Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Meanderings

I recently did a "Boot Camp" with the goal of writing a flash fiction or poetry piece, per day, for two weeks.  I mostly concentrated on flash because that was what I "needed" for submission purposes, but I did finish four poems.  (I partly stopped with poetry because they were becoming increasingly disturbing ... not sure why that happened, but I needed to stop unnerving myself with my own writing.)

What I became aware of is that writing poetry, particularly - for me, at least - within fixed form and line lengths, helps strengthen a writer's sense of word choice.  In a short story or novel, it's easy for a cliche phrase to slip by in the flow to the next and the next.  In a poem, the content is finite and each phrase needs attention, and often reworking to arbitrary lengths or rhythm.  This draws a writer's eye with laser focus to the exact words, the way of shaping image:  the journey as well as the destination.

Some writers will also use a form as a starting point and depart from it when it doesn't serve them; this is another great way to heighten awareness of exactly how you're making your point.  Is the original phrase(s), within the context of the form, most effective, or does this change that departs from the form enhance the poem?

Like flash fiction, a poem is also a way to crystallize an idea in a compact number of words.  Finding that essence makes the writer aware of what's actually needed to convey the story.  (And there is a story, even if it's a progression of moods or an internal conversation rather than a specific plot.)

As a writer, I tend to be fairly deliberate:  if a word choice isn't right, or I'm missing a fact, I need to resolve that before continuing.  I spend a lot of time in my initial write of story openings to make sure that all the pieces are entering play.  People who toss in parentheticals to (fill this in later) boggle me.  But even if one is more a "throw down words and don't look back" writer, poetry can be helpful when you get to the editing stages.  Clunky or dull phrases leap out where it might be possible to skim past them in a manuscript.

I happen to write (usually) overtly fantastical poetry:  seers, ghosts, aliens.  But even if tackling more mundane subject matter, poetry sharpens focus and attunes one to specific word choice.

Writing 7/31:

Word Count:  8,560
Poems written:  2
Pages edited:  5

Writing 8/7:
Word Count:  4,857 (... it's been a week)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Song Styles

I'll be posting more from my Scylla and Charybdis playlist once I have a release date for the novel, but in the meantime, here's a "general purpose" song on it that I really like simply because it's imaginative and joyous:

In The Arms Of The Milky Way - Laura Powers

Laura Powers is what I would describe as New Age Pop, stuffed with every Celtic cliche you can imagine.  As a professional Celtic musician, sometimes I'm kind of embarrassed by my fondness for her stuff, but it is surprisingly catchy and fun.

As a sidebar, the television show Salvation recently mentioned the mythological Scylla and Charybdis.  (I keep meaning to write a blog post about Salvation, which is to impending-apocalypse science fiction what Laura Powers is to Celtic mythology:  a heartfelt but not particularly original love letter.)  

Anyhow, the characters on Salvation discussed the part of the story most people don't address, which is Odysseus' solution to sailing between them.  With the whirlpool Charybdis, the danger was all or nothing; they might be able to evade it, but it might suck the ship and all its passengers down to doom.  Scylla, on the other hand, was a monster, a woman from the waist up, and vicious dogs from the waist down (given Greek misogyny, there's gotta be a metaphor there).  She would certainly kill some of the crew ... but not everyone.  

So the mythological choice between Scylla and Charybdis is ... do you choose the certain sacrifice of some over a chance that everyone might make it ... or everyone might die?  It's a no-win situation.

How this metaphor applies to *my* Scylla and Charybdis is another question.  I didn't have this story specifically in mind when I structured the plot, though there are mythological influences sprinkled throughout.  (In the original short story, when Gwydion was the *only* male you see, I very deliberately chose a name from another mythos - Welsh.  And I can't recall specifically, but I don't think that the name of his sister-in-law, Sophie - wisdom - was chosen randomly, either ...)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Novel Goals

I figured it was about time I put some long-term goals into place, writing wise.  I've always found deadlines liberating, and the purpose of posting them here?

Anyone reading this blog post is a witness.  Feel free to hold me to it.

November 23:  finish first draft of Surgeburnt
December 1:  finish editing on Unnatural Causes, synopsis (waaaah I don't wanna) and query (nooooo)
January 1, 2018:  start next novel (writing phase)

Note that these dates are all deliberately before the holidays, with the exception of the last, because I expect to be madly, ridiculously, eye-crossingly busy during the Christmas season.

In my family, we refer the "drop-deadline" - that is, the time by which something absolutely, positively has to be done to avoid dire consequences.  (Use this term sparingly, as it has been known to cause the uninitiated to crack up laughing.)

So for the first goal posts, if I don't make them, the drop-deadline is the first of the year.

Let's get cracking.  Or rather, typing.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Song Styles

So I spent the last two weeks doing a self-imposed Boot Camp, writing a flash or poetry piece a day from a list of prompts I collected / generated.  My prompt from Day 12 was "She watched the bloodstained dress burn."  (Not necessarily to incorporate the sentence verbatim, but the concept / beat.)

But another thread of inspiration popped into my head to drive this particular story:

Cry To The Beat Of The Band - Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Yes, this from Wanderlust, which I've described before as one step away from being a fantasy concept album.  This is probably one of the *least* overtly fantastical songs on the album.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Outside the realm of fantasy, the Prologue is a perfectly acceptable way to foreshadow, show an unrelated or only partially related event that sets the scene, or otherwise provide a frame for the book to follow.

Inside the realm of fantasy, the Prologue is the source of a veritable firestorm of controversy, with some readers swearing they never read them and writers warning each other that it means an agent will instantly pitch their book; and others simply treating them as a valid storytelling tool.

There's a reason for the grumbling within the fantasy community:  in older fiction (and still by newbie writers), the Prologue is often used for worldbuilding, and ends up an excuse for creation myths and other elements that more properly ought to be woven into the story gradually and organically.  But it doesn't have to be.

Personally, I don't use Prologues too often, not because I have anything against them, but because I'm not a big fan of chapters, either.  Ironically, both my published / forthcoming works use chapters, but I flailed and threw things and regretted it the whole time.  

On the other hand, I can't comprehend not reading part of a book just because of its label.  I'm a completionist.

Prologues work best when they're used to provide a snapshot of events outside the story, not a summary but a scene that may even seem out of context until later in the main tale.  If it belongs in a guidebook ... it's not your prologue.

Word Count this week:  8,942
Poems written:  2 (I am counting poems separately / not inclusively)
Pages edited:  5.5

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Song Styles

Thanks to a fellow harper, I have a beautiful new early music tune to work on, a Middle English song entitled "Byrd One Brere" - according to her, the first known love song.  Here's the Mediaevel Baebes' take on it:

Byrd One Brere

Gorgeous, haunting, and unexpected.  These earlier tunes often have patterns and conventions that don't match what we're used to hearing, so they seem to go in strange directions.  I'm not even taking the tired trope that "modern music is dull and repetitive"  - this is more fundamental.  Conventions and paradigms in music have shifted over the years (and cultures) and this is a prime example.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Meanderings

A few months ago, the organizers for my harp group (which believe me when I say it is like herding cats) met to discuss repertoire.  We also exchanged music.  One harper offered a packet of Irish hymns and mentioned, "They're all pretty easy."

Said I, tongue in cheek, "Oh, well, I'm less interested now."

A blank and puzzled stare in answer.

"Come on," I added, "you know I'm a musical masochist."

And I was only partly joking.  I find that "easy" tunes often don't have enough interest for either my ears or my fingers.  When I come across a melody that intrigues me, but has a tricky section - hard to finger, sequence of accidentals - I tend to be more determined to play it.  If there's a specific left hand sound I want, I will keep pushing until I make it work.

This tends to be how I am with most creative endeavors:  I'm drawn to difficulty.  Long before I ever cooked professionally, my earliest recipe attempts quickly got more ambitious than my skill level could handle.  One of my favorite short story idea tactics is to take two very disparate ideas and fit them together.  And I love the beginning parts of a new work:  figuring out how to introduce the elements of character, setting and a plot in a short span is one of my favorite things to do.  It's like a puzzle.

I'll admit:  sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.  I spend more time working on a single tune / dish / project, and it may not always be a worthwhile tradeoff.  (I've thrown out some recipes because they were good, but not that-level-of-effort good.)  Often, what people want is the simpler stuff that I've skipped over.  I find a lot of the "classic" Celtic tunes unappealing because they've been so played to death.

But my hyper little brain loves a challenge.  It's just how I'm wired.  Which is probably why I love form poetry so much, because it is such a bear to work with ...

Word Count this week:  6,534
Pages edited:  7 (1.5 of these edited twice)
Poems edited:  1 (twice)