January 14th, 2011


Thoughts on Writing

She saw Fo hunched over his worktable, a cage holding three brown and white guinea pigs next to him. Inside, the animals were scurrying around, frantic, while his voice murmured “Be still,” and “Don't fight,” like a chant onto the table before him. As she drew closer, Ayae saw that his hands were stained in blood, and that he had pinned to the table a mostly white hamster, a syringe lying next to it. As she reached the door, he said, “It looks awful, does it not, child?”

Before her, the empty, warm night beckoned. Turning, she said, “It is.”

“A decade ago, Bau and I cured a plague in a fishing village on Leviathan's throat,” he said, his attention never leaving the hamster. “We were the only people who answered the call of the magistrate there, the only people who were interested in descriptions of blood that seeped through eye ducts, the nails, and any opening the human body has. A quarantine had been put in place, no one allowed in or out. Any who tried to leave were shot by archers hundreds of yards away. By the time we had arrived, fifteen of the village had died that way, while another twenty had died from the disease. The village population was just over a hundred.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Do you think,” he said, his disease scarred eyes meeting her own, “that we found a cure by rolling dice?”

Outside, the air was clean, but the promise, the freedom it had offered just moments before, was gone.

That's from the new book I'm working on. I have no title for it yet, but I dig it.

Well, mostly.

I have noticed, over the years, the process that I have developed as I write. Some authors, they write straight drafts, they write quickly, they write however. Me, mostly, my writing is fueled by how much I hate its current incarnation, how I think it's not as precise as it should be, how I think it could be more evocative, more interesting, and just plain better. I have ideas and ideals in my head that I am trying to place upon the page (or screen) and my process, which involves a lot of rewriting, is about trying to get it as close to that as I can possibly reach it. It has never been perfect, never been the ideal vision that I have wanted, and a piece is done usually when I acknowledge that there's no more work to be done, that to continue rewriting will simply break it, and that I want to move onto something else.

It doesn't sound particularly enjoyable, when I explain it like that, but I take a lot of pleasure, and get a lot out of trying to reach that ideal in my head. Sometimes, it frustrates me, however. There's no denying that.

I do have this strange experience, however, when I look back at things when they get published, or when enough time has passed and I'm knee deep in something else. I often look back and I think, did I really write that? It's as if it were done by an entirely different person, the words and tone of a particular piece a surprise to me. I tend not to read my work after its been published since that has always struck me as a particularly self absorbed past time, but I won't lie and say I've never done it--but when I do, it always has that strange, almost surreal experience of the work having gone from this piece I am working on in an open office file, to an actual complete product that people read and comment on, favourably or otherwise.

Anyhow, just a thought as I was writing. I was kind of frustrated with this book--I took a few weeks off it over the break, and returned to it on Tuesday, and my mind, after being elsewhere has only had complaints. You just got to push through that, however. The book isn't finished, I have about thirty five thousand words done that are good, the rest of it mapped out, and I have to be realistic about the state it is in. At the end of the month I might take a break and write a short story. I used to write short fiction all the time, but I've lost interest in putting so much time into it--I want to grow my audience, make a bit more money, and the way to do that, is through longer work, I guess, and this book and others such as Above/Below represent that mindset in me. But still, I have an idea I'd like to scratch.

However, that is my long term plan with my writing, really. To grow my audience, to get to a position where I am financially more stable than what I am right now, to be a better paid author for the things I want to write. That'll get some laughs, I figure, but what the hell, everyone needs goals.