Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I Don't Fear Intellectual Theft

So apparently some people are afraid of having their work stolen and that keeps them from posting it on the internet.  I can understand this fear; a lot of stuff does indeed get stolen off the internet.

Picture taken from: http://www.worldpresscartoons.com/2009/08/17/theft-of-intellectual-property-2/
But isn't it pretty presumptuous to even assume in the first place that your work - your writing, photography, music, sketches, whatever - is good enough to be stolen?  I think that making something great enough to be stolen is an accomplishment in and of itself - because generally people don't steal crap.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Plot Thickens (Just Add Water!)

If only it were that simple.  Unfortunately, I've learned, one of my greatest weaknesses as a writer is my inability to put together coherent, well-structured plots.  And it's not that I'm lacking in ideas, it's just that I have trouble mapping these ideas out in a way that is easily understood by other people.  In short, composing nice looking sentences is easy but stringing those sentences into a story can be challenging, for me anyway.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Back in Eddy's Room

Yet another writing exercise I was able to dig up.  In this one, the goal was to describe a room with as much detail as possible while creating a character to move through it.

Everything was the same as it had been. Even the bed sheet looked like someone had just slept in it, sweaty and crinkled. The last time Raymond was there had to have been at least five years ago, when he helped Eddy pack for college. Most of the stuff was still missing from the bright orange shelving – old car magazines, bad action movies, the little metal superhero figurines – all of it probably packed away in a storage unit by now, maybe sold off or given away to goodwill. There wasn’t much left, aside from some old kiddy toys in the small and cramped closet along with a few-off color dress shirts worn to church and school dances. They were just hanging there, smelling like dust.

He had to find something, something to take. Eddy’s parents were real intent on this. Raymond had been Eddy's oldest friend. They called him up just yesterday, insistent that he come by to take something from their son’s room. A keepsake, some kind of tradition, it would really mean a lot.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Day is Worth 100 Words

A fellow writer and blogger by the name of Scott has a cool project taking place on his blog whereby he attempts to write a story a day, making sure each (very) short story contains exactly 100 words.  Well, I noticed he was accepting guest submissions so I decided to try my hand at this challenge.  The result can be viewed here along with the rest of Scott's 100-word compositions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Brown and Purple Basket

This is an exercise I did for my fiction writing class.  I believe the prompt was something along the lines of: write a short piece about two people in an argument without relying on dialogue.

 She called last night, actually this morning, half past one, screaming and crying, probably drunk, demanding that I give back that damn basket. I had to hang up on her, turn off the phone, I wouldn’t get sleep otherwise. She wants that basket and won’t let it drop until she has it, I know her.

It’s not like I took it from her, she gave it to me, she was happy to give it to me. I tell you I regret that day, the day I tried carrying ten bags of groceries and a gallon of milk home that day on my bicycle handlebars. If she hadn’t have come riding by at just that second, she wouldn’t have been able to offer me that brown and purple woven basket of hers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Revision, How I Loathe You

Really, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my writing.  I'll spend hours if need be, combing over my prose to seek out and correct every imperfection that can be found.  So I can't say that I truly do loathe revision, I know it's necessary, I'm not one of those writers that thinks they can churn out pure gold from an unfiltered stream of inspired consciousness.  Still, reading over my own words can be painful - it creates self-consciousness - and making major changes to a story's structure can be nerve-wracking.  Maybe I'm just weird.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DoublePlus UnProud

Maybe a bit of an exaggeration but I can't say I'm especially happy with what I've done.  It was a school assignment, a short story in which I did my best to incorporate every rule and avoid the pitfalls of every criticism aimed at me and my fellow students during the first round of workshopping.  I succeeded, I think.  Unfortunately the end result was....meh, a manufactured piece of fiction with brains enough but no heart. 

It is set to go through the grinder of workshop on Thursday.  A general rule of thumb is that you can't expect anyone to like your work if you don't love it in the first place.  The way I see it, with the amount of love I don't have for this story, I can't imagine anyone feeling the mental effort spent on reading my words well worth the energy.

If I can salvage it through revision, I'll consider posting.  If not, I'll just keep chipping away at the old block...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Loose Ends

Beginnings are easy.  There are an infinite number of points for a story to jump off from and an incredibly large amount of space for it to expand into.   Once that story trajectory has been mapped and well established though, its seems that the number of possible outcomes is greatly restricted - at least if the writer wishes to retain any sort of credibility with his or her story.  Lazy writers can always employ deus ex machina to do their bidding of course, which opens up any number of possible, crazy endings involving ancient ground-dwelling lizard people or vengeful flesh-eating cyborgs from the far-side of Uranus.  I try my best to avoid such drastic measures.

Endings are hard though, for me anyway.  It might be due to my innate ability to abandon projects in their juvenile stage like so many unwanted children that I never really get around to attaching endings, thus limiting my practice in that area.  So when I do write a story that represents a complete idea or at least a coherent thought process, attempting to place a resolution or something representing finality in the piece always leads to me either an abrupt, nonsensical finish or a rambling, unnecessary and heavy-handed concluding passage.

So I'm not sure what the secret is to wrapping stories up all nice a pretty.  Maybe they just shouldn't be so.  An ending that is easy to reach is hardly a destination worth traveling towards.  I know its the journey itself that should make the trip worth taking but there needs to be something substantial, something worth seeing waiting at the very end for the weary reader.  Even if its a just a realization, a new thought that was formed through the formation of a story, of a world created out of air full of breathing, fleshy things.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Words In Motion

Excuse me please for the post title, I know it sounds like a local library slogan pasted on poster taped to the back of a bookshelf in the young adults section but there is an explanation.

My recent purchase of a netbook, after the very timely demise of my previous full-size laptop (of which several keys were beginning to fall off of the food crumb infested keyboard, burned with the heat of a thousand suns if left on for any time greater than three minutes and which had a battery life no greater than twice that amount of time making it the most unportable of portable computers), has been a source of some joy and motivation in the last few weeks.  It's small and lightweight stature allow it to accompany me nearly everywhere I go, sitting neat and cute in a pocket of my backpack, prepared to be pulled out at any moment's notice for a few minutes or hours of story crafting.

In the past I had almost always carried traditionally notebooks on my person (that is, pieces of lined, blank paper bound together in a book) along with several pens for this exact purpose but using the tiny computer involves so much less work, so much less mess (paper rips and exploding pens).  Not that I have completely abandoned the paper and pen, the idea of sitting beneath a tree on a summer's day armed only with these instruments of creativity still feels very much like the romanticized ideal to me but for practical purposes, a portable word processor that can also play music and surf the internet (a horrendous pitfall in terms of distraction, why at this very moment I should be working on something else more important) works much better - as long as its battery still contains a charge.

But, and here's the point of it all, where the netbook truly shines is during extended train trips when, otherwise, the bumpy nature of the ride makes traditional ink-to-paper word scribbling more tedious and frustrating than productive.  Typing on the train, along with headphones to block out all the potential distractions of rowdy weekend riders, seems to focus me greatly - thanks to a) the fact that I'm on a train and have no where else to go until I reach my stop and b) the fact that I most likely will have no internet service on said train which, as I've mentioned, is a huge fucking distraction when trying to write.  Non-wireless internet functionality is probably, along with the eternal self-powering ability, the feature which still make paper notebooks and pens still very much desirable to writers despite this crazy techno-fantastical world we all live in.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Speed Writing

November is national novel writing month apparently, complete with its own official contest/project whereby writers everywhere are charged with scribbling out 50,000 coherent words that form a story (a novel) or at least the beginnings of one before December rolls around.  It's name is NaNoWriMo and its purpose is to get writers, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, writing - of all things.

I appreciate this event's attempt to kick the asses of every chronically procrastinating writer, prompting a rapid expulsion of ideas onto paper or word processor at such a rate that the creative mind has little time to filter or agonize over any word, line, or passage throughout the month.  Fifty thousand words is a lot to write out in thirty days and comes out to about 1667 words per day, a good five pages of writing in a composition notebook, more than enough to produce a decent amount of brain fatigue and intense finger cramping.

Last year I did indeed attempt "win" the contest (no one actually wins but you can consider yourself a winner if you make it to the minimum word count within the month) and surprisingly got around to about 12,000 words after about as many days (I started a bit late).  Unfortunately, my inherent self-critical nature then decided to step in and point out the obvious: that what I had written was poorly slapped together drivel that looked like something I would have written during summer break after my junior year in high school.

It was then that I realized that as noble as an idea as it is, forcing writers to pour out a story with little attention to how the language is actually crafted can in the long run be somewhat self-defeating  While I admit I did get a few ideas down on paper during that week, since then I have completely restructured the way in which I wish to present my novel and so very little of that writing has been or will be useful to me - there's a good chance its all been thrown out or deleted by now.

Honestly I'm torn though, it is still a good idea to get writers writing, regardless of the outcome.  Any writing, even terrible writing, can be good practice if the writer knows that they need improving.  And really, the only sure way to improve is to practice, practice, practice...

All the same I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo this time around but I salute those who are making the attempt.  Your dedication is greater than mine and I respect anyone who is able to produce something worthwhile and on its way to eventual publication under such conditions.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Epic Preparation

For the past ten years of my life I have considered myself a writer.  Unfortunately, for all  those years past I can say that I have not yet produced a single, coherent work that I can be completely proud of.  Most of this can be chalked up to the fact that I was a angst-ridden teenager for many of those ten years and thus, the work produced was of sloppy, melodramatic candor.  However, I know well enough that the main culprit is my inability to find motivation enough to write on a regular basis and my constant need to debase every word and passage written to the point that I quickly give up on nearly everything I start - leaving very little completed work to show for these ten years.  Today, I hope to begin changing the way I have been writing.

What this means is that I will hold myself accountable for keeping up with my own personal writing - outside of schoolwork - on a near daily basis.  No longer will time constraints be an acceptable excuse for myself.  I will use this blog specifically to keep track of how much work I am producing as well as to talk about anything related (or unrelated) that currently grabs my attention.

For the moment, my two focuses will be on the piece I'm doing for my English fiction writing class, and the novel I have been attempting to start and restart for what is probably the last two and half years. Today I will begin work in earnest.