Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ideologies Abound

Literary movements typically happen without an express intent to do so. Writers working under similar perceptions of the nature of language, writing, politics, society, or whatever else drives a writer to write, tend to create movements inadvertently by writing in similar fashion. Modernism was a response to the Romantic idealism of the 19th Century. Post-Modernism was a response to the traditionally-bound and structurally-minded artists of Modernism. This is the way of movements: the writers didn't intentionally try to create a movement; it just happened.

The "punk" movement in science-fiction is a good example of this. For very general information, you can look up cyberpunk and steampunk on Wikipedia (though the information is certainly less than exhaustive). Both of these movements were created in reaction to a previous way of thinking; both of them created a new movement that spawned a way in which to present a story.

I believe, however, that both of them are dead - or at least not progressing - movements. Cyberpunk has run its course. It's message has been stated, and the reaction has been made. Steampunk has also run its course, ideologically, though it is still around as an aesthetic. The stylized nature of the sub-genre has produced more than its fair share of fashion, movies, and styles. But it can be revived.

Why am I bringing this up? Because my current project lies in the attempt to recreate a new steampunk. The message of the first wave of steampunk has been sung; I think, though, that the environment can be kept and a new message inserted. So that's what I'm trying to do. I'm reading a fair amount of literature that I hope will inspire a new idea (one I already have in mind but wish to solidify) and some essays. When I'm done, it will either be a grand success or a very educational failure.

I'll keep everyone informed :-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strangely Motivated

The Editor-at-Large of Every Day Fiction just got back from Clarion West this past weekend, and I caught up on his blog (after a brief discussion about a rejection I received from EDF - only my second). It got me thinking about the amount of writing I actually produce in a given time.

When I started writing consistently, I was in my sophomore year of college - yes, I said college. I had written a few bits and pieces in high school but only at the mercy of the Muse. When I started writing more frequently, it was more on the pressing of deadlines for classes. Material was spotty at best and rarely worth more than a once-over after it was critiqued.

(I learned something then that I have stuck with since: your drafts (first, second, possibly third) are going to be poor. They're drafts for a reason. So it's ok to produce material that you're not initially pleased with so long as you give it out to others to read, and then polish after. But I digress.)

It also taught me to write when I didn't feel like it, write when I could have been doing other things, and write when it needed to be done. Writing is - and always will be - a job for me. I enjoy it at the same time that it gets on my nerves when I feel like I have to do it. I've set it aside for a bit too long, though, and I haven't really produced anything new in about two months (possibly longer). I feel that I have a lot of good ideas, but it just takes time out of doing things that are a lot less brain-cell-using and fun.

So outside of strapping yourself in a chair and forcing yourself to write, I offer you these bits of advice to get yourself writing on a regular basis - which I will begin to use, too, in conjunction with a program I'm starting with the Milwaukee Writers Workshop.

  1. Make a schedule. Even if you only decide to write for an hour a week, make sure you keep yourself to it. It does you no good to set it and not adhere to it. If it's important enough to you, tell your family and friends and ask them to respect it.

  2. Don't self edit. Every writer thinks that they "could've worded that better" and that's fine, but wait until polishing to take that task up. It doesn't help the story when you're first writing it.

  3. Finish the story. They're no good if they're sitting on a shelf, or in a file, unfinished and unable to be read and worked on. So finish them already.

  4. Find a distraction-free space. Everyone is distracted by different things. For me, it's my cats (or computer games, or books). So find somewhere that you know you work well and go there to write.

  5. Critique and Polish. Once you finish the story (and you will finish), give it to a critique group, so they can offer feedback. Then polish it and send it out.