Saturday, September 5, 2009

Writing and Editing

So, after day of careful deliberation and a cursory look around at my options, I bought a netbook. It's an Acer Aspire One. Because I like Acer. I'm not under any sort of fantasy that this was an intelligent purchase.

The problem I had was that I wanted to write, but I don't like writing in bed on my computer. I like to go outside and have a cigarette while I write. The phone with the bluetooth keyboard was fine for writing these blogs, but for any serious writing it just wouldn’t cut it. For one thing, the U button didn’t work well. But the real problem is that the screen just isn’t big enough to really see what I had written. There wasn’t really any way to read as I was typing. It was just the sentence I was on, and that was it.
So, for the past few weeks I have been writing. Like, real writing. But I haven’t been using the phone. I’ve been writing longhand, which I don’t really like. So, the idea is that getting this is going to help me to write more. It won’t though.
Let’s be honest. This was a foolish purchase. A monumental waste of money. The real reason I got it, while we’re being honest, is because I’ve sort of always wanted a laptop. I don’t really have any use for a laptop, but I’ve always wanted one just the same. And I was at Best Buy yesterday to pick up a standard to SATA power converter (they didn’t have one… Best Buy has a real crap Computer Hardware section) and I saw the netbooks. And they were just so adorable and affordable. And so there we are, and here I am. Writing on my new adorable netbook.
So, am I writing more of my current project, like I should be—like I bought this for in the first place? No. I’m wasting my time writing a blog entry while my new computer updates itself.
I only installed the essentials on this machine. Outpost Security Suite, MS Office, and Final Draft. It acutally came with a gimped version of Office, which included Word and not much else. I really could have just left it at that, but I decided to splurge on the whole Office Suite.
A quick note about the current state of my writing, and then on to more about that tangentially.
I finished the story that I had wanted to write when I wrote this last blog. The one about… well… me and my neuroses, basically. It turned out poorly, as expected. It’s basically just one of these blog entries—well, not this entry. One of the ones about my neuroses and my views on relationship theory and such—but in narrative form. I should really just post it up here. I might. It’s kind of long to be posted in this fashion though… so we’ll see. There’s also not much point to it, seeing as Emily already read it, and I don’t think Mike has any desire to. And I think the two of them represent the entirety of my audience here.
Anyway, I gave it to a few people to ask for there help on it. More on that later. Cherry tried to help. She seemed to have put a lot of work into it, actually. She gave me a couple good notes, but on the whole was pretty unhelpful. More on that later, in the same later as the last one.
The only person who was really helpful with it was Sophia. And, while her suggestion really was helpful and would probably make that story a lot better, I don’t think I’m going to go back to it. I wanted to write it, and it’s written. One of the main reasons I wanted to write it was just to get myself back (I say that, but I don’t really ever remember being there in the first place to go back to it) into the swing of writing. And it worked.
I’m revisiting my plan from like a year and a half ago of writing and maintaining a serialized short fiction series. But I’m trying to do it right this time. I have three different story ideas—one of which is the one that I tried writing last time. I’ve actually been doing a decent job of actually keeping up with it. I wrote the first episode last week, and wrote a second one this week. The plan is to try to write two more tomorrow.
There are some neat things about serialized work. One thing is that, if it’s not that great in the beginning, that’s kind of okay. It would be better if it started off fantastically, but the thing about serialized fiction is that it has a chance to grow and develop. By the time you’re on your 20th episode, the first episode is somewhat forgotten. Everything about the story could have changed by then, but gradually. Serial fiction has the bonus of growing and maturing with its author, which brings me to my next neat thing.
It’s a really good tool for practicing writing. Set yourself a schedule, and try to make it a little but not too difficult, and then stick to it. My schedule is at least one episode a week, for an eventual update schedule when I start to put this online.
I was listening to a podcast interview with Jonathon Coulton (if you don’t know who he is, look into him. You’ll thank me) and he was talking about the period of his career when he was just sort of starting out and he did Thing a Week. What he did was he wrote a song, or maybe more I don’t really follow him too closely, and posted it every week. So every week he had to write a whole song, which is kind of a big commitment.
He said that it really helped him to solidify his craft. And also he said that looking back, he doesn’t even remember writing or recording some of that stuff. He’ll go back and listen to it and not even recognize it as his own work.
So, I liked that idea. I took that principle and applied it to writing. Instead of trying to write a story or a script or, god forbid, a whole big novel and try to make it really good and go back and edit it over and over again for perfection (which I am really horrible at anyway) I decided it would be a better idea to give myself a posting schedule, like that of a webcomic, and make sure to have something worthwhile to add to the overall story every week. So far, even though I’m only two weeks in, I can feel it making a difference, which is neat.
I’m actually really kind of excited about this project. I’m not ready to talk about it in too many specifics, as in what the story is about or anything, but the plan is to build myself a buffer, and then post one episode a week online, just like a webcomic but with short fiction. Shannon said she would design the website for me, which is good because I can’t really figure out a good way to display this sort of content in a web browser. I even bought a domain! belongs to me. I’m actually really proud of that domain name.
The eventual, hopeful, idea is to have three stories running. The one I’m working on now, the one I started (one kind of lame episode) last time, and a third idea that I like more than the other two, so I’m waiting till I’m writing a bit better to start working on. Then I’ll try to maintain an update schedule of MWF, one on each of the days. I think that’s a bit ambitious. It probably will not happen. But, that’s the hope at the moment.
Okay. I got more excited talking about what I’m doing currently than I expected to, and this is running a bit longer than I thought it would.
Oh! One more thing before I move on. A half hour lunch break is not nearly enough time to do any sort of substantial writing. Just thought I’d clear that up for you if you were wondering.
Sorry. As I was saying… this is going longer than I expected. I was going to throw in a couple quick thoughts about Stacy that I’ve been sitting on. But they aren’t important. So maybe next time.
Instead, I’m going to move on to the stuff I promised to move on to earlier. Editing.
But before I do that, I just remembered one more thing… the only problem with this new laptop instead of writing out longhand is the process of retyping. Having to read through and type out the stuff that you wrote is actually a really good tool for editing, because you have to read carefully at a per word level. If you’re reading something that you just wrote, the tendency is to sort of skim over it, but having to type it out forces you to do a thorough read through. I’m going to have to make myself learn some better quick editing habits.
Now, on to editing from a more theoretical standpoint.
Like I said, Cherry read my story, and she gave it a thorough workshopping, which made me remember why I didn’t like workshops.
There are things that you say in workshops, and they’re fairly predictable. Things like “the story doesn’t start in the right place” or “end in the right place”… basic things like that. I pretty much knew which of those sorts of things she was going to tell me. I knew that she would think them, and I knew that a workshop group would think them. The problem with a workshop group, and the problem with having Cherry workshop my story, is that people tend to take a bit of ownership of the story that they’re workshopping.
The main problem that Cherry had with my story was that, well, nothing much happened. It was sort of a snapshot of these two people’s lives, but not in a period of time where something altogether life altering was happening. I was trying to make a point with this story more than I was trying to tell a compelling “here’s what happened” sort of drama. That is, in itself, sort of a problem… trying to tell a story to make a point instead of telling a story to tell a story isn’t really the greatest approach. But it’s what I was trying to do nonetheless.
So, everything she said was trying to basically get me to write a different story. She wasn’t interested in this one. But that’s not what I wanted from her, and I never liked seeing people doing that in the workshops that I have been a part of.
In my workshop classes, in my hazy and not very reliable memory, I was the only one who would really try to see the story that the author was trying to tell, and then give advice on how better to tell that story. I’m sure that’s not true. I’m sure others were trying to do the same thing. But I distinctly remember a number of occasions where the conversation would be “this is what should have happened here” and then I would say “well, that’s not really the point the author seems to have been trying to make. If you make those changes then you’ll be telling a different story than what the author was trying to tell.” In these workshops the author isn’t allowed to speak until the very end, and I remember the author saying, a lot of the time “evan was right. That was what I was trying to do with this story.” And then a huge portion of the workshop, if not the whole thing to most of it, were rendered useless.
I don’t really have a point here except that in this very specialized scenario, which is not relevant to pretty much anyone at this point, people do it all wrong and they should do it better. Also, people aren’t good at discerning what the intent of an author is as opposed to the things that they read into what the author is writing. Which, I suppose, is a greater literary theory topic that Mike would probably be far more suited to tackle than I am.
And on that note, I will take my leave. I don’t know how often I’m going to be posting here anymore. Maybe more often now that I have this nifty laptop, but that will probably be temporary if at all. I’m hoping that the lion’s share of the time spent with this will be on writing my stories. And I’m also hoping that sometime in the not so distant future I’ll have a site up at, and my blogging will be there more than here.
Although, there are some things that go on a personal blog that don’t belong on a website like that. So we shall see.
Until next time.

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