November 2011 Archives

November 29, 2011

How I Broke Through Writer's Block (This Time)

I've had a bad year for writing. Well, that's me exposing the insecure writer immediately, it's more accurate to say that I've had an unproductive year. Well, once again how do you measure these things? I've had an uproductive year if you measure productivity by the number of stories completed.

It's felt at times as if I've slipped right back to the start. Actually step two in the writer's life, which seems to me to go like this:

  1. Start writing. Oblivious to how crap you are. Writing comes easy due to low quality control. Churn out tonnes of rubbish.
  2. Learn more about the art and craft of writing, realise you know nothing and that you were writing crap all along. Paralysed by doubt. Constant thoughts of how you will never write a novel as good as your favourite author.
  3. Realise that you have to forget all of that and write the best thing you can and keep writing. Remember all that stuff about just writing a draft and finishing which seemed silly at step 1 because it was all so easy. Aware that there's always something new to learn but strive for continuous improvement whilst finishing stuff.
  4. Forget everything in step 3 and go back to step 2.
Parallel to this is the selling stories bit:

  1. Get rejections and rejections and rejections.
  2. Sell first story to small webzine, ecstatic. Think that this is the start of something.
  3. Get rejections and rejections and rejections.
  4. Sell a story to a slightly bigger webzine.
  5. Get rejections and rejections and rejections.
  6. Sell first professional rate story
  7. Get rejections and rejections and rejections.
  8. ....presumably carry on ad infinitum until you get a million pound book deal.
So anyway, this year I've been in step 2 of the writing cycle and step 7 of the selling cycle (which is more like an inifinite line than a circle/cycle). To say I haven't learnt anything is of course nonsense, I'm always learning, this year explicitly as I read: Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway and even did the exercises;  Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell; The Art Of War For Writers by James Scott Bell and a few books on talent and getting good and practicing. Unfortunately the initial effect of reading these books were to grind my writing (and SF reading) to a halt as I looked at my stories and saw their faults. I must have spent several months trying to rewrite a story I wrote a few years ago. Still haven't succeeded. I set myself a deadline of submitting to an anthology (Ian Sale's Rocket Science) and struggled for ideas. I thought maybe I'd pull a story out of nowhere as the deadline approached because I'd done this previously. Nothing came. Well, some ideas came but they were distant from Hard SF so I rejected them and now lie unloved in my notebook: four different starts to a story about the Moon/Mars. The deadline passed. I felt a failure.

Then the looming monster of NaNoWriMo, which I publicly rejected, but decided to write four short stories instead. Surprisingly the first one came out in a pleasurable canter. What I decided to do was to return to the universe of an unfinished novel and write stories to help me explain it. Previously I may have been tempted to hoard the ideas, dole them out slowly, not "waste" them on a short story, but I decided to go for it, threw everything into it and wrote. I like the output (now) but more importantly it got me writing.

I know that more ideas come to me whilst I'm writing. I really do know that. But if you break the habit it's hard to get started again. One pleasurable story in and something changes and everything seems okay again. Which is just weird. I never finished the other three stories, the second one is still in progress, rolling on at a few hundred words a day, written in the early morning darkness of a winter, stretching past 5000 words and baggy as a baggy thing. But I'm enjoying writing it and I'm confident that I can edit it into something cool. Probably. Until the doubts creep in again.

I can only assume that all this never changes?



November 26, 2011

An Entire Curated Page Of Threadless Zombie T-Shirts

November 10, 2011

Machine Readable Podcast Interviews Vernor Vinge And A Host Of Other SF Authors

The Machine Readable podcast, by Nick Taylor and Mark Mullis, has a load of author interview from MileHiCon. Just a few that you might be interested in include:Vernor Vinge, Connie Willis, James Van Pelt and Gardner Dozois.

The Big Dumb Object Google+ Page

I've been using Google+ personally for a while and like it's granularity of privacy controls. Just the other day Google announced Google+ pages for entities other than people and so I thought I'd experiment with a Google+ Big Dumb Object page. So far I'm liking it, using it as a place to reshare other relevant content on Google+. Kind of like my Tumblr, but done in a Google+ style. Maybe Twitter could be used for the same thing but Google seem to have made it easier search and reshare, or maybe that's just my current perception? Anyway, go and check it out. 

Meanwhile this blog will carry on as it has bee, with reviews and thought and probably a load of cool SF T-Shirts.


November 1, 2011

Write a novel in a month?! You must be crazy.

It's NaNoWriMo. Which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Where the nation is USA, although the idea has been adopted by others on the interweb. The idea is that you write a novel in a month.

I am not taking part. There's no way I could write a novel in a month. I've written three novels averaging at about a year each in elapsed time. No matter how much I decided to write there's no way I could write a couple of thousand words each day. I can't even carve out the time to do the physical action. Could I do it if I could hide away on a desert on island for a month and just write? Not sure. Never likely to find out.

What NaNoWriMo reminds me of is X-Factor, particularly those people who you see in the early auditions and proclaim that this is it, a chance to become famous, a chance to become a popstar. People who believe that a quick burst of highly publicised singing will make them a musician. I wonder if any of those people have ever played a gig before? Have they recorded themselves singing and listened back grimacing? Have they played in a dodgy pub to five people and a dog? Have they been trying, or are they waiting for the one big moment? NaNoWriMo is the X-Factor to me, whereas my daily writing existence is like playing to five people in a dodgy pub. 

How many people do NaNoWriMo and then not write for the rest of the year? (Feel free to answer if you've done it.) Does it make you burn out, or inspire you? Stats required!

However, as an alternative to writing a novel, and as an attempt to overcome a severe bout of writer's block, I'm going to try and write four short stories, all set in the universe of one of my novels which I want to revisit. I've already written about a thousand words, and it feels pretty good. Maybe The Block has been my novel attacking me subconsciously to return to it? Not sure, I don't think it has anything to do with NaNoWriMo though. Has it?