2017: More Right Than Wrong

IMG_0163“Regret is a part of life.  But keep it a small part.”

Blakes 7, 1980, BBC

Regrets…

Specifically, anything I regret from 2017?  The actual question was: is there anything I would do over, do differently?

I try to avoid things like that, if only because…well…where do you stop?  There are always regrets, always things you would rather have done differently.  But, really, would you?  Should you?  As trite as it is, we really are made from our experiences.  Do things over, do things differently, and you start changing just who you are today.

Besides…as not-good as parts of 2017 were for me, there were others that were very, very good.  Those good things are what color the entire year as I look back. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to be too full of regrets when you’ve spent half the year living in the middle of Yellowstone.

No, I didn’t write as much as I should.  No, I didn’t break any new creative ground.  And, no, I definitely didn’t make shit for money (or did make shit for money, as the case may be!).  But what I did do was renew myself, and rediscover certain parts of me that I thought I had lost.

If February and March were low points, well…they were that bleak moment, that point of despair, in the story before the protagonist starts to pull it together.  They made the next bits all that much better.

Now, if I leave aside my life and just focus on the writing…

Well, there are always things to change, things that could and should have been done differently.  I could have played with the tone of Silence earlier.  I could have thought more about the fragile mental state of my protagonist.  I could have planned and anticipated better the swings and changes, and the evolution, of the story I wanted to tell.

Most of all, I guess, I damned well should have changed back from writing sequentially to writing the scenes in the order I chose.  My outline is there to serve and help my writing, not the other way around!

But all of that is ancillary.  All is merely detail.  If I were the hero of my own story, as the old writing exercise goes, the choices I made may not have been optimal, but damn if I didn’t advance the plot!

So, instead of looking back, I have to look forward.  And, looking forward, I have to, above all, write more.  I have to be more intentional about the work, and about the goals and milestones I set for myself.  I also have to rediscover that voice, and that focus, that is so important to making my (current) stories work.

Writers write, as the old saying goes, and in the end I need to remember that.  I used to have a daily goal that I stole from a Chuck Palahniuk piece: put on a good album, and write for the length of it.  If things are working, just put on more music and keep writing.  If things aren’t working…hey, you got in an hour of writing!  It has proven, for me, a better “win-win” system than trying to produce X words per day.  Now, I just need to remember that…

As a last thought on the regrets thing: I want to shout out my thanks to IWSG and the folks I have met, and am meeting, through that group. Y’all are awesome, and joining has been one of those “very, very good things” I mentioned above. Writing is inherently a solitary activity (even when you write in taprooms!), so it’s good to know I’m not doing it alone!

Cheap Wine

*Note — I’ve been helping someone move for the last couple of days. Coherence and writing are not, umm, my strong suits at the moment!

Discount wine.

Oh, for the love of God, discount wine.

There’s a reason that shit was on sale in the first place…

I’m pretty sure my recent foray away from the comfortable and familiar (beer & whiskey) may be one of the larger mistakes of my life. Right up there with being the “other man” in a neat little love triangle (hey, I was young — cut me some slack!).

Ahem.

Now, that intro got me to thinking about regrets, and about “do overs”, but that is the one topic I am going to leave (have to leave?) for Wednesday’s post.

Great, now I have to connect that thought to…err…something. Preferably something writing-oriented. Umm, okay, so it’s not like I haven’t violated that particular little blog-goal a million times lately…

Still, I claim this to be a writing blog — and writing is, in fact, my life — soooo…screw you, Roy Moore, I’m not talking about you this week! You and the rest of the creepy assholes can burn quietly in Hell for the moment. And I really do mean that: QUIETLY!!

I’m gonna talk about discount wine, and how that relates to character building! Or something!IMG_4598

Err, insert Emily Litella quote here.

Look, I had every intention of writing a serious entry today. Even if I decide to **gasp!** stray from the writing-blog thing, there is a ton of stuff out there to work with: Michael Flynn and the FBI…a tax cut package that doesn’t actually cut taxes…Angela Merkel finally showing that she is human…the joke that is the NFL…

To quote Maverick, “Sorry, Goose, but it’s time to buzz the tower.”

Wait, that ain’t it…let’s try this: “It’s a target-rich environment!”

Yeah, THAT’s the one.

So, what does discount wine REALLY tell me about life and the universe?

Well, first off, it tells me that Douglas Adams was right…about pretty much everything. Especially cricket.

No politics or society, not today.  Nope, today it’s (still) writing!

So, after all that…bad wine ties back to something I have mentioned before: letting your characters make mistakes. Especially, allowing your protagonist to make mistakes.

Outside of the plot — where we all (hopefully) know his/her decisions and choices have to drive things — there is too much of a tendency to have protagonists know and do all the the right things.

Don’t fall into that trap.

Flaws, mistakes, even the occasional bout with stupidity, all serve to make your character more human, and more relatable. More real.

Don’t tell those mistakes, take a few minutes — and a few hundred words — and show your characters’ lack of perfection. What if James Bond occasionally spilled his drink on the women he was picking up? What is Aragorn dropped his sword from time to time? What if Captain Kirk got an interstellar STD?

Shit happens, and no one is perfect: neither should your characters be.

 

Let Go Your Inner Snob — You Can Learn From Anything

I’ve mentioned before my love of video games. I have also mentioned, of course, my particular conflict-of-interest when I talk about video games: I have, in the past, made money writing for them. Beyond those, however, I’ve written about the fact that, from time to time, some games have risen above the medium itself, have shown themselves to have things to say that are both legitimate and powerful (read here and here).

That Dragon Cancer. This War of Mine. The Last of Us. Life is Strange.

Play ‘em, they are gaming at its best. They are, honestly, more than games.

The first will reduce you to an incoherent, sobbing mess, then rebuild you with the realization that we are all better for the hero’s having lived. The second will give you insight into the reality of war that no shooter or adventure game ever will…insights from those who actually lived it. The other two? Reality, and growing up. Themes very important to the majority of those who play video games.

Every teacher and writer out there — including me! — will tell you that one of the keys to becoming a better writer is to read. Well…you can learn from other mediums, too. The games I list above, as well as a handful of others, can teach you a ton about writing — about characters, and agency, and even plot — even as you enjoy the hell out of the experience.

Then you have the rest of that particular universe…and, yes, it goes downhill pretty quickly.

*sigh*

Look, I’m proud of the projects on which I worked. But nothing in which I was involved rises above the level of game, let alone reaches the level of art that are those I list above.

But…

But!

But, you can learn from the shitty, just as effectively as you can from the awe-inspiring. Learning what not to do — what to avoid — has a great deal of value in and of itself…trust me on that one!

I use MST3K and RiffTrax to learn those lessons from movies (and laugh my ass off), but I have yet to find a group of intelligent, educated comedians who will similarly pick apart games…

That means I gotta do it myself.

Dammit — and I thought my days of homework were done after my second round of college!

Apparently not.

Now, what got me thinking about this? Sadly, I took the time to study the plots and stories of a particular not-to-be-named game series…a series, I should add, that I have played.

Egads…

Keep in mind, I am usually one of those who will tell you to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  The folks who wrote this series, on the other hand, decided not let the good be the enemy of the random, insane and completely unintelligible. Their attempts at clever plot twists, and ever-increasing stakes, made for an overall story that — drunk or sober (and I’ve tried both ways, believe me!) — makes absolutely zero sense.

I wish I could say that particular sin was a rarity, but it ain’t. Not in games, not in comics/manga, and not even in books.

So, the point of all of the above? Well, it’s kinda the same point behind all of the background work I do when I’m prepping for a story: have a damned plan!

To quote The Hunt For Red October, “…Russians don’t take a dump without a plan, son!”

Channel your inner Russian. Have a plan.

No, really — spend a few days and come up with a stinkin’ plan.* And I don’t mean one just for the story currently under your pen (or your keyboard, as the case may be). Nope…try to give yourself some leeway by thinking about life, and events, both before and after your story. Give yourself a couple of avenues to explore if and when you decide to write a sequel…or even just another story in the same “universe”.

The lack of such a plan is what led to the crazy, semi-random insanity of that game series. Honestly, the lack of a plan is what led to stuff like the senseless insanity of the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” — you know, the stuff (comics and books and games) that Disney mercifully took out back and Old Yellered into the grave of “non-canon”.

*I did not, by the way, have such a plan for anything after Wrath & Tears.  When I decided there were two more stories for Connor…well, I had to do me some fast damned tap-dancing to get things set up correctly.

The 4 W’s: What

Look…you know I’m a character-centric guy. You know anything I write starts (and ends) with the characters, and the plot is just the Charlie-Brown-pine on which I hang the lights and ornaments and decorations that make it an actual Christmas tree. You know because, well, I’ve talked about it often enough…

So, for me, the what of my stories isn’t some big plot point, some stand-alone crisis & climax & resolution…it’s the story of the protagonist(s), and how they deal with with those plot points. I know it sounds semantic, but I can assure you that it’s not. It most assuredly is not — it is a very real difference in emphasis, and in execution.

Let me put it like this: as much as I love Star Wars, why did I hate The Force Awakens? Because the characters — with the exception of Finn & BB8 — were forgettable, 2-dimensional cookie cutters that meant not one damned thing to me. There is no bigger Mary Sue in the damned universe than Rey…and don’t even get me started on the uselessness that is/was Kylo Ren. Quite simply, the characters in that movie were there simply to serve the plot; they had no meaning and no life in and of themselves.

Contrast that with Rogue One. I bought into Rogue One…I bought all the way in. The characters in that movie existed, they meant something. They had more depth, and more reality, than the entire cast of TFA put together. Jyn and Cassian were, quite simply, more believable — more important — than Rey and Poe.

And that makes all the difference.

So, when I plan and design the what of a story, it is not a plot into which I insert my characters. Nope. Quite the opposite, in fact: it comes from the characters themselves.

I’ve mentioned before the rather extensive background work I do before I ever start writing a story. Part of that is just to help me fill in holes and answer questions…but just part. No, the majority of that comes because I need to think and live — I need to experience — my characters’ reality before I truly know where things are going. I need, when you get right down to it, to let them talk to me.

A real world example:

The story that evolved and grew into Wrath & Tears and Silence (and the planned third story, tentatively titled The Flicker of Ghosts) started life simply as a planned series of short stories I nicknamed Project Dock Rat. It was anticipated to be nothing more than the serial adventures of a homeless kid, scraping by as a thief with the help of his best friend.

There was nothing in the original conception about society’s sins, nor the exploitation and violence and ruthlessness that are so a part of the real world. There was, equally, nothing about suicide, or suffering, or the despair of the hopeless.

Then I thought and worked through the two main characters (a third got axed/changed…long story, there), the two who became Connor and Oz.

I had no idea when I originally dreamed up the idea that the protagonist would come to be a reflection of my own survivor’s guilt, nor that his best friend would come to represent those I’ve lost to suicide. I had no idea the story would come to mean something very personal to me.

But it did.

It became not the “adventures of a homeless kid,” but rather the story of Connor’s attempt to save his own soul…and Oz’s failure to do the same thing.

THAT is the what of a story, to me: the reality and evolution of characters that matter.

The 4 W’s: Where

Note — hmm, just got an idea to make this a (sorta) series.  The Who, What, Where and Why of a story…I’ll have to think about that one a bit, but I kinda like the idea.

I finished writing at the brewery the other day, then got into a conversation with some of the regulars. Now, these regulars are people I have known for a long time. They know me pretty well, and they have no hesitation about asking questions. Sometimes they ask a lot of questions.

Now, usually, those questions are pretty funny…but sometimes they actually get into more serious, substantive areas. Like whether Cascade hops are evil, or debating the relative merits of malty versus hoppy pilsners…

You know, the important stuff.

Oh yeah…and sometimes writing comes up, too.

Keep in mind: these are the people who got me to admit that my characters talk to me. As you might imagine, that particular little nugget still gets a ton of mileage in the taproom…

Well, the other day, one of those friends asked me about settings. “You make shit up, right?” he asked.

“Well…uhh…basically…” I stammered, still coming back to earth after a writing session.

“Where the fuck’s it come from? The weird sci-fi shit, I mean. The places, the atmosphere.”

Good question, that.

John Scalzi still has my favorite sci-fi quote of all time, and it fits for this topic just as it does for so many others {I’m paraphrasing from memory, mind you}: “They say you should write what you know. I write what no one knows.”

So…settings. My writing tends to be very visual, tends to focus on the immediate snapshot of a place. More than that, the look & feel of a place tend to focus very much on the contrast* inherent in the setting: the contrast of light and dark especially, but also those social and economic and personal contrasts that mean so much to my writing. I love dissonance in my settings just as much as in my characters…

*Remember, one of my “outside” loves is photography…mostly travel and nature stuff, but I will tackle almost any topic through a camera. When I take pictures, I intentionally look for the contrast in light & shadow…and also in subject matter. Those impulses, and that “eye” I use, affects my imagination and my writing a great deal.

The biggest settings are obviously made up out of whole cloth: from settled planets to FTL starships to massive space stations. These are the “big ideas”, the conceptual frameworks that hold together the “real” places where scenes actually take place (a room, a bar, a plaza, etc…). These “big things” are influenced by reality, but mostly just in terms of the feelings I want them to evoke:

Dockside was inspired/influenced by places like Marseille and Long Beach and Boston. Working ports with gritty, dangerous areas close beside areas of wealth and privilege.

The destroyer that is the centerpiece of an old “trunk novel” of mine (that may see the light of day in a completely re-worked fashion) was inspired/influenced by the old WW2 Fletcher-class destroyers…and by modern US nuclear subs.

But those are the “big things”, those are not the things of everyday settings and scenes…the places that help define the feeling of a story.

The smaller and more intimate places where the scenes take place, the “real” settings…well, they are based on places I know, on places & things that have had a very real affect on me.

Dockside’s res-holds are those tight, crowded, loud neighborhoods you see in Hong Kong and Manila and Bangkok and other massive Asian cities. But, and this is a big but, they also have a huge dose of the crowding and crime, and the grinding poverty, of the Brazilian favelas, as well as the southern European migrant “camps”.

A handful of scenes I am currently writing are set in one of the grimmest and most depressing places I can come up with: a place based on the old Soviet-era, Stalinist apartment blocks you can still find in central and eastern Europe’s old industrial areas. I once took a walk through one of these behemoths just a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall…and, well, holy shit. Let’s just say, to a kid who grew up in Southern California, there was no place more alien…nor more unsettling.

From small, crowded izakaya in Tokyo, to beach front clubs in Spain…

From huge, luxurious mansions to tiny, filthy apartments that aspire to be called “slums”…

From corporate boardrooms to back-alley drug dens…

Pretty much every setting I create has at least an inspiration, if not a very real basis, in real world places I have experienced. And that experience, that reality, is important to me: every setting I use is intended to evoke certain emotions, and to communicate certain things about the characters, and the particular plot points, involved in that scene.

I could never hope to communicate the emotion of an overwhelming, monolithic concrete apartment block — and it’s depressing central expanse of a concrete courtyard — had I never stood in the middle of just such a place and experienced its reality.

All that being said…my friend was right: I make shit up. I make a lot of shit up. But — and this is the important but — even the stuff I make up is built around certain nuggets of reality. Every place, every setting, that I use has to have a feeling to it — has to have an honesty — in order to support and serve the tone of the scene itself.

And, yes, before you ask: the taproom at “my” brewery has made its own appearance…

Back To Our Regular Programming: Characters Matter

Okay, so instead of writing, I’m busy writing a blog about, err, writing.

I think I need to switch to decaf.

Lately I’ve let myself “go political” for a few posts. That was something I swore I would never do when I started this blog. Just like I swore I would cut back on coffee in 2017.

Yeah, both of those resolutions had about the same chance of success.

At any rate, no more politics. Not today…and hopefully not for a while.

Nope, today is all about taking the title of Saturday’s “bonus post” and putting it back into writing terms: character matters. On two levels that works…and you can figure them out just as easily as can I*.

most-interesting-squirrel*Squirrel Moment of the Day: one of the hardest things to learn in writing? DON’T OVER-EXPLAIN! Trust your readers and, most of all, respect them. As readers, we all (well, I think all) hate it when writers talk down to us, when they assume we can’t connect dots on our own. So, why then, is the urge to do the same thing so strong when we write? Words are precious things — no, really, trust me on this, your word count is a precious resource: don’t waste it on unimportant details and pointless background. Give hints, sketch a few lines, then let the reader fill in the details with their own mind. Trust them, in other words, and treat them like they have brains of their own.

I know I’ve talked about that problem with wordiness and over-explaining before, but crap…that’s worth a post in and of itself.

But not today.

Not today because that topic deserves some thought and planning…neither of which I have ready at the moment.

Nope, today I’m thinking about characters. About when characters speak for themselves, and about when they help dictate the story.

I need to rephrase that title I’m re-using from Saturday: Characters Matter.

Don’t use them lightly…don’t sell them short…and, for God’s sake, don’t railroad them! If a character does, or says, something totally outside of their make-up, you’ve failed them. I don’t care if it’s necessary to advance the plot…I don’t care if it’s something that has to happen…I don’t care if the devil makes them do it*, your character has to do what’s right for them.

*Although that, arguably, could be a fun little device to play with…in the right circumstances.

Want to know why I never got into GRRM’s Fire & Ice series? Because, too often, his characters do things that are alien to who they are. He has done a masterful job of creating deep, rich and engaging characters…then betrayed them by forcing them to do things simply because the plot calls for it.

That is, I should add, one area where the TV series has, for the most part, done a great job of “cleaning up” — HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation is, I believe, only the second* instance where I’ve found the movie/show better than the original book(s).

*Jaws is the other one.

And, yes, Tyrion is still the best and most interesting character in either version…although Jaime has his worth, too. Remember my fixation with the broken and the flawed? Yep, it all goes back to the best chapter title ever: Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things. I will always love GRRM for that one…both for the title, and for that first glimpse of Tyrion as a hell of a lot more complicated and interesting than the reader’s initial impressions.

In the end, if you have to force your character to do something outside of themselves — something alien to who they are — you need to go back and either rework that character, or rework your story/plot.

By now, you probably know just where I come down on that particular decision…

Micro vs. Macro; or, It’s Not The Size Of The Lens, It’s What You Do With It

I’m thinkin’ about themes, and the subtextual messages we (well, most of us) try to communicate in our writing.

Well…more precisely, I’m working on the underlying themes for a new & totally unrelated project, and that got me to thinking…

Now, starting to conceive and develop a new project (however slowly) when you’re only halfway through your current one may not be the smartest thing in the world…but no one ever accused me of being smart. Honestly, at this point the important part is that the new project gives me different dynamics and pacing to use.  It also, it must be said, gives me the opportunity to play with some themes & ideas that have no place in Connor & Oz’s universe.

But…the question that kept coming up in the back of my mind as I worked was this: just how do you know when you reached that saturation point?  How do you know when enough is enough?

Okay, okay…so, even I know the answer to that one (with thanks to Julia Child for this): “when it is done.”

Part of the answer, I think, is just what are those themes you are trying to communicate. There is a certain amount of room & latitude for the small lens — for the personal — but far more for thoughts and insights through a bigger lens.

Literature in general, and science fiction in particular, have always been around to communicate far more than they say. Hell, for at least a century, sci-fi has been the go-to resource for social and political commentary on the problems and events of, err, “today”.

Don’t believe me? Read Brave New World, or The Forever War, or War With The Newts…hell, go back to Wells’s Eloi and Morlochs. Nope, no message there, no light shining on his contemporary society…

Ahem.

Sorry, about that — almost got started on a rant…and a reading list that might never have ended.

If anything, I would argue that today’s sci-fi and fantasy don’t have enough to say about the “big things”. Oh, there are all kinds of stories in the small-scale, but the number of books that criticize and argue — err, effectively criticize and argue — about the biggest things just isn’t anywhere near as large as it could be.

And…well…I’m part of the problem. My current project (Connor & Oz) is very much at the micro end of the scale. It is focused on the personal problems — and growth — of a troubled kid who is very much at the wrong end of that old truism that “shit rolls downhill”.

Thinking about that, and about Connor’s story as it evolves and grows, has me looking — looking very hard — at those bigger elements and threads that I’ve included in the world-building, but haven’t actually developed.  It’s got me thinking, at least a little bit, at the macro end of the scale.

I can’t complain about folks not tackling the “big picture” stuff if I won’t do it, can I?

Nope.

There are problems and challenges in the world today that just aren’t going away anytime soon — and certainly aren’t going away in the timeframe in which these stories take place (300-350ish years in the future). The trick and the challenge is to keep the focus tight and personal on my protagonist, but to use the end results and impacts of these issues on Connor to (hopefully) shine a light.

Oh, and before you ask: nope, the changes ain’t gonna make the tone any lighter. Repression & control, exploitation, elitism, the ever-present power of corruption and vice, and the willing heartlessness of “the many” that allows all that to prosper and grow…

Nope, not gonna get any lighter…but it will be fun*.

*And a hell of a lot of work.

I should probably add that Connor’s story was originally designed and intended to be purely personal, to be the reality of two kids who never had a chance. It is only lately that I’ve begun to think that, perhaps, looking at the universe through that small lens might not be enough…

A Hint Of Food Porn

You don’t really realize just how satisfying it is to cook for yourself until you have to eat someone else’s cooking — every single damned day — for better than five months.

*sigh*

I love to cook. I love to cook…and I’m pretty damned good at it.

By now, I’ve made decent progress through the list I had in my head of the stuff I wanted to make when I got back. From basic steaks, to Thai green curry, to jambalaya (simmering away as I type this), the list goes on and on.  Now, it turns out, I’ve been sucked into a food & beer cooking/pairing contest.

Oh, not a real contest — just a group of friends, doing a beer-themed dinner. Except, like everything else we do, there has to be an element of competition to it. Of course it has to be a freakin’ contest — we’re the jackasses that would make a game of goddamned hopscotch competitive!

Okay, so the set-up: everyone drew randomly out of three hats for their course, for the protein they have to use and for the beer they have to pair and cook with.

Please, please, please…just not dessert, beef and IPA. Please, God, anything but THAT!

Nope, the universe (for once) smiled on me. I drew the third course (out of seven). Now, keep in mind: in a full, formal multi-course meal, that should really be a fish course…but not this time. Nope, this time I got pretty much everything I wanted from the universe. So, the dish:

Hand-made ravioli, stuffed with venison and mushrooms in a cherry lambic sauce.

Oh, shit, did I win the damned prize with those draws! I can feel my friends’ hate right now — it’s keeping me nice and warm…

And to the poor bastard who got the salad course and stouts? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Err…sorry about that, got carried away for a moment.

Now, why do I like cooking so much? Well, aside from the fact that I absolutely love food (and, yes, beer), there is a bit more to it.

Cooking, you see, is in some ways a lot like music…and like writing. The common thread to those pastimes is simple: in almost no other profession/calling do you take a bunch of unrelated bits and pieces and create from them a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, I’m not much of a musician.  In spite of my love of listening, I pretty much top out at playing chopsticks on the piano*. But I am a cook…and a writer. There is, when you get right down to it, very little in this world more satisfying than sitting down and making that all, well, just work.

*And, yes, Mom…you were right way back when: I really do regret giving up the piano when I was 11!

To take “Characters A & B”, mix them with “Plot Points X, Y & Z”, bake them in “Setting N”, then come out the other side with a good story? That’s freaking magic. As a reader it’s magic, but as a writer it’s even more so.

Just like taking the worst cuts of meats you can find, and coming out with a charcuterie dish that makes everyone fall all over themselves for more…

NaNoDrinkMo … Err, Maybe I Just Don’t Get It

IMG_0163Sooo…it’s NaNoWriMo time. Again. Now, maybe I’m the only writer in the world who feels this way, but…really? What the hell is that syllabic mishmash supposed to be?

If I can’t be bothered to write during the other eleven months of the year, why would November be any different?

Shit, November is the last month in which I should be writing seriously. October is home to more beer-focused events and festivals than any other time of the year. And December? Well, what the hell is Christmas except family stress and waaay too much booze? I don’t know about your family, but with mine…well, let’s just say that family harmony starts and ends at the liquor cabinet.

Honestly, November ain’t for writing, it’s for giving my liver a fighting chance to survive.

If I haven’t been clear enough: I barely know NaNoWriMo is a thing, and I certainly have never taken part.

I know, I know, there are a ton of other writers out there who love the damned concept. Giddyup, yippee-ki-yay, have-at-it….I’ll never really get it, but boats are floated by many, many things.

Okay, so enough venting and griping. But…but…NaNoWriMo…really? Why is this a thing?

I can only put this in personal terms: writing is who I am, not what I do. If ever I am not writing, there is a problem. If ever I go more than a few days without keys clicking, or pen in hand, then my life has very much taken a turn for the worst.

I can’t think, can’t process, can’t function, without writing. How the hell could I ever say, “No, let’s wait until November”…? Even in Yellowstone, amidst all that distraction, I wrote better than 25,000 words…more like 35,000 if you count the blog posts and other stuff I wrote up there. And still there is a backlog of stuff in my head — and in my soul.

So, to answer the IWSG question for this month: no, I have never written anything for NaNoWriMo. Or, more accurately, I’ve written a shit-ton in November, but because those stories — those words — demanded to be written, not because some artificial Twitter-drive told me it was time to “buckle down”.

What spurs me to write is, more than anything else, an internal thing. I write for me. If others like my stuff, then I’ll do the happy-danceIMG_0443…but even if I end up exactly as my family expects — and let’s not get started on that particular demon, shall we? — still will I write.

To (mis)quote a song: I don’t stutter when I write.

The thoughts and the words, well, they carry and express themselves…and that is, for me, how it has to be. That is the how and why of writing for me — not because the calendar tells me it is time, but because I simply can’t stop. Not and stay “me”.

Yep, I’m Late…Again

Normally I get the week’s blog posts written early. I like to have two or three ready to go so, when the time comes to actually get something up, I don’t have to worry about it.

This ain’t one of those days.

I had all weekend to write. I had all weekend to focus and concentrate. I also had all weekend for Halloween events.

Well, for Halloween events and hangovers. There may even have been some drunk texting…and all I’ll say about that is that, for the next zombie crawl & party, I’m locking my damned phone in the car.

Ahem.

‘Nuff said.

People who know I write love to ask, “What are you working on now?”

I hate that question.

I hate that question because the answer is always either insufficient, or confusing. Or both.

Responding with “Same book” just results in people looking confused and asking why it isn’t done yet. But God help me if I mention that I’m also exploring an idea for a completely different story.

Then the questions start: “What’s the plot?” “Who is the main character? The antagonist?” “What’s it all about?”

I don’t know, yet: THAT’S WHY I’M EXPLORING, DAMMIT!

And Silence isn’t done yet because, well, I’m having a hell of a time getting my focus back. I’m at the point in the plot where things are, err, “muddled”. I need to go back and clarify a number of points, as well as add a handful of scenes to play up a specific arc and theme I want to address.

Until I get all of that thought through and finished, I’m stuck.

It is times like this, of course, that I meet or hear about those writers out there who finish two or three books a year. Yeah, because hearing about that really helps! Look, I’m a one-story-a-year guy, and that ain’t gonna change…no matter how guilty and insufficient those “speed-writer” types make me feel.

Really…am I the only who feels that way? And when the hell did writing turn to the “faster is better” dynamic, anyway? Isn’t, uhh, ”better is better” the way to go?

Crap, this is why I need to bury myself and just go back to writing…thinking too much makes my head hurt.