Monday, December 8, 2008

Burning Update Experience I: The Fundamentals

I still haven't decided how often I'm going to devote a post to simply updating my readership on how I'm doing as a writer, what I'm working on and how faithfully I'm pursuing it. Commentary on the topic would be welcome (hint hint). Nonetheless, I'm going to forge ahead with Burning Update Experience I: The Fundamentals.

To start with, I want to lay out how I think about what I'm working on.

My creative brain has three mixed-metaphor rooms: the Writing Desk, the Back Burner, and the Threshing Floor. There's a fourth room, but we don't talk about it. That's where the... things live. The most raw ideas. I don't go there, but sometimes things come out of it. Silliness, aside, that's where the parts of my creative process happen that I can't talk about, because I can't articulate what they mean to me. Since this is a blog for talking about the creative process, I'm going to just leave that part alone.

The Writing Desk is where whatever I'm working on right now lives. As long as I'm putting words on paper (or screen) on a semiregular basis, that project lives in the Writing Desk. Things on the Writing Desk certainly change and grow, but they are probably going to persist in more or less their current form until they reach a conclusion.

When a project is more or less set in its current form, but I'm not really doing anything with it (or even pretending I'm still doing something with it) it lives in the Back Burner. That's where I let ideas sit and bubble, but leave them alone for a while. Maybe I'm too busy, or a little burned out, or just want to give a story a rest for a while. When that happens, the idea lives in the Back Burner.

Finally, the Threshing Floor is where ideas go when there's something wrong with them, but there are things about them I still like. A concept sitting in the Threshing Floor is likely to be just that - threshed - before it ever sees the Writing Desk again. By threshed, I mean that it will be left to ferment until its bits start to come loose, and then it will be vigorously struck again and again until it shakes apart. Those parts - themes, events, characters, setting elements, and so on - will likely coalesce into new concepts, or be added to something in the Back Burner or Writing Desk. Or, perhaps they'll slide through that black pit of a doorway in the back of the Threshing Floor and never be seen or heard from again in anything even remotely resembling their current form.

There really aren't any rules for how concepts slide back and forth between these three imaginary rooms. Sometimes something will leap fully into being on the Writing Desk. Sometimes something will be born on the Back Burner and sit there for a while before I work on it. Sometimes something will bounce back and forth between the Writing Desk and the Threshing Floor for years before it finds a home. And sometimes ideas make a stately progress from unnameable darkness to Threshing Floor to Back Burner to Writing Desk, and sometimes back again in just as orderly a manner.

Ok, that being said, here's what I'm working on right now:

Threshing Floor

Ideas that live here are, by nature, really really vague. They're concepts that intrigue me, sometimes with vestigial stories attached, sometimes just "I want to write about X."

Werewolves: I've kind of wanted to write something about werewolves - or play a game about werewolves, or something - for a while now. I don't know exactly why. It probably has to do with having read Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, followed immediately by Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar about a month and a half ago (dude's got a blog... blogroll, meet Martin Millar, Martin Millar, meet blogroll - I'm sure the two of you will get along just fine). Incidentally, I recommend both books without hesitation, though they are very different works. Moon Called is a slightly... um... romancy modern fantasy/horror - really good and really fun, though not terribly sophisticated, while Lonely Werewolf Girl is a very hip, very urban, very clever story about werewolves who are fashion designers, crossdressers, and really, really need therapy.

Interspecies Romance: I off-handedly mentioned this idea at the end of Friday's post. What can I say? I like complicated romances, and I like the idea of writing fantasy with a totally made up intelligent species, a la Star Trek's various aliens, but that is still a fantasy. I kind of want to see how far I can go with squicking my readers out, making these two people who are in love as physically different as I can manage, facing them with all sorts of prejudice, discrimination, and violence, and when the readers get a little creeped out because, I don't know, she's a person and he's a huge white furry apeman (for example), they get to examine why they feel that way, and what is says about their expectations and prejudices.

I also have two roleplaying game concepts that are best described as Threshing Floor material.

The first, Deeper Sleep, is a game inspired by The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Sandman, and some of my own weird dream experiences. The idea is that you play an ordinary person's "dream-self" having trippy adventures in mankind's collective unconscious. The themes are the balance between brilliance and madness, as expressed by difficulty in staying asleep to enjoy a really cool dream while still staying aware enough of the dreaming experience to enjoy it. I have thoughts of various character options that bring you closer to waking and dreaming, that too much of either has perils (too much waking and you wake up, too much dreaming and you all entirely at the mercy of the dream world), and of "sweet spots," where you can choose a level of dreaming that your character is best at. My ideas are quite vague, though, so Deeper Sleep belongs on the Threshing Floor.

Similarly, I have an idea tentatively entitled What Celebrations (Nietzsche reference) for a game about monolotry, morality, faith, and the dangers and opportunities of organized religion. This one's really vague: the setting is a river delta with many small settled and semisettled tribes, each with their own gods, and one large city (and several smaller ones) revolutionizing their culture. In the cities, cultures clash and gods fall by the wayside, and demons move in... but is this really a bad thing? Are the gods any better than the demons? And what about humans? Are they angels in flesh, or monsters in the making?

Back Burner

Right now the Back Burner is home to two projects, one rpg and one novel.

The novel on the Back Burner is the oft-referenced A Knight of the Land, my ecofantasy epic of honor, love, treachery. The trouble is, what A Knight of the Land needs is editing, and I've never edited a novel before. I plan on doing NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month), which I'm told will educate me fully on the topic.

Next is my rpg Cartomancy. Cartomancy has a strong system (I think) that uses Tarot cards as a resource to influence the story in a way reminiscent of the Castle of Crossed Destinies (another book you should read now). Unfortunately... the setting is weak. Really weak. It needs a rewrite from the concepts up, and I haven't got the burn to pursue it right now.

Writing Desk

I have three projects on the Writing Desk right now, which is two more than I like to have.

The first two I've talked about already: Rat and Starling and my NaNo novel, Ghostly Tam Lin. There's also a rather typical sword-and-sorcery short story with a twist that I think is fun, anyway: the magic sword draws a rather morally drab character to good, rather than being the temptation that drives a good man to evil deeds. I might let you all read it when it's done. It hasn't got a title, in any case, but I think it's got potential.

As for how I'm doing right now? I'm still a little burned out from NaNoWriMo, a bad combination of exhausted from the effort and disappointed that I didn't win, but I'm more or less back on the horse. My plan is to finish my short story, then polish off Ghostly Tam Lin, and finally dive back into Rat and Starling, where I will stay for the forseeable future.

Next time I post an update, I'll let you know how that went.

1 comment:

Scattercat said...

I think those are very solid metaphors for the writing process. It sounded very familiar, at any rate.

Interspecies Romance
Oddly, A was just watching Galaxy Quest again this morning. That pretty much covers how deeply anyone wants to think about that sort of thing, I think (and it ended up being kind of sweet, in a weird way.)

Deeper Sleep
Four words: Don't Rest Your Head.

Also, I seriously want to run this darned game. You want to try it out solo? I've got an RPOL game set up for it right now (that needs updating badly because I'm a bad person, but still.) I'd be perfectly willing to run you something (though I know how much you LOVE online RP. :-P)