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.