layla: grass at sunset (Default)
So here's what I've been doing today:

1. I made a Wordpress! Eventually this will be the central hub of my website. At the moment it's getting broken a lot as I play with styles and figure out where I want all the content to go.

2. I made a Tumblr! And I gotta say - as much as I always hated Tumblr as a casual browser of the site, I absolutely love its interface as a user. SO. EASY! Thus far, I am finding it incredibly fun to play with and generally quite intuitive/easy to figure out how to do things. I also think that posting a webcomic on Tumblr might work better than I had thought. This will be sort of a general art blog for me -- I'll be posting webcomic pages, random art, fanart, etc. (At least that's the idea.)

At this point, both of these things are highly experimental works in progress. However, after many years of doing all my website content management using hand-coded text files, I think I might be in the process of switching over to all-web-based content management. There are so many more and better tools for it than there were ten years ago. When I started poking around my website's back end today, I was expecting to end up feeling old and frustrated and out of the loop, but instead, the more I explore, the more fun I'm having. So many options! So many shiny content tools! I want to install them ALL. (Galleries! Video! Php goodies! Whee!)

Comments are welcome! If you see anything stupid and n00bish that I'm doing on either one of these, please tell me? In the meantime, I think I shall go back to playing with my shiny toys now. :D
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Poetry Fishbowl today at [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith's journal. (Instructions/explanation at the link.) She does these regularly, and I think it's a fabulous idea and keep meaning to link to them, but I am so sucktastically erratic about reading my LJ friendslist that I don't usually notice one is going on 'til it's over. Also, the theme this time is Hart's Farm (scroll down to the description), which is a setting of hers that I really like.

Meanwhile, I have been learning a metric shit ton of stuff about writing lately. It's interesting to have been doing this as long as I have been (technically speaking), and still feel like I am at the bottom of the learning curve. But one of the things I've been learning about lately is finding my own voice. There have always been things I've written that I have connected to very strongly, and things that I haven't, and I think I'm starting to figure out the difference between them.

My natural tendency as a writer, generally speaking, is to focus on "up" beats rather than "down" beats -- I do write dark, unhappy stuff, and I kill characters and so forth, but I would say that my general view of the world and of human nature is pretty optimistic, and this is reflected in my fiction. I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of years, however, writing short stories and trying to sell them to various SF markets, and attempting to match the general style of the markets I'm submitting to, which in most cases means that I'm trying to write dark, dystopic stories with unhappy endings. And I've been realizing lately that no wonder those stories weren't selling -- either I didn't really enjoy writing them, or else I had to fight my natural tendency towards happy(ish) endings in order to end on a "down" beat, and of course that is going to make the finished product feel stilted and formulaic.

It sometimes feels that there is not much of a market out there for the kind of stuff that I tend to write, but that doesn't mean changing what I write; it means finding the markets that fit my type of story (which was what I did - successfully! - with Sword & Sorceress) rather than changing my style to fit the markets. Which is basic Writing Theory 101, but it seems like it never helped to be told that; I had to figure it out for myself via a lot of unsuccessfully laboring on incredibly depressing stories that never went anywhere.

(It probably says a lot that I have never had this problem with fanfic at all, and usually not so much with self-published stuff, either. it's only when I specifically aim to write stuff for publication that I end up in a self-conscious zone where I'm trying to guide my work to a specific stylistic goal, and usually failing. It's not just self-conscious striving for publication - it's also trying out stylistic experiments that don't work, which is what some of Raven's Children is - but the point, I guess, is that I'm finding myself doing it more naturally and less self-consciously as I learn to relax and settle into celebrating my own strengths as a writer rather than trying to fight them.)

I've been trying my hand at some romance lately, which has never entirely been my cup of tea, but one of the reasons why I thought it might be a fun way for me to write something salable is because romance is all about the happy ending. Ironically that is one of the big reasons why it often isn't my cup of tea, because I prefer my happy endings uncertain (snatched from the jaws of defeat!) and dislike knowing from the beginning that things will work out for the characters. On the other hand, I have read romance that I liked, and the process of figuring out the aspects that made me like it, and then attempting to translate that into my own writing, has been really interesting.

Edited to add, because I'm still thinking about this: I remember commenting as far back as 2003/2004 that Kismet, which was my "play place" - a dumping ground for ideas that I considered too bizarre, silly or cliche to burden my "serious" novels with - was getting a great audience response and was so fun to work on that, unlike RC, I never got tired of it and couldn't really see myself getting tired of it. But I don't think I had ever carried it through to the conclusion I've come to now: that what made Kismet fun to read and to write was that it was closer to my natural "voice" than anything else I was writing at the time, and that was a style worth pursuing.

Edited yet again: To add another link! I knew there was something else I wanted to link here. The SF/fantasy webzine Crossed Genres is trying to raise the funds at Kickstarter to pay their authors pro rates. (If you visit the page, there is more info - you'll notice they've already met their first goal, but since that went smoothly, now they're aiming for a second, higher goal that requires significantly more funding.) It would be great to have another pro SF market out there, especially since my general experience with them has been that they're great to work with!
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I read a really interesting series of interviews with Dan Harmon, creator/headwriter of the show Community, doing a detailed walkthrough of Season 2 and the creative process that went into it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I found these posts fascinating from a creative standpoint. I'm not sure how useful or interesting they would be to people who don't watch the show, but since we just marathoned the first three seasons this winter, it's all fresh in my head and I was really interested in how the stories were built up and the characters' arcs conceptualized. In particular, he talks as much about what didn't work as the things that did: the ideas that translated poorly from script to screen, the high-flying thematic concepts that crashed and burned, stuff like that.

(It also made me depressed, because he was fired at the end of season three -- the current season -- and these posts make it abundantly clear that the show is his brainchild and most of what made the show fun, unique and interesting was his influence. I shudder to think what sort of neutered version of itself it'll be next season without him.)

While I'm linkdumping anyway:

Menial: Skilled Labor in SF looks like an interesting anthology to submit to. It doesn't pay much (the publisher is an indy small press, and doesn't have much money to offer) but they're great people to work with -- I had a story published with their e-zine side awhile back, Hetsie's Wonders. The deadline is June 30. I might try to write something for that.

Interesting post from Greg Rucka: Why I Write Strong Female Characters. I first encountered Rucka with his graphic novel "Whiteout", which is really good, and I liked his answer: I don't [write strong women]. I write characters. Some of those characters are women. Though he goes on to explain that it's more complicated than that: basically, he writes convincing women characters not only because he has empathy for all of his characters, but because he researches it. He asks questions to female friends and researches by reading female-authored books in his chosen genres. (I remember Stephen King saying something similar about writing Carrie, that he personally had no idea what being a teenage girl was like, but his wife did. So he asked her.)

[livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion (of Torn World) talks about organizing shared story worlds for the reader. I found lots of useful tips in here for managing any big project with lots of content and characters, whether it has a single creator or multiple people working on it. (I'm still trying to figure out the most useful way to organize Kismet.)

bwahahahaha

Jun. 7th, 2010 09:39 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
In lieu of actual, interesting, insightful content, which I seem to utterly fail at generating lately, I bring you this awesome bit of snark regarding the perennial requests that artists and designers get to "draw me this complicated thing for free!":

http://www.27bslash6.com/p2p.html
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I am not a very organized person by nature, but I am so happy with the organizational strategy that I'm currently using to plan out my week, and I hope I can keep it going.

In the past, I've sometimes used my journal for this (private entries) and sometimes used a wall calendar or spreadsheet or dayplanner or "to do" lists in the form of text files, but what I've got now is working great. I have an engagement calendar -- the sort that shows a week in advance, with a pretty picture on the opposite page. I've got all my appointments and deadlines and so forth written on the calendar pages, as one normally does, plus extra stuff like the days that Kismet updates. When I turn to a fresh week -- the calendar starts the week on Monday -- I write down my goals for the week at the top of the page; it'll usually look something like "Work on Kismet; Finish short story x; Contact editor y about project z" and so forth. I write down my progress each day -- how many words written, how many pages finished. At the end of the week, I total up my total words and pages, and see if I met my general goals (1000 wds/1 page per day) and if I finished all the projects I was supposed to finish. If I did, then yay! If not, it's okay; fresh page, fresh picture, fresh week.

I am not sure why this works so well for me, but I seem to be doing much better with it than with the old methods. There's a definite psychological element to it, I think -- I love the whole ritual of flipping over to a fresh week, getting a fresh picture to look at all week, checking my appointments/deadlines and figuring out what I'll be working on this week. It's fun! And when it comes to creative stuff, I suspect that finding ways to make the sloggier parts fun is probably half the battle. :D
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
... is Pixel-stained Technopeasant. I like being a pixel-stained technopeasant. Seriously, I do. Writer/cartoonist/artist/fanficcer/blogger gets too cumbersome; I finally have a nice catchy word for what it is that I do!

And I am SO posting something next week for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I've spent the whole day working on my novel, but not actually writing much of anything new ... I'm just taking the scenes in the first half (which weren't working) and rearranging them. And then having to rewrite because suddenly people are talking about things they shouldn't know yet, and the pacing STILL doesn't work.

*bangs head on keyboard*

This show sounds fun; too bad it's only in Canada. Would you believe I actually wrote up a proposal for something similar to this when I was in high school? Stop laughing! In the early '90s I really wanted to create and produce TV shows. I had several different shows that I created cast lists and series bibles and everything for. This was one of them, only it was more of a soap opera, about a Muslim family that moved into a conservative American town. Some of the characters sound eerily similar.

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Layla

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