Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Whatever

I'm in a bad mood. I don't know why, there's no good reason, I just am. And I'm missing my happy pills.

When I had surgery on my elbow last March, I got these lovely pills to take for pain. Lots of them. Many more than I really needed, so I used them accordingly. Meaning, whenever I wanted to feel happy. I called them my Happy Pills. Just one, not two, and only on a weekend since they'd keep me wide awake all night long. But damn if they weren't the nicest things around. I'd lay there, awake but feeling very secure and happy and calm about the fact that I wasn't getting a lick of sleep. Got these same pills when I had a kidney stone, and I made them last nearly 6 months with rationing.

And my Muse adored them ! I could envision entire stories while laying awake, feeling so secure and happy. I'd smile and watch my characters interact and imagine fantastic scenarios for them. Those Happy Pills even gave me the inspiration I needed for the story I'm writing now.

But I'm all out of Happy Pills. And the stupid elbow is beyond the point of convincing the doctor I need more. Rum doesn't do the same thing, though I do enjoy that in my coke some evenings.

No more Happy Pills.

That's not what has me in bad mood, mind you. I wasn't addicted to them or anything. I think I averaged taking one every other weekend or something, no big deal. I was using them as a special inspiration-treat.

This isn't even the point of my post, I'm just grumpy.

The point of this post was going to be about Criticism.

As writers, we get a lot of that, in bulk, from Costco even. We sometimes ask fellow writers to read our work and give us a critique, and let me tell you, that is not for the faint of heart ! Luckily, I already had a pretty thick skin, so I can take it. But . . . oddly enough . . . I won't let them read my Precious (Alex and Evan). Mostly because those characters are near and dear to me in ways I can't even articulate - but I know in reality, they're anything but literary.

I'm going to stop there, 'cause I love my guys and I'm in the middle of writing them now, even.

So back to my point - The other day I was watching something on HGTV, Sell This House, I think it was. Anyway, someone comes in to check out a house that's been on the market for a long while without selling, and points out the issues and problems. Meanwhile the homeowners sit back and get all huffy and angry at the remarks. Watching this makes me think: You'd never make it as a writer, kiddo!

As a writer, you have to hear all sorts of opinions about your work, and smile politely while nodding and looking for the truth in what's being said. Because aside from "This sucks", usually there's something in a critique you need to hear. And you usually don't want to. But it's helpful, and you know it, so you listen bravely and try hard to think objectively.

It's not that much different than being told the color scheme of your living room is horridly outdated ! In both cases, someone you don't know is making a comment about something that's near and dear to you, personally. An expression of yourself, your emotions, or your creativity.

So what IS my point? I'm in a bad mood, that's what !

Some got brave and submitted to the Crapometer over at Miss Snark's blog. I didn't submit one, but I've been going there now and again and reading the comments she makes regarding the hooks people did send in. Yeah, a lot of them suck wind. And they deserve to be told there is wind being sucked. And sure, I've taken some pleasure in reading her snarking remarks, especially to the ones that leave me thinking: WTF?? I'm harsh when reading stuff like that, like when I'm in a bookstore looking for something to read - I'll give them all one paragraph to make me care enough to read one page, after that they're history and I move on looking for the next one that might interest me.

But this bad mood of mine has me feeling sorry for a lot of these people. Sure, their hooks suck, but they're based on a story this person just took months to write and fuss over. A story this person clearly devoted time and energy and emotion into, all the while hoping and praying that this was The One.

Only to find out, in mere seconds, that it isn't.

All seems rather futile at times, don't it? And yet we press on, write our little hearts out, sweat bullets over our queries, and submit again, and again. Then we do it again.

Writers aren't sane.

Happy New Year.

Now let's take a moment to enjoy my new Happy Pill :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You Lost Me

So yeah, I watched The Lost Room on the SciFi channel, and I have to admit I was really getting into it. I missed some bits here and there because I didn't DVR the thing right away, but I caught it all on the replay and have it stored for later.

But as a writer, I have a gripe.

Now, first off, I love a complex plot. And for emphasis, I'll repeat: I LOVE a complex plot.

I love writing that assumes the reader/watcher is intelligent enough to follow along, and takes us on a journey with twists and turns and unexpected originality. So while I was watching this miniseries -- and frankly my sole reason for taking an interest in this presentation -- was the writing. That lead actor was okay, could have been better looking for my tastes, but he was good in the role. The other actors were fine, all that falderal.

It was the writing that drew me in. The room, the key, the objects, the potential this tale had for a complete series and the sense of writerly wonder it boosted in me -- I found myself analyzing how fantastic it would have been if I'd come up with this idea, and where I could have gone with it. There were major feelings of jealousy involved, since I hadn't, in fact, come up with it.

All the while I'm watching this thing, I'm thinking ahead and wondering just how this writer is going to bring everything full circle. I was all set to be amazed, nay, dazzled by the conclusion. In my mind were all manner of possible angles and twists, and I could only wait with anticipation to see how this writer wrapped it up.

Then it was over.

No explanation. No conclusion. No satisfaction whatsoever!

Had this been a book, this would have been the point at which I would have thrown it physically and with great enthusiastic force across the room ! Threads were left dangling, answers were left completely Unanswered, and not one mystery was brought to a logical or satisfying conclusion.

And if you're thinking this was a perfect open-door to sequels, No, it wasn't. Sequels would have required a much different and better scripted lead-in.

This is what we call a Dud. A writer who had a fancy-dancy idea, and no where to go with it. A writer who envisioned a great, convoluted plot with twists, turns, flips and spins . . . but couldn't figure out how it ends!

As a writer, I can say that many of us start out with this. We have a picture in our heads of one scene or one idea, then realize there's a story there that needs to be told, so we work up some characters, stretch that one idea out into a set of ideas that connect into something we can call a plot. Then sometimes we'll even start writing the thing before we've figured out how it ends.

But -- and here's the real kicker -- we don't END that story until we HAVE figured it out! During the process of writing, more plot twists come to mind, and eventually, as you're busily placing your characters in peril and working out their eventual success, the ending comes to you. You spend a little time working out the logic, making sure it truly IS the ending you're looking for, double-checking to make sure it wraps up all the mysteries in a logical manner, and one that a reader could have figured out (which entails making sure you left just enough clues without giving it all away).

Then, and only then, can you type The End at the bottom !!!

If you have a great story, a twisting and complex plot, but NO logical conclusion, it isn't DONE YET !

Okay, rant over. I have to go figure out why this thing won't load images anymore, and think about switching to the new blogger. I just had to VENT first !