Monthly Archives: April 2011

Writer’s Block (and Pictures of Kittehs)


The one thing said by Aaron Michael Morales that I will always remember is that he didn’t believe in writer’s block. If a writer was having some kind of impediment to writing, then it meant that they weren’t ready to write the story they were trying to write. They weren’t meant to write it then. The block would go away when they were ready to write.

his pretty much lines up with my belief about writer’s block: either the writer is being lazy, or they’re pushing too hard. On my part, it’s usually the former. I’ve been known to distract myself with everything from food to internet “research” to Sims based on my characters.I HAS IT.

There’s ways to get past the infamous “block,” although some methods may work better for other people, or need tweaking on an individual basis, or actually may work as a procrastination tool instead.

thinking1. Notebooks

I carry a notebook and pen with me everywhere I go – or at least I try. Anything that comes to me while I’m at work, in class, or on the bus, I write down as soon as humanly possible. Even if it’s a line of dialogue, a character description, or a few sentences of narration. Even if I have no idea how or where it will fit into the novel, I write it down anyway – you never know what you’ll end up being able to use. I’ve saved everything I’ve written deAngelis-wise since the more or less unrecognizable twelve-page original draft from 2004. There are things I’m picking out of there that I’m using now, even though there are virtually no similarities left between the two stories. For example, in 2004 Jenna Devries was actually called “Cherokee Scot”, and instead of the fear of being Fallen, she was actually infected with the vampire virus and fighting the shift to vampire with both medication and sheer force of will. She could also do one-handed push-ups.

The point is that there are certain lines of dialogue I wrote, the way I described a room or a gesture, that I can remember I’ve done well before but can’t necessarily reproduce to my own satisfaction now. While this can lead to the danger of copying everything and never do any new writing – which can be so, so damaging – it helps to have something to work from if you get stuck.

2. “Soundtracks”

I already talked quite a bit about my method of compiling soundtracks on iTunes for the purpose of writing. It helps to pay particular attention to the music when watching movies, and making an effort to find new music at any opportunity is a must.

3. Showering!

Sometimes I will get so frustrated with a scene I’m struggling with that I start forcing it, and that’s just no good. Usually this is about one or two in the morning, and I’m tired and a little peckish and I probably smell bad, too. One of the things I started doing, back when I livd in a dorm, was to just get in the shower. Something about being shut off from any visual distractions and forced not to look at what I had already written removes a lot of the stress I had started to associate with the scene, and I could let it just sort of play through in my head like a move screen while I showered. By the time I was clean, dried, dressed, and had my hair combed – which is a time-consuming process in and of itself – I was able to sit down and get through the scene much more easily. Not painlessly, but without wanting to stab myself and kill things.

 Things I Have Done to Facilitate Writer’s Block

The fact of the matter is, most of the time I just go with the writer’s block and goof around, later complaining to my unsympathetic friends, coworkers, and classmates about how I can’t get my novel written and I will never amount to anything as a writer. You know why they’re unsympathetic? Because I do things like…

The seventh circle of procrastination hell, disguised as mindless entertainment.

You would not believe how many babbies Jenna Devries and Asmodeus have had. She's a world-class ninja, and he likes baking cookies and playing with the neighborhood strays.

1. Create Sims based on my characters.

At some point around junior high I started creating Sims based on the characters in the novel(s) I was working on. Mostly this didn’t going anywhere, until Sims 2 came out, and then I was like – YEAH! Procrastination station!

Why this ever seemed like a productive idea is far, far beyond me.

2. Collect LJ avatars

For a long time I posted solely on Livejournal, and a big part of LJ, if you don’t know, is the avatar. There are hundreds, if not more, of communities completely based around creating 100×100 little works of art. There are contests. There are events. I mean, seriously, these people mean business.

I was hoarding these things like nobody’s business. Don’t believe me? I filled up two free Photobucket accounts with JUST 100×100 pixel avatars. And there were more on my hard drive.

Also, where sixteen year-old girls whine at pitches to make your ears bleed.

Livejournal: where human beings open their souls to the universe, searching for and sharing inspiration, support, and smiles.

3. Watch Television

Every once in a while I would decide that I needed to watch television in order to better understand the archetypes to which my characters ascribed. Maybe this makes sense. However, my track record with this reveals the tactic for what it really is.

  • Spooks – entire series in 11 days.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – entire series in 17 days.
  • Rewatched all of Eddie Izzard’s recorded standup
  • True Blood – seasons 1 and 2 in less than two weeks
  • Torchwood – entire season in two days.

This is not a tool to combat procrastionation, this is procrastination in its worst form.

Now you know why my book isn’t done yet.

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Overhyped Wastes of Time


So, I’ve been reading H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness this past week. Lovecraft is, as I’ve always understood in, the undisputed master of literary horror, surpassing Stephen King and all those other guys who write in the same genre.* I was excited about reading this story, because I thought – hey! Lovecraft! I’ve heard of this! Also Benicio del Toro is making a film out of this story, so it must be capable of scaring the pants of off me! Or at least creeping me out more than Alec Baldwin does.**

However, this is not the case. The first third of the book is talking about drills, and fossils, and how cold it is in Antarctica. I know how cold it is in Antarctica; or, at least, I can imagine, and I imagine that it is really effing cold.

Granted, I am only 63% of the way through this novel, but I really ought to have been freaking out by, say, 30%. The Eye of the World didn’t do that, but it had an excuse which is that it was 700 pages long.

versus

This got me thinking about books that I sat down to read, recommended to me by others or by the literary establishment, that turned out to be colossal wastes of my time.

1. The Thief Megan Whalen Turner

A friend recommended this children’s novel to me based on some of the attributes of a novel I was working on and posting on Fictionpress at the time (which is also now becoming Steel). She told me that reading my novel reminded her of this book, and everyone I knew who had read it said it was fantastic. I thought, okay! I’ll go ahead and read it!

Here’s the review I posted on Visual Bookshelf on Facebook just after finishing the novel (in one sitting). I recently copy-pasta’d it to GoodReads as well.

~~~

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pretty lame. This earned a Newberry award? The premise and the general plot are commendable, and the world is fantastic, but it is almost impossible to follow. I read this at 19 and couldn’t figure out the characterization or what the heck was going on most of the time… even for a children’s book, it moved too quickly. Taking some more time with everything, instead of rushing through it and giving us only a fingernail scratching’s worth of a picture would make this a much better read.

~~~

Yeah. I was not real impressed.

2. Moby Dick Herman Melville

moby dickIf there’s one thing that irks me, it’s people shoving old books in your face, calling them “classics”, and then expecting you to believe that there will be a huge, gaping, aching hole in the depths of your very being if you don’t read it.

Moby Dick is one of those.

More or less, unless you’re really interested in whales and whaling and that sort of thing, go ahead and pick up the film version starring Gregory Peck and save yourself a couple of self-inflicted eye gougings.

3. Twilight Stephenie Meyer

Oh, I could say a lot about Twilight, but I’m not going to say much, because I’m pretty tired of complaining about it. My best friend and the rest of the universe recommended this book to me, and to be honest, when I finished it, I was like, “Huh! That wasn’t half bad!”

Then the cotton-candy feeling faded from the inside of my skull and I realized that I’d just spent three days reading a load of garbage and absolute drivel. I thought the characters played like cardboard cutouts – in fact, the epitome of Mary-Sue and Dark!Gary-Stu – and that the plot was nothing more than Meyer fangirling over Edward. There was little to no conflict at all until about 3/4 of the way through the book, which is absolutely ridiculous. Now I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I’ve read the damn thing.

raptor

4. A Walk to Remember Nicolas Sparks

You know, I really don’t get all the hype about this Nicolas Spark guy.

Actually, I do. He found a formula that speaks to women who like the sort of books he writes, and holy crap is he milking it for all it’s worth. Seriously. Dan Brown did the same thing, I hear, with The Da Vinci Code, which is to say that he found the elements that made every bestseller a bestseller – I’m serious, the guy researched this – and then crammed it all into one book. I haven’t read the thing, since my family would probably stab me to death if they caught me with it, but I am interested in reading it to see what about it, exactly, hit the literary world by storm. I know it pissed the Church off a lot, but I mean, hey. That’s not the guy’s fault, that there are tards out there who can’t research something they may or may not have learned from a work of fiction.

But we’re not talking about Dan Brown, here, we’re talking about Nicolas Sparks. I did see the film based on this book when I was about fifteen, and it really didn’t impress me much. I mean, okay, well-made film, but I was much more into Lord of the Rings and Spiderman and Dune, and trust me, A Walk to Remember is none of those things.

I read the book something like six months later? And I’ll tell you what, if Twilight made me feel like my head was crammed full of cotton candy, then A Walk to Remember made me feel like someone as MAKING cotton candy inside of my skull and then licking it out of my brainpan. Blegh.***

walk

I’m sure there are a lot more books that I really could have lived my life without reading. Some that I didn’t hate quite as much as I hated these were The Scarlet Letter, Alan Ginsberg’s Howl††, and some other modern and postmodern bullshit.†††


* Fact: there are none.

** Seriously. Alec Baldwin makes me physically uncomfortable.

*** No, I mean really: blegh. The mental image that just conjured was not pleasant. Although that could also be the two-years-expired pizza crust† I just unknowingly ate.

†Here’s a hint: if it smells like Play-doh before you bake it, and then it TASTES like Play-doh after you bake it, stop eating after bite one and check the bag, not slice one.

†† I swear to you there is no more pretentious man on the face of the earth.

††† Here’s another hint: if you go bumming around the country for seven years being a lazy mooch, then sit down at a typewriter and scribble it all down in one go and then publish it without editing, that doesn’t making you a literary genius, that makes you a pretentious tard.

‡And for the cheap seats: yes, I mean Jack Kerouac.

Resourcefulness & Reviews


I live in the Midwest, so this La Nina winter is wreaking havoc on the weather. Not that this is particularly new – Indiana weather is always a pain in the butt. It’s winter from October straight through to May, sometimes longer, and then you better not blink or you’re gonna miss the five seconds of summer we’re allowed before autumn kicks in.

Anyhow, Boyfriend and I were watching Spirited Away and eating ice cream sandwiches last night, and we hear the tornado sirens go off. The people in his building must be some special flavor of idiot, because it’s storming and we’ve all been alerted of a tornado watch for the better part of the day, and people decide that they should go outside. Um, sorry? What? Everyone milled around for a good fifteen minutes before heading down to the basement. Boyfriend grabbed his laptop and my Kindle, and while he futzed about on the interwebs, I curled up and finished Misti Wolanski’s Fistful of Fire.*

After a good, solid hour of sitting on the uncomfortable basement floor and listening to the hodgepodge of cultures (at least four different ethnicities were crammed into that basement) converse, we finally heard the obnoxiousness of the sirens fade away, and Boyfriend and I finished Spirited Away in peace. I’d never seen it – he had – and I found that I really enjoyed the old-school fairytale element to the plot. I also very much like Miyazaki; I’ve seen Princess Mononoke once or twice, and Howl’s Moving Castle – despite the rather sudden “I love you!” at the end – is one of my favorite films and books. So, it’s no surprise that I very much enjoyed this film, too.**

WHAT DO

At any rate, I’m now starting some H.P. Lovecraft for the first time†††, and I’m hoping that I won’t regret my choice: At the Mountains of Madness. I’m only about twenty, thirty pages into it, and I can’t decide whether I enjoy it yet or not – so far all they’re talking about is drills, and planes, and ice, and I just cannot make myself care.

In other news, two stories I wrote for the Indiana Statesman got run today. Nothing too terribly exciting – one about a thing we do here called RezFest and, the more enjoyable of the two to write, ISU’s celebration of Earth Day.

‘kay bored now.

ALSO: Happy birthday to my sister, Emily! She’s 19 today!


* As per usual, my review will go at the end of the post, to avoid potential spoilers. Also, I can’t figure out how to a lj-cut style “read more” thing, so until someone figures that out, I have to do this the dumb way.

** I’m actually a big fan of anime, although the list of what I’ve seen is not nearly as extensive as some of my Guildies’. I’m very particular about what I watch.*** Perhaps at some point I’ll make a post about my anime experience.

*** Please don’t tell anyone I’ve watched Chobits.†

† Or Fruits Basket.††

†† Or Absolute Boyfriend.

††† *gulp*

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