Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hopeless, sleepy-brained meanderings I'll blame on Mark Billingham, religious nuts & a bit of sci fi.

Big news about the new Spinetingler if the world doesn’t end before you finish reading this post.

Because the world will end today, and to mark the occasion, some bikers are riding to hell

This is a perfect example of how you can have one thing in your head to blog about, check out the news, and go in a completely different direction. Not one article relegated to the ‘weird news’ section, but three references to the fact that the numbers are scary today. Which means this might be the end. Oooohhhh. I'm quaking in my pajamas.

Despite my own religious background, I find these modern prophets of doom to be amusing. It’s just a number. A number doesn’t have any more power than you give it, unless it’s in reference to book sales, winning a prize or the dollar amount on a cheque.

In fact, when we moved here we were given our choice of phone numbers. One of the numbers offered was 2666 and I jumped at it. Easy to remember, and some might say appropriate for me.

I distinctly remember an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard had been captured by the Borg, the most sinister threat to face humanity since Richard Simmons in spandex. Well, okay, likely since some other ominous species on a Star Trek series threatened earth.

This leaves Riker in charge of Enterprise, facing battle and, judging by the damage the Borg have demonstrated they’re capable of, certain death.

Which is when bartender Guinan, played by Whoopi Goldberg, tells Riker that is a man is convinced he’s going to die in the morning, he’ll find a way to make it happen.

There have been moments in my life when I have been so certain of something, it was such an absolute in my mind and I had no doubt about it. And I’ve seen that vision, that belief, turn into a reality.

All of this has me wondering how much we create our own karma. It’s the chicken and the egg things here. Do we lack the belief in our success (or whatever) because some external force is preventing it, or do we fail to achieve it because we don’t believe we can?

Athletes learn a lot about the power of positive thinking. I’d listen to figure skaters being interviewed after a lackluster performance and many would say something like, “it just wasn’t there for me” and then the gold medal winner would say they stepped on the ice and just “knew” it would be perfect.

You know. Being in the moment. In the zone. On.

I’m not disputing the power of positive – or negative – thinking. But there are moments when a story, when edits, whatever, are just coming together for me in a way that I’m completely satisfied with the outcome, it’s worked out better than I could have imagined, and I don’t say that I just got lucky that day.

Maybe “everything clicked”. As in mentally, I was able to make sense of a bunch of random thoughts and pull them together in a cohesive way, but not because I was zapped by a bolt of lightning and heard a divine voice telling me how the story should go.

It’s work.

Mark Billingham recently vented some frustration with people who say they “channel” their characters. You might find it interesting. Now, I did ask him a question about what he said, in part. I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion he’s one of those insidious plotters that I’d like to kill.

Because I couldn’t plot my way out of a paper bag.

But what he said was pretty helpful, because it reinforced there’s no one right way to plot. Just, at the end of the day, the writer doing their work.

I’m one of those people who finds formulas frustrating and stifling. Oh, there’s merit to some of them. I remember a talk on screenwriting, talking about the 25%, 50% and 75% points in the story line. 50% of the way through a story is the “point of no return” where the protagonist has no choice but to carry on. Some defining moment. The ¼ and ¾ marks are supposed to be where other major dramatic twists happen.

The speaker used a few movies to show how this is applied, on a routine basis, and it was surprising.

But I don’t think that you can reduce a good book down to mathematical equations. Particularly a series book. You read those because you’re invested in the characters. And because you know the character, you typically know they’re past the point of no return early on in the case, the minute they take it on, usually.

While it’s true there are some writing guidelines that can help us, like my recent ones (PISI – people introduced, setting introduced) and MALT (more action, less thinking) and GNDN (goes nowhere, does nothing), ultimately, I don’t take a chart with a list of rules or the elements of a quest and fill in all the categories first and then start typing.

I follow my instincts.

And I “listen to my characters.” By this I mean that I ask myself what would be true for this person, what they’d do in this situation, and then go with it.

Damn pests usually do something far different than I’d do as well, which means I really have to use my brain to project the outcome.

So, while some days I’m “on” what that means is, some days I’m just more focused than others.

And my phone number has nothing to do with it.

Now that I’ve had my little rant about that, which has meandered off into another writing tangent, anyone have any superstitions they want to share? I’m going to be a hopeless hypocrite and admit that I actually do think things sometimes happen in threes.

But I’m only going to fess up about that if 9 people admit to some superstition in the comments.

(Horrid, aren’t I?)

But, speaking of numbers, in the first TWO days that it was available, the new Spinetingler was downloaded over 1000 times. That’s actually Saturday-Sunday tallies, so not even counting numbers after it was mentioned on my blog, DorothyL, Sarah Weinman’s, , Megan Powell’s, or Stephen Blackmoore’s.

So, that’s pretty impressive! I think the only one who got their post up earlier was M G Tarquini. She’s so on the ball she makes me sick.

Oh, and Bill Blume got his post up Sunday. Complete with a picture of his protagonist.

And you know what I'd like to ask these people who insist all books must be plotted before written? How do you get your ideas? Write it down on a calendar that at 2:30 next Tuesday afternoon you will plan the idea for your next novel? I mean, heaven forbid you're just struck with a moment of, ahem, inspiration.

(I'm in trouble now, aren't I?)


Stephen Blackmoore said...

"(I'm in trouble now, aren't I?)"

Sandra, you're always in trouble.

Sandra Ruttan said...

At least I'm consistent. That's what separates the women from the men, isn't it?

JT Ellison said...

Superstition -- I'm Italian, so I've got many... throwing salt over my left shoulder, holding my breath when I go by a graveyard, knocking wood, buying a lottery ticket when my palm itches, saying bunnyrabbits first thing on the first day of the month for good luck... (don't ask, family tradition)

Ideas -- The come in all shapes and sizes. I don't plot out my books entirely, I have a sense of where they're going. I do plot out particular scenes, let them form in my head based off a line or an action, then build off that. Not so exciting as channeling. I'll have to remember that one next time.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

"At least I'm consistent. That's what separates the women from the men, isn't it?"

Consistency? Huh, and I thought it was chromosomes.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

I'm not sure how someone can write with a book already plotted out, but some successful writers insist they do it. I am very methodical in my writing, my individual style very different from my wife's. She pounds it out in a flurry, because she says she's already written it in her mind. I usually have a rough idea of how I want a scene to play out, but rarely feel restricted by that or know how I'm going to write it. When I write, I can belabor a single sentence to death.

Me, I love the stuff that comes from things I don't plan, because they turn into some of the best stuff, things that grow into major subplots or more. To me, if you're going to plot it out beforehand, you've gotta be willing to abandon the plan if the story takes you down a better path once you start the actual writing... basically treating the plotting as a skeleton rough draft.

Based on J.T.'s reply, I'd have to say my style resembles hers. My stories have keystone moments, the things that are inevitable no matter what shape the rest of the book takes. Kind of like an election. No matter what happens leading up to election day, it always gets there and people go to vote... and yet no two elections are alike. Each one has its own story, it's own result.

Okay, I need to go to bed. Been up too long, and I'm rambling. ;0)

Brett Battles said...

Plotting, plotting, plotting...just hearing the word gets me depressed. Part of the writing experience for me is the excitement and wonder as I write a scene I had no idea was going to happen. That's not to say I don't know where I'm going. But I'm not carrying around a super-detailed map. Mine's more like a piece of plain paper with a couple of dots and a few squiggly lines to connect them.

Got my Spinetingler yesterday. So that's at least one above and beyond the 1000. And, yeah, M.G. did smoke your...eh...backside on getting her post up about it.

JamesO said...

What the satanists and other assorted nutters seem to have overlooked is that today isn't 6-6-6, it's 06-06-2006.

Mind you, I stopped taking satanists seriously when I realised they believed in god...*

I tried to meticulously plot a novel once. What I wasn't so good at was meticulously following the plot when I came to write it. Give me key events, signposts, destinations. It's much more fun making up the journey as you're on it.

And as for the other, well, I won't say I'm not superstitious. That would be unlucky;}#

*which someone else quoted around the blogs recently, but I can't remember who

patti abbott said...

Terrific issue, Sandra.

Boy Kim said...

I always thought that satanists believed in god. They have to, don't they (in the same way godists believe in satan)? Otherwise what they believed in couldn't exist.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates it when "plot-writers" trash "character-writers." You don't see any of us character-channelers going down on you because you built your house out of bricks instead of straw, do you, little piggy?

We character writers have a secret weapon. Super-glue (otherwise known as revisions). It works great on straw, and also skin, and on those pesky coffee stains on the front of your shirt from reading blogs with beverage alerts.

And the world can't end today. I haven't gotten my books out there yet. Sorry, Beast, but you'll have to wait until after June 15, at least.

(GREAT post, Sandra! :-)

Sandra Ruttan said...

JT, I'm going to go do a recount of those superstitions and see if there are enough for me to come clean...

Bill, I truly love best what comes from what I didn't plan. I get so excited when things work out even better than how I'd hoped.

James, LOL! Unlucky.

Patti, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

Boy Kim...I think I agree. I'll get back to you when I figure out if you're real.

SW, glad you liked the post. I'm not permitting the world to end today either. And they're really reaching on the date thing, anyway.

Brett, you leave my backside out of this!

Oh, and Stephen. "Consistency? Huh, and I thought it was chromosomes." You really don't understand women, do you?

Boy Kim said...

Wouldn't it be better (for both of us) if I was real instead of being a figment of your imagination?

Sandra Ruttan said...


James Goodman said...

Well, I tried to plot my latest story before hand, but I've already found that I'm veering from my original path. Oh well, best intentions and all that...

Lisa Hunter said...

A day of doom and destruction? Well, Blogger went down today, and someone ate my Rocky Road ice cream from the freezer. Does that count?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well James, you tried. Kudos to you. But nice to have you back with us insightful artistic types. (Ducks)

Lisa, anyone messing with ice cream is indeed a disaster of apocalyptic proportions. Justifiable homicide right there if someone stole my Rocky Road! Or Tin Roof. Or Chocolate Chip Mint.

Trace said...

Mmmmm Rocky Road and Chocolate Chip Mint!!

Faith said...

Years ago when I was a semi-newbie writer, I didn't plot, outline, etc. As time passed, I realized that by not doing so, I found way too many errors and plot holes in my short stories and the two novels I was working on. Now, I use loose plots and add to them as I write.

Nice blog, btw.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Faith. I actually use a loose outline for short stories. One book, I knew how it would end, but everything from A to Z was hazy. I know it means I have to go back and make a few adjustments - I just can't make the other way work for me.

Trace, mmmmm. You just made me hungry.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Faith is definitely not alone. I know of at least one successful writer who told me he's written outlines as long as 40,000 words for a 120,000 word book. I can't even imagine it. He writes some rather intricate trillers, so I can see why it would help him in the same way they do Faith.

I've only once "plotted" out a book ahead of time. I still haven't written it yet, although I definitely plan to (the story is still very much alive in my head). Looking forward to seeing how close I stay to the original outline.

angie said...

Just a weird little Spinetingler FYI...Miss Snark has a hyper-text link to Mindy's "Domino" story up in her latest post. Prepare for Spinetingler to get completely freakin' slammed w/reads and downloads. Yay!!!

Sandra Ruttan said...

OMG, and the hits were already staggering.

Thanks for the heads up, great news for Mindy!

angie said...

Yeah, she was freakin' that maybe the Snarkster might not have liked it, but from the context I think Mindy's dead wrong on that. Sandra & Mindy, taking over the world one blog at a time....

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I completely agree with you Angie! Miss Snark doesn't throw out willy-nilly blog links to stuff she doesn't like!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

The date is nothing but a stupid number. All it rated from me was a big ol' Bronz cheer. For non-new Yorkers that's one big long raspberry!