Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zombies and "Inaction": A Couple of Posts**

Sometime in the fairly recent past (time is a jumble to me because of the SHEER MADNESS that was graduate school), I wrote a couple of blog posts for my writing pal, A.L. Brown. They are linked below. Click them. Read them. Love them. Send me virtual lemon bars as a reward. Call off the demon assassins you summoned to attack me for not posting frequently enough. Or ignore them.


See it I care. (I *DO* care! Don't abandon me!)

On That New, Undead Fad: Zombies, a brief-ish post that tries to answer the age old question: why in the name of all that is good would anyone write about such rotten people (pun very much intended)? Also, I love zombie movies, but when I state in this post that "I really like... Survival of the Dead," the fairly recent George Romero flick, what I really mean is *coughitsuckedcough* I found the premise slightly intriguing.

When the Action Fades: What We Write About When "Nothing" Is Happening. The title is pretty much self explanatory (almost wrote examinatory, which would change the entire arc of that post). I think it's chock full of my own slightly demented brand of dry humor, and not at all as boring as the title might make it sound. But don't take my word for it [cue Reading Rainbow montage].

**This post goes well with ice-cream. Or wine. I suggest wine. Merlot, to be exact. Mmmm. Merlot.

Tricksy Hobbitses: Tricks, Treats, and the Craft of Writing

When you're a writer, a real writer who doesn't just have delusions of grandeur but actually acts on those delusions, you are all about one thing: writing to completion. Well, you're actually about lots of things, like reading and rainy days and coffee and, oh yeah, that crazy little thing called revision. (You though I was going to say "love," didn't you? Well, I've got news for you: most writers are sociopaths.* They are really good at mimicking emotion but it's all fake. Fake, I tell you! Now, don't tell my husband I said that. He already looks at me sideways a little bit too much).

But, to get back to the very nice focus I had before my little aside, writers have one important task to accomplish before they can do anything else (by which I mean bask in the glory of publication and fame). One word looms large in the writer's vocabulary, and that word is finish.

Except it's usually plastered is letters six foot tall in every nook and cranny of your squirrely little mind. Because you'd rather be in facebook. Or twitter. Or tumblr. Any of those blackholes of awesome procrastination.


Yeah, I'm a big believer in visuals. Mostly because we live in a very visual society, not because I'm much of a visual person. When I "watch" TV, I'm usually actually listening to the show and doing something else, glancing at the screen every once in a while when it sounds like something interesting is happening. But I am a writer, therefore I am a strange individual.

While we're on that subject, let me just tell you a secret. It is hard to finish things. It is hard to finish a draft; it would be easier to pull out all of my hair and light it on fire. In front of toddlers. And then pay for their therapy for the rest of their lives, even though I would have to get twenty-five more jobs to do that.

Why? Because the voices in my head want to be creative and free-spirits and all of that hippy-dippy, happy happy joy joy crap. Which means that I end up spending hours on pinterest looking at pictures of other people's tattoos, hours reading other people's books and other people's writing tips, hours scribbling notes to myself about my stories instead of actually writing, and etc.
Now, I don't buy into the whole muse thing, mostly because my Muse is almost always on vacation (I think she's in Hawaii this year. You might remember her trip to Greece, if you are one of my two longterm readers). If I relied on Muse, I'd never get anything done. Ever. Because when she's around she's really needy. She wants Ben and Jerry's (Coffee Heath Crunch is her favorite) and Doctor Who episodes and online shopping sprees.

My Muse is expensive.

So, in lieu of throws of creativity and artistic passion, I trick myself. And then I growl at myself like Gollum, cursing my tricksiness and my treachery and the loss of my precious...

But I digress. I trick myself into finishing in a very specific way: I maintain the illusion of freedom. I don't keep a set work station. I have two "formal" writing spots in my house and, most of the time, I end up working somewhere else. Like at my kitchen table so that I am close to the coffee. Or the living room floor, using the coffee table as a makeshift desk. Or the front porch in late afternoon, when there is shade and the roaster-oven that is the New Mexico summer is beginning to cool and I can watch the sun set and listen to the birds chirp in terror as they try to evade the ridiculous number of stray cats that seem to live in my neighborhood. Seriously. There are at least thirty.

I trick myself into thinking that I am free and unfettered by simply taking advantage of portable means of writing (it doesn't have to be a laptop, a notebook will do in a pinch) and, for some reason, even though I know I am tricking myself, it seems to work.

Tricksy hobbitses. Filthy hobbitses. My precious. My precious draft. It's finished.

*When I say most writers are sociopaths, I mean it because it is statistically 100% true.** And I'm good at math.***

**Writers have a tendency to lie. Especially this writer. It comes of stringing words together with all the intensity of an Obsessive Compulsive on Ritalin. 

***My lawyer (who may not actually exist) insists that I mention that I am not, in actuality, all that good at math. I shudder at the sight of numbers, especially when they come with this weird sign: %

Friday, June 7, 2013

My-Novel-Writing-Month (or My-No-Wri-Mo)

Hello dear readers, it is I, The Crazy Writer, or, you know, Courtney.

I'm writing today because I've made it my goal to finish my mystery novel BY THE END OF JUNE. *Cue lighting and thunder as if by celestial decree*

No, seriously, it's thunderstorm season in New Mexico and I am not being dramatic. Those words have been heard and acknowledged by the gods.


Anyway, here's the story (and the details):

About, eh, five years ago, when I was still a lowly undergraduate at my local university, it occurred to me that I should write a novel, and that I should set that novel in my lovely home state. Why, you ask? Because I stumbled onto wordharvest.com, the former web HQ for the Tony Hillerman Prize (which can now be found here: http://www.hillermanprize.com/).

Since that fateful day, I have worked through not one, not two, but THREE iterations of the novel. Refining characters, throwing out crazy/newbie-mystery-writer-plots as I went. I also finished an undergraduate and a graduate degree during this time period, which in part accounts for the ridiculous amount of time I have spent just trying to find my story. I mean, you'd think after five years I would at least have a polished draft and a half-a-dozen rejections letters from literary agents. But no, I've got diddly squat (by which I mean, 10,150 words as of this afternoon).

And that is okay, because mystery is a hard genre to write (for all of the scoffing people do that it is "formulaic," it takes planning, anal attention to detail, an excellent sense of realism, and an obscene amount of research to produce a well crafted mystery novel). I view this time as my apprenticeship, which I hope does not smack of hubris, because I won't claim I'm done learning. Ever.

But, at this point, I  have a plot that not only works but works well. I know my characters and I know which ones have the most to lose, what motivates them, and what they need to go through as the plot progresses. I have finally figured this all out *crosses fingers* and I think it is time to get this baby written and polished and sent into the world.

I started this month with a mere 3365 words on this draft. In the past two days, I have more than tripled that. My goal is to write a MINIMUM of 15,000 words a week. I will update here and/or on Twitter (@cannfloyd) as I progress.