Nano and writing what you know

So I’m doing Nanowrimo (and I recommend everyone has a go at least once, even if you only end up with a thousand words by the end of it, you’ll have more than you started with) and have been trundling along at a reasonable clip, managing to keep up so far. But the other day I was writing a scene with the crew of a spaceship chatting about something, what to do next or some such, and I realised that not only was that boring, but it was too nice. So since my Captain, Laura Shields, tends a bit towards the irreverent and stupid on some things, I decided to do what all writers must do.

It was time to be mean.

Now I tend to agree with the consensus that, on the whole, the job of a writer is to be an asshole to their characters, to be the one who makes their life hell so they can come through it stronger, or weaker, but either way definitively changed. In some cases, dead, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a hell of a change. So I decided that it was time for the Captain to screw up on a tiny bit of interaction with the ship’s AI, and since the AI is a full fledged person this was enough to actually hurt her.

What has this to do with writing what you know, phantom people who may exist only in my fevered hallucinations are no doubt asking? Why that’s the very thing, I took the interaction from one of my very own fuck ups of this sort, and I think the scene is better for it. Like me, Laura didn’t realise what she had done because she was thinking about other things and generally being an inconsiderate dumbass. Also like me, she was immediately called on it by her crew and, I hope (there’s still a long way to go just on this first story with them) has learned from it. Now, I didn’t need to use my own experience for this, I could have just made something up that made sense and gone from there.

But it was a hell of a lot easier, and more convincing, to write from what I’d experienced.

Also, in an odd way, it gave me a kind of final ownership over my fuck up. Recognising I’d been shitty, owning up, then showing how it can happen have helped solidify the checks needed in my mind so that it won’t happen again. I hope. We’re all human, mostly.

So yeah, writing what you know, useful in a whole range of ways and for more than just the writing. But, I think the phrase ‘write what you know’ is a bit problematic, since it seems to imply only ever writing about what you’ve experienced.

And I’ve never insulted an artificial intelligence.

A better (in my opinion, which you can take, leave, or fling away in the desperate hope to never see it again but know this: like a boomerang it will come back to haunt you) way of saying it might be: ‘know what you write’ which, while still somewhat ambiguous, at least puts the impetus on ‘knowing’. And I can know all kinds of things without experiencing them, just from reading and watching and generally taking notice.

Basically I’d prefer it if everyone felt safe to write whatever the hell they liked, and if you don’t feel like what you’ve written about is convincing, just read read read until you think you understand it, check that by explaining it to someone else, and then fix your writing appropriately.

No, this wasn’t me justifying my wiki walks and tv tropes traversals, shut up.


Changes, gearing up, and comics!

Enthusiasm is infectious.

I’ve let this blog lie long enough, and thankfully I stumbled across Kate Leth’s Less Than Live podcast a while back, and I was blown away by how excited she gets by comics, not just the ones she reads but those she’s writing too. Kate started out working in a comic store with a webcomic on the side and now is on a rapid rise to the greats of modern comic book writers. She’s written an Adventure Time graphic novel, Seeing Red (with another on the way), is the writer for Bravest Warriors and has recently taken on writing duty for two new series in Fraggle Rock and Edward Scissorhands.

You can probably tell, she’s busy.

Her podcast has gotten me into comics. No other way to say it, really, and I am so very glad it did. If you go to the podcast site I mentioned earlier you can see lists of the comics she recommends and so many of them are sooo good. Saga being my favourite, everything she says about it is true, it’s great and you should be reading it now. It’s star crossed lovers in space, with wars and magic and a baby to protect.

If that doesn’t sound good to you, then I’m sorry but I can’t help you.

I’ve found that comic writers and artists are some of the more interesting on twitter, and ended up reading the new 52 Batgirl and Dynamite’s Red Sonja as a result of following Gail Simone, who can tell you what is and what is not fakey, and whose works I have only begun to delve into. Both are great, by the way, so go get reading.

Anyway, since the preamble/gushing is out of the way, on to things about me. Yes, I know you’re all excited (even if imaginary, but I won’t hold that against you). Enthusiasm for comics and the people that make them has lead me back to wanting to finish the numerous projects floating around in my head, so I’m starting with a rearrangement of this blog, since that’s not quite so scary as the at least three books and dozen or so short stories I want to fix and make worthwhile.

With that in mind, things have changed to be a bit more sensible. Gone is the slightly more Urban Fantasy idea of this being a place where stories flow through from other worlds, since that was frankly confusing. And I want Davely confusing, at the least.

… Yeah, even with the changes, I’m still me.

Short stories are now in their sensibly named section, and since I don’t have books out yet I’ve got a longer works section for the little bits I’ve put up about what I’m writing. Which I may not be writing right at this moment, but are always there, nibbling away at my consciousness until they find a way out through my fingers or drill a hole in my skull. I hope they put it to a vote.

Things will appear, disappear, maybe even exist as only nebulous waveform in a passing cloud, but rest assured this place will make a bit more sense.

But only a bit.