Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On The Edge of a Yawning Maw

You may or may not know I've enrolled in a Young Adult Fiction Writing course. It's for credit, so it's, I guess, real. I'm surrounded mainly by Creative Writing Majors, there's lots of talk about allusions and 'making art' and whatnot. It's great to have a group of people who you can talk with about the 'sagging middle' or the 'tyranny of the blank page' and not have them slowly edge away with terror in their eyes.

So, for this course I have to write about, oh I dunno, 10,000 words? Which, in my beginning days, would be a snap. Word count has been more of an issue as late. Could be debillitating overthinking, or a creeping suspicion that my fiction writing is shite when compared to my blog writing, and my blog writing isn't exactly Meville.

This presents a problem. A problem that I intend to clamber over like a well-intentioned trench soldier leaping out of his foxhole to experience just how bad machine gun bullets hurt.

Now, the good news is that I forced myself to cobble together, rather.. uh.. well, it's a hatchet job, but I finished my Epic Space Opera Farce About Society And Drugs... With Lasers. That was like a kryponite anchor around my neck. Not that I'm Superman or anything, but I hear kryponite is pretty damn heavy. Also, glowy. I've been glowingly weighed down for quite some time on this first draft, coming on two years, or.. three.


You just get so far in, and you start all these plot threads and character arcs and in the end aren't really THAT clear on what the hell you wanted to say. So, you're 75,000 words in and are doubtful that your climax, like the proverbial Snickers, really satisfies.

I can write a scene fine. It's clunky and awkward and it's not going to hold the door open for you, but it gets the job done and has some mildly amusing bits in it. I have no problem with a scene. It's the culmination off all these scenes. It's an additive thing. One is never sure that it's going to tie up neatly or to anyone's satisfaction.

In the midst of the tyranny and horror of the blank page, of the new novel, is that sense of vague accomplishment that comes with finishing a first draft. First, hey, great, finished that fu-- damn thing. Second, damnit, it's really utter crap. Contrasting emotions there.

And now I'm onto a new novel. Obviously, since it's for class, this fourth (yes, this is number four, number four in unpublished novels giving me evil looks from the hard-drive, right between a horribly mangled Family Budget 2005 spreadsheet and a picture of what appears to be a rather cute hamster. Or a sentient dust-bunny.) has to be Young Adult.

And now the yawning maw. The new novel. In a genre that I'm not well versed in, Young Adult (13-20). When I was a YA myself, I was reading King, King, a smattering of Tolkien, some Brooks, a dash of Asimov, and more King. It's a bit of the Han Solo problem for me. That is, kids watched Star Wars back in the day because of Han Fricking Solo, not the Ewoks. Yet in YA there has to be YA characters. Which I can understand. I think.

I guess I'm coming off as a negative Nancy here. This course is good for me. There are a few reasons that I decided to take it.

YA sounds like the sort of genre that has the sort of stuff I'm into. Lasers, robots, ninjas, robot laser ninjas.

I mean, yes, there is the other side, the sensitive coming of age story about the a teenage girl as she struggles with her mother's addiction to Percocet, a devastatingly handsome yet alarmingly sensitive boy, and maybe the neighbourhood vampire coven. My impression is that YA is just like fiction in general, that is, the vast majority is written for women.

But I'm interested in the other bit. The bit with outrageous monsters and dry dry humour. Things that are, for lack of a hipper term, 'cool'. At least to me. A vanishingly small demographic, to be sure.

And it's great, the camaraderie, the quick glances at the old, decidedly unhip dude in the back with the Battlestar Galactica shirt, the veiled references that maybe only real writers should be in the class... Where was I going with this. I'm hoping that, like iodine splashed with marked violence into a gaping knee wound, this will be good for me in an excruciatingly exposing way. And now I'm faced with the judgment from my peers, and the yawning maw, the blank page, the novel that must be written.

Fun, this writer stuff.


GXG said...

Just remember this quote that's often sourced to Steve Martin: "I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

Sure, authors are idiots because, deep down, we know we're making art. But we can strive to be secret idiots by publically focusing on the entertainment factor.

And you, sir, are highly entertaining.

Plus, I agree with the YA thing. When I was a YA (not sure when that was) most of the fiction I saw made me vaguely uncomfortable. MOAR ROOBUTS!!

Sneaky Speedtoker said...

Yer over thinking it, Owl!


Also, you are confusing YA with literature.

Go read the first few chapters of a "Warriors" book at the library...or get some coffee and read it at borders.

That's all they want.

Niteowl said...

GXG: thanks :) And yeah, 'vaguely uncomfortable' is exactly right.

SS : That's what I do, spend too much time thinking about things that need no thinking. It's very anti-Zen, I think.

Actually, our reading list is pretty.. complex. "Virgin Suicides" and "Battle Royale" being two of the trickier pieces.

Chris D said...

"my blog writing isn't exactly Meville."

Well, Mieville and Melville both had editors. So you just relax about that part.

Niteowl said...

HAH! Caught you! I actually mean Meville, as in Herman, in this case. SO NEENER!