Faith Some More Dept.

My books have soundtracks. Faith No More begs to provide one for a book as yet unwritten.

It's a kind of ... synaesthesia?, I guess.

But before I can explain what I mean by that, I need first to make a confession about how perennially late to the party I am.

See, I only just this past month or so finally twigged to the full flowering of the fiery genius that is Faith No More and Mike Patton.

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Tags: Faith No More Killing Joke music soundtracks writing

Original Formula Dept.

It's important to deliver original things in the way that matter; it's not important to be original everywhere and always.

One of the standard rites of passage for any creator seems to be to have a moment where you realize something you stumbled across on your own isn't in fact unique to you — that other people have been doing it forever, and you're just late to the party.

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Tags: creativity originality psychology writers

Shall We Put A Label On That? Dept.

Given my interest in Zen, am I writing "Buddhist fiction"? I'm dubious.

The other day someone asked me, "Given your interest in Zen Buddhism and some of the subjects of your fiction, does that mean you're writing 'Buddhist fiction'?"

My answer was, "I don't really think so."

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Tags: Buddhism creativity creators fiction Krzysztof Kieslowski religion Shusaku Endo spirituality writing Zen

By The Seat Of The Pants, Or Maybe The Bottoms Of The Pockets Dept.

On improvising, or why no plan for fiction survives first contact with the writing process.

A Writer's View: Plotting, Pantsing, And Agile - Steven Savage

At some point in writing you can only plan so much before you have to write – it’s a matter of degree. This truth can frustrate some plotters, because you can only define so much before there’s nothing left to do. Your ideas may be totally wrong, your plan may be horrible, your plot awful – but you won’t know until you start writing.

Steven is echoing here something I've circled back to often: no plan for fiction survives first contact with the writing process. It doesn't mean plans are worthless. It only means plans are made in the present moment — typically, one where you haven't actually written a manuscript yet.

Something Steven notes: "I have trouble seeing how “pantsing” can work for complex stories, but perhaps I have something to learn there, no?" — This is worth commenting on separately, because it's indirectly related to how I've plotted several of my longer works.

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Tags: improvisation plotting writing

Unclog The Backlog Dept.

News on current and future books of mine.

Some major things will be happening at Chez Genji over the next couple of months.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned Genji Press projects real life Welcome to the Fold writing

Let's Do It Again Dept.

Rewrite, revise, revisit, rethink.

Steve calls it "timey-wimey creativity." I call it something else. The label doesn't really matter; the important thing is that it's the process of iterative discovery with a creative work. You write one draft, and even in the middle of that draft you discover goalposts drifting downfield, so you hurry after them. Sometimes you try to chase them down and drag them back into position, but most of the time you're better off just moving the game to where they are.

The one thing to not do is stay frozen, as it were — to assume the original idea was and has to be the best idea, to try and do justice to some Untainted Primal Vision that might not even have been all that good to begin with.

Most of the way I see this play out is when someone comes up with a great idea for a story — the Big Hook, I guess you could call it. Sometimes it's not even the idea that drives the story; sometimes it's just some Cool Thing in the story, whether or not it belongs there or even suits the story as a whole. (We talked about this problem before.) In short, it's not the idea that is the source of the problem, but the attachment to the idea, the unwillingness to see the story as the artifact of a process, with the emphasis being on the process and not the artifact.

I suspect many people do not initially recognize how their work is a moving target, and has to be one, because they also don't recognize that they themselves are moving targets. Guess what, dude   — YOU YES YOU are the artifact of a process, too! And every artifact you yourself leave behind is part of that general movement! Shocked yet?

But. I also think often of a friend of mine who over the course of something like ten years tried to begin — not even write, just begin — the same novel again and again. He never got it off the ground, let alone finished it, because every time he started to work on it he felt like his sensibilities had changed enough that everything he'd produced no longer fit the bill and had to be scrapped. Where someone else wouldn't even have noticed such a thing, he couldn't help but notice it to the almost total exclusion of everything else.

Obviously that's not healthy either.

Tags: creativity rewriting writing

Self Control Dept.

When you assume full and total responsibility for everything that happens to you, even the things you think you can't control, you have a change of perspective.

My Agile Life: Only Me - Steven Savage

When I began doing my Agile Life, I had a most interesting experience; I had only myself to blame for anything.  I was the only responsible one when most anything went wrong.

Something was late? My fault. Something not done well? My fault. Very, very few cases of things that wreren’t due to me. To blame anyone else would have required a Herculean effort of self-delusion that I just don’t have the energy or lack of morals for.

Reading those words reminded me of something Brad Warner said in one of his books: When you assume full and total responsibility for everything that happens to you, even the things you think you can't control, you have a change of perspective. You find that it becomes impossible to blame others for your problems, and so you become all the more focused on responding intelligently and wisely to your circumstances — the only real control any of us actually have — instead of trying to "control" them by way of abreaction. (For more on this, see the chapter "Bad Hair Day" in Warner's Sit Down And Shut Up, in particular pp. 218-219.)

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Tags: Agile Buddhism philosophy Zen

The Mess-Age Dept.

On the themes I keep coming back to in my work, and how I try to not let that trap me.

The night before, Steven Savage and I got to talking about themes in our respective works. He is preparing to work on a project called A Bridge To The Quiet Planet — it promises it to be quite a corker, from everything he's told me about it so far — and was quite conscious of the specific themes he wanted the material to address. Or, rather, the themes suggested by the material that he wanted to make sure the story addresses properly.

One thing we both noted is how discovery of theme is an iterative process. First you come up with a story that has some grab to it, something you're itching to write. First draft is just about getting it down. Second time around, you look at what you have and bring the story you're telling in line with the themes it seems to be suggesting. Third time, you paint it to match and polish it. The point being that there's as much discovery of theme as there is conscious and explicit conjuring of it.

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Tags: Buddhism philosophy themes writing Zen

Rocks In Your Head (And Out Of Them) Dept.

What to do when a story component is just an albatross. Or a boulder.

A Writer's View: Big Damn Rocks - Steven Savage

I found a huge, huge problem in working on my new novel is that I’d have these great ideas that I’d never get rid of or change as I’d become dedicated to them – meanwhile the story, characters, and setting had evolved beyond them.  I had all these Big Rocks I just wasn’t willing to get rid of, yet all my other great ideas kept running into them. The solution was to ditch them.  If you have an idea that squashes all your other ideas, this dense ball that distorts the story like a weight on a rubber sheet, that idea is the problem no matter how great it is.

The way I've put this to myself is, "Love your ideas but don't marry them." The way others have put this is, "Kill your darlings."

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Tags: creativity writers writing

Unscripted Dept.

How I decided to try taking the plunge back into screenwriting.

Prepare yourselves. With this post, I'm going to do one of two things:

1) Synthesize two previously incompatible strains of thought in my psychic economy of creativity, or

2) Make a fool of myself.

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Tags: projects screenwriting writing

See earlier posts, starting with June 2017,
or via the monthly and category archives.

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