Thursday, September 29, 2011


Why isn't the novel done?

Right now, if I had two straight days of solid, uninterrupted work, I'd be done with the draft. Three days? Ready to send out to readers.

While I have been working every day -- more than three thousand words yesterday -- that statement has been true for a solid week now. If I had gotten two consecutive days of real work in the last week, I'd have finished the novel.

Why isn't the novel done?

I made plans. I declared limits. I asked for assistance.

Why isn't the novel done?

Well, it's not like I haven't been doing other things. For instance...


When I broke it down for myself, the first layer of explanation involved other people. My momentum was broken by requests for various forms of assistance and companionship and so on and so forth.

So? What makes my work their responsibility? Most of the time, I never even hinted that people were eating time I could ill afford. And I wanted to do everything I did. And even when people were being unreasonable, I still had the option of yelling, "Leave me the fuck alone, I'm trying to fucking work here!"

The reason this is an issue all of a sudden is that I'm having a new kind of creative experience. It is now possible for me to hold the novel in my head. I understand the story, I know the page-by-page flow, the breakdown of scenes, everything down to subtle thematic issues and obscure references to science, pop and high culture, history, etc. I do this with short stories, but this is the first time I've been able to do it with a long-form work.

This allows me to do the fine manipulation that I haven't been able to do before. I can understand how specific word choices, specific pieces of information, can affect the entire work. It's a holographic understanding, and it is kind of an incredible piece of thinking. You'd be proud of me.

The thing is? It is intensely demanding of my concentration. It takes me an hour or two of fucking around on the internet and poking at the manuscript before I can erect the whole thing in my head.

Once it's up, I can work like a son of a bitch. But any confusion, any need to think about other stuff? It collapses catastrophically, and the experience of massively disorganized thought is intensely uncomfortable. Honestly, the temptation to physically hurt myself in order to restabilize... huh. I was going to say I've avoided giving in to it, but my cuticles tell a different story. (Hey, cutters! Cuticle mutilation is our version of nicotine gum.)

Blaming others is pointless. I tend not to treat my work time with respect. If someone wants me for something, they can get me. It's assumed that as the layabout, I'm the one who needs to make way.

I make that assumption as well.

This is okay when it doesn't interfere with the work. If I am working in a way that lets me pick up and put down the work at will, that's fine. But right now?

I need a higher level of respect from myself and the people around me.

I'm getting this done, and it will finish off at its own pace. But it will be done faster and be a stronger work if I am allowed a period of relative isolation in which to work.

So. Right now, the missus has her father coming to visit. It would be a war-between-the-sexes crime if I were to insist on that right now. I shan't. I'll enjoy him while he's here, shore up the missus as she's pummeled by the brutal tides of family, and then?

Well. I need to devote a little thought to it, but I will arrange my life to temporarily accommodate a period of functional insanity from me. I will need to spend a chunk of my day in isolation, and I won't be able to read or watch any stories. Words other than the novel are active enemies at this point.

I've started hearing back from the writer's groups, and the word is good. What I've got so far is doing what I want it to do, finally. Interestingly, after I resentfully lopped out most of the drug-themed sub-plots, all of a sudden a number of different readers started spontaneously using the word 'psychedelic.' About damned time -- this is adventure fantasy for people who read Hunter S. Thompson for the adventure and Carlos Castenada for the fantasy. This is me claiming Star Wars/Lord Of The Rings territory for the stoners who form their core audience anyway.

So why isn't it done yet?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Liebster Award

I have been sitting on this for a bit, as much out of bashfulness as anything else. I'm not sure how important this award is in the greater scheme of things -- I'm guessing more than the Nebula or the Nobel peace prize, less than a Golden Globe or whoever gets the NASCAR crown or belt or whatever they give those guys. Is it a helmet? That would make sense.

But this came to me from Neil Vogler, of A Writer, He Muttered, along with the kind of encomium I'd order from a catalog if given a choice. Check it out. I'll be posting on this later, but he's given me cause to contemplate my developing public persona. (Holy smokes, there actually is one. How the hell did that happen?)

I've been reading Neil's blog since he posted a comment here some time ago. Thoughtful work by an introspective young writer/musician, well worth your time.

So. As one of the conditions of receiving this award, I need to pass it on to five recipients with less than two hundred followers. I'm using Neil's protocol; if I have a hard time figuring out how many followers someone has? They're in.

I've recently done a post in which I covered my usual suspects. Here are some people I am not always going on about.

Glendon Mellow's blog, The Flying Trilobite, concerns science, art, and the areas of their intersection, as well as Glendon's developing career. As I've mentioned before many times, Glendon and I have been engaging in a glacially-paced long-distance conversation about art for some years now, and he's turned my views upside-down more than once. And right now he's got a post up about the development of a rather nice painting -- I'd go take a look if I were you.

In the spirit in which the Leibster award was given me, I'd like to send you to Letters From Valentina Hepburn. Valentina commented on one of my posts the other day, and I tracked her back to her blog, where I proceeded to spent the next two or three hours, enchanted.

I suppose I need to provide a bit of context here. A while ago, the missus picked up a Billy Joel collection at a yard sale. Due to my keen ability to move away from the radio, I've never heard a Billy Joel song all the way through. I thought it would be a giggle to listen to it. I don't mind simplistic pop, I have an occasional taste for musical garbage...

Big mistake. Big, big mistake. It damaged my brain. And I'd like to single out the song Pressure. In any truly civilized nation, the hook for Pressure would place Mr. Joel outside the protection of law.

I had that hook jammed in my brain for days when I started reading Letters From Valentina, and it immediately evaporated, to be replaced by the infinitely-preferable Dave Edmunds version of Girl Talk. Valentina's blog is very feminine in a very particular way, and honestly? To me it reads like a fairy tale. A place of wonders and perils beyond my (sullen, brutal, unwashed) imagining. A world so distinctly removed from my own that I can't bring myself to believe it exists.

But I really hope it does.

Let's head to the other end of the spectrum, shall we? I suspect that Nick Mamatas may have too many followers to qualify, but I believe I've already weaseled my way out of that one. Nick's blog is as political as well as writerly. He has a tendency to point upward, and you look, and by golly, there's the sole of a boot coming right at you. Over and over again. He won't participate in this, of course. It's not his kind of thing, and if you were to put that banner on that site? The internet would evaporate.

E.F. Kelley's Port Terra is an insider view of media-based pop culture that places the current science fiction tradition squarely inside the larger world of the media. Frankly, he's one of the reasons I'm less dismissive of movie and television-related material than I used to be. The thought he displays in his discussions of Star Trek and comic book babes makes them interesting to me in the same way that Glendon helped make fine art more accessible to me. (If I don't expand in both directions, I might warp.)

Finally, I suppose there's no excuse for this. But he is a pal. And he's a working father developing a writing career and editing/publishing a literary magazine, so if we can lure him into posting more frequently, we might be able to deprive him of sleep entirely. What jolly fun!

And anyway, don't you want to read about Jesus, The Egg-Laying Bunny?

Of course you do. Ladies and gents, Rob Pierce, Two Verbs!