Today is Wear the Lilac Day and also Towel Day in honor of two of the greatest writers of our time, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, who gave us Discworld and the Hitchhiker’s Guide and many other wonderful worlds. It’s a time to remember things worth fighting for (“Reasonably priced love!”) and not to panic. It’s also Cherry Saturday, but that happens every week; the Lilac/Towel Day is special.
Every year when I write this post, my heart clutches a little at what we’ve lost with their deaths, but as Pratchett once wrote, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” Their names are still spoken, their books are still cherished, and today is the day to remember them and read.
I read a new book this week, but it did not enthrall, so I went back to some old stuff, more Michael Gilbert and Wodehouse’s Leave It To Psmith because sometimes you just need farce. I kept getting visual migraines, which are not headaches but these weird zigzag patterns in my vision, and that made it hard to read, too. I know: audio books. But I hate being read to. Still Psmith was a great comfort to everyone except Baxter, who deserves whatever he gets, including a flower pot to the head.
“I read a recent article from Scientific American . . . with a thesis . . . that the series broke its implicit promise to viewers because when it reached the end of the author’s previously published material, the new showrunners switched from Martin’s more sociological approach to plotting and character development to one that is common to most film and tv writing these days, with a purely psychological perspective. So… individuals moving through their conflicts with others, in place of individuals within a social framework adapting to others and finding their place in a complex social world.”
Criticism and analysis can be thought-provoking and insightful, but it’s rarely good writing advice. It’s not meant to be writing advice, it’s not craft, it’s theory. So while Tufekci’s analysis is interesting, it’s not a practical application for writers (which was not her intention, so not a flaw in her work). The essay reminded me of my PhD course work (no I never finished the dissertation) when I did a ton of literary criticism, then started to write novels, then did my general exams. One of my profs said, “Your criticism really changed once you started to write fiction.” Well, yeah. After publishing, I was on the inside looking out instead of on the outside looking in. Big difference.
Writing process! I’d like to go over the writing process. I realize this is tackled a lot and by varying degrees from many different people, but I still haven’t found my sweet spot. Pantser vs. Plotter, some variation thereof? I’d love to hear about the process of taking an idea to a full-on novel. Maybe using one of your past books as a guide from conception to finished product?
Uh, that would be a book length answer. The short version:
Today is No Dirty Dishes Day, which in my house is Use Paper Plates Day or Hey, Let’s Go To the Diner Day. There is a theory that if your dishes are clean every night and your bed is made every morning, the rest of the house will look fine. These theorists have never seen my house, although I will admit to having a sink full of dirty dishes as I type this, so possibly until those are clean, I have no argument. Anyway, wash those dishes today. And then forget about it until next year. (Thank god, this only happens once a year; can you imagine if it was No Dirty Dishes Month? Insanity.)
Deb asked: I used to love to write fiction – fantasy and romance especially. I hoped to publish someday but mostly I just enjoyed writing and living in those worlds. I went through a divorce awhile ago and it rattled some of the carefree feel to my writing but I carried on, believing in the romance and fantasy and hoping for love again. Two years ago, my mom died and going through that and the fallout with my relationship with my dad just broke whatever it was remaining in me that could pretend or believe in the dream. I sit down and try to write fiction and it turns into memoir or how-to or similar. . . . [D]o you have any suggestions on getting my real/dreamer self back? I had resigned myself to the fact that this is the new me, like it or not, but lately I am mourning that loss and just not feeling okay with it.
First, what’s wrong with memoir or how-to? I love writing non-fiction (as anybody who reads this blog knows, I LOVE the sound of my own voice) and I don’t see it as a second-choice genre at all. If that’s where your inclination lies now, embrace it.
But you say you’re not okay with it, so my next question is “What is the story you have to tell that you can’t not write?”
I read my way through all the Ngaio Marsh books–thirty-two of them–and loved the characters; she’s so good at establishing a small group and saying, “Somewhere in this half dozen people is a murderer,” and then playing out the personalities. I have no idea how good the mysteries actually were because I was so caught up by those mini-communities. It’s people that make a story, not plot, for me.
It’s almost June, and I need to do something creative, instead of cleaning out the kitchen shelves and the laundry. Like maybe finish this book. And the eighty-four crochet projects I have started. Or a complete sentence.