jhepburn: (Default)
In which I propose a crude categorisation of genres, and set myself up to be insulted by people with more strongly held opinions than me (pre-emptive passive-aggressive defence against people with more deeply considered and informed opinions than me).

========

Hey, you're still here.

Fancy that.

I said in my last post that I was reviving this blog-thing at least partly as part of my promise to write every day (beside full-time work, partner, animals, housework, commuting ... you've heard all the excuses). I have been. Even if it hasn't been here, I have been - little and large chunks on several stories, writing or editing, and I'm counting that as a fucking win, dammit.

Anyway: At some point, I became a romance author.

I'm as surprised as you. More so, in fact, since I know more about me than you do. But it apparently happened. It's all the fault of this story I spoke about here from all the way back last year. It lead to other things.

Which has made me ponder: What, exactly, is romance? I'm an amateur here, but hear me out.

And the simplest way I can put it is: A story where a romantic relationship is central. Deep, I know. The point is: Take it out, and the story is different. It may still work, but it will be fundamentally different. It's not, and I wish to make this very plain, so pay attention at the back, it's not a story where the relationship is the only thing. My first romance story was a self-actualisation road trip. My second, a supernatural coming-of-age search for absolution. My third, a violent search for revenge. They were all romance, because the first one was a road trip to the relationship, the second was the attempt to repair and continue the relationship, and the third, the discovery of the relationship.

The relationship provided the motivation, meaning and development, to varying degrees, in each case. It drove two stories, it was a surprise discovery but ultimately vital part of the third.

Here's the thing: The first story was steampunk. The second, contemporary supernatural. The third, fantasy.

(probably should put a sub-heading here)

Which has lead me to consider what this bloody term "genre" even means.

This question has been greatly kicked along by a a very good and interesting editorial blog post contemplation thing on the World Weaver Press website, here, which I strongly advise you to go and read if you haven't already. The thesis is: Horror is not a genre, it's an aesthetic. It infiltrates and inhabits other genres, and the tools and themes of horror are used widely in movies and stories not traditionally described as horror - qv Tim Burton, if you can stand to (well, I like him).

Well, I go beyond and say that horror is not alone in that.

Here's what I propose: Genres are divided into setting genres and story genres

Genres such as science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, historical, etc. define the world: They place limits and opportunities in terms of how the universe is constructed. But they say absolutely nothing about the story. The world is ever present, but "science fiction" is not a story theme. It's the stuff of which the set is made. It provides way to tell stories, but not stories. It offers otherwise unobtainable ways of making metaphors, but doesn't determine what those metaphors are.

On the other hand, genres such as horror, romance, mystery, etc., define the nature of the story but say nothing about the setting. A romance story has strong romance themes at the heart of it, but can be set in the middle of wartime in ancient Pompei with the involvement of mythological creatures (pretty sure that one's been done). A mystery story contains within it a mystery which must needs be solved, but that can take place in a parallel contemporary noir Chicago with magic and a girlfriend with justifiable reasons to be jealous (I know that's been done).

Let's not even get into format genres, like poetry, saga, graphic novel, first person ... (you can argue with me about these some other time)

And so on.

Mix and match.

Science fiction horror (Alien)

Historical mystery (In The Name of The Rose)

Contemporary action relationship counselling (Die Hard)

Noir romance philosophy.

Cyberpunk comic war satire.

Alternate history murder mystery.

Steampunk zombie fetish murder porn.

Fun for the whole family.

Now: Obviously, this is quite simplistic. And there are Conventions, and Usual Story lines and Expectations, to which I say: Fuck that, have fun. Break the conventions.

I don't believe for one second this distinction is absolute. I believe in shades of grey. One of my strongest beliefs is "Rule #1: Reality is more complicated than you think it is". I tend to immediately discount the opinions of anybody who claims that any given situation has a simple and absolute cause, explanation or solution.

But I do think the basics are pretty much right, and I'd like there to be a little more realisation of the fact that "science fiction" doesn't have to be about space battles or comic alien encounters, and "romance" can include things like blood, high technology, or bloodthirsty vampires.

I know mine does. If you wish to read any of them, go here, on www.lessthanthreepress.com. The third one is in the editing stage. I should probably point out they're same-sex and sexually explicit.
jhepburn: (Default)
Once upon a time, I had a blog. It was rambling and undirected and, looking back, I suspect I would be quite embarrassed about several bits of it, but cest la vie.

Then, it stopped. It faded out. It sputtered along sporadically for a while, then stopped.

Why?

Well ...

It was always most productive when I was stressed and supposed to be doing something else. I got angry, which needed an outlet, while getting up energy to tackle something big, so I spewed it into text. Then it had periods of hiatus when I was relaxing and winding down and would think of something but, you know what? I couldn't be arsed writing about it.

That was in the period when I had stopped Trying To Be A Writer and had not returned to the state of Why Did I Ever Forget I Was A Writer?

The other, bigger, reason, however was: Twitter and Facebook. Having finally been dragged into the world of Facebook in order to keep up with people, it became much easier to spew something out short-form than to write an entry. Once upon a time, it wasn't possible to write a long status update on Farcebook, it had to be a Note. Then they changed the rules, but recently I went back through my timeline to find an old status to convert it into a Note so I could refer to it later.

Twitter was similar - enforced short-hand (I have never used one of those "long Twitter update" services that direct you to another web page, and never will - that's what blogs are for) for pithy statements that can too easily be misinterpreted because there's so little text to explain yourself with.

Ah, happy days.

This dreamwidth account was created in order to join a writing community which ... since ... I have, um ... forgotten about. Really must find it again.

Then I needed somewhere to put This Friday Flash Fiction challenge, so that became the first entry. Then I remembered this blog long enough to write a couple of more entries (the story talked about here is now available, by the way). I haven't submitted any more Friday challenges because that one was needed to kick me back into writing momentum, and I've always since had something on my plate.

Then ... I forgot about it again. In fact, I even had to appeal for help to remember which the hosting service was.

So, let's try this again. As part of my "write every day" (may as well try, even if I'm prepared to skip days provided I can catch up), there may be bloggage. Bloggery. Blogging.

Let's see what happens.
jhepburn: (Default)
It's advice that floats around and occasionally bobs up to the surface like a fruit fly in a glass of beer.

But why?

Not the edit sober part - if you can't understand why you should edit sober rather than drunk, you need to learn a lot more about editing.

But why write drunk? Is it only that writers are expected to be perpetually drunk but should sober up to edit? (And that may or may not be, you know, a valid possibility, we certainly seem to talk about it a lot. Follow a writer on twitter for a week, and you have some idea of his or her preferred beverage.)

Or is there something about writing drunk that is an advantage over writing sober?

Well, there are three basic reactions to having a drink that are relevant to this discussion - get sleepy (bad), experience an uncontrollable desire to play loud music and dance (counterproductive), or experience a sloughing away of all mental blocks, controls and inhibitions that result in a massive outpouring of creativity provided you can hit the right keys, grip the pen properly, turn the recorder on and, the next morning, while sober, understand what it was that you said.

And that's the key part about writing drunk. You start to care less. As somebody or other said, "You can edit shit, but you can't edit nothing." You have to "Keep the cursor moving to the right" (just about everybody) so that you have something down on paper - you can change it, or throw it out and start again with the realisation that you need to avoid doing that next time, which is in itself a valuable lesson, or you can leave it there for the next complete edit in a month. Or next week. Or when your head stops pounding, you can stand up without shaking and you can afford to be more than ten metres from a toilet.

Take last night - after slowly starting something I wasn't quite sure about that was going to be a novella length story, I sat down in front of 1,800 words and accidentally wrote about 3,000 words and finished it up as a contained short story because it clearly wasn't going to work for the target market. Then, I accidentally wrote another 2,000 words of another story, before going to bed.

And thank you, homebrew pear cider.

Writing drunk is not always a good idea - you need to avoid cirrhosis of the liver or Korsakoff's syndrome, for a start - but damn it can help you get over literary blocks.
jhepburn: (Default)
I have not, for some considerable time, been the sort who could sit in front of a computer, open up a story, and write for an hour or two, wander off to do something else, come back ...

I consider it one of the biggest things I lost since I stopped being young and had to do things like study hard and work. The other things include my naivete and the opportunity to lose my virginity earlier than I did.

Anyway.

After returning to writing - far, far too late - my efforts and outputs have been patchy, sporadic and slowly increasing in quality, but far from fast enough. A long way from fast enough.

And then I saw a call for submissions to a serialised collection, 10,000 words or greater, any genre, to a theme, deadline - 28 February, which was four weeks.

Well, I thought: I can fucking do this. Stop giving yourself an easy ride! Get on to it! Fucking write! Okay, I had just struggled to write a 5,000 word story for a submission deadline in the same time period but stop making excuses!

So I committed to writing 2,000 words per day, absolute fucking minimum, come hell, high water or the zombie apocalypse. ("Keep down the gunfire! I'm trying to write, in here! Oh, for fucks sake, can't you die quietly?") That would mean 10,000 within a week, so I had plenty of time to find out how long the story would end up actually being (top end 50,000) and edit it a few times.

Right?

Right.

Per day? Welllll not exactly. But I fucking did it. Finished. Edited. One set of feedback - edited. Second feedback - edited. Edited again. Sub-fucking-mitted. All while working full time and not neglecting my girlfriend (that was important).

Done.

Word count? 22,600, in the end.

One month.

Go me.

That's, like, half a novella. A third of a short novel. A quarter of a decent novel. A fifth of a quart of single malt!

Plus, I wrapped it up sooner than expected, excising part of the planned plot, when I was at 10,000 and realised how far along I was, and had to replan because, honestly, I wouldn't get the extra week I'd need otherwise. In fact, if it doesn't get accepted, and even if it does, I'll probably just rework it into a novel anyway. And get more sex in. Because that scene was like a reward for finishing reading, and it could be ... Where was I?

At the same time, I accidentally got challenged to a 1,500-word flash fiction thing, which I wrote in two hours one night after work and posted as the first entry in this non-blog, so you can go and read it, if you like. Don't look at me like that, I have no religious affiliations and care less.

Now ... Now, I'm kind of meh.

Story finished, story sent off, use that momentum to find somewhere to submit something else I had lying around to submit, realise I could be revising something else I haven't finished rewriting after Aurealis rejected it with very helpful feedback, which has so far involved creating two tiles in Scrivener and then moving around around, and ...

Can't get moving, now. I'm all "Yay! Done that! And ... now I don't have the energy." I knew I should get stuck into The Next Big Thing. I even know what The Next Big Thing should be. I've got a sketch and the opening scene in my head, even! Haven't written it down yet.

I know I should keep the momentum up, but actually, I was neglecting the brewery, so I guess I'll go and clean that. And I need to roast coffee. And walk the dogs.

And, frankly, lie around playing Skyrim for a day because, fuck it, I haven't had a proper lazy day in a month.

Sooner or not quite so soon but still quite soon, I'm going to have to start knocking out more thousands of words again.

Soon, dammit!

But, maybe not tonight. Tomorrow, if I'm lucky. I mean, really lucky. I mean, it is March, after all. That's a whole new month.
jhepburn: (Default)
Thanks to Chuck goddamn Wendig and his Flash Fiction challenge, and somebody else's D10, I have been given the goal of writing a story, in less than 1,500 words, in the style of timetravel romance, featuring a dream and set at the gates of the Garden of Eden.

Easy, right?

Did it in 2 hours. 1008 words, or thereabouts.

Oh, and the challenge is at Chuck's blog here. Go and read the rest of it. His blog, I mean. It's full of helpful arse-kicking goodness.

================

You can only go back



You could only go back.

You could only ever go back.

Of course, it was so simple when you realised it. So obvious. You can never go forwards, because the future has not yet been written.

But the past is finalised, so the past can be visited.

The grandfather paradox? Bah, that's easy when you accept that the past has been written with you already in it!

You can't change what has already happened, which means that what has already happened, includes you happening in it.

Of course he knew that, now. Knew all of it.

But the bitter realisation that he could not return from the past to the future, even to a future that was already, from his frame of reference, a past, had been a horrifying surprise.

He had been stranded - stranded!

More and more feverish experiments had only resulted in propelling him further and further backwards. Energy never seemed to be a problem - somehow, the machine was always charged when he landed. Moving backwards in time seemed to harvest energy for the mighty batteries.

He really should try and work out why that was - why you deplete the batteries with the great thrust needed for travel, and then land with them fully charged. He had the tools. The solar panels, which would have taken a month to charge the machine for travel, could easily run the computers, so he had all he needed to complete as much theoretical work as he had - ironically - the time for, without risking being unable to make any other - increasingly desperate and useless - tests.

But he had more important things to do.

If he couldn't get back to her, she could come back to him.

So he had, in a fit of feverish inspiration, finally resolved the only way to send a message. Using almost all the power normally needed to propel a massive metal monster backwards through time, he sent the smallest amount of energy forwards.

And she dreamt.

The energy to dip a toe into her dreaming mind was barely enough, but he managed it.

In a sleep troubled by concern about his disappearance, she saw him and heard him. He spoke to her, guided her, and she rose from her bed, sleep-walking, and padded to his laboratory.

He had built a small, experimental machine which would be able, with what he now knew, to send her flying backwards to him.

With the last energy in the mighty batteries, knowing it was his last chance, he sent her crystal-clear instructions and, driven by her desire to be reunited, she remembered them perfectly.

There was nothing left for him to do then but wait, and fret, pacing up and down, clad in the tattered remnants of his sole set of clothes which had, over a year of subjective time, worn away, or burned away, or been torn or, in the case of just one sock, lost.

His one consolation was that at least this time he had no trouble finding food, and there did not appear to be any dangers, despite - he swallowed nervously - the monstrous beasts he could see roaming the forests and plains, mingling and grazing together far below him.

He had no idea how accurate his calculations had been, or how well-calibrated his test machine was (will be?). So he did not know if she would come immediately, or ...

The air smelled of ozone and he tasted tin. He looked around wildly. A shimmering patch grew to his left, on the edge of the escarpment.

Wild hope leapt up in his breast. He stayed rooted to the spot, having seen many times what happened in the immediate vicinity of his machine appearing, but had to exert great self-control to prevent himself running forwards in wild joy.

His test machine appeared, settled onto the ground - and burst into flames.

With a cry of horror he sprang forwards, racing to the cockpit, wrenching open the door and finding her slumped forwards over the controls, unconscious.

He grabbed her, hauled her out of the seat and sprang through the door.

The machine was consumed by flames that seemed to leap hungrily after them. He ran, staggering only slightly, and only belatedly did he realise her nightdress was on fire, and so, now, were his trousers.

He dropped to the ground, cushioning her with his body, and rolled them both over. Her dress still burned, so he pulled it off her, tearing the seams, and then had to discard his pants as they continued to smoulder. He used his shirt to beat out flames in her hair and only when it was safe did he collapse onto his knees beside her, weeping with relief.

She stirred, and her eyes fluttered open.

"Oh Adam," she murmured, "I had the strangest dream ..."

Her eyes widened as she remembered he had been missing for three days. "Adam!"

She clung to him as he hugged her, fiercely, lying naked in the grass of a pre-historic world, and they both wept.

"I thought I had lost you forever," he said, finally.

"I was afraid you had died," she replied, "that you wouldn't be able to come back."

He went very still and felt very cold.

She suddenly realised their surroundings, and scrambled to her feet. "Adam! Where are we?"

"I couldn't come back, Evelyn," he said, pleadingly. "It's not possible to travel forwards in time, that's what I had to find out. I had to try and bring you back to me."

"So when are we?" She was still staring around them in shock.

"We're as far back as it's possible to go," he told her, taking her hand in his. "We're at the start. We ..." He swallowed, but forced himself to go on, turning her gently to see behind them and, past the bulk of his machine, the towering, impossibly massive white gates that soared up into the clouds.

"We're in the Garden of Eden."

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j.hepburn

February 2014

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