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 was reading a blog post this morning that utterly encapsulates why I think copyright law is completely broken and why, as a creator, it scares the crap out of me: sometimes the status quo strikes back.

Basically, DiMartino and Konietzko don't own the series. They don't own the characters, they don't own the storyline, they don't own the character designs, they don't own jack. It was work for hire, and the proof is in the fact that Nickelodeon has the copyright (and the trademark) all over the place.

Furthermore, on the Tokyopop version, it at least lists DiMartino and Konietzko as creators. None of the rest even mention them at all -- and now we're onto the comicified version of the movie, which has whots-his-face's name plastered there at the top... and again, no mention of DiMartino and Konietzko.


Now, I haven't actually seen the Avatar series (though I really do want to fix that, because people tell me it's awesome!). But from all I've heard, the creators are incredibly invested in it, and the world-building is lush and gorgeous.

But, thanks to our fantastically broken copyright laws, the people who created and wrote it, who've poured their blood, sweat and tears into it, don't own it -- they have no say in what happens to it, they can't take the characters and make a sequel or spin-off, it isn't theirs.

More nattering about copyright )
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
... and then after complaining about my lack of accomplishment, I was bit with the writing bug yesterday and have written 8000 words since early yesterday afternoon. Go figure.

One of the things that's been holding me back lately, I guess, is getting hung up on the idea that what I write has to be good. That's second-draft thinking. *g*

It's interesting -- there's this trajectory that my writing seems to have followed, where I started out (as a teenager) writing like crazy, all the time, without worrying too much about "quality" or publish-ability or what other people thought about it. "Raven's Children", I think, shows the tail end of that surge of adolescent creativity: like everything I wrote back then, it's marvelously creative and was incredibly fun for me to write, but I think it reads like a promising but meandering first draft that needed to be revised into a final draft.

I've improved tremendously as a writer over the last ten years, I think; fanfic's been a wonderful training ground for prose, and webcomics have helped me hone my skills at plotting and world-building with real-time feedback. And now I feel like I've reached a point where I'm capable of better work than I ever have been, and my targets are more ambitious -- I'm setting my sights seriously on publication. But in the process, I've gotten all wound up in that elusive goal of quality and lost my ability to get caught up in the flow of unrestricted creativity like I used to be able to.

I think the skill I need to master at this stage of the game is revision. Because that unrestricted flow of creativity is why I write; if I don't enjoy it (and for the last couple of years, writing has been an awful slog for me), if I just want to be published for the money and not for the story I have to tell, I may as well get a 9-to-5 job. But I want the "quality" too -- I can see the brass ring dangling just out of reach, the promise of being able to unify plot and character and theme and language into a finished product that I'm really proud of.

So I guess that what I need to learn to do is to compartmentalize -- to throw myself wholeheartedly into the rough draft and turn off the killjoy inner editor, and then to turn off the writer enough to be brutal on my first draft, to prune out the stuff that is making it a weaker story and shape it up into the best it can be. I am not good at that; I tend to be an edit-as-I-go writer, because it's really hard for me to make major changes or cuts to what's already written. And the crazy thing is, that worked fine when I was a poorer writer; what I was producing using that method was the best that I could do at the time. But it doesn't work any more. It's taken me a while to realize that, but I think I'm actually getting good enough -- or maybe just discerning enough, which not exactly the same thing -- that I can't let go enough to write -- all the rough-draft issues are nagging at me and telling me "this is no good; there's no point; you'll never sell it." So I guess I need to learn to stop editing as I go, and instead switch between the two modes deliberately rather than having them both operating at once.

aaargh

Aug. 14th, 2009 05:17 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
You know, it's a whole lot easier to draw it right in the first place than to fix it after the fact.

Yeah, I'm trying to fix the fucking train panel from last week's page (which several people have commented upon, and not in a good way ... hahahahaAARGH).

What I'm going for is a train platform on the outskirts of a gritty (but not dystopic ... just kind of working-class) industrial city in the future. Sort of more, say, Chicago than Seattle.

*goes back to drawing board*

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layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Layla

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