience will find you. Instead, your priority is “write what you love and look for your audience.”

Ignore other writers. You can become distracted, frustrated, and despair. If you can’t ignore another writer’s work, that’s one of the few writer you should study.

Classes, conventions, retreats, and Clarion-Odyssey-Taos Toolbox-that thing Tom Monteleone does…do them. I have wasted tens of thousands of dollars sitting in coffee shops. The writers who have gone to bigger things sacrificed to do these activities to learn and network. That said…

The Most Important Advice:

Accept that any of your ideas may suck. No amount of rewriting or networking will help an idea that sucks. Move on to the next idea. I wasted about four years rewriting a bunch of half-baked, “sensational” ideas. They sucked. I should have moved on. Now if a story doesn’t get published in the first few submissions, I trunk it and move on.





A Magazine For Fan Fiction

11 05 2017

FAN/FIC is an online magazine for fanfiction readers and writers: essays about fan culture, practical advice on how to improve your craft, interviews with writers, and more.

via FAN/FIC Magazine — Discover





Writers and RPGers: Worldbuilding Links

12 04 2017

 

codex seriphanus

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

https://electricliterature.com/against-worldbuilding-700e4861c26b





Writers: Your Weird Obsession Will Become Fodder For Future Grad Student Thesis

8 04 2017

“…it’s what happens in the United States when a truly radical ideology takes over.” This is George Romero’s answer to the question of what his film Night of the Living Dead is about. To me, this is a most thoughtful and complete assessment, and perhaps what explains the movie’s enduring success. Of course, on […]

via The Importance of Theme in Horror… and Zombies… and Dogshit — S.E. Casey Author





Another Writing Blog To Try

7 04 2017

Originally posted on The Maudlin Cabinet: Welcome to the Starving Writers’ Club! WELCOME to our new blog: “The Starving Writers’ Club”! We love this new site! AND we know you will, too! There is a writer in you and we want to help that writer grow. Our Charter: The Starving Writers’ Club is a writerly advice…

via Have You Seen Our Writing Blog? Welcome to “The Starving Writers’ Club”! —





Writers: “Weird Fiction” Via Movie “The Void”

6 04 2017

First the trailer:

 

Now the review:

If Stuart Gordon’s “From Beyond” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing” were to have a baby in the hospital from “Hellraiser II”,  that baby would grow up short of its potential and  be “The Void”. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, but if you like your body horror with a dash of Weird, then “The Void” is for you.

Describing the plot is difficult because much of the backstory is revealed as the plot unfolds. Two rural guys shoot people dead, one flees and is picked up by a sheriff and taken to the local hospital. This hospital is closing soon due to a recent fire. Which killed the child the sheriff had with his ex-wife the ER nurse. Speaking of preggers, a country teen is about to give birth and her grandpa is there for support.  A kindly doctor, another nurse, a trainee, and another patient are introduced. A state trooper arrives.

Then within fifteen minutes of film time, there is a three-way guns out stand-off, four of these characters are dead and one has mutated into part Grizzly Bear, part butt polyp. Lovecraftian hijinks ensue. In a place beyond time and space, pacing is a problem in “The Void”.

There are magic tomes. There is a sub-basement where none existed before. There are strikingly-clad anonymous cultists. There are double-crosses and mistaken motives.

The plot holds together. The magic system is kept as simple as possible. The actors do great work with an occasionally awkward dialogue.  However, the effects rule this movie. The undead polyp creatures are all practical effects and they are gooshy. Gourmets of  horror movies will see “homages” to “Hellraiser II”, “The Thing”, “The Fly”, “From Beyond”, “In The Mouth Of Madness” and probably more.

Was there anything fresh? It’s a hell of a thing to note, but frankly, cutting pieces off your face doesn’t have the shock it once had.

First time script writers and directors here, they kept to the tried and comfortable, yet kept out of the actors way, so the performances were quite good. Someone once said you can tell if a horror was written by guys in his 20s, because those horrors will have churning uteruses, and that’s because guys in their 20s are just finding out how gross pregnancy can be. And man do uteruses churn in “The Void”! It’s all within the theme of birth and fate, but still dudes, there’s a reason why men have a waiting room.

Wait for “The Void” on Netflix.

Now the writing blather:

Note that I noted “homages”. I do not understand “homages”. An artist’s job is to swipe ideas and before using them, file off the serial numbers. Filing off serial numbers is an art. If a reader can immediately recognize a reference, the writer has only mimicked, and not made the most of the reader’s time.

That said, what is “Weird Horror” or “Weird Fiction”, and what can we do about it?

Here’s Wikipedia.

You will notice in Wikipedia that Lovecraft’s definition is essentially “spooky stories where spooks can get you anywhere”. Noted editor S.T. Joshi’s academic sub-categories have diluted that dread further until it has become watery Red Bull.

The problem is that back in the 1930’s, the Weird creatures invented by Mr. Weird himself H.P. Lovecraft, those creatures were unfathomable. Now they make Cthulhu plushtoys. Non-Christian monsters are the norm now.

For me,  “Weird” contains these elements:

  1. Unknown forces existing outside our dimensions (“beyond Time and Space”).
  2. The questioning of reality itself (are we in a movie? Is that crazy guy actually shaping reality?)
  3. The interrogation of how consciousness fits within reality, especially within flesh.

For me, the goal is to create nausea, not just polypy-squid nausea. Existential nausea is the feeling you get when you consider that not only will existence go on without you, it has been without you for longer than you can comprehend both before and after, in a place that is the briefest flash in existence, if indeed “existence” actually has objective substance. Hold me.

The use of a nameless cult who know The Truth, or a scientist finding The Secret, or an artist who can shape The Universe, is how we get the reader to connect with nausea. The POV character has one assumption peeled away (like the real purpose of mission), then another (that his mission is safe), leaving to fall away the rules of society, of perception, of nature, of value, then finally, of comprehension.

If you want to learn more about “Weird”, try the movies mentioned above, especially “From Beyond” and “In The Mouth Of Madness”. Also try:

  • “Resolution”, like “ITMoM”
  • “Absentia”, for critters beyond T&S

In fiction, try:

  • Any H.P. Lovecraft, especially “The Whisperer In Darkness” and “The Color Out Of Space”. They would be standard Doctor Who fare now, but that tells you something.
  • “The Grin In The Dark”, as much as he bumbles in this book, Ramsey Campbell has some really cool ideas about the development of consciousness.

Do not try “The Weird”, a compendium by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. I love this book, but their definition spreads so far afield as to be nearly meaningless.  Read it for entertainment.

These brief lists are of media which provokes that feeling I described.

Are there books or movies that make you wonder if you are safe at all, or sane, or even exist?  TELL ME.








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