26 September 2009

Dusting Off an Old Manuscript

So I've been getting the itch to do some actual work lately. But starting a new novel is daunting, and I've been avoiding it. This evening, though, I remembered a long-abandoned manuscript, only half complete, that has been dying on my hard drive.

I opened it up tonight, and have been plugging away at it, off and on, for the past few hours. It's rough, getting back into something so long unused, but it feels great at the same time. I may actually finish this book.

Which is good, seeing as how it is one of my favourite story ideas, as well as one of the first ideas I ever had for a full length novel.

16 September 2009

The Importance of a Good Desk

I do all of my writing on a laptop, in Roughdraft 3.0 (great, great software, I highly recommend it). Theoretically, I can write anywhere with these tools. Going for coffee? Take the lappy with you, bang out a few pages in the Horton's.

In practice, however, this is not really possible. I need to be in my chair, at my desk. The reason I need my chair is, as I have mentioned, that I need a specific squeak to my chair when I'm writing. When taking a break from the keyboard for a few seconds, I lean back, and if I don't hear that squeak, I lose my train of thought entirely.

For the past ten years or so, I have had the same desk. It was white pressboard, with two drawers, and was generally pretty terrible. But it served me well, and I wrote my first novel at that desk.

When my grandmother passed away, my aunt, with whom she was living, was giving away some of her possessions. My sister, bless her heart, took Nan's desk for me. She took it home, stripped it entirely, and revarnished it. It is old, solid, and absolutely beautiful.

She finally had a chance to bring it to me, yesterday. I cleared out a space in the office, set it against the wall, and transferred everything into it yesterday afternoon. I then spent the rest of the day sitting at it, organising it and just getting used to the difference. The thing is older than I am, and you can tell if you look closely. But my sister and her husband did a magnificent job restoring it, and I can't thank them enough.

This is a desk that I can get some serious work done on, I think.

08 September 2009

Another One

You never know when an idea will hit you. See my earlier post, about always keeping a notebook handy. You could be driving to work, you could be watching the clouds, or playing in the backyard with your kid.

That last one just happened to me, over the weekend.

You never know what will trigger an idea, either. It could be something as innocuous as the position of a rock against a fencepost. Or more obvious, like a couple fighting for three hours next door, then going suspciously, and immediately, silent.

For me, it was the neighbour's garden. In their backyard, which faces my own, they have two decorative garden doors, right on the edge of their property. The way my backyard is laid out, these are in a small grotto, behind an aggressively overgrown dogwood bush, and under the low hanging, and far-reaching, boughs of a very old maple tree.

To look at it, it's a gorgeous sight. You're standing by a patch of daisies, looking into a shaded and secluded little clearing, and there are two doors, just standing there. There are no walls, no glass in the windows, and no handles on the doors.

I've been looking at them every day for a month, and nothing came of it. Saturday evening, though, I was outside playing with the Weenit, and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. The complete framework for a teenage-oriented fantasy novel. No meat to it, of course, that takes time, but the basis for it just fell into my brainmeats all at once.

I immediately wrote it down, of course, and will get to it when I can.

The point is, always be open to whatever comes into your head. You can't force an idea to come (unless you're Chuck Palahniuk, of course.... the man is a machine), which can be frustrating at times. But you can increase your chances by following those random thoughts that pop into your head. Follow them relentlessly, because you never know where they will take you.

04 September 2009

The Library

No, not the public one that smells like hobos, though that one is awesome, too.

I mean your personal library. The one you have in your bedroom, or your living room, or, like me, in your office.

A person's library says a lot about them. Some people don't even have them, and that makes Neil Gaiman sad.

Why do you want to make Neil Gaiman sad?

What you have in your library, or, in my case, what you have room to display in your library, is pretty much a visual representation of yourself. Your interests, your hobbies, your deepest, darkest secrets are there, for all the world to see.

If only they could decipher it.

Mine is spread across seven bookshelves of varying size and description. This includes one shelf devoted entirely to The Weenit's books, granted, but I don't mind, as seeing her purple fuzzy Dora chair permanently sitting next to a shelf filled with her books makes me happier than I can adequately describe.

The rest are mine. Well, mine and the wife's, but mostly mine. I am shamed to admit that there are several shelves that are double-stacked*, which annoys the shit out of me, but there's no room, otherwise.

The two main shelves are about as tall as I am, containing five and six shelves. They are narrow, but that just means they fit in the room better. One one (the six-shelfer) I have the majority of my fiction, loosely categorized by genre and alphabetized by author's last name. The bottom shelf and a half is devoted to anthologies (Grimm's fairy tales, Norton Anthology textbooks from university, collected works of various people, etc...). The second is for non-fiction, categorized by topic (psychology, biology, history, occult {yes, this is non-fiction}, biographies, war, etc....). The remaining shelves hold, mostly, pocketbooks. Though my Robert Jordan set (almost entirely in hardcover, I'm working on the rest) is proudly on display. These shelves are the smaller ones, limited to two or three shelves each.

Now, the reason I'm describing this.... well, I'm not really sure. My fingers were itchy, and I needed to type something, to be honest.

When somebody looks at these shelves, they can immediately discern a few things about me. One, I like to read. A lot. Two, and more importantly, in my mind, is that I don't really care what I am reading about. I like to read on just about any subject, and often sit down in the bathtub with a university textbook just to read it.

Just because.

I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people that.

Regardless, what I'm getting at is this. You need to read. A lot. And you shouldn't care what you're reading about. Unless, of course, you're working on a specific subject. But if you're stuck for ideas, and you're looking for inspiration, just reach out to your shelf, grab a random book, and start reading.

*Double-stacked is when you have a line of books at the back of the shelf, and a second line in front of these, blocking them from sight.