Sunday, February 19, 2017

Writing, editing, structuring

The biggest problem I have isn't writing, it's structuring writing. Making a long piece of fiction make sense is fucking hard! No really, you can conceive of a complete story in your head and have it all turn to shit once it hits paper.

I can't stop obsessing over this. Is it a "writer" problem or just a "me" problem? The un-fun aspects of writing are rarely talked about, There's much said about inspiration, about writer's block and how to get your ideas on paper, but very little about the dirty work required once you've vomited those ideas all over the page.

As a child, when I wanted to makes something, I'd taken an existing thing apart and lay all its pieces out on the floor to see how they were interconnected. A few years ago, I did the same thing with a novel I was reading. I literally dissected it, chapter by chapter, and made a timeline to have a visual representation of how the narrative "flowed." I recently did that with one of my drafts, and I plan on doing it with a second. I can't say yet if it's working, but I can spot some of the flaws easier than I would if I had to treat it as some big thing, and that's a plus.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


It's been a while since I posted here. As standalone blogs have become quaint and limited to those with a large platform, this one has become largely unnecessary for me to maintain on a regular basis. I haven't give up yet, but I don't relish coming here anymore.

Despite my reservations about its being a platform for younger people, I've been using Tumblr as my online home. It's actually pretty good for fandoms and the kind of casually blogging I started with before everyone was required to take a political stand on everything. Yes, it has a history of that, too, but it's unavoidable, mostly, if you know who to follow. The bad part is, of course, how quickly a post can go viral, so I feel as though I have to be extra-careful there. Not because I'm so afraid of being hurt (one of the benefits of getting old is developing a pretty thick skin), but because I'd rather not strangers have feelings all over me or be tethered to an online fight. I do miss the contrarian bullshit I did here, however tamely.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Updates; NaNo, etc.

It's been a while since I've posted here. Between NaNo and some family I haven't had time, and frankly I don't know if I'm going to continue this blog in the future. (I'm still active at Tumblr, by the way.)

Camp NaNo went as smoothly as could be expected, meaning chaotic as hell. The last thing I needed was another long piece of fiction that I'll probably never edit, but I hadn't written in a while, and the diversion was a good one. The story, on the other had, is a meandering piece of surrealist garbage.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Resources for Writers (Updated)

There are plenty of free online word processors out there, but Google Drive and Zoho Docs  are two of my favs. Personally, I use a combination of Google Docs and Microsoft Word on an old laptop that I use primarily for writing. That way, I can write anywhere, and download later when I'm home. Plus I have an extra saved copy. (I also periodically print my work because I like a "hard" copy I can mark all over.)

Writer Unboxed and Ploughshares are two excellent writing blogs for when you need extra help and inspiration, or just an impetus to keep going.

NaNoWriMo's Writing 101 forum is just what it says: a nuts and bolts writing forum where no question is too basic or embarrassing. All of their forums are a fun diversion from NaNo's kamikaze style, but this one is particularly helpful, as are NaNo'ers as a whole.

Write or Die forces you to write by punishing you when you don't. According to their website, it's "a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences." To be honest, I've never used this, but I know a lot of people who swear by it. And swear at it.

This name generator is helpful if you're stuck on a character's name. There are options for names as rare or as common as you need.

Need help organizing your writing? Here is a handy novel blueprint.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What should writers write?

Short answer: whatever the hell they want to write.

I want the trend that says a writer should only write about things they've experienced directly to be over. At best, it says, it's inauthentic; at worst, it's appropriation. I even saw an example of addiction being something that shouldn't be written about unless one has experienced it directly.

I'm not about to become an alcoholic to create a character who is an alcoholic.

James Walker of quillette posted a lengthy piece on the fetishization of identity and authenticity in art and literature:
What has been forgotten in this consciousness of how we are shaped, misshaped, and battered by the world is our own ability to shape it: Freedom. And it’s this forgetting that has perverted our understanding of authenticity. We take how the world has acted upon us as definitive of who we are. We rarely consider that authenticity might not lie in what has been done to you, not in the mere situation in which you find yourself, but in the manner in which you conduct yourself toward it. Writers are not merely receptacles of experience just as they are not the sum of their influences. As much as authors draw from their own experiences or other authors, they seek to define themselves from them, to set their own work apart. When we admire a beautiful work of art, we do so not as if it is a sort of serendipitous accident, the fortunate convergence of historical and social determinacy, but because it bears the mark of a particular will, imagination, and creativity. It is what is active that renders art art, defines the artist as an artist. Authenticity is activity.
It's important to view this as part of a larger phenomenon where experience trumps knowledge and is exempt from criticism. To this, he adds:
Rationally and epistemologically speaking, this elevation of “lived experience” to a sort of untouchable status makes little sense. At the most basic level, personal experience is unreliable at best, outright misleading at worst.
And it says nothing about talent, about detailing the human experience in a way that anyone can find meaning in. Restrictions on who gets to say what doesn't make the canon any stronger.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Quoted: Carol Tavris on Victim Identity

The power of these symbolic abusers -- and the power of the narrative of The Victim Who Survives -- are reasons that many women, and increasingly men, are attracted to the victim identity, which is rapidly expanding its boundaries. Incest in childhood is abuse, because it is committed by a trusted relative, and is extremely detrimental to a child's emerging sense of self, autonomy, and agency. But is it as traumatic to be flashed by an exhibitionist, fondled briefly in the subway, or kissed against one's will at the end of a date? Increasingly the answer is yes: if you feel abused, you were abused. -- Carol Tavris from The Mismeasure of Woman
This seems harsh now, but given the self-help/repressed memories climate of the late 80s and early 90s in which the book was written, it made sense to ask those question. And maybe I am heartless, but I think those questions should be asked today. "If you feel abused, you were abused."  If you feel victimized, then you are a victim. Not much different the cries of "My FEEEELS!" from those even tangentially tied to the activist left. When your choices are oppressed and oppressor, and you see the most oppressed claiming the biggest prize, what's the alternative?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Susan Faludi on the constructs of identity

Surely there was a more complex drama beneath the crinoline and cinched waists, a narrative involving a particular set of needs, desires, aspirations, fears. If so, it was impossible to divine from those accounts [of transgender narratives]. The one plotline of I-have-always-been-a-woman seemed to be trumping all the other motivations that might reflect the crosscurrents of the human psyche, motivations that weren't exclusively about gender. Where were the memoirs that engaged in some degree of self-introspection? I looked in vain for an account where the author asked, "Could I also be seeking womanhood to reclaim my innocence, be exonerated from the sins of my male past?" Or "Could I be craving the moral stature that comes from being oppressed?" Or "Do I want to be a woman to feel special? Celebrated? Loved? Could that whole nest of an individual's history, all the idiosyncratic struggles, disappointments, and yearnings of a life, really be stuffed so tidily into the bottle labeled Identity? -- Susan Faludi from In The Darkroom
I'm reading Susan Faludi's new book on her father's late-in-life transition. I hope it isn't summarily dismissed as "transphobic" simply because it asks those very questions. For what it's worth, I do find those other narratives, sometimes written by de-transitioners, usually hidden in the deep recesses of the blogosphere and under assumed names.

"Could I be craving the moral stature that comes from being oppressed?" 
I think this is pretty important and under-explored in progressive-thinking circles, not just feminist-queer ones. When you have an ideology that places everyone along axes of power, and now, where even being an "ally" simply isn't good enough, spurious claims of "victimhood" (Tumblr's never-ending parade vanity genders, someone claiming to be "disabled" by seasonal allergies, etc.) are bound to happen. Of course I'm not saying all claims of oppression are created in response to a system that rewards suffering, but as someone who's spent a fair amount of time in those circles, it's easy to see how, say, someone like Rachel Dolezal happened.