Back on the wagon – The Dark Queen of Darkness

I know I said I was going to kill the project, and I did, for a bit, but then I started working on other things and got myself through a few other books, but eventually circled back around. After I killed the project, I started thinking of what might bring it back. I assumed that it might be a complete re-write, but that wasn’t necessary. What I did instead was add another concept into the pile. A trickster. After listening to Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, it became clear that a trickster character of some sort would go a long way in being the agent of change necessary to move the characters and story forward. Anyhow, I did come up with something and wrote a tiny prologue, almost so short you couldn’t call it a prologue. Here it is:

Under the gloom of a sky that seemed to know only two tricks, both involving heavy cloud cover, an errant swirl of air beat it’s way around the edges of a lake so dead and clear, every rock and muck covered log could be seen upon it’s bed. The spinning current of air slowed then suddenly intensified, picking up sticks and stones and all manner of leaf litter in an eddy that coalesced them into the figure of a man. It paced the shore for a moment and flung an arm out over the water. A stone separated from the figure and skipped across the glass-like surface raising ripples from a dozen impact points. The ripples spread out, joining together and by degrees, the image of a woman formed on the lake, as if it were a mirror.

If the swirling mass of man-shaped forest debris could properly smile, it would have. A voice made from the rustling of leaves and creaking of limbs poured into the gnarled glade. “Your time is near, dear jailer. What fun we will have when you can no longer keep me pinned in this forsaken lifeless valley.”

The ripples on the lake calmed, returning to a state of glass-like stillness, and the forest debris dropped to the ground, leaving the disturbed bit of air to once again worry around the shores of the lake.

Dear writers, why do we write? – My reason

This question came at me out of the blue this evening after a particularly long day that started with a 2 1/2 hour commute to the body shop and rental car agency before work (almost triple the usual with an odd detour). The off the cuff response to ‘WHY?!’ is: because maybe writing is a sort of really cheap drug that doesn’t actually get you high. I mean, I could quit if I wanted to, right?

Probably not – and that’s the crux of dependency, isn’t it?

Everyone who knows me, knows that I started programming back in high school and went to college for the same. What fewer folk know is that I started out with little games and I wanted to turn that into programming games for a living. It turns out, I’m not really smart enough for that sort of thing and don’t have the temperament to live in the sort of city where that’s a possible job option and I certainly haven’t got the steady hand nor sharp eye you have with most artists. My creative world lives in making things where I can measure twice and cut once. it’s one of the reasons I like wood-working. There’s a precision your tools give you that a paint-brush, for example, won’t. In any case, my education and various career options led me to where I am today. Not game programming.

I don’t want to sound as though I don’t enjoy my job. In fact, I think that after having left a year and returned, I feel much more fortunate and committed than ever before. You sometimes get lucky and it’s not always obvious when you do.

So, here I am today, a writer who’s chief success is publication in a small-town newspaper as the author of a sometimes entertaining recipe box. My lesser known successes are more of the personal variety and simply involve having actually drafted more than one novel (I’m up to 3 and have two more well on their way to full draft status). On more than one occasion, I’ve attempted to just give it up completely and walk away, because well crap, I’m not very good at this and in spite of tremendous support and help from the writing community haven’t managed to achieve the fundamental author task of just getting something published.

Repeated failure is demoralizing, and incredibly painful to the ego yet, I keep doing it, and I’m not alone. So many of us are in the same boat, constantly chipping away at a story that we desperately want to share and not quite getting there. Or better, finding that one lucky break that puts us in the enviable position of getting to write for a living! Oh my. Wouldn’t that be something.

To circle back around the the metaphor with the drug & dependency. I can’t speak for my colleagues out there, but for me, I cling to the tangible creative outlet that writing provides. It’s a way to express myself and create things that didn’t exist before. When I was a kid, I was absolutely intoxicated by the writings of those who created new worlds for me to explore and be a part of, and ever since, I’ve remained drunk on the idea and am continually looking for a bigger fix, and in comes writing, the only drug that might get me that next big high with the occasional collapsed ego hang-over.

My Tombstone: He died doing what he loved, waiting for Kvothe to get to the point.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by the title of this post, I’m reading (listening actually) to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Before I press on here, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is a disorganized bit of observation by a reader and also a struggling writer. I do not make any claims that I am better at the craft than Mr. Rothfuss. The story isn’t bad, nor is the writing, I just find myself a bit annoyed.

It may be that you loved or are in love with the book. Excellent. I’m glad you connected with this. I’m afraid I’m struggling. Even though some of his language and descriptions are lovely and make me wish my tongue contained a quarter as much silver, I am now on chapter 51 and asking myself, “When the bloody hell is Kvothe going to get to the point here?” Again, the setting is wonderful as are the excellent descriptions. It’s case-study in description in prose for someone attempting to produce a commercially viable work of speculative fiction. Again, though, I say, is this book going anywhere? This alone is a pretty annoying, but what’s more annoying is that a single, very popular and well regarded book can contain so many of the things people tell authors not to do.

I spend a lot of time trying to improve my craft. I do want to get published some day and can’t get there without improvement. It’s also true that I’m incredibly hard on myself and sometimes just find it easier to say, well, that didn’t work, did it? Nobody can tell you your work is a pile of thoroughly unsalvageable garbage quite like you can. However, in listening to this book I’m finding myself faced with virtually every piece of advice I’ve heard being completely ignored. Some of these tidbits of advice, such as the use of dialog tags and adverbs, I’ve come to regard as absolute nonsense advice. I feel that reviewers point to these as problems, but really it’s just the smoke. The real fire is elsewhere in the writing. I also once got advice to the effect of ‘watch out for passive description’ in a short story that used it once. The Name of the Wind use it in near equal measures to more active descriptions.

I’m not really sure what the point of all this is, except to say that I’m struggling as a writer right now. I’ve hit a moment where I’ve convinced myself the work is absolute trash. The only solution for me is to understand how to improve. Then, when I go to examine other writers’ work, I’m presented with this sort of thing – A never ending story, with lovely descriptions that manages to break every damn rule of thumb for good practice I’ve been acquainted with. It brings to mind the question, are there any actual guidelines to follow? Is there really a way to get better or am I just stuck trying different things until I find my voice? Anyhow, I’ve got no answers or even conjecture on the matter. I’m just annoyed.

Also, I’ve been working on the Name of the Wind for days, listening while I drive, cook and even for two days while I worked on one of those metal earth models. There is no end in sight and I really don’t know if I have it in me to finish.