You don't have to pump out a novel a week to be "productive". You just have to be able to sit down for a few minutes a day and do something to turn the wheel a little.
Terry Pratchett is said to have written a mere four hundred or so words a day, but consistently so, and that helped him produce dozens of books in his lifetime. For a long time, my goal has been a thousand words -- a little more than half that -- but this has not been a hard limit. If I couldn't produce a thousand, I'd produce five hundred. If not five hundred, then three hundred. Something was always better than nothing.
On that tricky phrase "Do not compare yourself to others."
I think back now to one of the first times I encountered the phrase, "Do not compare yourself to others." Of course you have to compare yourself to others! I whined. There just ain't anyone else around these days to compare one's self to! And don't give me that chaff about comparing yourself to your past self, that doesn't count!
Sometimes, a readership. Not that it's worth it.
This is a comment I bumped into when reading a review of a book on Goodreads:
The main distinction between characters in this novel is which precise arcane subject they are obsessed with. Is it fonts? Is it miniature practical effects? Ancient architecture? Data visualization? Life extension? In typical nerdbro fashion, people are not interesting for their emotional or psycho-social development (we are left to conclude they have none) but rather for their nerdly obsessions. I have no problem with nerdly obsessions, except that they are a poor substitute for actual character development.
I have no say pro or con about the book in question, which I haven't read, but this mode of characterization is familiar to me from many other things. It feels like something that started with the likes of Thomas Pynchon and later under David Foster Wallace, where a person's vertical, topical obsessions are used as a substitute for actual character.
One must have concrete critical standards of some kind, or one ends up in a kind of death spiral of hopeless idealism.
A post back I mentioned something that was worth its own discussion. Here 'tis.
There was once a blog (staffed by a number of people) that did a kind of indie-review-and-crit circle of fantasy and SF (and video games, and movies). They called it quits a few years back. I followed them for about a year before they stopped, and it was all really sharp and insightful stuff.
Still, before the site folded, I could see a pattern emerging from my own engagement with the site. It wasn't the positive reviews I engaged with most, but the negative ones. I came there to see nothing but takedowns and beat-downs, and once I realized that, I felt bad about it, and stopped going there as a pre-emptive way to stop feeding that part of myself.
I give you permission to shoot me if I ever turn into a tiresome old bore.
Some time back I wrote about a blog named Something Old, Nothing New which wound down its self-stated mission after a number of years. Many blogs that cover some specific flavor of thing tend to do this after a while: they either run out of material to cover in the subject (as did the blog Space: 1977), or the blog's maintainer loses interest or gets caught up in other things.
I've also been around long enough to witness the decay of a number of personal blogs -- some kept by SF authors, some by ordinary folks. Sometimes it's because the maintainer died or moved on to other things. But the kind of decay that's most disheartening is when you witness the slow degeneration of a personality into a crank.
The "arc of coming-together" for my new book was very much in line with how it's been for me with past projects I thought highly of.
Last night I finished the first big draft 2 pass on Unmortal (check out the latest revision of the cover art). This was the last "structural" pass for the story, meaning all the scenes we need are there and in their proper sequencing. Next comes all the fit-and-finish stuff: polishing dialogue, cutting redundancies, avoiding clichés, etc. After that comes the cleanup pass for grammar and spelling, and then after that I take everyone out to dinner to celebrate.
There's enough in place at this point, and of a high enough quality, for me to feel happy about it. The arc of coming-together for this project was very much in line with how it's been for me with past projects I thought highly of. Something like this:
What's the real creative motive - making something, or making something of yourself?
Creativity is a messy way of bringing about order – or an orderly way to make a glorious mess. It’s hard work because no matter what magical spark you have, it takes work to make it real. The reception of creativity is unpredictable, as many a talented person can tell you by pointing to their bank account.
It may soothe egos to believe one is a great auteur or give one license to take the frustration out on others. It may boost one to think they have some unique divine creative spark burning within them. But we only delude ourselves with such thoughts, and delusion rarely leads to creativity.
Whenever someone comes to me with ambitions about a creative project, I can't help but ask questions that tease out what their real motives are. People still walk around with the delusion that a fast way to fame and fortune is to write a best-selling book (or at least a fast-selling one in a recognizable category). It's not that it's impossible to get rich that way; it's just that it's often far easier to get rich other ways, especially if getting rich is the real goal.
The best art all looks effortless, and the best artists all make it seem like play.
The best art all looks effortless, and the best artists all make it seem like play. The trick is to take everything that looks like work and make it not look like work.
Show the things that are best dramatized; tell the things that are best spelled out.
Once upon a time I had a writing teacher tell me "Show, don't tell". I know now this is incomplete advice at best. A better way to put it would be, "Show what needs to be shown, tell what needs to be told."
That leads us to a new problem: how to know when to do either of those things. And, again, that led me to come up with a further refinement on the slogan: "Show the things that are best dramatized; tell the things that are best spelled out."
This process is an art, not a science (like all writing is), and so sometimes the only way to figure it out in a given work is to feel your way through it.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Uncategorized / General for the month of October 2021.
Other Lives Of The Mind