Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Odds and Ends - Another Junk Mail Post

According to some religious types the end of the world is set to begin this Saturday at 6:00 am. The San Francisco Chronicle posted a FAQ on its website for those who are interested. I'm not one of those religious types, by the way, just fascinated.

For folks who expect to be raptured on Saturday, there's an outfit run by "confirmed atheists" that will take care of your pets. Apparently, business is brisk and they've increased their rates due to the high interest.

I watched this week's episode of Doctor Who, The Doctor's Wife by the great Neil Gaiman, with my brother and damn if it didn't make me cry. The storyline was epic, huge, and super satisfying. The official Doctor Who website has a ton of extras including a bunch of Neil related stuff. I just found this stuff less than two minutes ago. I feel like I'm going to faint as my fangirl glee kicks in! (Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have had that soy mocha with no whipped cream this evening. I do feel a bit punched up tonight and it's...12:45 am.)

I've been working on a new version of my story FailSafe. The original story is on my other blog Fainting in Coils. I didn't think much of it would change but I just added some new dialogue to one of the chapters and am already thinking of other changes. More importantly, the epic-ness that will become the new Gryphon/Mock Turtle story, Transmogrification, is seriously rolling around in my mind. I'm not sure when I'm going to write that one down but the characters are knocking on the inside of my head which means I'm going to have to write it down very soon. The new FailSafe and Transmogrification will likely be part of an experiment I'm doing in self-publishing.
It's another big month for watching plays. A list:

Angels in America: Millenium Approaches - watched twice (hey, it's my favorite play, the tickets were cheap, and it's rarely performed).

Tales of the City, the world premiere of a new musical based on the books by Armistead Maupin. Going to see the first preview tomorrow night.

Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, put on by Berkeley Rep. This particular production is getting monster reviews. I can't wait.

Little Shop of Horrors, put on by Boxcar Theatre, is going to have several numbers performed outside (on Skid Row). Should be a really cool production. I went to a special event at the Conservatory (the plants, not the music) and two cast members were on hand to sing a few numbers from the show. They were great!

Reborning, a world premiere play put on by SF Playhouse, is getting great reviews. Great cast, fascinating premise.

Lastly, this isn't a play but I'm going to artMRKT on Friday which is a huge event of art galleries from around the world, including the Bay Area and New York City. Should be a lot of fun.

I might be getting a job, finally. We'll see. Nothing is for certain until it actually happens. Fingers crossed.
If the world ends this weekend, I can say I've been doing all right. As many of you know, my motto is "What the fuck have you done lately?" I have this motto as wallpaper on my phone and look at it all the time. And I ask myself what the fuck have I done lately. For a while now I can say that my answers have been satisfactory. A short list of stuff I'm happy about:
  • I've written two stories (a short story and a fan fiction) that are the most polished pieces of writing I've done so far. And if the world doesn't end, my writing is only going to get better.
  • I checked some publishers and realized I could probably get some of my weird blog posts that I've tagged "Surreal Shit" published as prose poems.
  • I'm working on the third draft of my novel. This puts me in a serious minority. How many people can say they've made it that far? Not many.
  • I've been to Europe, Zion National Park, and the area around Joshua Tree National Park in the last year.
  • I've indulged in my obsessions with Fullmetal Alchemist, Luis Bunuel's films, and South Korean Cinema and have been chronicling those obsessions.
  • I see my family and friends regularly.
  • I wrote the first draft for my next novel, all 75,000 words of it.
  • I'm still working with the penguins after 23 years.
It's a wonderful life and a beautiful world. I hope you are all enjoying yourselves. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Writing Life: The Value of Critique

Once again I'm humbled.

I've been hesitant about sharing my writing with other people but when I had my last short story critiqued by my writing group I was amazed. I thought the story was good when I went in but they gave me fantastic suggestions, all of which I incorporated. Their suggestions made the story much better, more moving, and allowed me to really bring out the relationship between the two main characters. I'm now working on sending this story out for publication.

I have another story I've been working on for a while and I sent it to someone to review (or beta as we call it). It's a fan fiction story. Sorry, I won't say anything more than that. Once again, I thought it was in good shape but this person gave me wonderful suggestions for making it better, more accurate, and consistent.

The process of becoming a writer is all about falling in love, stepping out tentatively, gaining confidence, then relearning that you need to be humble. Here's what I mean:
  • Falling in Love - In order to keep writing you have to fall in love. If you're writing fiction, you start out by falling in love with your story and your characters. This keeps you writing and helps you develop your own style. When you see your own style unfolding, you fall madly in love with your own thoughts and words. As I mentioned before I LOVE reading my own stuff out loud. I love hearing my own words strung together.
  • Stepping Out Tentatively - In my case, I started out by writing for this blog. I learned that people like my words and I became a much better writer with regular posting. After that, I started going to my writing group and writing fiction regularly. More improvements followed.
  • Gaining Confidence - After a while, I started thinking that my writing was going well, might even be pretty good. Falling in love starts to spill over into a bit of egoism. A fellow writer explained to me that he thought all writers have to be egotistical to some degree. He's right.
  • Relearning You Have To Be Humble - It's difficult for me to to let go of my own words. They're safe and I'm already happy with them. Why should I invite somebody else in to take a look? Writing for yourself is good if that's what you want, but your writing can't improve unless you subject it to scrutiny. I was afraid when I had my writing group critique my short story even though I knew they would be gentle about it, but sending my fan fiction story to someone I didn't know scared the hell out of me. Even after I received the comments and verified all of them were excellent, kind, and constructive, I still had a hard time starting the process of reviewing them in detail and making edits. I spent a good deal of time psyching myself out just so I can could open the documents on my desktop. Once I got into it, the process was fun and satisfying.
This process is so humbling. I read and re-read this fan fiction story, made a ton of edits, and did many revisions to get to where I am now. I also spent almost two months reviewing the source material and taking extensive notes since I wanted the story to follow the existing canon. And I felt I was familiar with the source material to begin with! This process was tremendously instructive for my novel writing because I learned that this kind of scrutiny of the characters' back stories is essential. The person who critiqued my fan fiction brought up plot holes I knew about but had not resolved simply because I decided to be lazy about them, made outstanding suggestions to bring the story in line with the source material, pointed out where things weren't clear, asked great questions, and made excellent grammatical and sentence structure suggestions.

I thought I'd done everything I possibly could to make the story the best it could be but I was wrong. It's impossible to catch everything so a second set of eyes is necessary. It makes me wonder about my blog posts. I'm really comfortable with writing, editing, and posting my own stuff but it occurs to me that they could be so much better if someone critiqued them. On the other hand, this is just a blog and the writing isn't supposed to be out of this world.

I keep wondering what the hell I'm going to do when I finally finish the third draft of my novel. It will be in decent enough shape to show it someone for feedback but who am I going to show it to? I'm so intimidated by that idea. So much work and love has gone into these characters and this story and I'm terrified to let someone else see it. Fortunately it will be a little while before I have to really think about that.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Road Trip to the Desert (Joshua Tree): The Pictures

Near Joshua Tree National Park

We drove to Reno, Nevada then down US 395 to Pioneertown, California, about 10 miles from Joshua Tree National Park, across the 10 freeway near Pasadena, California, up US 5 over the Grapevine in Southern California back to San Francisco.

Current Favorite Self-Portrait of Miss Turtle