Archive for the ‘Words Words Words’ Category

The current novel …

So I was invited to the Wellspring Novel Workshop, which … whew … is an honor … and frankly slightly overwhelming. Wellspring takes the place of Starry Heaven this year, which is on hiatus. Starry Heaven is a spin-off of Blue Heaven. Anyway, they’re all cool high-end workshops and some pretty serious novels have come out of them. (Including Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” and Brenda Cooper’s “Reading The Wind.”)

And it’s great that I got invited, but of course that means needing a novel to workshop.

Now, technically I have a lot of novels. A number of years ago I wrote Never Trust A Hippie, then Dog Heaven, and then Losing Candyland. The first two were a total mess and I trunked them. I decided the third was worth re-writing and spent a year working on it. When everything was said and done …

… well, I’d learned a ton about novels and had spent a entire year on something that was still frankly a bit of a mess, and I hadn’t written any new short fiction and … it was all a bit depressing.

I sent it out anyway, but after a while (and not a few rejections) I decided Losing Candyland hadn’t really come together as a book. Actually, one agent said he liked it a lot and asked to see my next book. Losing Candyland is still waiting with a few agents, but I’m not super hopeful of it going anywhere.

So, Wellspring.

I decided I needed a new book, rather than trying to clean up Candyland again. I had about 1200 words written on a YA novel (currently called Good is a Bad Word) I’m still excited about so … here we are.

I’m trying a new process with this book. I largely wrote Losing Candyland off the cuff … and it shows. I spent some time while in Paris working out an outline and have been going back and rewriting every five or six scenes before moving on to new ones. It’s made the writing go slow, but now I have a pretty solid first fifty pages and a decent idea of where it’s going. I’ve picked out a few initial readers who I’m feeding 5K chunks to and using the feedback in the rolling rewrite.

Slow but steady, so far, so good.

Anyway, this is all to say that novel writing is still a giant headache, but I at least have a good start. The first fifty pages are due at the end of April, and I already have something for that. I’m hoping to have the rest of the manuscript done (in rolling re-write fashion) in the first week of April, get it to my second readers and hopefully get another full rewrite in before the end of April deadline.

Expect updates on word-count and general whining about pain and torture that is writing.

And … 1, 2, 3, GO!

What did I learn from Clarion?

The Clarion Writing Workshop was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. A lot of it was explicitly positive, some of it was positive eventually (or may still be gestating) but was really hard at the time or for the months … *ahem* years … after.

Both the Clarion Writers workshops http://clarion.ucsd.edu/ and http://www.clarionwest.org/ are now taking applications. One of my instructors, Jim Kelly asks, “How about sharing five things you learned at Clarion?”

Ok.

  1. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to write stuff that doesn’t excite you.
  2. Great writing has energy. Sure, get the mechanics down, but in the end it’s theme and emotion that drive the most powerful stories.
  3. Always be innovating. Every story start is sexy and fun and full of new relationship energy, full of riffing and whatever clever thing comes out of the id, but then the plotting and rewriting can feel like a drudge. That’s the time to bring the innovative mindset to finding connections and problem-solving. We can choose to be clever in every part of the writing process.
  4. Put as much work into your life as your writing. Yes, most of us need to lock ourselves away to learn the craft and find our voice, but it’s equally important to learn how to present and interact with each other. Skillful social awareness can help our career just as much as excellent prose.
  5. Writing is not a competition. Someone else’s genius doesn’t make you less genius. We analyze each other’s fiction so we see what works and doesn’t, both to point out to others and for ourselves. When this turns into a wash of negativity, we’re not helping anyone. The more we support each other as writer’s the stronger we all become.

 

If you write and you want to see what you are capable of, Clarion is well worth the time and money.

Apply to Clarion – Apply to Clarion West

Oh yeah, an update:

I promised myself that i’d keep up with this thing. Sheesh.

I have a few articles on writing bouncing around in my head. I’ll write those soon. I should probably repost the ones i’ve been writing for Shimmer. I just started digging out my recording setup and hope to be making music again soon.

One of the big things is i’m super excited about redesigning this site … and generally dragging my feet on, you know, doing it. Be it’ll be cool: I’ll have a section of my publications’ covers and images of my awards, some free fiction and a music section. But, yeah, that’s all on the back-burner at the moment while i stitch my life back together after traveling for nine months.

So, the check-in:

Life is unstable, but generally pretty good. I’m finally starting to feel settled in Eugene again. I rejoined the co-op i helped get off the ground. I was nervous at first, but am really happy with the folks and the house (and my room and my new bed.)

Look at it, just look at it!

People:

Things with J are … a little off. We obviously still love each other, but being in the same town all the time is definitely taking adjustment. S and i are doing as well as we can. She seems to be adjusting pretty well in Turkey. L&D are having a baby! N is rushing to finish her latest novel!

I keep feeling like everyone is doing more (and more interesting) things than me. Obviously i want to let this go, but i also just want to get off my ass.

As always, writing:

My main focus these days is getting back into consistent writing and submitting, which is hard with the new 40-hour a week job. (and still reading for Shimmer and my various art and music plans)

… Oh yeah, the job:

It’s great. Great people, interesting work, fun office and … and, well, it’s been a long time since i worked 40-hours a week (for money at least.) It’s taking some time to get my head around carving out writing time (and exercise, and friends, and fun, and and and … )

So, yeah, still more to do, more to plan and implement, but i’m getting by … and feeling a little more excited everyday.

You wanna know the weird thing? I find myself more and more wanting to become a sort of ascetic. I really just want to exercise and eat well and work for money and make an INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF ART, mostly writing, but definitely music and physical things too ….

… don’t get me wrong, i’m only talking for the next six months or so. I’m much too much of a hedonist to maintain asceticism, but i really really really want to produce a body of work and rekindle the buzz that was forming around my stuff a year ago.

Anyway, i gots plans. Watch this spot for more ridiculous and outrageous claims.

As always, RAWR! ONWARD!

OryCon! Many panels! Mostly on one day! Also, come hear me read!

Hey ya’all,

I’ll be a panelist and doing a signing and a reading at OryCon 32

I’m super packed crazy busy on Saturday, but have nothing on Friday and only one panel on Sunday. If you want to grab a meal or something, let me know!

Saturday:

12:00:pm to 1:00:pm (Jefferson/Adams room) – Writers of the Future panel with Ken Scholes, Aimee C. Amodio, K. C. Ball, Alex Black, and (this year’s winner) Lael Salaets

(between 1 and 2, i’ll be running a critique group.)

2:00:pm to 3:00:pm (Jefferson/Adams room) – Theme, what is it? with Jessica Reisman, Sara A. Mueller, Mary Rosenblum and Bill Johnson

3:00:pm to 3:30:pm (Broad/Weidler room) – Autograph session. Come get your obscure magazine or anthology signed by me! (note: it’d be best if one of my stories is in said anthiology, but i’ll work with you.)

4:00:pm to 5:00:pm (Roosevelt room) – Revision: Path to better writing or slog into mud? with Steve Perry, Jessica Reisman, and Lori Ann White

6:30:pm to 7:00:pm (Lincoln room) – Come hear me read! It’ll be awesome! There will be cookies!

Sunday:

12:00:pm to 1:00:pm (Hamilton) – What is Magical Realism? Can someone explain it to us? with Craig Laurance Gidney, Bruce Taylor and Blythe Ayne

Horses, and getting back on them.

Looking back at this blog, i see my last substantive post was in June. It’s been a weird trip, confusing, lots of good, lots of bad. I’ll probably do another post after this to go over trip highlights since Kazakhstan, but this is more about … well, the place i’m in now. I’m not 100% sure what i’m doing next.

I had a wonderful meeting with my goals group, all my best writing friends. (Well, in Eugene at least.) There were a few tears. Most of us were feeling pretty unhappy with the past few months in relation to writing and career. It was good to get it out.

My favorite part was when Damon said the best decision he’d made in a while was to quit writing.

… whoa.

He said it didn’t last terribly long, but letting go gave him a break and helped him to stop hard-timing himself. It opened new possibilities. Now he’s actually enjoying writing again. I don’t know if i’m fully ready to quit, even symbolically, but i certainly need some kind of change. Normally in these situations i make big proclamations on the internet, create a goofy persona and work really really hard till i have something to brag about. The last couple of times i’ve tried that haven’t worked all that well, so …

First i’ve been evaluating.

Here’s me as a writer, so far, give or take: Looking through my files, i see that i currently have 3 novels in the trunk (2 terrible, but with potential and 1 probably readable, but also fatally flawed.) I also have 2 other novels initially plotted and with less than 5000 words written on each. For short stories i have 15 published, 5 stories in the mail, 22 stories that should be in the mail, 60 stories that are half to completely done (but need revision), 207 story-starts and 77 things that are so sucky that i’ll never look at them again. I also have 2 completed screenplays, and a comic book script.

Whew, ok, so i’ve got a lot to work with, but i haven’t been doing much working in the last 6 months. So …

Thinking about the problem.

I haven’t been happy writing, but i haven’t really been happy not writing either. I still have huge aspirations and i know i have a lot to say, but the actual writing process is ripping me up. I can look at past stuff i’ve done and see some quality there (or at least i’ve gotten some positive feedback,) but for the life of me i can’t remember how i did it. What’s up with that?

Yeah, what’s up with that?!

I’ve felt for a while now that i’ve lost my Beginner’s Mind. Wordos, Clarion, Writer’s of the Future, it’s all been good for my skills, analysis and self-esteem (at least temporarily), but it’s been nearly impossible for me to just, well shut up and write. Part of me thinks that i’ve probably garnered enough craft and knowledge to trust most of the stuff i write will work on some level, but the rest of me thinks nothing i write is ever good enough.

Starting over.

Part of me wants to just throw away everything i’ve done before now …

… figuratively. I’m not stupid …

… but just start writing and learning and taking everything that comes out of me at face value. I know i still have a problem with endings and i see that i seriously shy away from dialog, so maybe some exercises are in order. And, sure, i like being extreme and setting challenges for myself. I like pulling off stupid stunts, but i want to do that stuff because it’s fun, not to save my flagging writing career. I also think i’ve been putting huge pressure on my writing, thinking that i wont be as cool if i don’t write, thinking S won’t love me as much if i don’t. It makes it all not very much fun.

The Ideal Life.

The last 6 months have been necessary. I needed to get out there and see things. I needed to work out stuff about Jai. It hasn’t always been fun, but i feel like the last 6 months have been the transition i needed. I still don’t know where i’m going from here, but it’s been educational.

Today i started by thinking about what i want my life to look like. I’ve been thinking about my ideal day, what i want short term, what i might like long term. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but i feel a lot less like i’m drifting.

So, i’m getting back on, and if i fall off again, i’ll get back on and again and again.

Peace,

Grá