June 23, 2002

I haven't spent a lot of time looking at writers’ journals but what little I have seen tends to revolve around the whole issue of how little is actually getting done. This is something I never wanted my journal experiment to become, which is why journal entries have been so few and far between. Okay, it's not the only reason, but it is a reason. I've done enough bitching and moaning about how I thought revising the prequel to The Magic Flute was going to be easy.

So, I figured I would type a few words about what I have done to get things rolling again. Not rolling with any great speed, but at least, something is getting written. I also figured actually writing about what I wanted to put into this journal was better than more random philosophical musing like that crap about how the devil would go around collecting souls.

Anyway, work is puttering along. No fun but it pays the bills. Not much time left in the evenings to work. Not getting enough sleep. Blah blah blah.

So, I've tried a trick to get the old juices flowing again. I would just write a random paragraph or two from some upcoming part of the novel. I didn't worry about how it would fit into the greater scheme of things. I didn't worry if it would ever actually get used. The whole idea was just to get something down.

It's seems to have worked or helped or whatever. I got one good night of writing two weeks ago and two less productive but good days last week. This is a much-needed improvement. Ede revealed a little thing or two about what the Dryn think of Tahrl, which kind of surprised me. I mean it makes perfect sense. I guess I just hadn't thought about it quite like that before. Don't know why. Just didn't.

I'm slightly concerned about the tone of the work so far. It's a little dark. Tahrl is depressed and confused all the time, and I don't like it. This is supposed to be the light work. The whole silly caper before the shit hits in the fan in The Magic Flute. I've actually got myself wondering if the events of last September have contributed to the somber tone of the work; after all, it was only the night before when I really got the prequel going. Psyched about good writing one night; next day, watch the World Trade Center fall. Yeah, maybe that is influencing the tone.

Anyway, the way I've managed to get things going again is kind of odd. It's really contrary to how I normally work. Skipping ahead to write random bits just doesn't work for me. It's something I discovered about my writing style a very long time ago.

I can't plan ahead. It's counterproductive. Maybe, I should rephrase. I can't write out of sequence. I'm a very linear worker. I can't work on chapter three or four and then go back to chapter one. If I do chapter three and then chapter one, by the time I finish chapter two, I'll discover that chapter three just doesn't fit any more, and I don't mean the little things. I mean everything will be different.

I mean I know where I want to go but so much of my writing is improvisational that I can't lock myself into the future and don't tell me that it is a normal part of the writing process to revise. I mean if I do chapter seven first then I sure as hell had better call it chapter one and put it at the beginning of the book. If I stick with chapter seven as chapter seven and then do chapter one set before the events of chapter seven (hell, even if the events of chapter one happen after chapter seven), then by the time I finish chapter one, chapter seven will have to be thrown out. The whole thing. I wasted all that time.

What is worse is I'll fight myself. I'll fight and fuss and kick and scream and try to make sure that nothing goes into chapter one that would render chapter seven void. I can't work like that. I'll lock up. I don't mean this as any kind of only when the muse hits me kind of thing. Inspiration must strike or else I do nothing. I mean I learned this the hard way.

Way back in junior college (yes, I want to junior college, but I was sixteen at the time, which is a story for another time altogether) I had an English class where the teacher made us hand in outlines of the structures of our essays. I quickly discovered something. I couldn't stick to the outlines. My writing flowed so much out of what I had just finished scribbling that I would diverge from the outlines into strange and much more interesting places than the outline allowed. It was frustrating as hell. I would sit there, trying to make it fit, trying to follow the outline so I wouldn't get nailed in the grades (yes, we had to follow our fucking outlines), and I would just sit there and sit there. I would slowly get more and more frustrated because I couldn't make my writing conform to what I thought sounded like a good idea when I did the outline.

If I followed the outline, I would do a lousy essay. If I ignored the outline, I would do an interesting essay. Something far more creative and insightful and resourceful than if I had stuck with the damn outline and that's not bragging. I mean creative and insightful and resourceful for me. More interesting than what I produced when following the damn script. I don't mean the end product was any good just better than the scripted idea.

So, my writing has always started at the beginning and gone forward, which doesn't mean they are chronological. Just look at any chapter of The Magic Flute from Armada's perspective. I can do all kinds of crazy shit with time in my writing, putting the first scene last and the last scene first kind of thing. I just have to start with the first word on the first page and finish with the last word on the last page. It's the only way I've ever managed to make my writing work.

So, writing these random bits is really kind of freaky. It's contrary to everything I've ever done before. And, just as I thought, none of the random bits are going to make it into the final story. They are just random bits. Cast onto the page. It's the only existence they shall ever have. Made them hard to do but hell at least it has me going again. Not with any great speed but at least I'm going.

June 30, 2002

A friend recently told me that I should add a movie review section to my website. Oh, I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon, and just to get it out of the way, work on the prequel to The Magic Flute proceeds slowly. It's all getting written longhand at the moment. I'm switching off between pencil and ink. One day, I write with this mechanical pencil I really like. The next day, I write with a red ink pen. Another day, I use a blue pen. Sometimes, I even use black. It varies from day to day. I try to never use the same one twice in a row. This book is the first I've tried doing some of the writing in pencil. I wanted to feel if a pencil made a difference. The current scene just keeps growing and growing, and they've started to talk about going into the mountains. I had this weird thought the other night. They were talking about going into the mountains, but I couldn't remember if anybody had brought it up in the first place or if they had all spontaneously known that they were going to go. I double-checked. Yep, going to the mountains was mentioned twice before they all started talking about it. I was worried that I had had one of those author knows more than anybody moments; fortunately, I had covered my ass.

Anyway, back to the movie review. No, I'm not going to do a movie review. I just finished reading Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card. It was pretty good up until the moment where I kind of started skimming chapters and then put the book aside, which was kind of weird. I love reading books. I read slow, and I read every word because I love reading books so much. It really takes a lot to make me put one aside undone. I can only think of a couple of examples.

The most recent book I put aside was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Oh, boy, was that a lousy book. I didn't give up on it though. I skimmed and sped read it all the way to the end.

I gave up on Valis by Philip K. Dick. Actually, I just put that one aside, meaning to get back to it the next day. I simply haven't gotten around to picking it back up and that is how the situation has stood for about five years now.

I got about a hundred pages into Shawn's Way by Marcel Prost and about a hundred pages into The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I got about twenty pages into Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller before giving up. With each book, there reached a point where I would ask myself a simple question. What is this shit? At which point, I would put the book aside and never touch it again.

Now, I'm not going to try and say that there was something here or something there that these guys all had in common. All works are different, and I'm going to have a different reaction to each and every single one. Some things I like because they are cool. Some things I like because of very complicated reasons, and everything is different.

I really liked Ender's Game. Don't really know why. Haven't tried to analyze it. I just like it. In fact, I read it again just before starting Ender's Shadow to remember the setting. I devoured Ender's Game on this second read. A friend had told me Ender's Shadow was good so I was expecting good things, and I wasn't disappointed.

Ender's Shadow is a really good book up until the point where it starts to suck. Ender's Shadow does something interesting. It deconstructs Ender's Game and that really bothered me. I didn't want to know that the hero of the first book was really an idiot and that it was the hero of the second book who really saved the day. I'm sure we could all analyze this and understand why learning the truth about the first book caused me such dismay, but I don't feel like doing that. It's way too easy to over analyze things.

Ender's Shadow is cool in spite of the fact that it sucks because it performs a literary trick that I haven't read done that often. It shows how changing perspective can drastically change your impression of what was really going on. It's a literary trick. It's the kind of thing I would do.

I can only think of two other examples of this kind of thing. Oh, I know there are more, but I can only think of two. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice took the villain from Interview with the Vampire and turned him into the hero. I still say Lestat is a naughty person, but I guess that is what people love about him so much. Oh, well. Queen of the Damned was a really lousy book, too, by the way. I never read the fourth book because Queen of the Damned was so bad. Larry Niven wrote a whole bunch of books that shared a common history, and he once thought about ripping it all down. There is an essay in N-Space where Larry Niven talked about how he could take the whole history from the other books and turn it into an elaborate fraud. He wrote Ringworld instead, which was okay. It was The Ringworld Engineers that really sucked.

My point? Oh, right, I do have a point. It's a really cool literary trick to take something and spin it on its head simply by changing the central character and filtering everything though his perspective. Yes, I tend to use the generic he/him/his when referring to someone or thing of indiscriminate gender. Deal with it.

I'm not sure I would use the deconstruction literary trick on such a grand scale as a novel. I mean by using this trick there is an element of fooling the reader. Betrayal. Pull the rug out from under him. Why do you think I've been calling it a trick? I don't know on what scale I would use it. I mean I would love to work it into The Faire Folk of Gideon. I'm just dying to figure out where I can write this great long passage going on for a hundred pages or more and then suddenly have Mathew Drake say:

Oh, wait, that never happened. Forget I said that.

One hundred or two hundred pages gone just like that. Yeah, sounds like fun. The Faire Folk of Gideon is even designed so that kind of stunt can happen. I doubt I'll actually do it. I mean it is kind of a mean thing to do. It reminds me of that famous television show where they invalidated an entire season by claiming it was all just a dream.

copyright © 2002 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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