Blog Archives

The Value of Encouragement

I mentioned last time that something interesting happened while I was working on the revisions for BlackWolf.

This needs a little backstory, so here we go with a flashback scene.

Go back twenty years. I finished the first complete version of BlackWolf (then, the full title was Black Wolf, Demon Wolf – I got tired of typing that). It wasn’t my first novel, but we don’t talk about the first two; this was the first one I had hopes for. A very good friend and mentor, a local mystery author, read it for me and gave me her thoughts. She also heard that a Canadian fantasy author, Charles de Lint, was Writer in Residence in Ottawa, a rather larger city than ours, and that he would read work sent to him and send it back with his thoughts. What she didn’t discover from her source was that, quite reasonably, one was only supposed to send the first 100 pages or so. We sent the whole thing. Oops.

He was kind enough not only to read the full thing, but to say some very encouraging things and write me a rather long letter breaking down his observations and suggestions. He also offered to meet with me to discuss it. So, in May of 1995, my father gave me a ride to Ottawa (I was 21, and I never did get the whole driving thing) and I spent a very instructive afternoon. I was at least as shy then as now, and I was nervous, and I remember I started to giggle a couple of times at comments that were meant to be serious, but I also remember that he was very patient. Between his letter and that discussion, I learned the fundamentals of how to take what I had written, this wonderful ecstatic creative outpouring of raw material, and look at it in a whole new way, so that I could work it into something not just good, but much better than good. Read the rest of this entry

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Who Am I Writing For?

Well, I did it to myself again. No matter how many times it happens, no matter how many times I learn the lesson, it still creeps back up and ambushes me again.

Write what you want to write, write what sings to you. Forget what you can complete and present to the world; if it isn’t singing to you right now, this moment, then any work you do on it will be poorer quality and at best not worth it, at worst discouraging enough to interfere when it should be singing later. Don’t ever, ever try to modify the content to what some hypothetical audience might want; use every bit of your skill to make it come to life for them, instead, and give them something uniquely your own.

It sounds like a fairly simple concept, doesn’t it? Just write, nothing else matters.

Except that it does. Read the rest of this entry

Project Inventory

With Yin-Yang finally finished, and the year wrapping up, it seemed like a good idea to sit down and do an inventory of current writing projects.

The cliche remark about creativity is an exclamation or a question about coming up with ideas. In my case… I’m unable to not have them. The world is filled with them on all sides. Does that make it easier? Um, no, not really.

For me, there’s a fairly consistent progression as far as how much effort is going into a given phase and what the payback is.

Usually there’s a bit of a spike in the required input at the beginning, while I’m digging around on name websites and through books for character names, trying to work out what they do with themselves in very broad strokes that will be refined in the next phase. At that point, I’m so excited about having something new to explore and seeing so many possibilities that I barely notice the cost. More energy is being generated from that excitement than I’m using. Read the rest of this entry

The Resurrection Project

Sounds so portentous as a title, doesn’t it? The only thing being resurrected is some old writing, so don’t worry, no zombies.

First, an apology. I haven’t been keeping up, and probably won’t be in the immediate future. Enough real-life stress hit me all at once to drop me to my knees, although it didn’t completely flatten me. My psychiatrist decided that, between that and my typically lower stress tolerance as days get shorter, we needed to try antidepressants again. Now, my earliest experiences were generally positive, good results with little or no side effects, but unfortunately they stop working for me after a while. I’m unsure whether my body is just rejecting anything new or whether the ones we’ve tried more recently are just harsher, but these days it tends to be little or no result and horrendous side effects. I spent most of October asleep, and the later part of it in pain every time I ate. Two weeks later, my body’s still trying to get past the effects, ie, sleeping a lot and eating very warily. Thus, it’s been difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, let alone actually write them.

However, the worse I feel, the more my natural inclination is to run away mentally. I wasn’t feeling clear enough to do final YinYang revisions or work on the next novel. I could have worked on Gaia, my playground world. Read the rest of this entry

To My 15-year-old Self

Life and my own wonky brain chemicals caught up with me, and the meds that are supposed to help, well, don’t work as well as they used to. While I’ve felt like writing, I haven’t felt particularly clear or been able to settle even on a single thing to play with or work on. So, I decided to go back and read some of my very oldest work.

Now, I save everything. I still ache, knowing over a hundred pages ended up in a dumpster somewhere after my backpack was stolen – it was just an experiment, but it was part of me. I have roughly thirty 2-inch-ring binders that are filled to capacity with the longhand work from about 1988 onwards. It’s been a long time since I looked at the oldest. I actually spent a day last week laughing myself to tears because some of it is just so bad – and yet, from there I reached my current level, even though all I really had going for me at the time was lots of vague and unrefined ideas, decent technical language skills, a head full of things I’d read, and a huge amount of free time since we lived in the country and I had few chores to do.

And yet, as bad as it is… it also gives me a direct window into the way one teenager thought, and maybe more importantly, how she felt. It’s hard to remember how the world looked, over two decades ago, but reading the oldest, I can see it. Hundreds of pages of my own young self’s dreams, emotions, speculation, as she struggled to grasp things that were a stretch at the time: gender roles, priorities, personal responsibility, same-sex relationships, ethics and morality, the value of life and individuality, the difference between sex and love. I think it should probably be considered an invaluable and unreplaceable resource.

So, for anyone else in the kind of position I was in then, just getting going but questioning whether it’s worth it, I thought I’d figure out what I would say to myself of 25 years ago. (It’s long enough for 2 posts and then some, so maybe I’m making up for missing a couple lately!) Read the rest of this entry