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Rambler of many ramblings
The Damning Moths Online
May 17, 2011 at 20:30 (Thoughts)
I ramble often about letting my subconscious figure out my story problems or put together hints I didn’t even know I was including in my work. Some might call this their Muse, but that evokes a concept of something more Other than my process, an external force partnering the creative, while mine is more of a surprise discovery that I had the keys to the castle all along and just hadn’t checked the right pocket yet.
I believe everyone can learn to let their subconscious do the heavy lifting for tough plot points or laying foundations for even cooler events than originally outlined. But it’s probably not just a matter of typing madly away and expecting magic to happen out of nowhere. Because, ultimately, my subconscious can do the hard work as I’ve given it plenty of ammunition.
I consume information.
I’m always reading and learning new things, old things, anything in between. I read fiction as a way of life, but we’re graced with the internet age, and such an array of knowledge available in our homes, that it would be a disservice to existing without taking in as many of the universe’s juicy details as possible. I read non-fiction, technical texts, biographies, and just people’s personal blogs, relating their experiences and hardships and the way in which they overcome or simply survive the unimaginable… Without feeding so much into my mind, I wouldn’t have enough to draw on when I need my subconscious to insert something real and vital.
And it’s all interconnected. The way I name things, the themes I come back to, the character types and their trials and growth. What exists in my worlds, and the rules and lore. There are elements from all over the place, and they are all assembled in the unique way my mind functions. This is part of what people end up calling your “voice”, because the exact circumstances of you will be translated into your work.
Give yourself as much information, from a huge range of sources, across any number of subjects, as you can. Read and revel in knowledge. Build a deep well and fill it, and you will always have something to draw from. Let your subconscious handling putting together the jigsaw of these otherwise-disconnected pieces.
I have a favourite saying: 90% of research will never make it onto the page. It’s great to bandy about percentages like that, but it seems like an accurate estimation from my experience.
I love the research which is associated with my fiction, because I love learning and acquiring knowledge. It’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in discovering new pockets of the world we live in and delving deep into the detail and minutiae. But, by far the majority of any information I unearth will never translate to prose. It will not be added into the literal text of my story. What that bulk of knowledge will do is build a stable foundation for the written work to rest upon.
Facebook friends will know I’ve been working on a piece of short fiction known only as the unexpected story. It has an asteroid in it. When the flash of unexpected inspiration overtook me, I put in some place holder name for said cosmic rock, because I needed to get the words out of my head as quickly as my fingers would allow, and there was no time for checking into the facts of asteroid naming conventions. Once the first rush had passed, I could hit the internets and find out as much material as possible, and adjust the story accordingly.
Upon discovery of any significant rock hurtling through the vacuum of space, it gets a provisional designation, using a specific system to state the year, which half of the month, and its order of discovery for that time frame. For example, the eighth object found on June 10th, 2015, should receive a provisional designation of 2015 LG. Cool stuff to learn, but not what I wanted to know, no matter how interesting.
I kept looking and read that when the asteroid’s orbit is calculated, it changes to an official sequential number, in order of its discovery in relation to every other astronomical object previously found. They can also get a temporary alpha-numeric code based on when and where they were initially spotted. Well, still neat, but not quite to the point of straight-up naming an important asteroid.
I got to the good stuff and learnt there are some pretty strict guidelines for naming a celestial body of any kind. Follow the specific rules, you can propose a name, and the space committee will have final say over approving the name. But the really fascinating part, and the most important for my story in particular, is that Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) should be given a name from mythology that is not associated with the underworld or creation themes. Now we’re getting somewhere. There are lists published with all the names already used. It runs heavily into Greek and Roman mythos, unsurprisingly, but that isn’t a requirement for an asteroid.
So, I took my new knowledge, and flicked through some of my older research, which extensively covered gods from multiple cultures. In the end, I had to choose a fertility deity who comes from Australian Aboriginal culture, for all the myriad reasons it worked in the story. My asteroid is Anjea.
And without this blog post, no one would especially know, because none of this explanation ever makes it to the page. It’s important to the story, not in it.
Time is whizzing by at an outrageous pace. Since my last blog entry seven months ago, I have been busy. So, a quick recap!
November, the usual celebrations for that time of year. December, health issues arose. January, we slowly started to get things back in order. I managed to take the whole summer break to simultaneously get nothing and everything done. February, March, and April have been spent in a haze of writing and editing, writing and editing, as best I can while continuing to recover.
By the end of 2014, I had written an incredible 120,000 words for the entire year, across multiple projects. The next novel in the Snowflesh Trilogy clocked in over 90,000 words, and I have moved onto revising it into something worth handing to my editors. Other stories, a couple of which have been invitations to upcoming anthologies, have demanded sporadic bursts of attention with their various deadlines scattered throughout 2015.
All in all, things are good, continuing to progress, and as long as nothing new crops up, the next novel will herald its arrival by the end of the year, and I hope to have a few more significant short stories accepted in the meantime.
Of course, if you want to have a tiny taste of the efforts I’ve been expending, there will be a piece of my flash fiction in this month’s Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing newsletter. Sign up is free, you’ll get to read Night Sounds and see another end of the world from yours truly. Go to www.pmmpnews.com and fill in the relevant details to receive your copy around May 28th!
And for me, I’m falling back into Book Two. One third down, two more to go.
First, I careened through a 2,500 word goal in a day. Mostly because that number took my overall word counts to tidy, delightful milestones on the last day of September. The novel now sits at just over 50,000 words, and also marked 85k for the entirety of 2014. This hasn’t been the easiest year to write through with the various ups and downs, but I’m still trucking along and can make my final aims if I push hard through the coming months. I don’t enjoy deadlines, but I do like a challenge.
Then on the tail of stubbornly plodding to that target, I blazed through writing a complete 2,600 word short story in two days. I declared it both a happy story, and spur-of-the-moment, but neither description is entirely accurate. The themes are, in my mind, much happier than a lot of what I otherwise write, but it’s a nostalgic and somewhat heart wrenching tale. I know this, because everyone to read the story thus far has informed me they were tearful by the end, and in one case, cried in public. (Haha. Teach you for beta reading my work at a café, M.)
The story has also been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a very long time, all because I promised a friend I would write a happy story one day. It’s taken somewhere in the vicinity of a year for me to reach this mournful answer to writing a piece not based on horror or darkness, nothing evil, just something very, very human. While I had let the idea germinate long before, I didn’t expect it to fall out, nicely whole, when a single additional incentive to write it immediately was added to the mix.
I found a place to submit the story, which I’m grateful for twofold: it gave me the final push which brought the short to completion, and also provides a prospective home for my bundle of words. My novels are my main work, but the amazing connections I’ve found through having shorter work published is an invaluable element of the experience. Those friends don’t know how much their presence and positivity serves to hold my hand when I silently worry I’m not big and vivacious enough to find a larger readership or propel my career where I want it to be. They are quiet support against a doubtful mind, not just when they share appreciation for my work, but by their companionship throughout. So I deeply value every opportunity I have to try and get more of my shorter work picked up.
I know I have a long way to go. Every extra word written is inching me closer to that purpose.
Losing people can make you quantify who they were, assessing the size of the hole left. When more than one person dies around the same time, the measurements become hazy. They are going to be similar pains, and deeply unconnected at the same time. The two deaths are felt in totally unique ways, yet combine, a jigsaw of strangely matching pieces.
A dear aunt, someone I thought of regularly, even if I saw her only infrequently, joined the great beyond. This was sadly expected and she felt, ultimately, ready to find her next adventure. She truly lived larger than others. She had enjoyed two lives. More.
I can imagine with perfect clarity the tone and lilt of her bright greeting for those she would have finally seen again in the Otherworld. Parents and brother, the grandfather I never met but knew so much about. I did not visit her weekly or even monthly, nor speak on the phone with her – there’s a good chance I inherited my avoidance of answering calls from the way she would never pick up – but she was always present at every family event. Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries. If there was a party she could be invited to, she was, and you were guaranteed her attendance.
A woman whose personality was so expansive and singular to her. Things throughout the world have reminded me of my aunt, of how she might share an over-abundance of pleasure at something beautiful, or express her quick opinions on the state of affairs. I would have liked to cook for her again, once more. No one appreciated the little things the way she could, with absolute, committed joy, and no one else could drop the kind of instantaneous, easy curses as she did. She was, in all things, unapologetic for being herself.
And so I’m left thinking, no more of her loud amazement at something in the garden; no more of her carefully large hair and coordinated costume jewellery, which would look off on anyone else and yet, somehow perfect and gorgeous when worn by her; no more terrible, wonderful giant artificial flower arrangements filling her house, making the rooms nearly untraversable; no more of her perfume lingering after our long, long hugs; no more of her laughter and outrage and indignation and smiles and beaming pride for everything her family has done and will come to do. Those in the Otherworld have her now, we are left with memories.