Making Sausage

The cliché is “If you love sausage, never watch it being made.” As someone who once loved such and had seen it made on several occasions, I can attest that there’s some truth in that. Another cliché is “Scratch a writer, find a reader.” So there’s the dilemma. As readers we neither want to know nor need to know the process that produces the stories and books we love to read. Sure, there’s idle curiosity at work, but past a point, watching a writer at work is a lot like watching paint dry, without the drama. As writers, looking away during the process is not an option. Which perhaps explains why some writers never, ever re-read their own work except to review a proof, and then only under duress. I understand that. For my own part, when I’ve done something that at least approximates the vision I had of it, I don’t mind. It reminds me that now and then I get it right.

None of which changes the fact that the process can be very chaotic and messy and unpleasant. But it’s got to be done, or no sausage. Continue reading

Just What the (Bleep) Do I Think I’m Doing? – Redux

“I never plan things. I start writing them, and it’s like a magician forces a card on me. ‘Pick a card!’ I couldn’t start it if I knew what I was going to do.” – William Gibson

I’ve said it before in a slightly different context, but now it’s time to explore the idea to its logical conclusion. So repeat after me: “I’m a writer. And I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

I’ve talked about “foxes and hedgehogs” to compare and contrast different approaches to writing. Today I want to talk about different approaches to process. Specifically: how do you begin? As with the whole fox/hedgehog metaphor there are no absolutes, but there is a spectrum, and we tend to gravitate toward one end or the other. In short, to begin a project we either tend toward Order or Chaos. Continue reading

Meanwhile, Back at the Emperor’s Palace…

Opinions are divided about series, both at the novel and short story level. Readers love spending time with characters they already know and like, but some purists think they’re the death of the genre (in which case sf/f has been dead for a loooong time). One accusation that’s leveled at series, novel and story length both, is laziness. “Once the background is established and you’re familiar with it, that’s half the work. You’re doing paint-by-numbers after that.”

Yeah. Right.

Continue reading

Our Text For Today

While I’m rather fond of the idea of blogging in general, it has some serious limitations and now and then you wonder if the time couldn’t be spent more productively somewhere else. The very thought of which makes me realize that I’m enjoying this, and so probably won’t stop to do something more productive, for I am a sybaritic creature by nature. Besides, if one is in the mood to get up on a soapbox as I am at the moment, there’s no substitute.

I’ve been thinking about and remembering what it was like when I was trying to get started. And how I wished there had been someone there to lay down the basics for me. I don’t mean Heinlein’s 5 basics (and if you don’t know these, you should. Practice your Google-fu), I mean the other basics. It would have saved several precious years of floundering around. To that end, I’m going to post my list of the Five Things I Wish I’d Known Then: Continue reading

Just What the (Bleep) Do I think I’m Doing?

The story opening I hated yesteraday maybe now looks like it still has some life. Or maybe I’m kidding myself now. Maybe I just didn’t want to face the effort I knew this story is going to require. Maybe…

This is not really a proper post, it’s more of a footnote. A bit of errata for whatever cumulative inertia this blog is responsible for, and it is a simple statement of fact to you to use or discard–I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

There. I said it. I have no clue about writing. Not one. I like to speculate and ponder and take this position or that, and it’s all good fun but none of it changes the basic fact that every story is different, every book is different. Every one of them is its own thing and not the thing you worked on last time. It can’t necessarily be conquered by the weapons you used last. Necessarily? I’d bet on it. Those tools may be comfortable to your hand now, their workings and purpose comfortably familiar. Of course you want to use them again, but they just don’t work. Why not? Because last time you needed a hammer but now you need a chisel. And a hammer, no matter how hard you pound, is not now and never will be a chisel. Just as simple and just as diabolically difficult as that.

People wonder why some writers drink so much, but I never do wonder that.

What’s astonishing to me is that we all don’t.