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It is with some considerable pleasure that I can say that Chapter One of Joey Lafaye is finished. I did 1,280 words on Sunday, then another 1,550 words yesterday. And never mind that my 5,000-word chapter actually comes to 7,357 words. A chapter in only five days is remarkable (for me), and now my foot is the door. I think I'm very pleased with the first chapter. There's a darkness there, but only an idiot would call it "genre horror." Now, of course, I have to turn my attentions to Sirenia Digest #24. This month, if you are a subscriber (the few, the proud, the polymorphously perverse), you'll be getting the reverse lycanthropy story and something about zombies. I think.

Oh, and Spooky found another story about my Second Life BBC2 interview, which you may read here.

Now, a question sort of thing re: Tuesday's journal entry from pwtucker:

You're eschewing your prologue? Interesting. I've been wrestling with this issue ever since reading Elmore Leonard's 10 Writing Rules or whatever in which he states that prologues are just back story, and should be inserted into the body of the text. But then a week ago or so you said that prologues help set the tone and mood, and I liked that, I agreed with it, which is why I wrote one for the thing I'm working on.

But now you're cutting the prologue. I understand that you had a false start on it, but why drop it altogether? Is this due to the character of this particular novel, or have you begun to distance yourself from prologues in general?


Elmore Leonard is a fine, fine writer, but "writing rules" are pretty much always a bad idea, or something even worse than a bad idea. That said, yes, I'd decided to drop the prologue, because it just wasn't working. And I decided to drop it altogether because, at the time, I'd decided it was unnecessary. However, since then, having finished Chapter One, I see how a very short prologue may work after all (though an entirely different one from what I was trying to write before). Basically, what I'm saying is that a writer must remain almost infinitely flexible, which is one (but only one) reason that trying to follow someone else's "writing rules" is generally a bad idea. Even when following my own writing rules, I never view them as anything more than possibly helpful suggestions which may be disregarded should the need arise. Do not do a thing because a writer you admire made it sound like a good idea. Do it because you need to do it.

Also, this question from "The Brain" via MySpace:

I assume you may get approximately 100,000 of these questions a day, and if you have a scripted answer that's fine, but anyway: What advice would you give to a fledging writer coming from a background not too dissimilar from yourself?

I only get about a hundred of these a day, and I have no ready answer, if only because the question is too broad. The first answer I thought of was stay in school for as long as possible. Not because creative writing courses can teach you to write, because they can't, but because a) it buys you time to find your voice, and b) there's no course you can take in college that won't prove useful at some point when you're writing. However, if you have to run up huge student loan debts to attend college, given that most writers don't make enough to eat, much less pay back student loans, the whole college angle becomes a very bad idea, unless you get a degree in something that will actually allow you to make a living when it becomes obvious, as it almost inevitably will, that you do not wish to spend your life as a writer. The first rule of writing is: There are no rules. The second rule of writing is: There are no rules. The third rule of writing is: What works for me almost certainly won't work for you. Sure, I can say that you won't get anywhere if you don't have perseverance, and you shouldn't get anywhere unless you have talent (though many do), and a solid knowledge of grammar and spelling helps, but these things should be obvious. Beyond that, I have no advice.

And speaking of LiveJournal (well, I was, a few paragraphs back), I've been doing less of it, having discovered that the entries are more interesting if I allow a day or so between them.

Last night, we went with Byron to see No Country for Old Men, which is definitely one of the best films of the year. Tommy Lee Jones better get an Oscar nomination. There has yet to be a film by the Coen Bros. that I did not like, and most of them I love, but it's good to see them do something grim again. And No Country for Old Men is unrelentingly grim, which is the very least one should expect from a film based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. See it, but don't expect resolution or justice, because you're not going to get either.

There are two novels on my "Must Be Read" list that have been languishing for some time now, and I resolved yesterday to try to get through them before January 1st. One is Neil's Anansi Boys. The other is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I will try. We shall see.

Comments

( 15 comments — Have your say! )
awdrey_gore
Nov. 20th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
I need to try to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell again. I got to about page 75 and gave up. Like Kostova's The Historian, I found the prose too unnecessarily dense. People raved to me about Clarke's attention to detail - her descriptions of place and setting were marvelous, they said. I just wished she would get to the story. But I am impatient, I think.

I think some books are like restaurants. You need to try them twice to really know if they are any good. I hope my first impression doesn't hold the second time around for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)

People raved to me about Clarke's attention to detail - her descriptions of place and setting were marvelous, they said. I just wished she would get to the story. But I am impatient, I think.

Let's just say that I am trying ver hard to disregard the fact that the book is a rather obscene 2.75 inches thick...
stsisyphus
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
...the book is a rather obscene 2.75 inches thick...

See, I burned through the sucker at a pretty good clip, and I'm somewhat slow and bungled by dense text. It does, however, require patience if you're looking for riveting plot advancement. Being as it is (partially) a folly of the late 18th, early to mid-19th century novel, that shouldn't been too surprising.
sisyphusiren
Nov. 20th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if it weren't for the prose style it would have been a weekend read. Suited the story perfectly though and kept me from getting to the end too fast.
robyn_ma
Nov. 20th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
'but "writing rules" are pretty much always a bad idea'

Elmore Leonard's writing rules are terrific — for him and those who seek to write like him. Your 10 Writing Rules would be significantly different and equally interesting. They say more about the writer and his/her priorities than about How to Write.

'we went with Byron to see No Country for Old Men'

You have now, sadly, joined the growing list of people I hate for the sole reason of having seen this film when I have not. When I do finally get to see it, said list will become irrelevant, but at the moment I must curse your name, complete with the 'R.' and the acute accent on the second 'i'.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)

When I do finally get to see it, said list will become irrelevant, but at the moment I must curse your name, complete with the 'R.' and the acute accent on the second 'i'.

Well, so long as you are taking such care do curse me properly, I can hardly complain.

Your 10 Writing Rules would be significantly different and equally interesting.

At best, my 10 rules would only be a parody of the idea that there can be 10 rules, and even so, someone out there would misunderstand and take it seriously.
jtglover
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell makes for wonderful Winter reading. If you're into that slow, dense 2.75 inch stuff, you might also add Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian to the list of things to read in your copious spare time. It's a vampire (Dracula) novel that might actually survive after 95% of all 1975-2010 vampire novels have long since vanished.

Thanks for the writing non-advice. As always (and I say this without irony), it's encouraging.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 20th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)

It's a vampire (Dracula) novel that might actually survive after 95% of all 1975-2010 vampire novels have long since vanished.

Now there's a bold claim...
jtglover
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
A bold claim for a bold book. It's a multi-period historical novel set in all manner of locations. It could have gone wrong in so many, and some of the reviews were tepid, but I thought she was successful. Whatever flaws the book has sure aren't for lack of ambition on her part.

I don't remember whether I ever said anything about it, but I enjoyed reading Five of Cups, as well as the essay + intro. Very, very interesting to read about everything that went into the making of the novel. I liked a lot of things about the story, and a number of images from the book keep coming to mind. The "bus" scene and its aftermath have stuck with me in particular, and when I've written action/fight scenes since then, I always think of Gin.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)

I don't remember whether I ever said anything about it, but I enjoyed reading Five of Cups, as well as the essay + intro. Very, very interesting to read about everything that went into the making of the novel. I liked a lot of things about the story, and a number of images from the book keep coming to mind. The "bus" scene and its aftermath have stuck with me in particular, and when I've written action/fight scenes since then, I always think of Gin.

Well, I thank you for buying and reading the book, and for your kind comments, but there are not words for how embarrassed I am to have written the thing.
stsisyphus
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
...Tommy Lee Jones better get an Oscar nomination.

See, I just didn't feel like he had enough independent presence in the film for that much of a supporting role. If he does get a nomination, it would seem to be a consolation for having precious little attention paid to The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Cannes, of course, excepting). I couldn't watch his No Country... performance without thinking of that earlier film. There are, of course, pretty obvious superficial similiarities to the films. I did very much like the cold close at the end, which I can't recall ever seeing in a movie (although it happens all the time in literature).

In regard to future requests for Rules of Writing (marking that your answers are always well tempered and polite), if you were feeling slightly more mischievious, you could draft one with suggestions and advice pulled from completely unrelated fields. A few tips from the Art of Cooking, The Joy of Sex, The U.S. Army Field Manual, a copy of the owner's manual to a 1982 Caprice Classic, and instructions from a box of mac n' cheese should not only clarify that there are no rules, but also provide a handy writing exercise for those who wish to figure out how all those things might be applied to Writing.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)

if you were feeling slightly more mischievious, you could draft one with suggestions and advice pulled from completely unrelated fields. A few tips from the Art of Cooking, The Joy of Sex, The U.S. Army Field Manual, a copy of the owner's manual to a 1982 Caprice Classic, and instructions from a box of mac n' cheese should not only clarify that there are no rules, but also provide a handy writing exercise for those who wish to figure out how all those things might be applied to Writing.

Gods, that's brilliant.

did very much like the cold close at the end, which I can't recall ever seeing in a movie

Yes. That, in particular, was breathtaking.
cillygirl
Nov. 20th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC)
I bought Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for my mum last christmas, though I had the feel it could be turgid and dreadful. When I finally got around to borrowing it back to read (heheh) it was awesome. Hope you enjoy it too. It is a little slow to start but I felt the prose was pitched just right. I still haven't read Anansi Boys.

The Historian was interesting enough, though I bought it in a supermarket and thus expected it to be dreadful. Buying books in a supermarket, argh. I'm going to writer hell now.

As for writer advice I'd probably highlight the 'perserverance' part again. I keep putting off writing anything as a piece whatsoever as I feel my voice isn't mature enough yet. I mean, lack of self-criticism is awful too, but I'm really not going to get anywhere like that. I have this feeling if I ever write anything it'll be Memoirs of a Dessicated Corpse.

#Year 82. A lot less rats in here. Charred black is definitely in.

Heh.
sisyphusiren
Nov. 20th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
There are two novels on my "Must Be Read" list that have been languishing for some time now, and I resolved yesterday to try to get through them before January 1st. One is Neil's Anansi Boys. The other is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Both of those books are great - I'm still working on Only Revolutions. Trying to fit it around all the homework has been a challenge, as it demands several consecutive hours at a time to read properly. I'm stuck about a hundred pages into that and Ulysses for the same reasons.
docbrite
Nov. 20th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
I've found what little Elmore Leonard I've read to be highly underwhelming, but even if i loved him, I would consider that an idiotic rule, as are all "My way is the only way to do it" writing rules.
( 15 comments — Have your say! )