Monday, August 23, 2010

Writerly ... stuff

I've been revising (again) in the hopes that perhaps people will like the revised version a bit better. Trying to get a book published is a lot like fishing, in that you get to bait a lot of hooks and reel in bupkiss while the mosquitoes suck you dry. I must repeat to myself, it's business, it's only business, it's not supposed to be pretty and they're not supposed to like you. It's just really hard not to take a form rejection personally. If writing = business, there are two kinds of product: Good, which sells, and sucky, which does not sell. A form rejection means I suck. End. Of. Fucking. Story.

But that's not what I wanted to discuss/ ramble about. In my internet wanderings I ran into Laurel K. Hamilton's blog, and one of her posts irritated me enough to rant. So here we go.

One of the fun things about revising is being able to take a scene apart, figure out what I was trying to do with it and then try to figure out how to make it better. I have no problem taking a scene and making it worse. A little more tense, a little more extreme. Something I've played a lot with the last six months or so is just using body language to convey emotion. Rather than "The blank made her nervious," write "The blank sat there with blankety running down its sides. She felt the spit dry on the back of her tongue." I have no idea how much more effective that is, but it means I have to spend a lot of time role-playing what my characters do. Even if it's just eyes closed, hands on keyboard, wandering around hallways in my mind. I have to feel something of what my characters feel emotionally so I can work out what they would feel or do physically.

One thing I have no problem doing, though, is shutting that off when I'm done with it and moving on. My characters aren't friends, my world isn't real, it's a fun box I can take stuff out of and play with, and then put everything back into when I'm done. Part of this, I think, is because I know exactly where I'm going with this, and it's hard to, say, feel scared for WBR's protagonist when I know she's gonna have a (relatively) happy ending. But most of it is, I don't go for creative bullshit.

Fiction writing is fake. My characters, all of them, are little psychological constructs that are plot dependent, just as the plot is character dependent (IE situation a requires weak link represented as character A) and if I don't have the capacity to alter them at will, as required by book/story/editor/reader/whatever, then I am not doing my job. I do not speak for my characters, I am not the voice of my own invention. In fact, I would say that when I write for somebody other than me, I am not doing something creative with words. I'm doing something creative with you.

A writer who is effective plays their audience like a violin. Or to put it more bluntly, when you read what I write and it has an impact with you, I am fucking with you. I am screwing with your emotions and your mind, making you have the reactions that I want you to have. In the beginning you become interested. In the middle, you may laugh, you may cry, you may become angry, but if I am doing my job, you are doing what I want you do to, thinking what I want you to think, believing what I want you to believe. And in the end, you ought to close the book thinking, simultaneously "That was a good ride" and "I'mbackonplanetearththankyougod (post roller-coaster ground-kiss) I wanna go again. Later. Like, tomorrow." and you wind up re-reading select passages a few hours later. Ideally, of course. The primary goal of a novel is to take the reader's virgin mind and do a great many things to it, hopefully enjoyable.

IMHO, a writer who places anything over reader reaction in the writing hirearchy has lost the plot. Even if all you're writing is a teaching manual, your goal should be expressing the idea to the reader. If you're writing horror, the reader should be horrified. A mystery ... whee, you really get to jack with your reader there. Fantasy should be exhillerating and scary as hell. Sci-fi should have a sense of wonder and speculation. Christian fiction should express Christian ideals, as should any other religious novel. 

The absolute last thing an author should do is fuck with themselves. It is not shallow to be able to set your tools down and move on. It's sane. First, because reality is a demanding, bitter, nasty bitch that requires your full attention, and who probably considers your novel to be a nasty two dollar ... yeah, we really shouldn't carry the sex metaphor any further than that. Second, because if you go pro, you have to deal with little things called "editors". Who may require you to kill significant portions of your book. I'm not talking about your darlings. I'm talking about their families, right down to their second cousins. And if you've gotten yourself so wrapped around your fictional universe you don't want to hurt your little babies, your boss might go "Well, that debut novelist is really more co-operative" (or if you are debut, "That midlister is much easier to work with"). Pro writing is a job. Half of the paycheck is to create something. The other half is earned by murdering significant portions of that something so that it is made better and more appealing to a general audience.

And for the record, I have to wonder just how deeply one really can "feel" a novel, as LKH's stuff is the shallowest stuff I've read in a really long time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just thought I'd share

This is cool. Completely pointless, but rather awesome in its pointlessness.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Bitch: Nicolae

Let's get the basic stuff out of the way fast, becasue there really is no spoiler-free intro for Nicolae.

Title: Nicolae
Author: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins AKA Tim and Jerry
Readability: Better than Tribulation Force, but still pretty poor.

What you should know before you buy: DO NOT READ IF: you are athiest, gay, pregnant and/or considering an abortion, pagan/any religion other than Protestant Christian, any race other than White, liberal, or well versed in the mysteries of science. Because you will blow a blood vessel if you try.

Spoiler cut!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Bitch: Left Behind Pt 2

I was about halfway through my original draft for this thing when I realized that memory and wikipedia had failed me in one particular area I remember being especially heinous. So I broke my promise to myself. It seems I AM going to have to re-read the fourteen remaining books in order to do the job right.

The GOOD news is that the used bookstore had most of 'em for two bucks a pop. Nice, big hardcovers too.
Books that size are usually five bucks. They have so many of them they're trying to offload rapidly.

It made my day.

Title: Tribulation Force
Authors: Tim LaHaye (hereafter TLH) and Jerry B. Jinkens (Either JBJ or just Jerry, depending on how pissed I get)
Readability: ...don't. Just fucking don't. Okay?

What you need to do before you buy: If you are not a Christian, you will hate it. If you are a Christian and you have atheist/pagan/agnositic/catholic friends (Because CATHOLICS DON'T COUNT) you will want to light it on fire. If you like good writing, subtle characterization, romance that doesn't make you want to become asexual and politics that make fucking sense ... I don't think an atom bomb can solve the pain. Although you could stand directly beneath it. And this is book two.

Spoiler cut, though at this point, I really shouldn't bother.

Why Good Communication Is Important

Work Rant Ahead!

So first off, we have the Continuing Freezer Debacle, wherein the bakery freezer is still full of crap that is either not ours, or not put on the shelves where it goes. For some reason (probably because they're the most stable, least fragile boxes in any given freezer load) my doughnuts wind up on the bottom of every load, every single time. So for the last couple of days my first hour or so is spent either putting shit away or looking for the load in everybody else's freezer. Complaining does nothing, because breaking the freezer down is the manager's job, according to the handy dandy assignment sheet that nobody pays any attention to. Ever. So our managers are, officially, not doing significant segments of their job.

One of my co-workers is pretty much unpleasant all the time, and she has decided that if she gets annoyed by, say, my leaving boxes on the table (so that the other overnighters can use the empty boxes) it's perfectly fine to throw them on the floor and then not say anything for twenty minutes. Because saying "please don't leave this shit on the table" is more work than THROWING BOXES ACROSS THE ROOM. I think her problem is, she used to be a supervisor and is now no longer one. And it irks her.

But the pinnicle of work-related bullshit came today, beginning when I arrived. There were little stickers everywhere, red and green ones, with an indecipherable key stuck up on one particular station. Several of the stickers are on the doughnut stuff, which means I need to know what they are. But I don't. Then, as I was getting ready to leave, the scratch baker training guys showed up to, well, train. Except the only person trained on scratch today was me, and I wasn't supposed to do any scratch. There had been no notes, no requests, nothing, and I was freaking the fuck out (and still am, obviously) because this was something corporate had ordered done and nobody was there to do it. And due to the law of gravity (and "Shit flows downhill") I knew somehow, this would be my fault. Nevermind that the big boss lady is the one that fucked up, and that I went directly to the Unit Director to discuss options, there would be a note that never arrived OR a phone call that never got phoned OR some other way in which the manager discharged her responsibilities.

There are just days when I hate my job.