Friday, May 16, 2014

Returning to the Eyrie

Welcome back, Gentle Readers!  Sorry for the unconscionably long silence (No posts since January?  Really, Scott?).  Work continues on A GATHERING OF RAVENS; I'm not done, yet, but I'm getting there.

When last I posted, the book had stalled out at around 37K words.  Illness and depression had kept me from adding more to it, and the narrative was bogged down in the mud of Wessex.  You'll be pleased to know that I dug in my heels and slowly shoved and scrabbled my way free of the mire.  I finished Part Two, which includes some very eerie bits regarding a nature spirit that has possessed the body of a dead man and launched his own anti-pagan crusade in hopes of making himself right with God; I'm now in the middle of Part Three, in Ireland on the run up to the climatic Battle of Clontarf.  By conservative estimate, I'm about 20K words from writing THE END.

I will endeavor to keep you better informed, Gentle Readers.  I'm feeling better, and I'm back on track (behind, as usual, but at least I can see the end of the tunnel).

Words needed: approx. 90,000-100,000
Words written, to date: 69,487

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Depression and the Writer

I struggle with depression.  This is not some bold pronouncement, indicative of some breakthrough on my part.  It is but a simple fact.  I'm a writer, and as a whole writers seem prone to depression.  Maybe it's a side effect of the unique brain chemistry that allows us to happily spend most of our waking hours alone with our own thoughts, watching the endless drama of character and conflict unfold in the theater of the mind.  Maybe it's part of the cushion that allows us to hold a dozen different conversations in our minds, with utter strangers we've conjured from our imaginations, without going insane.  Maybe depression is the outward expression of our craft, like the printer's ink-stained fingers or the smell of linseed oil that clings to painters.

Whatever its genesis, I struggle with it.  I have good days and bad, days when I feel normal and days when I feel like poor Dr. Jekyll, the monstrous Mr. Hyde lurking just under his skin.  My depression presents itself as lethargy, punctuated by long periods of brutal (and ultimately dishonest) introspection whereupon my sub-conscious expounds on its favorite topic: "1001 Reasons Why Scott Oden Sucks as a Writer."  It is Resistance at its most powerful and insidious . . .

And so, we fight, my depression and I.  It's pankration without the slenderest of rules.  We gouge and bite and throw elbows and try to beat each others heads in with rocks, with the goal being my desk and the work upon it.  I always win through, but some days I can only curl up and protect my vitals while that bastard kicks the shit out of me, then crawl to me chair while he gets his second wind.  Once I get my fingers on the keyboard I know I'm safe for a couple of hours, at least.

That's where I'm at, now.  Bloodied and bruised and feeling low, but with my hands stroking the keys -- making words from letters and sentences from words.  So screw you, depression!  You useless fucking toad!  What I write today may reek to high heaven, but you can't stop me from writing it!  Not today!

Words needed: approx. 100,000
Words written, to date: 36,660 (I edited some of what I wrote before the ill-fated Holiday Plague of 2013, trimming back a bit of useless verbiage)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Currency of Ideas

Most writers, once the civilians around them discover they're a writer, will be treated to some version of the following:  "Oh, you're a writer?  Well, we should sit down and talk!  I have a great idea for a book!  I'll tell you the idea, you write it, and we'll split the profits!  Whaddya say?"

My stock reply is something along these lines: "Well, I only write ancient history."  That tends to end the conversation.  That's what I say; this is what I want to say:  "So, you have an idea, eh?  One?  That's precious!  I currently have a file sitting on my desktop that contains, at last count, seventy-eight ideas for full-length novels.  That's honestly more than I can write in my lifetime.  But, let me add your idea to the list, by all means.  Oh, and there's no frickin' way we're going to split the profits!  Let's say your idea is great and all, and let's say I go to work on it, spending two years -- at least! -- turning your chunk of marble into an exquisite statue.  For that minimal effort on your part, the genesis of the idea, I'd be willing to pay you, say, ten bucks.  And that's being generous!  What?  No?  You'll write it yourself?  Well, okay then . . ."

Gentle Readers, an idea for a novel is not some precious form of currency.  Every writer I know has dozens, if not hundreds, of them sitting in folders and notebooks, with more being added each week.  It's not the idea that sets one novel apart from its brethren, but rather the execution.  That's the boring part for most non-writers: the word choices and sentence structures, the techniques of characterization, the poetry of language, the shiver and hum of dialogue, the balancing act between static exposition and active scenes, the choreography of drama, melodrama, love, hate, violence and the human condition.  This is what sets the writer apart, and what non-writers don't really understand: the idea is nothing.  A novel is not an idea, but rather the technical and artistic expression of an idea.

So, please . . . stop this business of wanting to foist your ideas on us.  We have plenty of our own, thanks.

As far as A Gathering of Ravens, I'm still languishing at my pre-illness word counts.  I feel loads better, and now it's a matter of breaking the bad habits I accumulated on my sick-bed -- sloth and indolence and the desire for naps.  Time to move forward!