Self-pity is no way to ask for help.
One of the long-standing self-destructive psychological tendencies I had to work hard to rid myself of was this habit of presenting myself to certain people as pitiable. The thinking behind this, such as it was, was that if I did so to the "right person", said person would take pity on me and "save" me.
On choosing an emotional resonance for a story.
It occurred to me again just recently that much of the time, when I'm putting together a story, what matters most to me is how the ending resonates emotionally with the audience. When you're done, what feeling does it leave you with? The storyline, the plot, is just a way to get to that feeling, and so any number of possible storylines that could bring us to that feeling are valid considerations.
Reverse engineering shouldn't be a prerequisite to working with technology.
I had an idiotic experience with this blog the other day. The SSL certificate attached to a certain subdomain on the blog expired, and didn't automatically renew. Getting it renewed turned into a ridiculous rigmarole of circular looking-things-up, back-and-forthing with my web host (they're very good, by the way), and hair-pulling. I finally got things unsnarled, but I see now why some people give up on IT or software development and go into farming.
On training yourself to see the obvious things.
Nowadays, companies hang flat screen TVs hanging on the walls, all them running 24/7 to display a variety of charts. Most everyone ignores them. The spirit is right, to be transparent all the time, but the understanding of human nature is not. We ignore things that are shown to us all the time. However, if once a month, a huge packet of charts dropped on your desk, with a cover letter summarizing the results, and if the CEO and your peers received the same package the same day, and that piece of work included charts on how your part of the business was running, you damn well paid attention, like any person turning to the index of a book on their company to see if they were mentioned. Ritual matters.
Emphases mine. The article in question is about how the Visual Display Of Quantitative Information, as per Tufte's work of the same name, can be made far more compelling than the usual PowerPoint puke. It's windy, but a good read, although the part I chomped out and highlighted stood out most for me on its own merits.
On kicking off a third draft.
"The first draft," says my friend Steven Savage, "is for nobody but yourself. The second draft is for your editor; the third draft is for your beta readers."
I read those words within a day or two of finishing the second draft of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Then I scrolled to the words THE END in the document, hit Save, and reflected on some of the other things Steve and I had talked about in re sharing a work in progress.
Reasons to be grateful.
Acknowledgments are in order today. Aside from the usual friends-and-family gratitude -- everyone in question there has already been thanked and appreciated directly -- here's a few giving of thanks for things I talk about on this blog.
All art is experimental. Let's not shy away from that.
Remember my goal to write at least 24K words, probably 30K, this month? Yeah, still having issues with trying to force myself. ...
Why was I still feeling like I was forcing myself? I didn’t have to go very deep to figure that out.
I felt like I had to do everything right. Or that I had to get it perfect the first time. I had the space, but was trying to get it right the first time.
That’s when I had another realization, fueled by my writing, my observations, and my agile practices. All writing is an experiment.
We’d like to think writing is some kind of precise creation. Perhaps its that we think of it physically, or that we have a perfect idea of what we’re writing in our head. But it’s not, it never is.
John Cage: "What is the nature of an experimental action? It is simply an action the outcome of which is not foreseen." To which I would add, if we are honest, we know full well the outcomes of any action, even the ones with which we believe to be most intimately familiar and believe to be tediously predictable, are not foreseen. Not wholly; not as we tell ourselves they are.
Why was 'Justice League' only okay instead of epic? How could it have been made epic? Here's my plan.
I've written before how I felt let down by Justice League. Now, I'm going to take the time to spell out what I think was specifically missing -- and how to fix it.
On 'Justice League' itself. Beware spoilers.
The other day, I talked about how what Justice League did and didn't do (mostly didn't) was a green light for me to do something with the ideas that went unused. Today, I'm talking about Justice League itself, so beware spoilers.
More on why I'm a never-the-same-thing-twice writer (and why others might not be).
A line worth commenting on from Steve:
My friend Serdar, a consummate experimenter, never even writes in the same setting, to keep himself going. I never quite got why he might want to do that (which is not my cup of tea), until realized writing is an experiment. The more you have, the more that push you, the more you grow.
Me, I like to play in the same settings, but I do explore elsewhere. That’s how you keep growing.
There's much more to this discussion, but I want to start with that line in this post and then leap back later to tackle the other things mentioned.
I don't know that my choice to not do the same thing twice if I can possibly help it was something I arrived at consciously. It was a habit I found myself in, and I think it was reinforced in a few stages.
My 'Justice League' theory is bust-ice league. But that's a good thing!
I caught Justice League on opening night. No spoilers, so read on without fear. In fact, I'm not even going to review the movie directly, but instead talk about how the way it fulfilled (or did not fulfill) my expectations about it amounted to a creative win/win for me.
More notes on getting caught up with the state of SF&F.
Some more thoughts on my SF&F reading problem, as it were.
Some of my SF reading list for 2018.
Last weekend I was at my parents' place up in New Jersey, and I dropped a bundle of money on books at the Strand -- not once, but twice -- as part of my mission to do some more SF/fantasy-oriented reading in the coming year. Here is a tentative list of what I plan to tackle in '18:
On the autohypnosis of the boob tube.
Of all the things I wasn't fully prepared for when I left home, one of the most subtle and underappreciated turned out to be how other people (ab)used TV in their daily lives.
And one of the most intoxicating for do-it-yourselfer creators.
... I’ve noticed a trend in bad webcomics: they tend to also be the first webcomic the author has ever put out. Because everyone sucks at first. Doesn’t matter if it’s writing or art or zero-gravity topiary, if it’s your first time doing it you’re going to vomit out an amateurish mess. That’s fine. It will be a stepping stone to something better. Unless you then put it out on the Internet, where it somehow attracts a following. People flock to your forums to sing you praises, they buy your crappy home mode merchandise. Maybe you even start making enough money to live off full time. And suddenly, there’s no reason to get better. You’re already on top. And what should be a stepping stone turns into the end point of your progress as a creator.
First off: The attached post is a rather virulent attack on The Kingkiller Chronicles, so if you're a fan of the work in question you may be irked by that. I am not a fan of the books myself (read the first one, wasn't impressed with it), although I think the tone of the essay in question is more vitrolic than it needs to be. But I thought the part chomped out above is worth talking about entirely apart from the attack on Rothfuss's work. Anyway:
A rundown of projects in progress and other things.
I need to get busy with some real-life stuff over the coming week, but I wanted to check in and take note of what's brewing at Chez Genji.
Novel The Next is close to the end of its 2nd draft edit run -- around 86%. Most of the major surgery I thought I needed to perform mostly amounted to cutting a scene here or a graf there, and restructuring a couple of things in place rather than scrapping them altogether.
I've noticed, during these edit runs, that it feels like the story tends to hinge more for me on single little moments -- things someone does or doesn't do -- than on larger, sweeping changes. Towards the end, for instance, there's a moment where a supporting character decides whether or not to keep something that's been important to the story, or get rid of it -- essentially, ensure nobody gets it. I've gone back and forth about this decision; right now, the character gets rid of it, in big part because they don't trust anyone, not even themselves, with it.
What needs underscoring, I suppose, is not that it's the "right" decision according to some absolute logic in the story, but that it is that person's decision, that they see it as being entirely consistent and defensible, and that we can see what they see. This may require a pass or two to get right, but it's one of those things worth lingering on until it's addressed 100%.
The ending is also being changed slightly. I chose for part of the ending a setting that was, for lack of a better word, gimmicky. Then I realized the gimmick in question didn't deserve to be confined to just some piece at the end; it deserved to be expanded on and put to use elsewhere. Using it just for that one little moment was passing up a massive opportunity.
Am I happy with the book? For the most part. A lot of the things I'm not happy with are more in the realm of, will other people think I made the right decisions about this or that? There's only so much of that you can get hung up about, though; after a certain point, you just have to put the thing out into the world and cross your fingers. Get it done, let it make its case for itself, learn what you can from that, and move on.
Codename for a project I might work on next year. It's still in the planning phases, but I think I could execute it fairly quickly as a pseudo-NaNo project. November is a bad time for me to take up such a sprint, though, so I'll try to do it another month in the year.
How did I describe this one to a friend? "Godzilla by way of Lifeforce. Or maybe Jodorowsky. A psychedelic Toho monster movie." (Of course he dug it.)
This is the next "big" project I have lined up. The title, and some of the ideas in it, are scavenged from a very old project I had started and then abandoned when I realized I didn't have the chops to pull it off. More like, I didn't even have the chops to pull it together; most of the underlying idea and execution were junk. But here and there in it were some bits worthy of being excised and developed properly, especially now that I'd been around the block enough times to jog with my eyes closed.
This, by the way, is also the project I was hinting at when talking about Justice League. Hammer could very charitably be called a superhero story, but the ultimate aim is to upend some of the presumptions that such stories bring to the table. I know, deconstruction of superheroes has been all the rage over the past couple of decades, but I think there's still a fresh idea or two to be brought to it if I'm observant. Like, even after tearing the idea down again and again, we keep coming back to the idea of a hero, just in new forms we didn't see before. We keep telling ourselves we want to be saved by someone else, even when that's manifestly impossible. Is there a way out of that doctrine of eternal heroic recurrence? Where would it leave us?
This page contains an archive of posts for the month of November 2017.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind