Sunday, 20 June 2010

Easy writing, or simply easier?

An empty, brilliant white Word document with nothing but the cursor blinking pretty much strikes fear into my poor writer's heart.  Usually, the getting going is the hardest part of my writing process.  Once the first paragraph is over, everything seems to flow way better.  But sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it does.  So, my question is this: is there really such a thing as easy writing?  Or sometimes is what we write only easier?

For awhile now I've been working on a YA project which falls outside my comfort zone: its normal - minus the para.  The thing that struck me with this project is something I've never experienced as a writer before.  It didn't flow well.  I found myself staring at the computer screen for huge blocks of time and only getting a few words out.

I'm not a planner.  When I start a project I jot down some character points, a few plot ideas I have, and generally where I think the story is headed.  Once the story starts fleshing out and growing, then I go back and start scribbling notes and plans in my trust notebooks.  But for my current project, I couldn't plan anything.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  My concept ideas page was the only page filled in the notebook and so I (probably stupidly) just went ahead and started writing anyway.

Once maybe fifty pages into the story, I started getting stuck.  I knew generally where my characters were going, but it was like I had to put all my faith in my creative streak - or writing blind, as I like to think of it.  The further I delved into the story, the more stuck I got.  I literally wrote myself into a corner.  It was time to take charge.

One night I sat down at my desk and refused to budge until I had plotted out the story and did character info's and backgrounds and anything else I could think of.  Suddenly post-its were full, my desk hidden under pinks rectangles, green and blue squares, yellow small rectangles.  Using my bare wall in my office I stuck all the post-its to it and hey presto!  My story outline in full.  I knew where I was going.  The blinders were off, I could see.

And I haven't been able to write anything since.

I'm on page 160 and I know exactly where everything is going, whose gonna do what and whose gonna break whose heart.  I just can't get it out.

At first I thought this was down to what's going on in my life right now (a toddler, a big move, husband changing jobs and depression that I still haven't lost all my baby weight!) so I figured all these factors played a part in my slow moving writing train.

But then something happened.  Another book I wrote way before this one was even a musing in my mind started cropping up in my head with increasing frequency.  I've always considered doing a sequel for it, but I couldn't come up with a big enough story line, or not enough subplots to fill a whole book.  So, just for fun, I wrote a short story with one idea I had.  I wrote twenty pages in one night.

It was reminded me why I love doing what I do all over was like going on that magical first date again, seeing my baby boy for the first time, kissing my husband on our wedding day.

Everything fell away - it was the kind of writing where you just go with it and you feel like you're just along for the ride.  The kind of writing where you pause for a break and you can't feel your butt, and you realise four hours have passed without you even realising it.  This, to me, is the definition of easy writing.

So why am I having so much trouble with my current WIP?  The best writing tip I've ever heard to avoid writers block is when you are struggling to write the scenes your most excited about, and fill in the gaps later, it will all come together easier.  How true it is!  Except for this story.  NOTHING makes writing this story easy.

My short story felt like easy writing in comparison, but was it really?  Or was it just easier?


Friday, 11 June 2010

New Take On Classics - Friend or Foe?

So I finished my current read this morning, and set about trying to figure out which book I was going to move onto next.  My last read was Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and after reading about the decimation of the American Indians, I needed something a little light, a little fun - something NOT to be taken seriously.  

My eyes landed on a book I've had for a while and never got around to.  It was Mr Darcy, Vampyre Hunter.  I've only read a few chapters at this point, but something struck me.  While it's go so far and definitely hits the mark for getting the time period believable and everything, it blatantly wasn't as good as Austen.  Now, I'm not trying to say this was the author's intent but there is some controversy over this kind of thing.  Is it damaging Austen's reputation and spitting on her excellent work by twisting and distorting her loved characters into something modern society feels it can enjoy more?  Or is it simply a bit of a laugh and will ultimately make its readers want to reach out and grab what originally inspired it?  Have Austen book sales gone up since the release of titles such as this?  Did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies make people want to see where Lizzy and Darcy actually came from?  Or have we simply stolen ideas and slapped a different spin on it?

After reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I wrote a blog post similar to this, but since then my eyes have been opened further as I realised just how much Alternate Austen there is out in the world.  My first thought was, sure, I like it.  But now I'm beginning to wonder where the line is - and has it already been crossed?  A lot of people sneer on Seth Grahame-Smith and how he was altered and adjusted some of Austen's classics, but in my opinion the works are two different things.  It's like when I read a book then watch the movie - I have to separate them in my mind and make them two different projects in order to enjoy it.  Once you start comparing, you're never gonna be happy.  

So where is the line that says it isn't entertainment and it's merely plagiarism hiding behind a 'new' face?  The further I delve into this world of revamped classics, the more torn I get.  Generally speaking it doesn't bother me and I'll happily read the original and the spoof (I mean, what else can you call it?) but the more I think about it, the unhappier I get.  As a writer myself, I can understand where people are coming from and think that yes, they have every reason to be upset.  It takes a lot to create characters, plot and settings and even more to create ones that readers will fall in love with.  So how would Austen feel if she knew people were taking her ideas and twisting them into something else?  Would she be flattered? Or would she cringe?  I don't know.

What I definitely do have a problem with is new 'discoveries'.  People pretending to have discovered previously unpublished works from literary icons and passing them off as the genuine article, when all they are is glorified fan-fiction.  When I first saw Pride and Promiscuity - The Lose Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, I was all 'hell yeah!  I gotta read that!'.  I have since discovered this isn't the truth.  People have pretended to find this work and passed it off as Austen - when in fact it is a work of their creation.  I'm still curious to read it, but now feel apprehensive.  Had the people who brought this lie into the world marketed it differently and for exactly what it is (ahem, fan-fiction) then I'd been more willing to read it.  But it feels almost dirty and cheap - like reading Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun after it was leaked onto the internet.  No fun in that.  

So as of right now, I'm undecided.  I can enjoy them to a certain extent but I keep changing my mind on where I stand.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed one day the classic lovers and the modern freaks (I can say that - I class myself as freaky on the odd day) can live in peace and maybe find some common ground.  But I won't hold my breath.

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