Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pulp Pantsing

Life in General...

Rolled out of bed at 7 AM again but watched no TV unlike yesterday, which was unusual for my typical morning routine anyway. Instead, I watched a few videos from Dean Wesley Smith's "Writing into the Dark" lectures, which I bought earlier this year. In the videos, DWS talks about writing without an outline. I often waffle between being an outliner or discovery writer.  Yesterday and today, it is discovery. I think the ideas are coming back, slowly.

I like the thought of writing quickly, without a net, like writers in the days of the pulps. Robert E. Howard, Conan's creator, is one of my favorite examples. He was quick and full of thunder and lightning.

For me, this way of writing offers two attractors. 

One, pulp writing is rooted in the early 20th century, a time that fascinates me. Dad was born in 1929, and he frequently kept me enthralled as a kid with stories of the Great Depression and his brothers who had served in WWI. 

The other is that I have recently begun to wonder whether there is some sort of strange new plane of storytelling that appears only after the writer has torn through his or her earliest, superficial ideas.  Don't get me wrong.  I've been writing for a couple of decades but only recently realized that I am heavy on theory and light on practice. Maybe moving quickly I can finish before discontent with any one story has a chance to set in.  Maybe I can peel away enough layers of shopworn stories to find something raw and unexperienced.

And now I return you to my regular, less-purplely-expressed life....

Before lunch, I sat on the back porch to soak up some mood-alleviating Vitamin D from the sun. While at it, I read a few pages in a book about PanGu Shengong. (Eastern religions and philosophies fascinate me, too.)

In the evening, my family and I ate supper with my wife's sister and her family. The chili was great and so was the entertainment. My three-year-old niece informed my wife that she wanted to sell her at a yard sale for $20.

The Writing and Current Projects...

The fiction word count for Tuesday was abysmal.  But, dagnabbit, I pounded out some words, and some is better than none.

Although I didn't get started until about 7:30 PM, I wrote some on Chapter 2 of the Alaskan fantasy. 

Last week, while outlining my horror novel set in Missouri, I complimented myself on brainstorming successes.  Outlining was surely producing a higher class of idea. No doubt, probably. Why hadn't I been doing this all along? I even asked my best friend to remind me of my "brilliant" bullet points and Roman numerated plot topics should I ever venture back into the crazy talk of "pantsing."

Well, this evening I reread the Alaskan Chapter 2, which was pantsed. 

Um, I'm pretty sure it's better than the outlined one.

Word counts for Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015...

Fiction = 238
Blog = 530

Monthly totals for October 2015...

Fiction = 238
Blog = 1,070


Alaskan fantasy = 7,214
Missouri horror novel = 3,679

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Life of the Walking Dead (or at least Walking Ouchie)

Life in General...

I got up just after 7:00 AM to see the wife and son off to school.

While eating my typical bowl of raisin bran, I watched Sunday's episode (season finale) of Fear the Walking Dead.  Normally, I don't watch TV until evening, but last week, I had fallen two weeks behind on FtWD. If I do that again, my brother-in-law might just take me off his Christmas card list.  So far, I like the show. The characters are interesting. Nick obviously has hero potential. Strand is cool and mysterious.

The rest of the day toggled between housework and writing. I wish some of the writing had included fiction, but at least in one form or another, some words found their way to being written. A doctor's report listing my back ailments is about as short as a Black Friday Wal-Mart receipt, so throughout the day, I alternate between sitting or standing. I wash a couple of dishes, then sit at my desk for 5-10 min (hopefully writing), then back for a few more dishes or other chores that do not require bending/twisting/lifting, on and on. 

Sometimes I surprise myself. For example, I outsmarted the laundry basket. Trying to carry a large, rectangular cube down a narrow hallway sends lightning bolts down both my legs -- assuming I don't fall and whisper, "Ow," to the tile floor for an embarrassing amount of time. However, I can hook my cane onto the handle of the basket thus creating a laundry leash. After that, it follows me around like a well-trained (if overfed) puppy.

The family returned at about 5:00 PM. Tonya cooked supper, then we settled down to watch a couple hours of TV.

The Writing and Current Projects...

I am working on two novels. One is a fantasy thriller set in Alaska, and the other is a suspense/horror story set in the late-1970s Midwest.  Since midsummer, I concentrated on the horror novel. I thought I finally understood how I could use an outline. 

But that was before I got stuck for three weeks.  People tell me to quit reading writing how-to books or watching writer videos and just write my way.  It always reminds me of Fezzik's line from The Princess Bride, "My way!  My way!  Thank you Vizzini. . . . Which was my way?" Looks like I am probably going to go back to pantsing. Rationally, an outline makes a lot of sense, but practically--for me, anyway--the idea machine just freezes up. When I write without a net, I will spend a lot of time watching the cursor blink, producing a metric ton of pretentious prose, and wandering aimlessly.  Words get written, though.  I'll take that any day. 

Progress for Oct 5, 2015...

Fiction = 0 words
Blog = 540 words

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blogging DWS Style

Anyone who follows Dean Wesley Smith's blog will recognize the format below.  I have a lot of respect for the man. I also see how his style of blogging would help both the writer to stay focused and the readers to find more easily the information they look for. 

Life in General...

I feel better this morning. I ran a low-grade fever last night. No fever today but still chilling randomly. That alone indicates something wrong. I don't get cold. When I went to bed last night (just after 8 PM) my legs started jerking. They usually do when I go to bed (I have restless leg syndrome and at least one ruptured disc) but this time the kicking and spasming was intense and frequent enough that I doubted I'd ever be able to sleep. Both legs ached just like a rotten tooth. After an hour, I took ibuprofen (max dose). My legs slowed down. They almost stopped jerking, but I wasn't going to gripe about the occasional kick. Since the ibuprofen worked, this made me wonder whether in the past my restless leg meds helped or maybe the anti-inflamatories did instead. Oh well, I'll let the doctor know.

Saturday, Yancy Caruthers and I attended a couple of book signings at the Joplin Public Library in Joplin, Missouri, and at the VFW (sponsored by Bob Wolfe at Always Buying Books) also in Joplin.  I was there, not as a writer, but as Yancy's cover designer for Northwest of Eden. We got to meet a lot of nice people: nurses and veterans and painters and other novelists.  The folks from Classic Rock 99.1 FM were super friendly and asked great questions.  Of course, Yancy fielded all of those. My job was to sit there and look all important and occasionally rattle sentences with the word Photoshop in them.

Yancy is the well-mannered one shaking hands with a fellow nurse. I'm the one in the t-shirt.
Cover for Northwest of Eden.

The Writing and Current Projects....

Yesterday, I squeezed out a 5-minute sprint of editing. I ended up gaining 17 words. (It was exhausting in a nearly conscious sort of way.)  I certainly ain't bragging. Maybe blame lies upon my impending fever that evening, but I was not happy with the words I saw. In several places, the writing stumbled all over itself

I failed to push, pummel, or threaten any progress from the outline.

Late last night, however, I think I figured out my wrong turn. It's the protagonist's story goal. I liked his original goal, but that one was the avoidance of a situation, rather than something more active and, well, goal-oriented.  Avoidance is perfectly acceptable in fiction but a little harder for the reader to get behind.

I thought: Having so much problem with motivation, I might be making the story building too complicated with a character who wants to avoid something.  Maybe in this case it is the writing equivalent of proving a negative.

So, I gave him another goal, a positive one this time.

Then, yesterday, I realized in mid-sprint (the 2.5-minute mark) that while his goal was unique, it didn't have much in the way of personal stakes. That's a deal breaker. So, I am going back to the original goal. That is where I am starting this morning.

Progress for Oct 4, 2015....

Fiction = 17 words

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