Archiv der Kategorie 'Dogs Underground'

My writing is suddenly full of joy. So is my life.

To me, geeks are people who pursue our own joys and passions more than universal truth, and that’s why I love being a geek and being around geeks so much.

I planned to write a novel of at least 50.000 words during November, and prepared myself the best way I knew how. I was confident that I could write this novel quite easily until November the first hit. When I sat down, I found that I didn‘t enjoy writing because I expected me to be able to write either way better or way faster. I felt that I was wasting my energy agonising instead of being able to enjoy myself.

I took a step back and asked myself why I want to write. Like everything else in my life, I want to create a story because I hope that it will bring me joy. And I want to write it down so I can share it whith others in the hopes that they will enjoy it too. (That’s my take on the one reader response: I‘d rather have exactly one reader getting joy out of my book than whole generations being bored to tears by it in school.)

I tell stories to inspire joy. There are other great reasons, like inspiring laughter, tears, terror. I‘m not usually going for the terror, but that’s just my preference.
So if I want to inspire laughter, I have to first find out what will make people laugh. My approach would be to pay attention to and think about what makes me laugh, and then write to that, because that way I get to laugh while writing. If I‘m trying to write to what makes other people laugh, whether or not I laugh at those things too, I can no longer rely on my knowledge about what makes me laugh. I have to find out what makes other people laugh, and the wider I want my audience to be, the more difficult it gets. For example, I have spent almost my entire life with my twin, and still I won‘t know what will make her laugh until after I have told the joke. I always tell them to laugh myself, too, so that’s okay. I don‘t feel like I wasted my valuable time trying to make her laugh and then she didn‘t, I just feel like I enjoyed myself and maybe look a bit like a giggling idiot to her. I can live with her thinking that, and I can live with her being right about it, because I know that at least I enjoy what I‘m doing.

I just realised that my definition of sense and meaning is joy. If I am enjoying myself, life makes sense to me. If not, it doesn‘t. Universal truth doesn‘t figure into this.

Anyway, back to writing.
So in order to inspire laughter, I need to know who I want to inspire and want may make them laugh. If I can‘t even figure out a reliable joke for the one person I have been closest to for twenty five years, how am I supposed to figure out how to make a thousand random strangers in a thousand random bookshops laugh?
I‘m not even trying. I find it much easier to just write to my own sense of funny. I will laugh about surprising things if they seem harmless (If they seem threatening, they inspire terror in me). I also laugh in moments where I truly enjoy life. I think the two are related: If something unexpected happens and I see that it doesn‘t threaten me, that reinforces the idea that life is good, that I don‘t need to shield myself from the unexpected. (Neither my laughter nor my terror rely on surprise; that’s why I enjoy Terry Pratchett and Edgar Allan Poe so much. It’s the inevitability with which they arrive at their conclusions that makes sense to me.)

Another reason why I‘m not trying to be funny for others is that I don‘t feel comfortable around people who try that. If you tell me a joke and I think you‘re not enjoying it, I wonder why you bothered, and I may come to the conclusion that you were trying to manipulate me. This is why I can enjoy all forms of humour that feel sincere and harmless to me. The same is true about other forms of art and human expression. I think any form of human expression is art to me if I view it as a sincere atttempt at joy.

Now that I know that, writing comedy is suddenly easy: I can just create a world in which I would feel comfortable, and make harmless things happen that I wouldn‘t expect.
Easy as pie. Even if I don‘t always know exactly what would make me comfortable or what I wouldn‘t expect, I can usually tell what I find uncomfortable or expectable just by paying attention.

When I started writing this book on the seventh November of 2010, I just wanted something nonsensical and funny. Then I realised that I need a certain level of sense, or maybe that I find nonsense only funny if I can find a deeper sense behind it.
Now I was suddenly trying to write a book that made sense. It became a lot more daunting. Had I just gone for nonsensical without funny, you would probably now be reading a meaningless string of 50.000 words.

At first, I tried to defer to other people’s ideas of meaning, but eventually found it as hard as trying to write to others‘ ideas of humour. Then I made sense of my life, and now I can write a book that makes me happy. I feel that it drastically improves my prose, because I feel unhappy with my writing if it doesn‘t convey my sense, and I see beauty in it when it does. So if it doesn‘t strike me as beautiful, I know that I need to fiddle. But since I now what I am striving for, it’s easy to go in the right direction. Beautiful words, clear sentences and striking imagery now seem like the easiest thing in the world to me. They just have to be joyful to me.

Now that I know what I value and enjoy in writing, I also know what I value and enjoy in life. I enjoy it fully now. Everything seems a lot simpler and more enjoyable than it did just a few days ago. I used to try to find truth and share it with others, which I find a lot harder and more frustrating than trying to find and share joy. Since I know what joy is to me, clarity just finds me.

Dogs Underground and NaNo

Titles are damn hard, and Dogs Underground is only the working title of my novel.

When I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org), I thought it was silly. It’s an nonline challenge where you have thirty days to write a 50.000 word long novel. I thought it wasn‘t for serious writers, and that those rushed novels couldn‘t be very good. But then November came around and I was feeling depressed and I said to myself, „Self, do something proactive! You want to be a writer, right? So write!“ So I plunged into NaNo a week late without anything resembling a plot or even idea, because I didn‘t want to ‚ruin‘ any of the serious projects I had swimming around my brain.

My theory was that once I had written a full length manuscript, no matter how shitty it was, I had proof that I can do it. Before that, I had only written short stories, and doubted if I could write something novel-length.

So I started with a deliberately silly premise – ‚My heroes‘ superpower is being able to see the colour purple!‘ and then tried to write a novel from there. I came up with this underground civilisation that’s been cut off from and completely unaware of ours. I figured out how their society works, how my protagonists got there and what they have to fight for, and I gave them a scheming, power-hungry antagonist.

By the end of the month, I had 50.315 words full of awesome characters and bits of great dialogue and neat scenery and world-building, and I was exstatic about my success. I had written a novel! Yay me! The Pulitzer awaits!

But when I looked back at my draft a few weeks later, I realised that the plot was weak and the structure essentially broken. What I did in that month of frenzy was what Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens call discovery writing: I figured out my world and characters and backstories and relationships and what’s awesome about them, but I didn‘t discriminate between what needed to be in the book and what was just stuff I need to know in order to write it. Not having anything resembling a structure didn‘t help.

So now I have to rewrite the whole thing. But I still think taking part in NaNo was the best decision I ever made for my writing, because I have never been this far with any other novel before. I mean, I have an actual rough draft, that’s pretty awesome. It’s something I can work with.

So, what are your NaNoWriMo experiences? Or if you hadn‘t heard of it before, what do you think? And how’s your writing going?

Here’s the podcast where Lani talks about discovery writing. Go listen to it, it’s a great podcast, funny and entertaining, brilliant and helpful.
If you know of any other good writing podcasts, let me know!

Books!

Hi, this is Nils.
I just started this blog today, and I‘m going to write about books! Reading them, writing them, also binding them.
There will be reviews of my favourite and of obscure books I‘d never heard before, and I will keep you all updated on my own writing progress. Also, I bind books by hand and will upload pictures of them!

I will write at least two reviews per month, and one of them will be a self or indie published book that you might not have come across otherwise. The other one is probably going to be from Terry Pratchett; I‘m a bit obsessed at the moment. Basically it will be a book I‘m passionate about, whether it’s super-famous or languishes in obscurity.

So, if you are a writer yourself and want me to review your book – get in touch! I will definitely review the first ten books suggested to me. (Unless there’s something about them that makes it impossible for me to finish them; for example too much horror or violence. That wouldn‘t necessarily mean it’s a bad book, just one I can‘t stomach. But even then, I‘ll write about my experiences trying to read through it.) I‘m excited about imaginative storytelling and engaging characters, and I will explain exactly why and how the book is excellent …or otherwise. My enthusiasm doesn‘t necessarily blind me towards possible flaws in a book.

I‘m a writer myself and that will always shine through in my reviews: I‘ll ramble about how and why the book inspired me and what I learned from it about the craft of writing. I will also write posts about the craft in general, not because I‘m such a genious and you should all learn from me, but because it’s what I‘m passionate about and what I want to figure out myself. I‘ll learn as much writing them as you will reading them – if indeed, you don‘t all go ‚duh!‘ and roll your eyes. In which case I would be delighted to hear from you! After all, the reason I started this blog is to talk to you all about books and writing.