The Black Swan is My New Writing Jam

I don’t know about you, but I love me some writing music. My newest example of jamtastic craziness: The Black Swan soundtrack.

Not exactly Queen Amidala, is she?

For those not in the know, The Black Swan is about a total nutjob ballerina who does a bunch of crazy stuff before stabbing herself in the stomach with a piece of glass during a fight with her alter-ego self. After that she sprouts imaginary feathers, dances in front of a bunch of people, and then dies. Horray for happy endings.

Even though the weirdness of this movie is totally off the charts, it did produce a killer soundtrack from Mr. Clint Mansel, the same guy who did the soundtrack for Requiem For A Dream. I couldn’t manage to get the whole thing streaming on here but I did find a version of my favorite track on a YouTube video. Check it out. Hopefully you’ll like it.

So what about you? Got any favorites that you pump up the volume on while you’re tapping out a new tale?

[image found here] [song found here]

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Writing, Rewriting, and the Holy Mother of Potter

Man, I’m rocking and rolling with this new book. I’ve set out a plan–oh how I love plans!–to crank out two chapters a week, and I’ve been sticking to the thing. Each chapter is about 2,500 words or so, and as I’ve done a super wicked awesome job plotting this bad mama-jama out that the thing each one of those chapters is swimming in nail-biting conflict.

Oh, yeah. I’m stoked.

Bad jokes are what I do!

Writing 5,000 a week is actually a step down from how fast I pumped through the first draft. For that one I was doing three chapters a week and those things were bloated like nothing you’ve ever seen. I’m talking about 3,500-4,000 word chapters kind of bloat. Chapters like that make for a monster book, eh? That’s the problem with plotting out a bunch of crap and then packing in a whole bunch more crap on top of that crap. I started having to set a word limit for each chapter–a rule that’s become useful for this draft as well, actually.

No Potter? No problem!

On a non-writing note, who’s been following the news about J.K. Rowling’s new book? There’s been a bunch of hype surrounding the news, most of it good, some lukewarm. I’m more on the she’ll-knock-it-out-of-the-park side of things. Of course, I might be biased. If it wasn’t for HP I would never have started writing, and what a sad tale of woe that’d be to sing.

Which side are you on? Think she’ll crank out another amazing tale, or will the lack of Potterness end up a bust? Seriously, I want to know.

[those clever pictures are from here and here]

Surgery In the Army: My Chance to Rediscover Writing

In 2007, after jacking my back up in an Army related incident, I was prescribed a round of surgery that’s usually reserved for middle-aged asphalt workers. Keeping in mind the wonderful track record of the military medical system, you can imagine how excited I was to have my back chopped open by an Army doc. But as it turns out, crippling back pain is a fairly good motivator so I elected to let them have at me with the hope that I’d wake up with all my appendages.

The surgery went as well as it could, but I was left with thirty days of convalescent leave to spend splayed out on the couch. That might not sound like such a bad deal to you, but when you’re used to working nearly twelve hours a day it can be a little difficult to adjust to doing that much nothing. My wife suggested that I read a few books on my off time, and seeing as I hadn’t read a book for fun in way too long I decided to follow her advice. So on the first day of my leave, before she went to work, she left me the first two books in a series by some British lady that chronicled the adventures of a kid named Harry Potter.

I cannot tell you how incredibly awesome my wife is for doing that.

I was hooked from chapter one and blew through the first two books in two days. By the end of the week I was almost through the entire series, but more importantly I started to remember how much I loved reading and writing. I spent my college years reading nothing but accounting standards and business textbooks then after graduation I went straight into the military. Go ahead and take a guess at how much creativity is emphasized in the United States Army.

After I finished Harry Potter I started writing again–one of my favorite things to do as a kid. The stories I wrote were horrible–some of the worst in the history of bad stories, I’d guess–but they did lead to some good ones later on that have since been published. It’s strange to say, but that month was probably one of the best time of my entire life despite being unable to dress or bathe on my own. I think about it like this: without getting my back cut open by doctors with questionable credentials I might never have started writing again. And honestly, I can’t think of anything more sad than that.

Dear Writer, Amazon Is Not Your Friend

I'm glad my wife bought me the regular Kindle, rather than the new Kindle Poison pictured above.

In lieu of a blog update on my novel’s progress (I spent too much time playing Star Wars pinball at the arcade down the street from my house) or an insight into the learning process that occurs in the course of writing (again, Star Wars pinball is to blame), I decided to show you all a link from a guest post by Cat Valente on Charles Stross’s blog. The post details her experience in the publishing industry and explains why she does not see Amazon as the messiah of publishing that so many people claim it is. Sure, she says that Amazon has forced the big publishing houses to rethink how they treat their writers, but Amazon is not the superhero that many people think it is. I mostly like the post because she touches on what so many seem to forget: Amazon, like all corporations, are bound by law to turn a profit. It doesn’t matter how friendly and hip companies like Amazon make themselves out to be, they still exist for the sole purpose of increasing shareholder wealth. That goal to increase shareholder wealth probably played a part in why they cut 5,000 independent titles from their Kindle store recently, and why they’ve opened their own publishing house. I could be wrong, but it’s something to think about.

That’s it for tonight. Be sure to check out Cat Valente’s website here. You can also follow me on twitter @ScottJClemons.

[image sourced from this lovely little blog]

A Groundhog’s Day Worth of Fiction Writing

On a scale from ten to one on the suck-o-meter–ten being where I write like a best-seller and one being the inability to write complete sentences–I think today was about a three and a half.

See, I woke up this morning with a sweet-ass-sweet plan to get a whole bunch of writing done. I had it all laid out: pack my laptop along with me to work and then head to this little coffee shop nearby. I swaggered in, snagged a mug of hair bending french press–french press has got to be the perfect go-juice when it comes to writing–and then plopped my cheeks down at a table.

“I’m ready,” I told the room. “Let the brilliant ideas flow forth!”

And that’s when the suck commenced.

I spent the first hour writing and rewriting the same paragraph. I’d tap out something that felt decent, then reread the paragraph and hate it. Then I’d do it again, hate it again, do it again, ad nauseum.

My face while writing. The groundhog's, I mean. Not Bill's.

It sort of felt like that movie Groundhog’s Day, except much less funny because Bill Murray wasn’t there.

At some point I got sick of writing the same thing over and over so I just settled on the version that seemed the least sucky and moved on. I decided to start rolling from the beginning of the chapter and laying in some light revisions. I reworked a few sentences, swapped a couple of words, and pretty soon I felt like taking on that paragraph again.

Good thing I did. I went back and pwned that thing.

So it all had a happy ending. Isn’t that great? I got a couple revisions done, finished that super painful paragraph, and capped off chapter two. And all it took was four fricken hours.

So now, my question to all you writers: have you ever had problems like this? If so, what do you do about them? When you hit a block do you power through it or are you more the type to snap your laptop shut and give your brain a rest? Fill me in. I really want to know.

[I got that flick of Bill here]

Two Full Cups of Awesome

What’s the good word, foolios?

Before I get started on today’s bloggity blog entry, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks who pushed that old follow button at the top of my page. Take a minute to check out the blogs of Malou, Aubrey, and Elisa. Each one of them is packing two full cups of awesome.

Now, down to business.

I sat down today and hammered out another 1,000 words of chapter two. The plot seems to be trucking along fairly well, but there are some real issues I keep running up against.

A little background for all you folks who are just catching up:

My approach with this draft is to start into each chapter with as few solid details as possible. This approach is totally based on the craptastic experience I had with my first draft. See, on my first go-round I had lots of great ideas all sketched out on note cards, but those note cards ended up being more of a hindrance than a help. For me, the process of writing always generates lots of on-the-spot ideas that I know will make the story super sweet. The thing is, when I try to cram my note card ideas with the spontaneous ideas popping out of my brain I end up telling two totally different stories in the same fricken book. What’s more is that when I go back to revise this two-in-one monstrosity I’ve got chapters that top out at 3,500 words at a minimum. Way too long for the YA novel I’ve got my sights on.

My problem now is that I get stuck on these little rabbit trails in the plot. I start flowing along with the writing, tapping out all sorts of fun-loving stuff when I discover that I’m writing Grade A crap that does nothing to advance the plot. But don’t despair, friend. There’s a serious sunny side to this problem. Because I’m not married to the plot in the same way that I was with the note cards I can just hit the old backspace button and start fresh from where the plot was still feeling good. Before I know it I’m cooking along and the story is wicked fun to write again.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Writing this book has been ridiculously tough but it’s also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

On an unrelated note, you ought to check out the new Walking Dead episode. The tension between Shane and Rick is going to explode into a wild and crazy drama bomb. I can’t wait!

In Japan, People Think I’m Godzilla

Have you heard the good news? I’m going to Japan!

Okay, that’s not true. I want to go to Japan really bad and I’m hoping that my wanting to go will somehow magically translate into a plane ticket and/or a pre-paid hotel reservation. See, my wife entered this contest for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and I really really hope we win. Granted, there’s probably like a one in a bajillion chance that we’ll actually win, but like I said, I’m hoping that the patron saint of Japanese sweepstakes winners will take special note of my wanting to go.

You might be wondering, “Why does this weirdo want to go to Japan so bad, huh?”

To which I would say, “Don’t call me a weirdo, weirdo!”

Seriously though, I want to go so bad because I know what a funtastic place it is. My wife and I went there a couple of years ago and it was fricken amazing. Besides being the tallest person in the entire country (I’m six and a half feet tall) there seemed like an endless string of things to do over there–Shibuya 109, for example. Plus, being extra tall in Japan that means I never have to wait in line with all the people running and screaming whenever I come lumbering down the street. Being green and scaly helps too, I guess.

The thing about going to a foreign country is that everything seems so exotic. Perfect example: our trip to Denny’s for pancakes. You’d think a Denny’s would be the same no matter where you’d go, right? No, sir. That place was totally bizzaro. It still had the  run-down vibe you’d get from a regular Denny’s except for that it was all futuristic looking.

Make sure to hide your sports almanac before going to Future Denny's.

I  felt like we’d stepped onto the set of Back to the Future II–like it was some 1980’s vision of what the future was supposed to look like. Our waitress–who looked like Biff, incidentally–took our order with an old-school Palm Pilot looking thing and when the food was done she brought it out on a hoverboard. Okay, that part isn’t true, but that’d be totally sweet, am I right?

On a totally non-Japanese note, I cranked out a solid 1,200 or so words on the second draft of my novel today. I finished the first chapter last night and now I’m bumbling my way into chapter numero dos.  Like I wrote in my other entries, I’m taking a totally different approach to how I roll with this deal–not plotting so much, revising a little as I go along, asking my wife for feedback–and thus far it seems to be working pretty darn well. Granted, it’s only the second chapter but I think if I stay on course like this I’ll have a much more coherent second draft to revise.

That’s it for tonight. I’m dead tired and I need to crash. I had this nasty dream last night that I broke a molar and I woke up all freaked about my teeth.

So yeah, maybe you weren’t far off the mark calling me a weirdo earlier.

[I found that picture of Future Denny’s here.]