June 29, 2011

CW Write-a-thon: Week 1.5

Okay, so this post is late. Like a first-year college student, I'm filled with excuses, but no dog can eat the Internet (or can it? story idea?), so I've no real defense. This is late. What of it?

In the first three days of week two I wrote 600, then 800, then 1300 words of the novel project. Will this pattern of increase hold into days 4-7? I'm not telling.

In sponsorship news, I learned today that I've raised $15 so far. Yay! If you feel like donating even a tiny amount in my name, go here.
Ari struggled, pulling her hands from the not-blind woman’ bony grip. It only took her a second, but that was much too long. When she looked up, they stood face to face in a desert landscape of dirt and trembling skinny trees. A breeze ruffled the loose hairs behind Ari’s ears and spread goose pimples up her bare arms, and she marveled at how easily her mind and her eyes accepted the fact of teleportation, yet how her body rebelled.
She staggered, head pounding. The name Catherine sung like a plucked string in her mind.

June 24, 2011

CW Write-a-thon: Week 1

The first week of Clarion West 2011 is over, and that must mean that week one of the write-a-thon is over too. After a day off from writing on Wednesday I rallied, despite frantically attending to other things, and wrote another 2000 words on last year's novel project, which I suppose I should admit is now this summer's novel project. That brings this week's total to 5100 words. But who's counting?

(Me. I am.)

I expect to do better from here on out, other commitments notwithstanding. Yesterday the part of me that says, "I'm not inspired to write right now" had a duel with the part that says, "Who cares? Just write something," and the former was seriously wounded.
It was a struggle for Ari to keep her atoms together. She was bombarded with lives in pain, stories begging her to follow them, clamoring like puppies in a pet store window. The stories were all different, but they all ended here. No one, she thought, was getting out alive.

June 22, 2011

CW Write-a-thon Update: Week 0.5

Three days of write-a-thon (WAT) have passed, and I'm off to a schizophrenic start. I envisioned this summer's goal as drafting a new novel, but in the run-up to WAT I tried on three or four novel ideas, none of which seem to fit. Most are too small, one is too big, and none of their colors are flattering on me.

So then a strange thing happened: I re-read the abandoned novel from last summer and said, "This isn't so bad." At this point, there's nothing I can say concretely about what I will write this summer (which, when I think about it, is generally the case). But, I promise to write.

Here's what I've done so far:
Day 1: wrote 1600 words on theoretical current novel project. At the end of the day, I felt very "meh" about it, and not excited to keep writing (always a good sign). So . . .
Day 2: wrote a 900-word zombie story called "10 Things to Do in Los Angeles After You Die."
Day 3: wrote 600 words on last year's novel project, while on a plane. It may not seem like a lot to some, but I am very proud.

Due to life happening, output may fluctuate. But in the meantime, here's an excerpt. Guess which one it's from!

1) Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Breaking out of your grave will be the hardest part. Remember not to panic; you’re already dead. Once you punch and kick and claw your way to the surface, take a moment to enjoy the serenity of Forest Lawn’s rolling hills. Visit some of your famous neighbors—Lucille Ball, Liberace, and Buster Keaton among them—if they’re home. You’re more likely to meet Lucy and the others shambling over the hills to feast on the brains of star-struck tourists. Though small, these brains are highly prized by Los Angeles area living dead.

June 10, 2011

Clarion West Write-a-thon 2011

Two years ago I packed up my laptop and my trusty stuffed shark and drove up to Seattle for SF summer camp, otherwise known as Clarion West. The experience definitely ranks among the best times of my life, and I can honestly say that it was more helpful to me as a writer than my MFA (sorry, formal education!). In a nutshell, Clarion West puts eighteen emerging/aspiring SF writers in a sorority house for six weeks, gives them one well-known writer or editor to learn from each week, and asks them to write a story per week, which will be workshopped by the entire group. It is an intense and wonderful thing.

Nom nom laptop

Here comes the sales pitch.

In order to do the great work that they do, they need money. One of the ways they raise money is through the write-a-thon, which I am participating in again this year. Basically, from June 19 to July 29 I'm going to write fiction, as much of it as I can. I'll be posting updates and excerpts on this blog (you've been warned). Then, you sponsor me for any amount you like--even $1 a week.

In other words, the write-a-thon, like my life and the lives of underwear gnomes, follows this pattern:
step 1: write (or steal all the underwear)
step 2: ???
step 3: profit
The only difference is that for the CW write-a-thon it actually works!

You can sponsor me here.
Or, if you're a writer, go here to sign up to participate. You don't have to be a CW veteran to do the write-a-thon, and it's useful for actually getting writing done.

End of sales pitch.

June 06, 2011

Brevity

A few things have happened so far this year that leave me feeling a little bit disjointed:

1) I finally, really realized that my agent was not going to sell the novel I wrote as my thesis for my MFA.
1B) I therefore realized (for about the fifth time) that it's critical that I write another novel. Now, if not sooner.
2) I became an Editorial Assistant at Every Day Fiction, an online magazine that publishes one very short (under 1,000 words) story per day.
3) I was inundated with ideas for short stories.

It's perverse, but the more I want to write a novel, the more I end up writing short stories. In fact, lately they've been getting shorter. I've written two flash pieces this year, which is at least one more than I've written in any other years . . . combined.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The primary one, I suspect, is the abusive relationship I had with my last attempted novel, which culminated in the loss of a couple weeks' work in the Great Data Blight of 2010. Even before that tragedy I had felt at odds with the novel; while working on it I compared the project to a bowel obstruction--something painful, but something that needed to be cleared out before anything else could get by. A disgusting metaphor, I know. But a telling one too.

Having failed to complete that novel, I am shy about starting another one. When you work for months (maybe years) writing 40,000 words of a novel that doesn't get finished, you are left with nothing. If I had written the same number of words in short stories, I'd have (on average) ten stories, and maybe a few of those would eventually find homes.

I have been blaming my inability to get back into long fiction on a short attention span, and I'm sure this is also a factor. But if I'm honest with myself, I think I've become stingy with my attention (as my father-in-law says, nobody pays attention because attention is so expensive these days), afraid of throwing so much of my effort away on a project that might not go anywhere.

The good news is that I have a secret weapon. I stole it from Kevin Brockmeier, author of the memorable novel The Brief History of the Dead. He said, in an interview which I cannot now find, that he likes to write the first chapter of a novel as a short story, to test the waters before jumping in headlong. His short story of the same title (which became chapter one) was published in The New Yorker, and then again in the O. Henry Prize Stories. So, it's an approach with at least some proven success. Of course, I'm no Kevin Brockmeier, but I do have hope that using his method I can trick myself into writing a novel.

That's what I'm supposed to be doing now, while I sit here procrastinating. Tell me to go.

June 02, 2011

Here, Statement Statement!

I have been musing lately about the phrase "released a statement." This is something said of famous (or infamous) people, as in: "Harold Camping released a statement on May 22 saying, 'Whoops. My bad.'" (disclaimer: this quote is fake).

Artists, of course, try to make statements. For them (us?) it is an act of creation, something active and intentional. This is not the way of celebrity statements. In order to be heard they need only be "released," like a cat bolting through an open door. The statements long to get out, and once they do, they are heard. No agent, seemingly, is responsible for them.


As a writer, I "release" statements all the time. I shove them, kick them, hurl them with force and aim into the world, but they rarely get very far. They take a few steps outside, lick themselves, and turn around to scratch at the door.

Sometimes it feels like we're all shouting to be heard over the whispers of a few. Oh well. I suppose I'll plug my ears and keep yelling.  One day, like teased and ridiculed zoo tigers, the statements will escape.