Not Quite All

Fan mail is not so common that I get blasé about it. Last week I got a message from a gentleman who had read all the Yamada books, loved them, and was wondering if there would be any more. So far as the novels go, the short answer is “no.” By no, of course, I mean probably not, because I’m no better at predicting the future than anyone else, and that includes many futurists.

To my own surprise, I knew Yamada would be a series when I wrote the first ever short story (“Fox Tails)” set in his version of Heian Period Kyoto (called Heian-kyo, up until his time). Furthermore, I knew the series had a definite story arc from the time I wrote the second ever Yamada story, “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge.” Every story since then progressed along that arc until it was concluded in The Emperor in Shadow, the fourth book.

Now here’s where it gets complicated. Life stories, as in the story of anyone’s life, also have an arc. There’s a point where you enter the story, and inevitably, a point where you leave it. But here’s the difference—the story itself doesn’t end. It just continues with new people. Fiction isn’t like that. I thought Yamada had left the story, and that was that so far as the series was concerned. It wasn’t.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently wrote a new Yamada story. That was a total surprise to me. Now I think I may do a few more. He’s not quite done, and so neither am I. Together with the stories so far uncollected, I do imagine another Yamada collection is possible, but another novel? Seems like a long shot right now. I almost wish I could give a definitive yes or no, but the truth is I don’t really know, and I can’t pretend that I do.

As for the novella project (totally non-Yamada), I have two more major scenes to write after working backward to tackle some structural issues. This too could be a series. I don’t know that, either.

 

Almost There

The project is approaching conclusion. It’s not there yet, but I feel it’s past its crisis point and will be completed to the first draft stage soon. Which is not really completed, of course. Lots to do after that before it’s done and available, but now I feel confident it’ll get there.

I was beginning to wonder. Right now I’m projecting the final length to be about 35k, decent novella size. I’ve written complete novels in just under three months, and I’ve been working on this one for over six. It shouldn’t have taken this long. Only it did, and my fussing about it now won’t change anything.

When searching for a little perspective, I remind myself that my very first novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day) took five years to write. The extra time did not make for a better book, but I learned a lot. The second was better, both for quality and time. I forget who said that no writing is ever wasted. I”m sure that’s true, because it’s the process that teaches you, not the final result. That’s just the grade.

 

Gordian Not

Writing is always work, but sometimes it’s fun too. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Carousels are fun. Conventions are/can be fun. Writing is something beyond that. I feel relieved after a good writing day. Pleased. Justified, as if I’ve earned my oxygen for the day. I even feel that after a not so good writing day, because at least I tried.

Then there are days like I’ve had lately. What I’ve taking to call the “Gordian Not” days. Slight pun, since it’s not quite a Gordian Knot. Knots are easy by comparison. If you can’t untie one, you can always cut it, and a pair of scissors will work if no swords are handy. This is different. This is a Gordian Not. As in, you are NOT proceeding with this story until you solve this problem.

It’s no secret that some scenes are easier to write than others. There’s no shame in saving a difficult scene for another day when you’re feeling stronger. If you know what comes next, just write the next part and come back to the passage that, for whatever reason—drama or unpleasantness or whatnot—you just aren’t up for now. Gordian Nots are different. Gordian Not passages are worse than difficult. They are crucial. You literally do not know what comes next until you know how this one stubborn scene is resolved. Everything depends on it.

And you, scrivener, do not yet have its measure, and there’s no guarantee that you ever will.

Gordian Nots can kill stories in their cradles, and novels in the nursery, and have. I still have stories I can’t sort out…yet. I think most writers do.

For example, I have been hung up on the current project, a (mere?) novella. I have written novels in less time than this novella has taken, all because of a Gordian Not. Which, thank the patron saint and all the ancestors, I finally unraveled last night. I think I’ll be able to finish the story now. Finally.

As long as I don’t run into another Gordian Not.

Reading and Writing. We’ll Skip the Arithmetic

This Wednesday evening I’ll be part of a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. I’m rather fond of readings in general. Back when I was attending a lot more conventions, I generally preferred the author readings to panel discussions, even when I was on the panel and someone else was doing the reading. Maybe especially then.

There’s nothing quite like hearing the author read their own work, especially if it’s a story you’ve already read yourself. Now you can hear where the stresses go, and what the author chooses to emphasize or minimize. Literally hearing the work in the author’s own voice, aside from their narrative voice, which can be quite different.

I think I was completely turned on to readings at my very first World Fantasy Convention. I had the pleasure of hearing Parke (Pete) Godwin read then, and it was an eye-opener. I know I’ve mentioned Pete several times before, but something I wanted to point out here is that he was an actor for many years before he became a writer, and it showed in his performance. And I do mean performance. As an actor he knew how to work the lines and hold the audience’s attention. I realized then and there that the act of doing an author reading was or at least should be, at least in part, a performance, not just the person who wrote something reading it aloud. If you’ve ever attended a convention or library reading with an author who doesn’t know how to read (in the performance sense), you know what I mean. You miss out on most of the value of the work.

Now, I’m not an actor. Never was, never will be, and I don’t have nearly the chops that Pete did. But I always  take his example to heart when I do a reading, and I try to bring at least a little of that performance art to it. I do my best. I don’t always hit the target, but at least I know where the target is.

That’s half the battle.

Adulting Sucks

The main problem with being a grown-up, at least in terms of age, is now and then you have to be an adult. Not all the time, granted, but more often than is either comfortable or convenient. So I spent most of yesterday afternoon on chat hold because my phone had stopped working. You can tell how much I value my phone AS a phone because it took me almost two days before I realized it wasn’t working.

Because I had to make some phone calls in my role as alleged adult. Anyway, after several hours wasted it turned out to be a misaligned sim card. So I’ll have to adult again later today. Not looking forward to it.

As soon as I sign off here, I have a story to write (and other things to write, but this one has a deadline). I don’t look at that as doing grown-up things. Making myself sit down and get to work? Sometimes. But the writing itself?

Never.