Saturday, December 24, 2011

Out of gas

Yesterday, Danae filled the pressure cooker with dhal, got it just nearly boiling, and the gas went out.

We have been discussing the situation with the gas cylindernot very old but mysteriously unproductivefor weeks. There was the possibility of a leak. There was the question of whether or not the burners have been kept sufficiently clean.

The possibility that blackmarket gas cylinders might be sold somewhat less than full somehow never came up.

So, the dhal is waiting half-cooked on the counter, hopefully kept more or less refrigerated by the general icyness of our kitchen, and we are off searching for yet more black market fuel. You can't get legal fuel (sold by the government) most of the time—it's only delivered on certain days, infrequently enough that law-abiding housewives keep a spare cylinder on hand to avoid doing without. So that would be an impractical solution at this point.

But half of life in much of the world is at least slightly illegal, so a-fueling we will go. Hopefully we will end up with a more or less full canister this time.

(Once again, I'm pretty sure there's something about the way I use 'hopefully' that's wrong. But I cannot for the life of me remember what it is. Merry Christmas!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The limitations of 'image search'

I'm currently attempting to Google the identity of some sort of four-legged critter I keep seeing from the train. So far, 'India animal looks like a cross between deer and camel,' 'Indian gazelle,' 'Indian deer,' and, least likely of all, 'Indian wild camel' have been completely useless.

Should I mention that they seem to have unusually large heads? They seem to have unusually large heads. Also, they primarily come out at dawn or dusk, in the fog. And only near trains that are moving exceptionally fast. Also, one time, a terrifyingly fast bus. But I'm pretty sure it looked a little like a deer, a little like a camel, and a little like a cow.

Somebody told me there's a deer called a blue cow. This wasn't remotely blue, but ...


... jackpot.

According to my search results, which I have not bothered to read, they come in blue and brown. Nilgai it is.

I don't see why my original search didn't work. How come no one else in the world has noticed that these things look like a cross between a deer and a camel?

Wish I'd seen a blue one.

. . .

I have nothing to say to you about writing, because I haven't been doing any. However, if you are planning to become fabulously wealthy writing a best-selling novel but can't quite seem to get started, read this old Dave Barry column on the Da Vinci Code.

If you are not hoping to publish a bestseller, read it anyway. 

If you can't read, get someone to read it to you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dust and cargo


I changed my mind about Benares—it is now my second favorite place in India. My favorite is Bihar.

Tell Indians you're going to Bihar and you'll get a lot of strange looks. It's not exactly a major tourist destination. But I realized a long time ago that my dream of traveling has a lot less to do with beautiful historic places and cultures and a lot more to do with wanting to visit the outer planets on Firefly.

The border cities of Bihar seem a lot more like Badger's kind of town than Calcutta and and Benares. You can see beautiful sunsets over beautiful places in Benares, but here, you can see a beautiful sunset over massive oil refineries through the thick dust clouds kicked up by the constant stream of trucks heading into Nepal.

There is no comparison.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Admitting defeat

Benaras, India

I doubt you'll be surprised to learn that National Novel Writing Month was a bust.

Internet access has been rare on the road; time to write rarer. (Is rarer a word? Danae says it is, but that it sounds like fingernails on a blackboard.)

Benaras is far and away my favorite Indian city so far, in spite of the plague of vapidly spiritual tourists. Like the Kalighat temple in Calcutta, Benaras feels like it belongs in another time. But Kalighat is only one building, while Benaras is a whole city. I guess in my imagination both places are sort of lumped together in one big dawn-of-civilization experience: It's amazing to go to the Kalighat and stand in front of the altar, piled high in rotten flowers and old blood, and realize that on this spot, every day, people sacrifice a goat to an old school, blood-dripping, human-skull-wearing, scare-the-bejesus-out-of-you mother goddess.

But my favorite temple is right here in Benaras: the monkey temple. I think it has another name, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Sadly, we managed to reach the monkey temple during Hanuman's nap time, and so were unable to see the idol. (He has an embroidered black curtain, to keep his worshipers from bothering him.) But it's still a beautiful place. Although it's in the city, it is surrounded by a tree-filled park (for the monkeys, natch), and it feels like you're in the heart of the jungle, at the headquarters of a very jungle-themed religion, which, in a way, you are.

While taking the requisite dawn boat ride on the Ganges, we saw two separate funerals at the burning ghats. The deceased had not quite made it to the pyre on either occasion, which is just as well. One of my great fears in life is that one day I will smell burning human flesh and it will remind me of something incredibly tasty.

This should tell you all you need to know about the number of things I'm afraid of.

But, through it all, there's been almost no writing. I've done just enough to see that the Awful SpaceOpera is indeed awful.

A good way to appreciate the finer qualities of my magnum opus is to read this article, sent to me by my cousin—my story is everything the author says it shouldn't be.

Ah well. Back to the drawing board. Perhaps I should work on the Hunchback some more. Have I told you about the Hunchback? No? Well, that's a story for another day.

Bad beyond belief

Benares, India

I had forgotten how bad this thing is; I really had.

Retyping the manuscript is not as inspiring as I had hoped. It would seem that nothing can make the Awful Space Opera less awful.

More explosions might help, but those might be hard to come by on a sparsely populated planet. More monsters? We already cut the dragons, and I think adding something similar would be a step backward.

The prison escape sequence is too long. It shows the weaknesses in my dialogue far to clearly. How can I make it shorter?

One thing that I intend on doing (I have a very strong feeling that this is truly execrable, grammar-wise. But I haven't had my coffee and I don't care.) is to write draft three in the form of a screenplay. That will, hopefully, help me cut out unnecessary text. Hopefully. (Drew, what was it you tried to teach me about why I use “hopefully” wrong? Is it something to do with it ending in “ly?”)

But draft two is turning out pretty much as bad as draft one.

The really awful thing is, it's also turning out longer.

By the way, I have lice. Well, actually, I don't, not yet, but considering how prevalent they were at the orphanage Danae dragged me to last week I'm sure I will have them soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today I would like—

Let's not make this decision hastily.

Dutch baby? No. Apple dumplings? No. Quiche? No.

Scones! Homemade, creamy, buttery scones, with currants. And bacon and poached eggs, with avocado on the side.

(Would you believe that no one grows avocados here? The tropics are completely wasted on these people.)

I should probably go take my cold shower and have my processed cheese and cracker breakfast. With instant coffee.

Some of the scones should be oat scones.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More Adiga

Editor's note: This post was scribbled into a notebook during a painful period of separation from my laptop, then transcribed later.

Like the fool I am, I rushed through my long, depressing, Man-Booker prizewinning novel because I wanted it to be over. Now, I've got four more days in this village and nothing at all to read.

And no laptop, so no progress on the novel, either.

Leaving the computer behind in Calcutta was a very bad last-minute decision. I suspect this is the beginning of the end of my NaNoWriMo pretensions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Man in Tower

                                                                                                                                    West Bengal

I keep running out of books.

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be writing a book, not reading them, and I am.

I will be.

I'm just getting my thoughts together.

But there must be time for, ahh, inspiration and refueling. And I keep running out of material with all this constant train travel.

This is how I allowed myself to be sucked into AravindAdiga's latest vortex of despair, which I bought because a) its cover made it look like a fun adventure story, b) there was no description of the plot on the back, just review quotes, and c) I thought I should read more Indian authors while I'm in India.

Last Man in Tower is about how a bunch of ordinary people work themselves up to the decision to throw one of their neighbors off an upper-story balcony for a bunch of money.

I don't care if I just gave away the ending. If you are now discouraged from reading it, good. I have saved you untold grief.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sister, you backside—here!

Stuffing sixteen people into a car is a little more complicated when they don't all speak the same language.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mimi the Dragon Slayer

Calcutta, India
So I decided the dragons have got to go.

I don't remember precisely why I decided that the Awful Space Opera would be infested with flying reptiles, or what pseudo-scientific excuse I used to justify their existence, but they gotta go. Most likely, they made their first appearance on a day when I couldn't think of anything else to put down on paper. Of course, that is the basic backstory for the entire novel, but I think maybe in this case the problem was a lack of action for several pages, and I thought readers might start to notice how awful my prose is. Or that I lifted at least two characters from Firefly. (Not on purpose—it's just something that happens when you quit writing and devote an entire week to your DVD-boxed set collection instead.) If you want to kill boredom, you can't go wrong with a dragon attack, right?


The Most Boring Monsters In Pulp Fiction are dead weight, and my first task in this month's mammoth rewrite was to cut them out.

That means replacing several scenes with, ummm, some other kind of death-defying crisis? Something less likely to induce hysterical laughter at all the wrong moments?

I'm thinking quicksand. With flesh-eating worms.

Editor's note: The frightened J-school student in me demands that I admit to backdating this post. Internet access has been iffy on the rails, and I am marking the date according to when this was written, rather than posted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What we have here ...

I don't care much for foreign languages.

I love English so much that I can happily waste hours each day playing scrambled word games on my Kindle, just for the joy of the words themselves—and because I get to pat myself on the back each time I remember I can spell “prise” with an “s.”

Reaching that level of smug self-satisfaction in a foreign language takes decades of intensive study. And my ego just doesn't have that kind of time.

Danae signed up for private Hindi lessons almost as soon as we arrived. She dutifully records her teenage tutor's every word (excepting the ones that deal primarily with her complicated personal life), so as to perfect her pronunciation. 

And she has gamely embraced the infantilization that is an inescapable side effect of attempting to communicate in an unknown tongue: She sounds like a two-year old with a speech impediment, and native speakers treat her like one.

Granted, there are times when relying on a combination of English spoken very loud and extravagant hand gestures fails, but in my experience, you're just as likely to suffer a total communication breakdown with a few half-learned phrases of the local language as you are with none.

At least in English, left and right don't rhyme.

Consider the following exchange with Danae's tutor, concerning the Muslim festival popularly known as Bakra Eid, because it features the sacrifice of a goat:

“Next week am festival—Bakra Eid.”
“Bakra Eid?”
Ha. Bakra is God.”
(Eyes become unfocused, attempting to remember the lesson when the word “bakra” last came up. God?)
Ha. Hindi-'Bakra.' English-'God.'”
(With deepening confusion—)
“'Bakra' is 'God?'”
“Uh, 'Allah?'”
Nehi, nehi! God! God!”
Oh, goat.

You see? Replace all those words with wild hand gestures, and you still have no idea why so many neighborhoods are suddenly full of extra livestock, but at least you could avoid suggesting to a devout Muslim that she worships goats.

. . .

So, undoubtedly you want to know about how the novel's coming. It's, well, today is the first day during the official Month in which my computer has worked, so so far, it's not coming. Tricky, trying to keep up with these deadlines on the old Inspiron 600m. (Why the “m?” That named sounded dated the moment I bought it, and this was a state-of-the-art machine once.)

So, if you figure there are twenty-six days left in the month, divided into 50,000 words, that equals—a whole bunch of words a day. I'll try to put in a fair bit on the train to Calcutta tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NaNoNeeNeeNaWaNawWah (or something)

So, I've decided I'm in. In spite of 20-hour train rides, inevitable bouts of illness, and the myriad volunteer commitments that Danae has signed us up for, I'm going to attempt National Novel Writing Month.

To my intense annoyance, Danae insisted on signing me up at the official NeeNerNoVaWaHoHooRah website, although I haven't taken the time to fill out all the profile info, etc.

I might submit to all this we-can-do-it enthusiasm in theory, but I'm still cheating: I'm just going to do a second draft of the Awful Space Opera.

But, in the hope that the act of putting things on paper is somehow inspiring, I'm going to re-type the whole thing, rather than going through and editing the first draft in Word.

So I'm committing to type 50,000 words in November. I'm not saying they'll all be original, but I will physically write them before the month is out.

'Just make sure someone gets killed with a chainsaw.'

You must, you must, you MUST follow Story Notes From Hell.

Monday, October 10, 2011

All about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ...

Why are writers supposed to keep a journal? Does it actually achieve anything?

I know you need to find time to write every day, and a journal entry is the easiest place to start. Practice is always important, but is it the right kind of practice? Is talking about myself actually going to help me get better at channeling other people?

Frightening thought: What if this religious devotion to journaling—and, yeah, well, blogging—actually saps one's ability to write fiction? They say that runners have to choose between distance and speed, that you can't hone your sprinting and marathoning muscles at the same time. Maybe you can't keep a detailed journal and write a novel at the same time.

Debunked fake memoirs are in the news every year, and I think the obsession with journaling is part of the problem. Everyone gets really good at talking about themselves, but they find their lives lack the necessary zing for the big time. So they stick with the journaling medium and just make stuff up.


Wait a sec, I need to go edit my Blogger profile.

There, that's better.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Everything is copy

Globe-trotting is definitely not conducive to fiction writing. I need a certain level of boredom to get lost in my own imagination, and India is definitely not boring. But oh, the material ...

I have always been leery of using actual human beings as inspiration for fictional characters. No matter how sympathetic the portrayal, it still feels like exploitation. Otherwise, the neighbor who recently told me and my late-returning roommates to go on and have a good rest so she could beat us in the morning would definitely have a place in my next project.

The city of Delhi itself has a beautifully post-apocalyptic feel sometimes. (This, coming from me, is a compliment, and I hope will be taken as such). The gorgeous crumbling architecture, the ever-hungry pariah kites wheeling overhead, the very modern police officers guarding ancient ruins—all this contributes to an atmosphere that cries out for some epic plot to hurtle through its streets.

One element that definitely belongs in a film, rather than a novel, is the beautifully enunciated station announcements on the metro. If the authorities were not (with reason) so paranoid about attacks on public transportation, I would try to capture the perfect Anglo-Indian elocution of the two announcers on my voice recorder. But the recorder would have to be held right against a speaker to get decent sound quality, and I am too much of a coward to do anything so peculiar in public, for fear of being hauled away for questioning.

Here endeth my observations for the week. I'm still debating whether or not to attempt National Novel Writing Month this year. It would be very hard to do, combined with the commitments I've made to do some volunteer work in November. But I hate to put it off a whole year.

I might just cheat: Instead of starting a new project, do a rewrite of that awful novel I abandoned four months ago. (Was it four months? Who knows.) I'm not sure I'll even have time for that. But perhaps it's worth a shot.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Channelling the Duke

I was indulging in a two-minute hate directed at the utterly humiliating number of Discworld novels I have consumed over the past several months, weeks, days, sometimes hours. I have no income, therefore I have no entertainment budget, but thanks to my Connection (the Kindle I received as a very ill-considered Christmas gift), those $8 e-books just keep appearing in my hand.

I was in the middle of the above-mentioned self-flagellation (how many G's in flagellation? I think just one.) when I started to read Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and it hit me: I am not alone. Wasting one's time, money, talent and physical and mental well-being on brain-rotting substances is traditional in my chosen profession.

It's practically required.

I wouldn't be much of a writer without an addiction, would I?

Sennyways, good old Hunter turned his addictions into literary greatness. Or at least literary coolness. Which would be just fine. As established in previous posts, I've given up on greatness.

What, then, does this mean for Terry Pratchett and me? It means I must somehow make sitting around reading lightweight fantasy comedies a key ingredient in my Art. To follow in The Duke's footsteps, it is first necessary to splash all one's flaws down on the page.

Or at least successfully pretend to. It's probably safe to assume that if Hunter had opened up completely, his self-destruction would begin to be too depressing to sell. So what we're after here is not so much a confessional as a con.

A substance-abuse based con, turning bathos into style, contemptibility into cool, mediocrity into the superfly stylings of a brand-new literioso hep to the real score.

Yeah, that wasn't it.

How about this?

I was sprawled in my grandmother's plush rocking chair, lost in trying to plot out my fourth un-optionable and un-finishable screenplay, indulging in a two-minute hate for my [I AM TOO TIRED TO THINK OF A CLEVER WORD FOR MY SHORTCOMINGS. ADD SOMETHING LATER. SHOULD INVOLVE IMPOTENCE.]

I had had more than enough time and money to finish all four, courtesy of Visa and Mastercard, but the funds had already been spent on Discworld paperbacks and new shoes. (The shoes were on sale.)*

The sun blazed in through the chintzy curtains, highlighting the tired leaves of two once-proud orchids. I hadn't misted them in days.

Suddenly, a flock of overweight comically pontificating wizards flew across the pages of my unassuming shoot-'em-up space opera, dexterously illustrating the most incisive, acid-tongued conventional wisdom to ever come from a couple of knock-knock jokes and an old-fashioned dirty limerick remixed with a dragon and an ironically self-aware technology reference.

I screamed like a girl.

The cat looked up from the sunny bit of the carpet in front of the orchids. “What the hell?” her bloodshot eyes seemed to ask.

Oh nothing,” I said, trying the shake the trite social commentary out of my head and off my defunct Dell Inspiron.

She hadn't seen the wizards, but she would.

Whatever,” she said, rolling over to catch the fading rays. “Anyway, you are a girl.”

Moving on, I would have to illustrate the tragic waste of my innate genius through the corrupting influence of fantasy adventure novels, sci-fi TV series, an astounding number of sitcom reruns, and even (shudder) used Star Wars Extended Universe paperbacks; to show, not to tell (never, never to tell!), that the true culprit is not the drugs, my laziness, or inability to finish anything, but The System.

Do you have any idea how easy it is to buy a book on an e-reader? Do you? Easier than buying crack, that's for sure. To download The Hogfather, you push just one button. Just one. Just like the rats in the cocaine experiments.

Why didn't they have the rats have to go out and find a dealer, anyway? That would have been much more realistic.

And don't say I had to take the first step, I had to go out and buy a Kindle. Don't just act like you know my story, just like that. It was a Christmas gift.

Yeah. You should be sorry.

Not bad, huh?

*In true “gonzo” style, I'm calling my drug of choice “paperbacks,” because “e-books” falls flat—in this way I force the greater meta-truth into the reader's soul by glossing over the actual “true” truth. Also, because needless footwear has become the culturally acceptable shorthand for how women waste money, I say “shoes” instead of “a weird no-button blazer I didn't need, and a pair of navy sateen American Eagle shorts with a bow.” Hunter would be so proud.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wild adventure, and other distractions

I have news.

No, I didn't get a book deal.

Or a movie deal.

Or acquire my first blog follower. Stop trying to make me feel like a huge loser.

I am, however, spending the next four months in India, which is pretty cool, even though most of my not-in-space-or-with-dragons story ideas take place in Africa. I'll go to Africa some other time.

In between shots, and travel plans, and being told I have to go somewhere else to get the next shot (who knows where), and packing, and wishing my visa would arrive already, I keep wondering about how this will fit in with writing.

I suspect the answer is that it won't.

Oh, I'll keep a journal, of course, since apparently one is required. (Reminds me, I was working on a post about journaling. Must finish that.) But I have a very strong feeling that I will not keep up with my commitment to spend some time working on either my novel or a screenplay each day (all depends on which project I've most recently decided is a completely hopeless case).

I'm a little depressed about this prospect, since I spent so many years putting off my writing career and only recently sat down and made myself get started.

I particularly wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month this November, and I really, really doubt that's going to happen.

Still, it's all material, right?

Meanwhile, other people out there are writing, and you should get to know them. In particular, the Princess Scribe, whose review of Cowboys and Aliens is hilarious.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writing helps for hacks

When I first decided to give up on writing something I could be proud of and focus on writing something I could complete (and possibly get paid for), I wanted to keep my plots as formulaic as possible. But, when I sat down at my computer, I found that I could not remember a single plot formula. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard these alleged formulas spelled out, except for the ones that start “boy meets girl.” As a hopeless unromantic, that didn't seem to help.

I took to googling “plot formulas,” “formula fiction,” etc. to get inspired. Would you believe that search came up with nothing?

Finally, thanks to the good folks at i09, I have a nice, simple list to get started on:

I realize that this particular inspiration is not their intention. But it's working out great for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recommending the Low Life

I have tried and tried to get my friends to read Jeremy Clarke's weekly columns in The Spectator (the British magThe American Spectator, a completely different publication, is much more political, or maybe both are equally political only I'm too unfamiliar with UK politics to see it). For the most part, I have failed. I'm not sure whymaybe none of my friends has a sense of humor.

But youyou—you have a sense of humor. So you should definitely read this. You might think it's pointless. But does it really need a point? You might think that it comes with too little background information, that you don't know who this Clarke person is, why he's in Switzerland, why he cares if anyone knows Taki, and, most importantly, who the heck is Trev? But these are small matters. Trev is just this guy with a surreal problem. And Jeremy Clarke is nothing if not the best at painting a picture of surreal problems.

(I can actually explain who Trev is if anyone cares to ask. He was introduced into the Low Life several years ago, when Jeremy was infatuated with Sharon. But really, if you give him a chance, it's a great read without knowing all about Sharon.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who are we, really? And can I be someone else?

Reading Anne Lower's guest post at Save the Cat reminded me that, as a writer, I'm still not sure what my “voice” sounds like. I did submit a random essay about birds to this one time, and was told that I Write Like … drum roll … Neil Gaiman! But I'm not entirely sure that's true.

Although it's very exciting all the same. I write like Neil Gaiman and have way more time to post on my blog than he does. Tell your friends.

But really, I just haven't produced enough finished work to have a true sense of what makes my writing mine. If I could steal any one author's voice, it would without a doubt be Raymond Chandler's. One of my favorite books—possibly my all-time favorite—is Farewell, My Lovely. That thing is practically all voice, which might be off-putting to some. He devotes so much effort to establishing the atmosphere that it's easy to lose track of the plot, and the characters, and whose murder are we investigating again? Wait, that was a murder? I thought he just, ummmm—the only violent death I can remember was the nightclub owner who was in the wrong place at the wrong time...

So that would be my preferred voice. Neil Gaiman comes a close second. And in third—hmmm, I'll have to think about that one.

While my current (and previous) project is a fantasy, ideally I would like my writing to make reality feel fantastic, the way Farewell does. Chandler makes the real Southern California as mysterious and dramatic as, say, the Bladerunner Southern California. Of course, from a 21st-century perspective, one could just dismiss that as the effect of the passage of time. But I'm pretty sure that actual life in 1930s LA did not feel nearly as much like a dystopian scifi movie as one might hope.

Anyone out there have an idea of how to find one's voice?

Plot Device

Pretty cool short by Red Giant:

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Life Plan

See, I had this plan. I would work my way up through the newspaper world, getting an enormous amount of practice writing, become a foreign correspondent, just happen to be the only journalist on the ground at the outbreak of a major war in a little-known backwater country (I think China, Russia, and the UK were going to be involved. Maybe France.), win a Pulitzer, settle down, and write fiction.

Of course none of that happened. And when I decided to settle down and write fiction anyway, I made an enormously unpleasant discovery: Journalism and novel-writing are two very different things. Practice getting all the most interesting facts into a 29-word lead gets you absolutely nowhere when you sit down to write your very first novel. After setting my stories aside to focus on non-fiction for nearly a decade, my dialogue and scene descriptions were just as wooden, childish and unreadable as before.

'Course, I can write a kickass 29-word lead. Not to mention an awesome headline featuring a laugh-out-loud pun that the publisher will decide is inappropriate after we've printed our final proof and I've already turned off my computer. But I don't want to be a journalist anymore.

Malcolm Gladwell says you've got to invest 10,000 hours into a thing before you get really, really, really good at it. And his books are just so darn readable that he must be right about everything.

I have no idea how many hours I invested in my exciting newspaper career in the sticks. But apparently I'm back at the starting gate.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I was hunting around for a rejected article to see if I could rework it to post here, and discovered that I have an enormous folder called “inactive projects.”

I had forgotten a lot of these old ideas. Some of them are just outlines, some just ten pages of random brainstorming, some actually include the beginnings of a rough draft.

When I started writing, I was terrified of becoming one of those people who talk a lot about the novel they're working on but actually Never Write. Someone who's always trying to find the time, the right workspace, the right routine. So I frantically found a way to put something down on paper most days.

But each day it was something different. Each idea seemed to peter out after one day and two pages. So, the next day, I would frantically come up with a new idea, anything to avoid having to log a day in which I Didn't Write.

But of course that leads us to yet another nightmare—maybe I am someone who Never Finishes Anything.

Failure has so very many faces.

Unintentional faces

The blue and red one in the middle is clearly going to eat that kid once the photographer looks away.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Laugh, minions, laugh!

About a week ago, when I decided once and for all to ditch the Space Opera, I started work on a short, simple, economical-to-produce (I think) screenplay. It's about a hunchbacked assistant to a mad scientist. (I'm sticking with my Aim Low strategy for the early years of my writing career. Why would anyone think they could write the great American novel on their first try?)

I'm shooting for black comedy here, and I think the overall concept has potential. The initial scenes have been fun to write.

Of course, this draft isn't funny enough. Or dark enough. It has to be darker, because at this stage of the game I don't think I have what it takes to make it really and truly rolling-on-the-floor funny.

But—drum roll, please, for the diabolical genius—if I make it darker, my target audience of the immature and alienated will think it's funnier.


This is ancient history, I know, but it's still hysterical every time I read it:
I will not read your f***ing script

Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing about not writing

This is actually fun.

(Do I use the word “actually” too often? Do you look like you care?)

Even if, as is readily apparent, no one, not even the friend I drafted to be my official blog sounding board and accountability partner (yo, Kayla!), is reading this, it is awfully satisfying to actually (damn it) publish something on a regular basis.

Also, there's lots of cool fiddling about with design and links and reading of AdSense rules (please, please, please do not get me in trouble with the AdSense rules. They are mean. They cut off Allie Brosh, who is clearly the ultimate in awesome page viewing-ness. I can't even officially follow her, she's so awesome.) and otherwise maintaining my online presence, lots of things that are technically work and yet do not involve much actual writing.

Oooo, maybe I should be hunting down old film scripts to read, to learn from other people's styles. That would be productive. And easy.

And I'll need more coffee.

I also have some phone calls to make.

Oh dear. Apparently there's an almost endless supply of stock photos that can be my blog background image. Agggh, this is exactly how I screwed up my last job.

But I don't think there's any way forward until I've tried every single one of them.

This might actually be too much fun.

And the outer space pictures are shamefully limited. Although the planet earth shot provides a wonderful background for Milton Glaser's bald head in yesterday's post.

Okay, some of these background pictures are too dark for people to read the writing. And this is a blog about writing.

But I really, really like them. Do people need to actually see all the words?

This, too, is how I screwed up my last job.

See? I can fill up an entire work day without doing any actual writing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On failure

On a less self-indulgent note, if my previous post resonates at all with my (as yet nonexistent) readers, you should probably watch this in order to drag your ego back out of the gutter:

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

(hat tip to Julian Gough's Twitter feed).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So it has come to this.

My genius plan to support myself as a crafter/designer until I finished a writing project resulted in handbags that no one wanted to look at, much less buy.

“Semi” employment has turned into something more like tertiary employment. (I know that's not the way the word "tertiary" should be used. I'm doing it anyway.)

House sitting actually costs money, rather than the other way around.

After four months and roughly $1,000 of repairs, I have learned that my engine has a terminal illness.

My novel, that was maybe going to be a screenplay, if that seemed like it worked better, turns out to be both unreadable AND unwatchable. Apparently making it up as you go results in a plot entirely too much like real life to be gripping, no matter how many tentacled monsters you throw in.

So I guess I'm writing a blog.

I hate blogs.

I hate the word—“blog” sounds like something horrible that a surgeon removes from your insides, like a bezoar, only it's alive and slowly consuming you, and possibly eating your soul. I hate the concept—why is so much writing talent devoted to the literary equivalent of a reality show?

Hmmm, maybe I could write a horror film about a bezoar that's alive?

I hate that my generation's major cultural achievement is babbling about oneself to total strangers.

I actually like reading blogs a lot. But I was trying to be above writing one myself.

I spent nearly a year on that plotless novel. It wasn't even that ambitious a novel—after nearly a year's work, I failed to at writing a lowbrow, unoriginal, monsters-and-explosions space opera.

So, realizing I should probably stop pretending I'm above much of anything, here I am.