I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening about the information overload that human beings are suffering in modern days. We’re reading on phones and e-readers in snippets of times where we were in downtime before, or we’re listening to iPods, or staring at TV screens while we’re working out–activities that were once the bastion of brain-wave downtime.
I’m totally guilty of this, of course. I want to cram as much stuff into my waking days as I can.
But this Saturday I found myself planning to walk to the health club (it’s about a mile and a half away), but realizing my iPod battery was dead. After a quick panic attack, I decided I would actually try to do the walk without any devices.
I admit it felt odd for a bit.
It was a great day for a walk, though, and my body warmed to the task, and before too long I was thinking about things and a story came up and I started gnawing at it, filing off a rough edge, then setting it aside for fifty steps or so and them thinking about it again. I counted steps for a bit, then considered the story at a different angle. I brought a couple of my own memories into the fray, and next thing you know I arrived at the health club with an entire story fleshed out.
I did my weight work and let the framework settle on my mind. My mind gave me back a character, and a motivation.
And on the way back I started envisioning what the opening, middle and closing might actually sound like.
This morning I sat down and hammered out an entire draft.
Take it for what it’s worth. But, me? I’m considering leaving my iPod alone for a bit.
I don’t use this term often, but this is awesome.
Sep 20, 2010 Daily Writing
This morning I set my iTunes to Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and set out to plot out the rest of this book I’ve been fiddling with.
First, let me say that Tull’s TaaB is a great writing background for me. It’s full of rich, intertwining musical riffs without too much in the way of obtrusive vocals to get in the way f my brain waves. It’s also got that overblown, understated British sense of humor all about it that lends itself to metaphysical audacity. Though my story is not humorous, I’m seriously thinking of using Gerald Bostock as one of my characters.
But on to the book. You remember the book, don’t you?
I’ve been in a long string of discovery writing–which is fun, and uncovers lots of interesting things I wouldn’t have thought about before. But it’s also very inefficient, and for someone like me, a little troubling. I have only a few brief moments to write each day it seems, and so I need to feel progress occurring in order to keep my sanity. I had begun to feel augured into the firmament of the story over the past week or two, and the breakout I had this weekend made me think that now was the time to get my act in gear and charge toward the finish line, wherever the heck that winds up being.
So I went back to Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake methodology and developed a top-down model of the plot. I don’t generally follow any single method, of course. I do things my own way. But I find his guidelines fit my brain fairly well.
So now I’ve got this picture in my head that’s firming up, and the world seems to be getting back into focus.
All good, I say. It’s all good.
Sep 18, 2010 Science
This pretty much defines what’s wrong with the world, eh? Or at least what’s wrong with the world of politics.
I’ve been avoiding the obvious for the past couple days. By this I mean that I’ve been working on this book, and struggling to get what I’ve been considering The Last Big Piece of the puzzle to fall. (Please note, that when I say “Last Big Piece”, what I really mean is “Latest Barrier Keeping Me from Progressing,” We all know there will be more barriers, but I ignore that fact today in an attempt to keep my emotional sanity as I go through the discovery process associated with this work of, er, … art). I’ve been sitting here each morning and not getting a lot of anything put on paper because I’ve been looking at this LBP, seeing how much of a beast it is, and only coming up with one solution.
This “one solution” is generally a problem.
For years and years I’ve drilled myself to discard the first answer to various situations because the first answer is generally trite and, well, obvious. If you want your fiction to be interesting, the thought goes, don’t settle for your first idea. So I’ve been down here searching for an alternate and more surprising answer to my LBP dilemma.
Each fifteen or twenty minutes I would say to the story: “How about we try this?” And the story would reply: “That sucks.” And I would say: “Hey, humor me and try it out for a couple paragraphs.” Not being able to defend itself, the story would try my idea out for size and eventually say: “I told you this wasn’t going to work.”
Today I finally decided to give in.
I wrote a paragraph that led down the obvious path. It felt pretty good. So I wrote another and another. Next thing you know I felt the familiar sensation of having things moving again.
Perhaps, I thought, this was the obvious answer because it just flat-out makes the story work.
Feel free to ignore the smirking story behind the green curtains.
Sep 14, 2010 Business
I have two pieces of news regarding my collection, “Picasso’s Cat & Other Stories.”
First, I think I need to mention the collection has its first critical commentary at Amazon.com, and it’s essentially this writer’s dream review.
Good news is supposed to come in threes, so I’m getting excited about the rest of the evening.
Sep 13, 2010 Business
I know I’m obsessing about this e-world a bit, but here’s a quick bit from Scientific America showing people as a whole prefer to buy things that are physical to the point where they will pay more for them.
This changes the thought pattern a little. It doesn’t tell me people will completely shut off a less desirable option (an ebook in this case) for a physical option, but it does have a voice in price points. It also begins to provide context for the value of time it takes to go to the book store, or grocery, or wherever else you buy books at.
Silly me. Pretending to be a marketing guy.
Lisa and are are in the process of finishing the three “Girl” books by Stieg Larsson. Actually, I should say Lisa has now finished them and I’m about 21% through the last book.
I like that last sentence.
One advantage of the electronic age is that when Lisa asks me “How far into the book are you?” I can answer her. The book actually tells me how far into something you really are. Or does it? I mean, what, exactly is 21%? The book will stay on 21% for several “page-clicks” so technically it’s 21.X%. But then I wonder if the algorithm truncates. Will it read 21% all the way until I cross the 22% barrier? Or, does the algorithm round? Could it be 20.7%? I don’t know. in the old days I could have looked at the page number, then flipped to the last page and read that number. A quick bit of mental math and I would have known exactly where I was, which would make my engineer’s mind happy. But now I’m left to wonder whether I’m 20.50000001 percent through the book or 21.999999%.
Of course, the next question is whether it uses words or characters or something else completely in its calculations. Clearly it cannot be using the definition of “standard pages” since that definition doesn’t apply.
I suppose I’ll have to Google a bit to see if the calculation algorithms have been publicly vetted. Just what I need. Something else to do.
Never mind that when Lisa asks “How far into the book are you?” she’s not asking me for a measure of distance. Sure, my mind interprets it in numbers and pages, but she means “what’s happening in the story?” So she gets a bit annoyed at times when I reply with a nearly perfectly correct “21%.”
Hey, it’s not my fault she’s not an engineer at heart.
That said, I’m enjoying the stories. And, yes, the reader is nice, too.
I picked this out of Kris Rusch’s feed, so you might already have seen it. But I thought this was a great commentary of criticism … but then, Roger Ebert kinda knows what the heck he’s talking about.
Sep 7, 2010 Daily Writing
Didn’t have much time this morning, but I did manage 500 words on a new story. I’m not really sure it will wind up anywhere, though. I just sat down and started writing dialog, and out they came. I’ll take it.
Here’s something Lisa sent me a few days back. Interesting (and, as she said, Cute!)
Sep 6, 2010 Business
Okay, I’m back to talking about how the industry is changing, and how it affects newish writers like me–guys who hold down day-jobs that take a bunch of time while working on their craft and struggling to “break in.”
Here’s my thing with the modern age of e-publishing–I love the ability to go work directly with my supposed audience. I love the concept of skipping the middle-man. I enjoy the sense of immediacy associated with this kind of conversation.
But, you know, I’ve just spent a bunch of this three-day weekend working with files and figuring out how to do clean epub books. And I’ve fiddled with graphic design to arrive at what I think is a semi-respectable cover–though my computer graphic skill could use some sharpening. And I’ve done some book design, and worked on the raw HTML of each story in my collection to ensure italics are properly done, and the special characters I’ve used are adequately represented. And I’ve done a little experimenting with how the final product actually appears in a couple readers. So I’m about ready, I think, to make my collection available on Amazon.com. Of course, to put it up on Smashwords, I’ll now need to do the whole thing again, but now fiddle with the raw Word files (which technically may be a bit easier–I’ve done it before with a few short stories just so I could figure out how it’s done).
The bottom line I’m getting to is that this is one helluva lot of work.
Yes, it’s interesting. Yes, I could probably get away with doing a little less work. But the fact is still the fact. In order to get to the point where I’m only nearly ready to make my work available for the public has cost me nearly three days of writing time.
That’s a lot of time for a guy with a lot of things to do during a normal week.
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So, what does this mean for the future of publishing? Or, maybe better asked, what does this mean for the future population of writers? Will we see a reduction of guys like me, who come from real jobs? Will we see more full-time writers who are now able to make a semi-real living off their work? I don’t know. But it feels like the future is currently slanting toward the kinds of writers who are willing to (and are better able to) put more work toward the non-writing side of their business.
Tangential Aside: Here’s an interesting fluff story on the reading decisions facing the world of readers.
Second Aside: The observant of you will note that my collection of short stories is now available in physical form from Amazon.com.