Monday, June 23, 2014

Dammit Blogger!

I had every intention of writing a real post tonight but blogger kept messing up.  Seems that since I've been back it's been one problem after another.  Google needs to get their shit together, I still can't read half my blogroll. 

I will try again tomorrow. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

Keeping It Unreal

I read this post over at the IWSG blog giving advice to women about writing from a male perspective.  It's excellent advice, especially the part that suggests that if you want authenticity, you should let a man read what you wrote and get his opinion. That said, the piece did get me to thinking and you folks know what that means.....

I cannot count how many times I've read a book or seen a movie and thought, "no man would ever say/do that."  One of two things has happened, either a woman wrote it or a man wrote it for women.  Truth is, men understand woman a lot more than women understand men.  Relax ladies, I'll explain.

Women are very complex.  Women over think things and add all kinds of meaning to things that had none.  I won't lie, it confuses the hell out of us men.  We don't understand why you are like that but we do understand that you are like that.

Men are very simple.  We rarely can be accused of over thinking anything.  If we bother to say anything, we say exactly what we're thinking, even if it's horribly inappropriate.  Not only do you women not understand why we are like this, you don't understand that we are like this.

Ya see, since women over think and attach meaning that never existed, when they consider how simple a man is, they over think it and add meaning that doesn't exist.

When a man is staring lovingly into your eyes and you're wondering what he's thinking, you probably wouldn't believe the answer.  Chances are he's either thinking, "I should switch and look into her other eye," or, "is that a zit," or, most probably, "does she want to have sex."  He's not thinking your eyes look like moon crystals or that he can see forever in your eyes or any other such romantic crap.

Men aren't like that.  Before someone brings up writers and poets, they are writing for an audience, most likely women.  If a man makes his living writing romantic stuff, he's not writing it for men.  Men don't read or watch that stuff unless we think doing so will let us see the woman that made us watch it naked.

There has been some talk over what have been called male perspective romances. Even these stories are complete crap if you're judging them in any realistic way.  They aren't written for men.  Romance written for men is called pornography.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like romantic movies or books.  Quite the contrary.  It's just that I've never run across any that are even remotely based on how men really are.  It's how women thing we are or how men think women think we are.  There is no truth to it.

And that's the real advice I'd give.  If you're trying to make your male character authentic, consider that it has to feel authentic to your audience.  If your audience is mostly female, your character shouldn't be too authentic, they will never believe an authentically written male. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Make Up My Mind

In my experience, writers are an unhelpfully helpful group when it comes to advice on writing.  It's not that they don't want to help, writers seem to be very eager to share their experiences, whether it's a book on writing, a blog on writing, or just a conversation about writing, they try to tell us what we want, and often desperately need, to hear.  Still, any such advice seems to always suffer from two universal writer advice issues, vagueness and contradiction.

For a group of people that make their living by manipulating the written word, writers are incredibly vague when it comes to advice.  One recent piece of advice I read told me to make my readers relate to my characters.  Another told me to make my characters deep and to constantly keep them struggling.  Make your settings come to life.  Pull your reader into your story, make them care about your characters. 

All of which makes perfect sense.  None of which tells you how to go about achieving such seemingly obvious goals.  If my character has cancer, how much more struggle do they really need?  Should she also be chased by a pack of rabid wolves while foraging for food from a fast food dumpster which she must do to survive because she lost everything she had in a market crash the day after her violent ex-boyfriend beat her up for his dinner not being ready on time?

Even age old advice, sacred tenets of scribes across the realm, tends to be vague.  Show, don't tell.  Write what you know.  Write first, then edit.  It's not that I don't understand these concepts.  In fact, they make perfect sense to me on a logical level. It's when it comes time to write that I become an atheist in the face of the writing gods.  If I'm writing a story and an idea requires a dialog change two pages back, shouldn't I stop and fix it while it's fresh in my mind?  My life isn't that exciting, no one wants to read about what I know!  It's a chair in the middle of an empty room, telling the reader it's there is showing them!!!!

On the off chance the vagueness doesn't get you, the contradictions will take their best shot.  Write a detailed outline.  You don't need an outline.  Keep your characters believable.  Make your characters larger than life.  Put your reader in your setting, what do they see, smell, hear?  Don't get bogged down in details.

Someone please make up my mind.

This is just the writing portion of the advice, it gets even more helpfully unhelpful when you go seeking advice on writing and submitting queries, finding an agent, finding a publisher, self publishing, chapter length, word count, and how to actually earn any money from your work. 

I been writing since I was 12.  In my early 20s I decided to see if I could get published.  I ordered a book that promised to show me what every writer needed to know, from craft to publication.  No single act has so profoundly discouraged me than reading that book.  It was filled with vague contradiction that made me run away from the keyboard shivering in fear.  What the hell was I thinking?  I couldn't do this.  I may have some great story ideas but this book was supposed to tell me how to get published and I was more confused than ever. 

I've never shared my fictional writing with anyone other than teachers until I started blogging, and even then I kept it to an absolute minimum, sharing only when my ego demanded it.  I'm insecure yet very proud of my fictional offerings.  When the first piece I shared was well received, I started thinking about submitting something for publishing.  I went looking for advice on getting published.

You've heard the definition of insanity, right?

I stepped away again, back into the nonfiction writer's world where I belonged. 

Curious thing about fictional characters, they demand to be freed from the confines of the imagination.  Try as I might, I could not stop writing.  I didn't write much, the characters weren't set free.  Instead they were put on leashes, allowed to run around the yard a bit before being safely put back into their kennels.  

I didn't mean to go looking for helpful advice.  I joined a writer's group with every intention of lurking in the shadows, out of reach of the terrifyingly vague unhelpful helpfulness it was sure to offer.  It wasn't what I expected.  It wasn't what I was looking for but it wasn't vague either.  A glimmer of hope emerged.

Last night, a little more than a month later, I got it.  I finally understood why the advice is so vague and contradictory.  I was so busy looking for answers I didn't stop to consider one important piece of advice I had read many times, there are no rules.  What works for one author has no meaning at all to another.  Even spelling and grammar rules are more guidelines than unbreakable commandments. 

A light didn't go off in my mind, a nuclear bomb did.  With enthusiasm I hadn't felt since I was 12, I opened up a new word document and wrote the first chapter of what I hope will become my first submitted work.  Sure, I hope for publication but submitting is my first goal.  I have confidence in my talent but I am still working on learning what works for me.

To those of you reading this that may be where I was at, I offer this, it's not only the craft that requires you to find what works for you, it's also the advice you seek.  Every writer is different and their advice will reflect that.  Writing isn't like other jobs where you get trained to complete a repetitive task or like cooking where you can follow a recipe.  Writing is an art and as such will forever be subjective.  Find what works for you.

Friday, June 13, 2014

As Much As I'd Like to Gloat....

"A financial arrangement is causing you grief -- so much so that you may have to escape prematurely. There's nothing wrong or shameful about that as long as you learn from the experience."

So says my horoscope for today.  Which is timely because last night it did occur to me that I might have to discover a love for government cheese if I didn't get a job and quick.  Being the relaxed guy I am, I haven't been too worried about it but last night it got to me a bit.  I decided to get up today and buckle down.

I woke up to a call I ended up missing anyway.  A call I had been waiting for.  I just hadn't been waiting for it at 8:24 in the morning.  Message said the caller would get back to me around 11.  I was awake and would have no distractions, I got up and went to my computer to take care of unemployment issues and to job search.

Long story short, I was reinstated at my old job, making all of the steps I took unnecessary.  Kinda.

I remembered reading my horoscope, "learn from the experience." 

What did I learn from all of this?  At first, I couldn't help but think the lesson was that I win again.  I realize that is incredibly juvenile but that is who I am.  Don't worry, I didn't stop there.  I may have "won" but there will be a price and I expect to pay it for a long long time. 

Then I thought, maybe the lesson is that I should watch my back better.  I've let my guard down and it bit me in the ass.  That must be it.  The universe was telling me to be more careful because people are out to get me!

Wait, that's a bit too conspiratorial even for me. 

What the hell was the lesson?

Ask and it shall be answered.

Several people have asked me how I can go back after what they did.  Truth is, I need a job that can pay my bills.  It might not be my ideal outcome but it does allow me to go on eating and paying for my house and putting gas in my car, all things I need to consider as I look for ways to move on.  Getting my job back today wasn't a win, it was a temporary reprieve.  I need to keep looking.  Keep bettering myself.  Keep my eyes open for opportunity. 

If I stay there long enough, there will be a next time.  The universe is telling me not to be there for it. 

Message received.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Not Gone, Just Distracted

I have not given up writing.  This is not one of my breaks where I walk away for a year or so.  My time has been otherwise occupied with real life. 

Last Tuesday, I was fired from a job I'm not particularly fond of.  Why?  I can't really discuss it yet because I'm still in the process of trying to ask those responsible "what the fuck" in more workplace appropriate wording. 

I've been dealing with unemployment and all the requirements that go along with that, which here in my state seem to be more complicated than they need to be, it's almost as if it's run by the government or something.

I have an idea for a story but I'm stuck on how to get my characters into a situation that would make the story plausible.  So many stories come to me in the middle.  Usually I can figure out how the characters got there but this one is stumping me.

I've decided to take a much needed break from life and just enjoy some mindless video game time in my now overly abundant free time.  Once I get the work thing resolved, I'll work on a proper post.  Until then, I hope you are all well.