May 9th, 2006

there!, Hello

Scribblers Anomalous Version 1.0

Scribblers Anomalous

I've decided to try a new blog schtick: pick a topic about writing and come up with some rambling, hopefully helpful perspective on it. How many folks could really use ANOTHER blog about writing? Not many (I highly recommend Storytellers Unplugged, by-the-by). However, I'll try to inject this one with a bit of my personal touch, instead of just struggling to be generally authoritative.

Today's Topic for consideration is BRAINSTORMING or I've Got This Great Idea! Actually, Twelve... Thousand... But They're All Really Great!.

The beginning phase of taking up a writing project is one of the most enjoyable. The 'idea phase' is just plain fun, it's like daydreaming and saying 'wouldn'titbeCOOLif' dot dot dot. To the layperson, there does not appear to be a lot of work here. Oh, blissful ignorance!

Needless to say, this perception isn't quite true to reality.

Brainstorming is like building a house. More to the point Brainstorming is like PLANNING to build a house. At first, you can make any old choices you like. A toilet in the living room? Why not? That might be kind of neat! In this stage of the writing game, I find myself thinking the odd thoughts and organizing the odd notes.

However, after the ideas have had some time to percolate in the old brainpan (my poor attempt to sound half as intriguing as either Dan Simmons or Harlan Ellison--I forget which--who likened writing preparation to letting a 'blinking idea machine' sink into the marsh of creativity, where it gloms onto all sorts of minutia and oddity), there comes a time for some realistic consideration. Maybe that toilet wouldn't be so hot in the living room. Dad might like it, but would mother drop her jeans and pop a squat where all the world was able to see? Your's might be different, but I can say for a fact it wouldn't happen in my family. Besides, is that something that needs to be seen? Again, you may be different, but I can say without a hint of doubt in my mind: no thanks.

At some point, I find myself in the position of weaning the good ideas from the truly weenie ones. Shucking corn from the husk. Fill in your own cliche.

At some point, I say, "All right, what story do I really want to tell, here?"

I have to stopper the part of my brain that's making huge, grandiose strokes with its mental paint brush, take out the part of my brain that uses finer tipped brushes, and start on the project. I have to stick with that project until it's done, no half finished things for me. This takes discipline, and it is not by any means easy. Of course, it's impossible to completely shut off that big-idea-generating part of my brain--sometimes the gag slips loose--but I have to soberly look at what the new idea is trying to say about my current idea. Is it really better? More importantly, can it wait? The answer is often: yes, it's pretty good, maybe not better than what I'm doing now, but it can wait. So, it does. I jot notes to remind myself, but I put that in the warehouse of ideas (most writers have huge stores of the things, no others need apply) and file its crate number in the log and get back to what I was doing originally.

However, this is not always the case.

Robert R. McCammon mentions (in an afterward) that his horror novel They Thirst started out as a very different story. He got 200 pages into that story and then discovered the urge to scrap the whole thing and start over. He chose to do so, but only after careful deliberation. There are not many testimonials to doing this--at least not success stories--that I'm aware of, so don't try this very often.

Did you know that unrestrained idea generation is another example of gluttony? I'd rather taste my food, thank you.

As scribblers mature into writers, they realize that if they continue to start projects without finishing what they've already begun, they'll never finish anything (it's the "well, d'uh" moment). Writing has become therapy at this point, and as Tom Cruise might suggest, nothing good will come out of that. Certainly nothing good for that writer's career.

The lesson here? Go ahead: brainstorm. Have fun doing it. Let the ideas roll in the dirt and play in the mud. Eventually, however, there comes a time to hose one off and see what you've got. At that point, either toss it back and continue the process or commit to seeing that one through.


***
Was this at all helpful? Questions, criticisms, complaints? Feel free to drop me a comment...
there!, Hello

Worries, Chillun and Vermin

So, the beeeg trip is coming up. My first venture to San Francisco. I'm a tad nervous about going, but I'm also looking forward to it. I don't know how many people I know will be there, but I hope to meet some folks. I may also volunteer to do... something... since they seem to be at a loss for volunteers. :)

I have four goals: listen to Koji Suzuki, meet John Shirley, have faustfatale sign The Jason Strain (since Trista is credited as 'Goddess of Microbiology' in its acknowledgements) and see scanner_darkly (aka Mr. Lindberg) at one of his many engagements. :)

#

While browsing around the web yesterday, I discovered the new edition of Aberrant Dreams has been up since May 1. This issue includes my 5200-word story "Chillun Got Shoes" and it's free to read!

I dig the front cover.

#

Also, I just got an acceptance email on Saturday. Armand Rosamilia tells me my 4100-word story "Gimme Shelter" will be appearing in Carnifex Press' upcoming Vermin anthology! Woo-hoo!

For more information, visit the Carnifex Press website.
  • Current Music
    Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper"