Thursday, October 16, 2014

Writing Blips I

Introducing a new feature on my blog (one of many new features that’ll likely be around for a little while in one form or another until I forget about it): Writing Blips. These are posts wherein I look at a handful of articles about writing, my own thoughts on writing, and just about anything to do with writing.


Stephen King Is Right. A few posts ago I reviewed Stephen King’s “On Writing,” form which I gleaned this gem: “In many cases, when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his own priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

Wouldn’t you know the next book I start reading, John Crowley’s “Little, Big” is a prime example of this boring enchantedness. Yes, this book won fabulous awards. Yes, Harold Bloom loves this book. But you know what? It’s boring. I’m 37 pages in and NOTHING has happened, except that Smoky Bramble has walked to Edgewood, been told to wear a prophylactic by a character who mentioned she had to go to the bathroom, and then been introduced to the twee house where everything – everything – id described with dripping detail. It’s dull as something very dull.

Thanks to King, I know the name of this disease now. Knowing the name and recognizing it in a book makes me want to expunge the boredom from my own books. Red pens are coming out, Doleful Creatures.


Only figurative red pens, though, DC, since I’ll be editing you (again) in Microsoft Word.
That probably makes many of my writer friends’ skin crawl. So many of them use other software for their writing. Mostly Scrivener.

And that’s fine. I just don’t see the point. I will confess to being a free writer, one who just wants to sit down and see where the story takes me. I’m not terribly organized – probably to my detriment – but I don’t see organization as a way to become a better writer. And maybe it’s a faster way. But it’s not my way. (See above; I have to learn through hard knocks by reading writing tips written by a horror author.)

Besides – Microsoft Word is essentially free. Scrivener costs $40.

I have done some organization with my current novel, Doleful Creatures. Did it with Excel, and I think it’ll help. Maybe. But I have to agree with Kay Waldman, writing for Slate: There are a lot of creativity/productivity apps and such out there – but at the end of the day, don’t you get just as far with a boring ol’ word processor?

Says Waldman:

The fiction-writing app is a curious creature, because it can only sell creativity by downgrading it. It operates outside of the traditional, mystery-swathed model of inspiration, in which brilliance floods down on us from heaven, and instead reduces invention to a series of steps. In lassoing and regimenting the muse, fiction apps evaporate some of writing’s pain, but also some of its glory. Or maybe they just help us procrastinate!

I don’t need help in that procrastination department.

She adds further:

One worry with apps like these is that they will produce uninspired cookie-cutter novels. Should writing be easy? Composing by numbers, or by consulting a dropdown menu, seems destined to result in a clanky product, not a living thing.

In my experience, the only thing I’ve seen that has improved my writing and creativity is lots of time and lots of writing. The tools haven’t mattered. Well, they have a little. Using a computer and word processor have made editing and storing things easier. Time is the bigger thing: I may never have written a novel out longhand, but probably would be doing so now if I didn’t have the tool, simply because enough time and writing have passed that I see the possibilities of actually finishing a novel, let alone starting one.

But then there are things like this that make me nervous:

Eric Foster White, a music producer who helped artists like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys reach superstardom, believes the future of storytelling lies at the nexus between technology and content. His Denver-based startup, ShowMobile, operates both a platform and content studio, producing and aggregating YouTube videos, Vines, tweets, Instagram posts and other media. But it’s far more than a social stream: ShowMobile’s primary purpose is to tell continuous, always-on stories across platforms young people actually use.

Why nervous? Because I’m a digital fossil. Yes, I plan on publishing Doleful Creatures as an ebook. But that’s about it. I may eventually come up with a book video trailer, but that might be the end of my foray into the digital crossover world.

I see stuff like this (and Daniel Handler’s web series promoting his books) and I get that ol’ corprolite feeling.

Then I start to breathe again. Is this really where books are going? The kind of books I’m writing?
I have to answer: I don’t know. I hope not. But I don’t know.

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