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Stephen King

Notes, Fragmenta

Today: 3000 words.

Not enough, but it’s the start of something so that’s okay. These things build momentum. Stories are storms of action + emotion, there are lulls where you can layer in all the exposition and setting details, let the Readers catch a glimpse of their surroundings, and then there are the rising winds of foreshadowing + threat, the explosion of emotional beats, immediate character catharsis – and then the winds change.

Especially so with proprietorial work, there is a delivery of experience that has to be met. Avoid formulaism. Always try to include a shock, an unexpected call-out, a new direction. But writing work is still work, I have my numbers that I have to hit by the end of the day if the contract is going to pay.

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Finished Mr. King’s Revival which is of course, excellent. I read King as much for enjoyment as I do writerly education. It’s like a masterclass in voice and character.

But however, on the recommendation of Orbital Operations (Dr. Ellis’s newsletter) am now working through Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station which is just joyous–when I refixed my head to the books parameters. All novels are like that, I think. They are (should be?) their own little ecology, and you have to learn how to read it. Only at the start right now, but a few of Mr. Tidhar’s elements really chime with me: 1. His willingness to mess with the rules of genre writing. Kinda magical realist imagery in a SpecFic world. 2. The fact that his future Israel-Palestine is like now but turned up. That Cory Doctorow quote, when he was once asked about what he thought the future would become: “like this..but MORE. More good stuff, more bad stuff…” (more genetic engineering, more prejudice, more AI, more poverty, more inequality, more interesting ways to be free [my own words]).

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Final Space is actually really good. Fight me.

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Documentaries:

Watched hardly any this month. I’m always looking for more online documentaries, and I think that I have finally exhausted Films for Action. TopDocs, and Youtube. Sometimes, I really wish that Youtube would change their filters preferences:

[] Short

[] Long

[] Upload Date

[] Not batshit crazy

[] Not thinly-veiled NeoCon/Oil Dollar/PsyOp propaganda (delete where appropriate)

Freedom Riders from Top Documentary Films/available elsewhere/ was beautiful and inspiring though. Quaker Action. An insight into the movement that catalyzed the Civil Rights movement in the US?

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My wife has just reliably informed me that she has just made bioplastic out of bananas. I am painfully aware that come the Climate Change Apocalypse/Revenge of the Space-Lizards I will not be the one doing the surviving:

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And this doculog for future alien anthropologists is over for today. Be kind to each other.

 

 

Writing Process & Rare Birds

Standing amidst the vegetabilia of a Welsh supermarket the other day, I found myself talking to a good friend and fellow writer, Carol Lovekin. I wonder if this is a common way for writers to meet, distractedly, whilst scavenging for more supplies. As a general rule our profession makes us a stay-at-home sort (although the perambulations of Warren Ellis, and Cory Doctorow might beg to differ) so it is always a pleasure and a welcome surprise to see a fellow rare bird out in the wilds.

Carol is the author of two enchanting novels about life, memory, and magic from Honno Press, Ghostbird and Snow Sisters. We talked as we always do, about writing and psychopomps.

Her process involves drafts: Draft 0, is in Sir Terry Pratchett’s fine words “telling yourself the story” with Draft 1, 2, 3, and onwards ever refining towards your goal. That makes me consider The Novel of Great (and shiny) Worth. How many incomplete drafts is that beast on [I say that lovingly, of course], Draft 10? 12?

 

Stephen King’s Gentle Archaeology

Mr King writes famously about writing being like archaeology, first you see a toe, then you gently brush away a suggestion of a foot, an ankle. What I took from that is that the thing in front of you suggests the shape of what is to come. I like that, because it has always felt to me like stories do have a shape or, to put it in vaguely hoity terms “dramatic form” – the hero must be cast down to find their inner worth, and come back, changed. Greek tragedies are perfect distillations of dramatic form: the tragic hero/ine is faced with weaknesses which they come to terms with in order to be protagonists, whilst the anti-heroes/antagonists fail to.

I have come to the disappointing conclusion that I am not Euripides, nor Stephen King. Or even Shakespeare for that matter. At best, I am a third-rate hack – but that’s okay, because Euripedes is dead, Shakespeare probably never existed, and Stephen King has to live under a Trump administration [sorry, dude].

I marvel at my friend’s ability to write complete drafts, as for me, I seem to be a pantser at heart. [Is that something one should admit to in public?] The Novel of Great (and shiny) Worth is less like gentle archaeology, and more like waking up in an underground complex with a flashlight and a ball of string. Find yer own way out, dude… Along the exploration I discover more and more about the setting I am lost in, what the shape of it is, which direction the good air is coming from (Gandalf had some excellent advice), what the hell am I even doing down here, and where is that sodding Minotaur.

 

But what about Dramatic Form?

I know, right? This for me, is where the drafting comes in (as well as the hours of swearing, crying, and drinking wine). I have gotten so far down the labyrinth and then I realize that I took the wrong turn way back there at page forty-two. I’ll still end up here at page a-hundred-and-squat, but the route that I needed to take would be SO much more interesting. So off we go, following the thread back, snipping it, adding bits, finding out that the characters had to go off and do that thing over there anyway.

 

Compost & Mycorrhizal Writing

[A hint: Everyone has their own writing-process metaphor, it’s because us writers are possessed by the nature of the form*]

I like the whole writing-as-compost analogy quoted somewhere. I don’t know who came up with it, but I know that I’ve certainly written a whole lot of crap…

Compost-writing then, is the laying down of feels into an idea – sometimes for yeeears before they start to come together, subconsciously, into form and shape. The Novel of Great (and shiny) Worth first appeared somewhen 2-3yrs ago (although, arguably it turned up at the same time as I got those feather tattoos, 7+ yrs ago). It was a Harry Potterish po’-boy-did-gud story. Then it was an alternative-history fantasy. A modern horror. A graphic novel. It tried on a lot of different hats, before all of that rich story-nutrition started to take shape.

Mycorrhiza isn’t exactly composting, but it’s connected. Mycorrhiza are the symbiant fungies that live on plant root systems, forming a network of trading-relationships between plants and dirt. To be precise, I think my writing is Ectomycorrhizal, meaning that there are multiple organisms working alongside the plant, all working together to form something else, something collaborative. Different parts of my subconsious firing together, and eventually, with enough rich story-compost dumped on it, fusing into something new.

Hopefully, anyway.

Novel of Great Worth
A very early, and very embarrassing attempt to art my protagonist(s).

 

* Hush now, spoilers…

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