Archives for September 2015

One step back, two steps forward

Wrote 1,000 words on the Orchard yesterday, which was an improvement in quantity but not in quality. Upon heavy reflection, I decided that the work was structurally unsound, ripped it out, and recast the scene. (Thanks to my alpha readers, Sarah and Wendy, for insights that sped the fix along.) Today I put in 2,000 words, replacing yesterday’s output and getting a little further on with the story. We are now at a chapter break, with a Reveal, to wit: How Greyhand got his name.

I had been hoping that each episode of the Orchard would run about 15,000, but this first one seems certain to be over length. I am just over 12,000 words in (before cutting), and barely halfway through the outline. Looks like the series will begin with an extra-length episode, however much I slice it.

More trees!

Hat tip to The Passive Voice, who says:

An Adobe commercial from 2013 that one commentator has compared to the current state of publishing.

Sounds painfully accurate to me.

In other news, I made good only 700 words on the Orchard yesterday. Going over the notes and plans and getting up to speed on the story takes time, alas. Also, my new medication for the neuralgia makes me sleep longer hours than normal. I think it’s called Ami-Trip-To-Zombie-Land.

Challenge to self

Some of the 3.6 Loyal Readers may recall the opening chapters of Where Angels Die, which I posted on these pages almost a year ago:

The Summons
The Taken
A Battle of Souls
The Food of Demons

After the deaths of my parents, I was so stricken with depression and illness (and practical troubles concerned with the estate) that I found myself entirely unable to write any fiction, except for the odd squib like ‘Kundenschmerz’ and ‘Magic’s Pawnshop’. That deep fog seems to be lifting; I have been able to write fairly regularly this month, and now I should like to try getting back to work on something more ambitious (and perhaps profitable).

So I have decided to spend this coming week in a sort of marathon, seeing how far I can get with the draft of ‘the Orchard of Dis-Pear’, which, you may recall, is my private working name for Where Angels Die. This is, in a way, a forgiving project with a flexible terminus. I mean that with eight projected episodes, each of about 15,000 words, there are plenty of points at which I can stop, if need be, and say that I have definitely Accomplished Something. If I only get the first episode drafted, that will be a significant improvement on what I have done so far this year. If I go further, so much the better.

I shall not be putting up the first draft on the blog, so posting will likely be sparse and spotty for a time. However, I hope to put up short notices about any progress I happen to make.

Your patience, encouragement, and well-wishing is much appreciated. Pray ’em if you got ’em. Thank you, and I hope to see you all soon at Angel Keep.

Author Earnings: The terrible horrible awful news

My dear McStudges, minions, slugs, and uglies:

The September report from Author Earnings is out, and there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that our paid and suborned propagandists in the human media are busily at work pooh-poohing the message, shooting the messenger, and otherwise smearing muck over the picture so that their victims will be gulled into believing our version of the story.

The bad news is the story.

It is vitally important, at this juncture, that we close ranks and maintain absolute solidarity whenever the humans can see or hear us. Among ourselves, we may bicker and feud as much as we please; our operatives will continue to feed off one another, as is our nature, for it is a Studge-eat-Studge world that we live in, and all’s right with it. But we must never be seen to fight in front of the servants. We must repeat the Official Story in absolute unison; but we must never be so stupid as to believe it ourselves.
[Read more…]

‘Operation Friendship’

M*A*S*H: A writer’s view. #13 in the series.

The last of the comedy doubles on M*A*S*H is a study in opposites. One was a streetwise working-class kid from Toledo; the other was a Boston Brahmin who, the minute he was born, spat out the silver spoon because it was not 14-karat gold. One was the first regular character not taken from Hooker’s novel; the other was the last character added to the cast, and was loosely based on a pair of surgeons who appeared in the book.

Five years into the series’ run, Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum went back to the fountainhead for a scene that would help them with one of their most difficult writing tasks. Near the end of the book, two replacement surgeons arrive at the 4077th: a pair of young Ivy Leaguers fresh out of residency, Captains Emerson Pinkham and Leverett Russell. Col. Blake makes the Swampmen show them the peculiar techniques of meatball surgery, instead of letting them sweat it out and learn for themselves. [Read more…]

Calvin and Hobbes on writing

Hat tip to Malcolm the Cynic.

Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Calvin: 'I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?' Hobbes, reading aloud: 'The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in DICK AND JANE: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes.' Calvin: 'Academia, here I come!'

There are two kinds of people involved in this game, whether as writers, readers, or what have you: Those who agree with Calvin, and those who wish to use writing as an actual means of communication. Which is as much as to say that there are parasites, and there are hosts.

Speaking of Malcolm the Cynic, he has an interesting piece up on Superversive SF: ‘Fixing the Abrams Star Trek Movies’. Very much in the vein of what I did with elements of the Star Wars prequels in ‘Creative discomfort and Star Wars’. I like his take on the Abrams Trek reboot very much.

This day in scribblery: September 16

Another piece that may be of interest to at least 0.9 of my 3.6 Loyal Readers. This first appeared on LiveJournal on this day in 2006:

Genesis 3: Reality, responsibility, and The Eye of the Maker


In other news, last night I returned from a three-day excursion to the interior of British Columbia. I saw many old familiar sights, and some old forgotten ones, and a few new ones, and one desultory forest fire, and met some new people (whom I shall, in all probability, never see again); and I return somewhat refreshed. I make a note of this for my own purposes, since this blog is the closest thing I keep to a journal, and otherwise I may wish to recollect some aspect of this trip and not be able to remember when I made it.

It’s not ALL about the seat of the chair

Now that our Evil Alter Blogger has had his say about those who sneer at prolific writers, I figure it’s time for me to say something on the matter in propria persona. Herewith, I reproduce a comment I made over at the Passive Voice, which the gracious Carbonel thought well of.

One Scath muses aloud:

I’ve been earning a living as a writer releasing 2 books per year. Wonder what will happen if I up that to 4 per year?

I respond:

Either (a) you will more than double your income, because you are attracting more readers and have twice as many products to sell to each one; or (b) your income per book will suffer because you are rushing yourself to meet an arbitrary production schedule, and not giving the ideas long enough to cook. Or some combination of the two effects. It depends entirely on you and your internal process.

Like most writers I know, I find that the process of coming up with good story ideas is not one that happens solely whilst one is applying the seat of the trousers to the seat of the chair. I can usually come up with enough stuff in twenty-four hours to keep me busy at the keyboard for four or five hours writing it down. I find that if I force myself to spend more hours at the keyboard, I often end up forcing out rubbish just to fill up the time.

Of course everyone’s mileage differs; but that ought to be the real lesson – everyone’s mileage differs. There is nothing inherently wrong with having the fixings in your mind to make one decent book per month, or one per quarter, or one per year, or one per lifetime. (Very few of us can manage one per month. That much time at the keyboard leaves very little time for having enough of a life to feed a fluent stream of new ideas.) The only thing that is unequivocally wrong is trying to base your schedule on someone else’s idea of how much you should write.

If Patty Pretentious says you should write only one book every ten years and it will be a literary masterpiece, she’s almost certainly wrong. If Harry Hackworthy says you should crank out a book every two weeks, just as fast as your fingers can type the words, he is almost certainly wrong. If Sammy Statistics says you should write 1.21 books per year because that is the aurea mediocritas at which the average Great Writer writes the average Great Book, he is almost certainly wrong. Writers, especially great ones, cannot be aggregated in that way.

There’s a reason why Polonius did not say, ‘To the Huffington Post’s own self be true.’ Or even, ‘To thy critique group’s own self be true.’

Advice on writing Great Literature

In a discussion at The Passive Voice, one Lorraine Devon Wilke was mocked for ordering writers, ‘Do NOT write four books a year.’ She offered, as an exemplar of Good Writing, Donna Tartt, who took eleven years to write The Goldfinch. Among many other responses, Ed Ryan offered this:

I’m a math idiot so bear with me. Let’s assume (so I don’t have to look it up) the ‘masterpiece’ in question is 100k words long.

11 years means 10,000 words per year (ok that’s 110,000, see how lazy I am?)

10,000 words per year/ 365 days per year us a blistering 27.3 words per day.

We can pretend this hardworking visionary took days off from that grueling schedule and slaved over the novel for a mere 200 days each of those 11 years – an electric 50 word per day pace.

If the author rewrote the book 10 times the average jumps to a staggering 500 words per day. Being generous that’s 60 minutes of work per day.

I only hope the other 23hrs were relaxing.

Our Evil Alter Blogger responds:

Don’t be silly.

If you want to become a Major Literary Figure, you have to spend the other 23 hours in a constant flurry of activity. Hanging out in seedy Left Bank cafes, drinking absinthe with deranged expatriates. Being addicted to hard drugs. Cultivating interesting but debilitating mental illnesses. Pursuing weird sexual kinks in wildly unorthodox ménages. Kissing the bums of some of your fellow verminous literary lions, and fighting lifelong feuds with others. Going into rehab. Getting out of rehab. Writing angsty pseudo-philosophical anecdota about what you learned in rehab. Forgetting what you learned in rehab so you can repeat the process. I tell you, it’s a busy and thankless life.

The ideal literary author will write ONE book, and spend the rest of his life (it is preferably a he; if a she, she should go into pop music instead and aspire to be Amy Winehouse) desperately striving to live fast, die young, and leave a corpse that may not actually be good-looking, but will at least furnish material for hundreds of Ph.D. theses by twitterpated would-be academics.

You see, that is the ultimate goal of Literature. It’s all about the doctoral theses. Authors and books are just a necessary nuisance along the way.

H. Smiggy McStudge

12 years

It was only in January, 2013, that I set up a WordPress blog to replace the creaky old static Bondwine site; but a lot of the material here goes back into the mists of antiquity. Today, for instance, marks the 12th anniversary of the oldest essai on this site: ‘Sturgeon’s Law School, or, Why do people with good taste create bad art?’ Upon rereading it with a cold and fishy eye, all these aeons later, I find that it stands up tolerably well. If you haven’t given it a look before, you might do today.