blogging

The Rising Wall

I mentioned this project called The Rising Wall briefly a month or so ago, and it’s finally kicked off. This is one of those projects that makes me love fan community and the possibilities opened by current technology.

If you are familiar with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, you’re aware of the Wall. I wasn’t — this series is still on my to-read list — so for those of you who aren’t: in this series, the zombie apocalypse happens in the summer of 2014 (now) and is known afterwards as the Rising. People don’t know or believe what’s happening, and traditional news media outlets utterly fail at reporting the truth; it’s bloggers that step up and start sharing information on what’s going on and how to survive. The survivors later collect the names of those bloggers to commemorate them on the Wall: these are the people that risked themselves to help them survive.

With the author’s blessing, fans and friends in the community are creating a fictional Wall as a “collaborative transmedia fan project.” There are tweets, music compositions, blog posts, all kinds of things. It’s such a cool idea, and I love it.

Katie Hoffman, the mastermind behind this project, has a great Zombies 101 summary for anyone who wants to play but isn’t familiar with the canon. Even if you’re not into the series, I’d highly recommend checking the Tumblr out just to see what people are doing with this kind of project.

I had a lot of fun writing a four-part blog series from the POV of a college student abroad in Japan when the Rising starts. Panic and betrayal, flamethrowers and cosplay, good times. All four parts are posted if you want to check it out!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

Writer Blair MacGregor thoughtfully tagged me to take part in the Writer’s Blog tour, so here we go! Blair’s answers are really insightful, so you should definitely check hers out first.

 

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m working on two projects at the moment: I’m editing a high fantasy novel in which a sorcerer-prince and a ninja have to work together to figure out what’s causing a magical plague of monsters and defeat it. And, because a different book I finally finished drafting went monstrous on me, I’m switching gears completely with a YA SF novel in the style of a romantic comedy JDrama, and so far it is coming along as hilariously as I hoped.

 

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?

First, I absolutely agree with what Blair wrote about novelty. That said, there are some trends in my work: critique partners have observed that I’m prone to writing badass female characters who snark, and this is not incorrect ;).

I write characters who are outsiders and monsters and heroes, who are smart and competent. I write strong female characters, strong in the sense of strong characters who are women, not in the sense of physical or killing abilities. I love taking characters who have been overlooked or who consider themselves failures and dismantling their assumptions. Agency, individuality, choice, and freedom are always central.

 

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

Because no one else can write my stories, and because I have to write them so I can read them.

Because by its very nature, a fantasy work must create a world, and the creation of a new world in turn creates opportunities to challenge readers’ expectations of how their own world must work. The (spatial, temporal, etc.) distance fantasy establishes enables readers to consider ideas presented with greater objectivity.

My favorite stories are ones that force me to think and are also overwhelmingly awesome and fun. So that’s what I do my best to write.

 

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

It’s different for every book.

I have outlined and discovery written and iterations in-between. In discovery writing there’s always a point where I reach a wall and have to outline myself out of it. With outlining there are always points where as I’m writing characters do or say things that force me to scrap sections of my outline. I can’t write out of order, because as I write characters make choices that change their relationships and the plot that I don’t know about before my fingers are on the keyboard.

Lately I’ve been starting with a general idea of plot and character arc with a few points I know to write towards and then I fill in (both the outline and the novel) as I go. If I leave myself notes the previous session and then brainstorm a scene right before I write it, the writing goes much more easily.

I write all the way through, only going back for minor edits, and then before I send a draft to readers go back and do a full editing pass during which I flesh out the draft. I switch between writing platforms (Word, NEO, Scrivener, notebooks…) and spaces (within my apartment or coffee shops) when I get stuck, though I format everything into manuscript format before I’m done for the day to keep everything consolidated, and then I back up daily because I’m paranoid. I track word count statistics so I can prove to myself that I’m actually being useful and pressing along. I draft sparingly and then add in descriptions and whatnot where necessary in the full editing pass, which helps keep me out of the trap of too much world-building exposition.

I sometimes put in headphones and turn of the internet to help myself focus; I always drink tea.

 

And that’s it for me =). Next up, I’ve tagged four fellow and fabulous Viable Paradise alumni: Aliza Greenblatt, Arun Jiwa, Alex Haist, and Nicole Lisa!

Fan and Creator Interaction

So I woke up this morning to a bit of an explosion on my Twitter feed. I’m not going to link to the various instigating posts and comment threads, where the discussion leaned toward outright hostility on many sides as internet discussions are wont to do. The crux of the matter involves author involvement and interaction with fans, judging what spaces and acceptable to enter, and where and how those lines are drawn.

The interesting bit to me is why we’re drawing those lines at all.

The idea that authors should not ever enter fan spaces unless specifically invited has a few faulty premises, I think.

First and foremost: authors are also fans.

Authors are also people, not some magical amalgamation of literary weight that they bring into discussions just to throw around and silence people of differing opinions.

People have brought up “The Death of the Author,” which is its own can of worms and one literary theorists can gleefully argue about forever.

Authorial intentions and results do not always match, of course. Milton can say “I’m writing to justify the ways of God to Man” all he wants, but he’s never going to convince me that Satan isn’t the hero of Paradise Lost, whether he meant for him to be or not, because of what’s in the text. I’m willing to believe that Milton didn’t consider Satan the hero, but my interpretation does not have to match his stated intentions.

I err on the side of not talking about authorial intentionality, because I can’t know what the author intended — I can talk about how ideas read to me and what I can conclude from those inferences, and I can ground my interpretation in the text. This is the fundamental skill of basic essay writing, at least as I learned in English class: you can make any argument you want, as long as you can support it.

But if you’re going to bring authorial intentionality into the discussion, you are, in my opinion, inviting the author to weigh in on their intentions. Because the author is the only one that knows.

Likewise, an author’s personal views and an author’s work are not the same. I can enjoy Ender’s Game without supporting Orson Scott Card’s political views. That is one of the reasons when we review work, we review the work; we have no business judging the author, the person behind it. Can we make some logical leaps? Sure, but if that’s the route you want to go, again I think it’s ludicrous to believe that if you make comments against a person in public that they are not invited to respond.

Reviewers comment on authors’ work, and so it seems silly to me that authors cannot also comment on reviewers’ work. This work exists in the public. I operate on the assumption that an author can and will call me out if I get something egregiously wrong. They won’t always, but they can, and they should be able to.

More to the point, though, I think the mentality I’m seeing recently of “us against them” in regards to fans and creators is preposterous. We are not different species; our concerns and interests overlap; why should we be excluding interested and invested parties from relevant conversation?

Even if an author is not explicitly invited, I think it’s cool if they show up to talk and interact. Authors and fans both like to talk about shared interests. I think everyone can get a lot out of those discussions. Honestly, if a discussion is not open to the author under discussion, I’d be suspicious of whether the intention (there’s that word again!) is truly to consider works with civility, and not just slam the author where they can’t defend themselves.

We’ve all seen those examples of “how not to behave as an author” when someone goes off the deep end in reaction to a courteous, if not glowing, review. I would like to think those fiascos are the exception rather than the rule, but that is going to happen from time to time, unless you specify clearly that authors are not welcome.

For some people that seems to be the assumption, but I don’t think it should be. I think the default should be that no one is excluded unless they’re behaving badly, and authors showing up at all doesn’t qualify as poor behavior. If you want your blog to be a space to slam work and authors without consequences, then it should be a closed space.

Personally, I would much rather have open discussions. I think fandom as a whole benefits from them — authors and reviewers included. Am I in the minority here?

A New (or Old?) Writing Trick

I meant to write something light-hearted this evening, but I am too furious. Rather than bang my head against that wall until it broke, I decided to write something else for the evening. It’s interesting to me that it will take a few hours for me to build up steam when writing fiction — I write sort of stop-and-go for a bit, but the longer I’m at it my rate of story spinning grows exponentially — but when I sit down to write a blog post, I vomit words everywhere.

It might be a trained response, come to think of it*, which is interesting.

Because this was true for me before blogging was A Thing  (that I knew about, anyway). Back In The Day, when AIM was becoming A Thing, one of my closest friends had a computer that for some reason couldn’t support AIM. But we would not be thwarted. And so we just used our email accounts (we had these horribly embarrassing email addresses, too, which I will not repeat for shame. And, on a Completely Separate note, if you are one of the few who remembers it and feels compelled to share, we’re probably still good enough friends that I know where you live). Of course, this was Back In The Day, when inboxes had size limits. If I didn’t respond to emails fast enough, my inbox would overflow and I would be unable to receive emails.

The most obvious effect of this is that I finally learned how to type for real. I mean, I knew how, but since I didn’t bother, usually, I had been horrendously slow, because I wasn’t interested, despite Spooky the Ghost’s best efforts. I had pen and paper and neat handwriting; what did I need with rapid typing? (The last time I took a typing test I scored over 100wpm with 100% accuracy, so I clearly got over this.)

 

THIS GUY

THIS GUY

If my friend was only sending me snippets of dialogue, there was no trouble keeping up. But, much like why I started this website, my thoughts were often not snippet-sized. And I would send her these emails that had a spoiler warning in the subject line: “RAMBLE.”

And then I would snark, for paragraphs and paragraphs. And she, kind soul that she is, would respond like she’d found me witty, and so the next one would be even longer and snarkier, and it didn’t take long for this to spiral out of control. I wrote a whole novel of snark. (No, I mean that literally.)

But this seems to suggest that if I operate on the assumption that I can’t block out hours-long segments every day to write and yet still must do the writing (both of which are true), then if I trained myself to do this with blog-type writing, I ought to be able to do it with fiction, right? They’re different sorts of writing, but a number of the mental processes are the same.

I have cut out or condensed all extraneous parts of my life as much as possible, but the only things left are not optional. I’ve budgeted my time as much as I can; now it’s time to learn a new trick.

 

*I really hadn’t thought of that until I typed it, oddly. My fingers think quicker than my brain. I didn’t know where this post was going until it came out.