Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I got nuthin'

The big advantage to traveling around in China is that I never am short of blog topics. Sitting here in Venice, I could talk about, I don't know, my cats. Or I could bitch about politics. It's funny, really, because Venice CA is a wonderful place. People come from all over the world to spend some time here, and I love it. Objectively, Venice is no less interesting than China. But I'm not especially inspired to post about it.

Partly I think this has to do with working more actively on my WIP again. Maybe I only get so many words per day. I wish I could write more eloquently or insightfully or...well, at all...about the process of writing, but I don't seem to be very good at that.

My amazingly talented buddy Bryn Greenwood has a cool post up about what she feels is one of the odder questions asked of writers - "where do you get your ideas from?":
Writers get their story ideas from everywhere. Everything.

A newspaper article. An overheard conversation. A non-verbal interaction glimpsed. A random string of free associations. A dream.
This is probably another one of those things I shouldn't admit. I have a hard time coming up with ideas. I always have. I tend to fix on something and worry it to death like one of those terriers with a rat. Not that I've actually ever seen a terrier with a rat. But I like the way it sounds.

Anyway, there was the time I fixated on blimps. Well, airships, more accurately. I had this script I could never quite make work that featured airships in a sort of cheerful dystopia - "Mad Max" as comedy. As is my habit, I tried to combine all sorts of things that didn't really go together: blimps, rain forests, rock stars, reality TV (this was before "Survivor," by the way). As mentioned, I never could quite make it work, but I liked the characters, and, you know, the blimps, so I proceeded to write six TV episodes based on that. Why? Who can say? I worked in film and TV and knew that the odds of my selling this thing were pretty much nil.

After that, I fixated on what I call my "Trashy Novel" series. I just wanted to write something for fun. I made up a world so I wouldn't be constrained by reality or have to do any research. The book turned out to be, oh, 540 pages. I had so much fun with this that I wrote a sequel. I am not going to admit in a public space how long that one is. See, I felt bad about how I'd left one of the main characters at the end of the first book. Thus, the second. The third is half-done, but I decided this was not a smart use of my time.

More recently, I fixated on...well, how incredibly pissed off I was at things like the Iraq War and trashing the Constitution, which I was certain would be the final straw that would collapse the American economy. Um, yeah. But since I had this notion that I really should write something I might be able to sell, I set the story mainly in China. China's big, right? And I threw a bunch of other disparate stuff in there as well. Another one of my, "Let's juggle a flaming torch, a bowling ball and a chainsaw and see how it all comes out!" projects.

I envy writers who are inspired by something and construct a story around that thing. I seem to spend a lot of time flailing around, trying to take in all this weird shit that doesn't go together and make it somehow make sense.

My reality is like that, I guess.

So, this latest book started with a setting, and then a vague idea. I can't remember where I read this or who said it, except he is a well-known author, and that was his story-building method, he said: a setting and an idea. I relate.

Then as is my wont, I started throwing some stuff in there that didn't go together to see if I could make it make sense. Not as much as some of my wackier projects, and when I worried that I was piling on too much with this one, what I thought was a disparate element turned out to be intimately connected with the main driver of the story.

Reality is getting too meta, even for me.

I still can't tell if the book is going to work, some 35K into it, but I wrote a scene the other night I really like. I like that I've got my main character in a real bind, with no clear escape from her situation. Whether I can sustain this for another 50-60K, I really don't know.

I'm going to go kill someone now. That should help. I mean, with the book.

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