Randomness

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Writing Hurdles

Published July 27, 2014 by Shannon

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of nudges from the universe poking me and demanding to know why I’m not writing. It started when I read a book recently with such awful characterization (there were not only one but two self-insert Mary Sue characters) and literally thought, “I am a much better writer than that.” I’ve also come to learn that Seattle is a font of awesome writers. I just have to, you know, find them.

But there have been things that I keep stumbling over, excuses that I know are just that… excuses. They range from the ones even I know are lame, (“Where is the tiiiiiiiime?”) to the spazzy (OMG someone else wrote about a chupacabra shapeshifter, that means I can’t write my chupacabra shapeshifter romance anymore!) But the one I find myself struggling with is the fact that I’ve taught myself bad habits about the kind of feedback I like to get.

For the better part of the last 15 years, i’ve been role playing online, in freeform collaborative storytelling ventures. It’s through the gaming that I’ve learned a lot about characterization and plotting. But the downside is that I’ve learned to expect almost immediate feedback in response to my writing, in the form of people taking my ideas and putting their own spins and characters onto them. As I try to write more by myself, without that more immediate feedback, I find myself flailing. I want to talk over every minute aspect of the story I’m writing with someone… anyone… to try to figure out if I’m on the right track.

I’m trying to figure out how I can make myself write more consistently and still get some of that feedback as the process goes along. I am also having frequent conversations in which I reassure myself that everyone’s process is different, and this is mine, and if my friends are tired of hearing about the foibles of my characters, they’ll tell me. i know a lot of writers don’t talk at all about their projects until they’re done, and I’m not sure I’d, say, post my thorny plotting issues on my blog, but I can’t be the only one for whom this is a thing.

I’ve considered that I might find it a useful exercise to write fan fiction (although honestly… I don’t know what fandoms I’d even write for), or else try to serialize some fiction on a site like Wotpad. I’m a little hesitant about that because I’d want to make sure I was far enough along in a project that I wouldn’t end up abandoning it when life got busy.

I don’t have any solutions. I suspect this is an ongoing thing that I’ll struggle with until I figure out what works for me. In the meantime, I guess I have no excuses. Back to writing!

What I’m reading

Published June 22, 2014 by Shannon

I wanted to touch on a few of the books I’ve been reading. None have left me feeling a strong urge to write complete reviews, but I have a few scattered thoughts.

  1. The Protector’s War by S. M Stirling. Second in the Emberverse series. I really, really love that one of the major characters was a deaf woman who was allowed to kick ass. Stirling certainly includes plenty of women. That said, there were pacing problems I didn’t notice the first time through.
  2. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. This was a surprisingly engaging self-help book. I discovered it while cataloguing, and pretty much devoured it. She acknowledges that we all have areas in our lives that we need to work on and none of us is perfect at being an adult. Also, she got me to start making my bed every morning, so there’s that.
  3. Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price. I didn’t think I’d like this one nearly as much as I did. It’s a paranormal mystery, and it totally works because the narrator, Victor Bane, is an engaging character. I wanted to take him home and give him cookies, but respected his competence. Kind of an unusual feat in M/M. Anyway, I will be back for more.
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. I read this on Renay’s recommendation. It’s a space opera with an engaging culture. The characters were interesting if a little archetypal, and there was a distinct lack of the ladies. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I realized while reading this how uncomfortable I’ve gotten with books featuring character death. I pulled through and I’m glad I did, and I’m excited to read the sequel, but I did look at spoilers to see who would survive the book.
  5. A Meeting at Corvalis by S. M Stirling. A good way to end the first trilogy of the Emberverse. Except for all the pitched battles, which made me yawn. I do wish he hadn’t dropped at least one of his character romances. One moment the characters weren’t together… then they were. You’ve got to give me more to work with here, dude. Other than that, I enjoyed the reread and intend to begin the second trilogy soon.
  6. The Little Country by Charles de Lint This was one of the seminal fantasy novels of my growing up. I like to reread it every few years. It’s hard to write about it objectively, because it made such an impression on me. However, I’d forgotten more than I realized. And now I want to go visit Cornwall.
  7. Rebel by Cheryl Brooks. I love this series beyond all reason, bad writing and silly world-building and all. This volume isn’t out yet, but for some reason it was up on Bookshare, so I took advantage. I love that Cheryl Brooks consistently writes lovely beta heroes, and the “I am unworthy of the heroine” internal conflict is one that gets me every time. I really could have done without the threatened rape of the hero by an ape-like gay alien though. Ugh. That is a trope that I could cheerfully never again encounter.
  8. Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend. I listened to this on Audio while I was on a plane. It was a perfect length for a long flight. I really like Arend’s sensibilities, and I love that her heroines know what they want. She did a good job of hooking me with some of the other heroes, although I’m sort of skeptical about the next book, because the hook didn’t quite work. That said, this is Vivian Arend. She’ll probably win me over in that case, too.
  9. Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn. My book on the flight back. The blurb for this urban fantasy series really does the book no favors. The writing is also a tad clunky–complete with requisite physical description of the heroine dropped in at the beginning–but I really loved the characters. I’m willing to forgive a lot to read books about competent women who work together and genuinely care about each other. The relationship between the three sisters was just lovely. I also like that Galenorn’s doing something unusual with the urban fantasy love triangles–Camile has two love interests, and she’s not ashamed about wanting to pursue them both. I can see where this will create conflict, but it’s not of the “pick one already, Jesus” variety. I’m pretty optimistic that the series will get better as I read the other sisters’ books.

And here, let’s have a bonus DNF:

Blinded by Sight by Osagie Obasagie. This book got added to our collection recently. The researchers surveyed a bunch of blind people and came to the radical conclusion that blind people do experience race. I wanted to read more about the studies, but this is not a book aimed at me. As a blind person, I do not need a university grant and peer-reviewed journal articles to inform me that my peers can be as much assholes as anyone else. I’m glad the book exists, and it’s certainly a piece of the conversation we should be having about race, but I think I’m going to bow out.

Friday shipping war

Published May 30, 2014 by Shannon

I wonder if anyone has ever written Mary Lennox/Dickon fanfic. Because I always thought Mary’s life would be markedly more interesting (if maybe less comfortable financially) if she ended up with the outdoorsy Yorkshireman rather than her mopey and spoiled cousin. (Granted, nobody was shipped at all in the books, but one of the movies sort of ended on Mary/Colin IIRC.)

Or maybe that is just me and I have thought this over way too much.

Also, where did Martha go? She totally disappears from the narrative once Dickon shows up, and considering she did have to put up with whiny, spoiled beginning-of-book Mary, you’d think Frances Hodgson Burnett could have done something with her.I am also not over the fact that there is no Jo/Laurie. I mean I get it, but Professor Baher was way too patronizing and sanctimonious. Maybe he comes off better in the sequels, but I haven’t read them because I feel like Jo March as mother is likely to be far less interesting to me than Jo March as young wannabe writer and tomboy.

And while I am on this subject, John Brooke is my favorite of the March girls’ suitors. Because he’s smart. And adorkable.