Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Mind Your Own Biscuits And Life Will Be Gravy


It's yet another edition of Writing Wednesday, where your intrepid hero realizes that he hasn't posted anything on his blog in a few weeks and that a large photo of his friend has been the feature photo on the front page of his website for almost a month and it's starting to get weird.

What I'm Reading

The journalist/blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates is someone whom I really respect as a writer and thinker. I became aware of him when he wrote an article for the Atlantic titled "The Case for Reparations." The crux of the article, as is apparent from the title, is that the United States' government should pay all African-Americans a sum of money in reparations for all the years and years of oppression they've faced. This isn't just about slavery (although that is certainly part of it) but the discrimination and oppression that has continued until this day and is so all-pervasive that it's entrenched in everything--right down to the housing market and how towns were designed.

The article is fascinating, and I recommend you read it if you haven't (warning, it's looooooong), but the part that thunderstruck me was the stuff about housing. I had no idea that many cities, towns, and neighborhoods were all white by design. I'm sure I knew some were, just because...obviously since black people couldn't even use the lunch counter in the south for a time, of course some towns would be all white by design.

I had no idea how pervasive or transformative it was.

I actually want to write a blog post about this, so I don't want to go into much more about it right now except to say that I'm currently reading Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. It's a book about how many (the majority) of towns in the United States either kicked all of their black people out in a racially-charged riot, and/or instituted ordinances to keep them out. It was both relieving and equally horrifying to learn that the North was JUST as racist in this time period as the South was. Often we in the US use the South as a scapegoat--"Oh, of course this racist thing happened. It's the south."--because of Jim Crow. But y'all...that ain't the half of it.

What I'm Writing

My friend Emma Maree (@emaree) has convinced me to begin working on a novel. I've had the idea kicking around for a while, and I've done some preliminary work on it a few years ago, but I'm trying to get it outlined and ready to write. This is exceptionally difficult. I think I'm an outliner, y'all. Generally when I write short stories, the ones I complete are the ones I already know where they're going. I have an idea of the main conflict, and so while certain things come up on the fly, I mostly have the structure in my head before I write. A novel...is too big for that. Which means LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of plotting, which is broken into small increments stolen in short snatches of time.

I have codenamed the book Werewolf Bar-Mitzvah: Spooky! Scary! because I love 30 Rock and I love that song.

What is it about?

No clue. I'll let you know.

What Works for Me

Limitations seem to work for me. If I have a legit deadline looming, or a firm word count, I will suddenly be motivated to really press to get things done on time, or to really slash and burn in editing.

I have a story that has clocked in at around 5500 words that I've been shopping around. A market opened up that I wanted to submit to, but the preferred upper word count was 4000. Since this story hadn't been having much luck, I decided to try to trim it down.

I didn't get it down to 4000, but I did cut 700 words. That's...a lot. And it's SO MUCH BETTER for it.

I didn't actually end up submitting it to the 4k market, but now I know I have a stronger draft going out. And that makes me happy.

What Else I've Been Up To

In other news: I have discovered I really don't like video games. As I've gotten older, I've discovered that I really have no patience for video games anymore. I have a very particular niche in video games that I can enjoy: Uncharted, Infamous, Tomb Raider. Very story-heavy games with just enough combat to keep you engaged as you uncover more story, and even those I have to enjoy is small bits.

I bring this up because I recently started playing the first God of War--yes, the first one. I've got my finger on the pulse of modern culture, I'll tell ya--and I barely got past the first boss before I was on my feet, going, "Nope, can handle that anymore. Let's go read a book or something."

The combat is sort of enjoyably dumb and easy, but I find myself getting bored really quickly. Maybe it's because there isn't much storey right up front besides Kratos jumping off a cliff? Like, that's not enough to hook me, really, as I don't know who this dude is.

The graphic cruelty that Kratos demonstrates is interesting to me intellectually given the distance in the game's release and my getting to play it. I'll admit that I've played Infamous, and I've played the evil storyline. But the act of getting to choose to do these evil acts and witnessing the repercussions--both good and bad--is very interesting. There was a moment when Kratos found a man desperately clinging to the throat of a giant sea monster. Kratos steals the man's key, then hurls him down the monster's esophagus. At first, I got a little mad, simply because I didn't WANT to kill that man, and being deprived that choice irritated me. I had to remind myself that this was before that kind of game mechanic was really in use much. I'm curious if something like that came into play in later games, or if Kratos is just cartoonishly cruel all the time.

Anyway, as someone who knows nothing about the games, approaching this game with no nostalgia or strong feelings about the franchise at all, after so many years, is interesting. I looked up what this game got originally on IGN: a 9.5/10. And so far....I'm not seeing how.

So, what have you been up to?