greygirlbeast: (newest chi)
Slept halfway decently last night, but, still, I'm not awake this early, early afternoon (it's only just eight past noon for those of us on CaST). And the bitter cold lingers, 30F (feels like 21F), and likely will...maybe until spring, which comes in late June. I'm wearing too many clothes, which is never pleasant.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,875 words on Chapter Three of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. It was all ravens, Scottish witches, and pretend sea monsters. [livejournal.com profile] michael_b_lee commented to yesterday's post, as regards the interauthor, first person as artifact, and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir:

In this particular case, I think trying to explain how the artifact came to the attention of the reader would actually work at cross-purposes to what you're trying to achieve. Nothing should be explicated. The reader should at no times be certain of her footing.

And I agree, which is why, in this instance, the reader won't learn how it's possible they've gained access to the artifact.

Comments have fallen off again. I assume this has more to do with "the holidays" than it does with the ever-dwindling pool of LJ devotées.

But, yes, the cold weather. I mentioned that part already. After the writing, we had the last sad dregs of the "Five Legged Stew," and watched the first episode of Twin Peaks (1990). That is, the first one after the pilot. It is a strange fact that I have somehow never seen the series, but I'm remedying that now. Fish coffee and the log lady. And lots of bad 80s hair. There was WoW. Oddly, Spooky and I have not yet begun leveling our main toons, Shaharrazad and Suraa, to 85. On the one hand, we've been distracted by new races and new lower-level quests and whatnot. On the other, we've both been working towards the title "Seeker," which comes with having completed 3,000 quests. Spooky got it a couple of nights back, and I likely will tonight. There wasn't any IS rp last night, because I just wasn't up to it emotionally. Playing a pregnant fugitive AI in a flesh-and-bone body ain't as easy as it sounds, you know. Especially not when her human girlfriend has just gone back to work for the Benignly Evil Megacorp and the pregnant AI is beginning to suspect she has developed gestational diabetes. So, Twin Peaks, WoW, and then more Angela Carter before bed. Also more Susanna Clarke yesterday, but no China Miéville. Gotta catch up on him today.

It's that time of year when everyone decides I don't actually need to be paid until sometime after the New Year, bills or no bills. Which I suppose is the true meaning of Xmas.

There are contracts (short-story reprints) that I need to get into the mail today.

Just thinking, truly a shame that jealousy, sorrow, regret, and the need for vengeance do not necessarily have expiration dates. But, then again, if they did what would possibly serve as adequate motivation to keep me writing? I blame Elvis Costello for my having said that last part aloud.
greygirlbeast: (white)
I look into the mirror, usually by accident, and see the face of someone who hasn't slept well in many years.

Very, very cold Outside (20F, feels like 8F), but warm enough in the House.

Still and all and yet, I wrote 2,014 words on The Drowning Girl yesterday. I passed manuscript page 100. And to the title page I added a subtitle, so that it's now The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I did this for a reason (which is usually, but not always, why I do things). The reason goes back to the problem of the interauthor, which I discussed at length in the entries of August 7th, August 8th, and August 9th. A quote from the August 7th entry, wherein I introduce the (pretty obvious) concept of the interauthor:

Conventions in first-person narratives. Such as, how so few readers pause to consider the existence and motivations of the "interauthor." When you're reading a first-person narration, you're reading a story that's being told by a fictional author, and that fictional author— or interauthor —is, essentially, the central character. Their motivations are extremely important to the story. The simple fact that they are telling the story, in some fictional universe, raises questions that I believe have to be addressed by first-person narratives. Why is the interauthor writing all this down? How long is it taking her or him? Do they intend it to be read by others? Is it a confessional? Reflection? A warning? Also (and this is a BIG one), what happens to the interauthor while the story is being written, especially if it's a novel-length work of fiction?

A first-person narrative occurs in a minimum of two time frames: the present (when the story is being written down) and the past (when the story occurred).

And it baffles me that so few readers or writers pause to consider these facts, and that so few authors address these problems in the text. A first-person narrative is, by definition, an
artifact, and should be treated as such. Rarely do I use the word "should" when discussing fiction writing.

If the subject interests you, I recommend going back and reading the three posts I linked to above, and especially the many comments to them. But getting back to yesterday, and how The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is shaping up, the book it's becoming....

What is most important here is that the reader absolutely must accept that this story is most emphatically not being written for anyone except the interauthor, in this case India Morgan Phelps (a.k.a. Imp). If the reader is unable to accept this conceit, or unaware of it, the book cannot hope to succeed on the level that I mean it to succeed (let's call me the extra-author, existing as I do beyond the narrative). Literally, you'll not be reading the book I am writing, if you fail to grasp this point. Imp is not sane, and Imp has no concern for the needs of readers she isn't writing for. Her thoughts are sometimes a jumble, as her thoughts would be. None of it's being filtered to make it any easier for others to read. Not you, or you, or you. Not my editor and not my agent and not reviewers.

To quote Mark Z. Danielewski's opening warning from House of Leaves, "This is not for you." It truly isn't. But happenstance (by the agent of me, the extra-author) will allow you the opportunity to read the manuscript, even though it was not written for you, or for anyone else but Imp. And yeah, by now I know enough to know how this is going to piss off a lot of readers. But that's not my problem, even if it actually is my problem. If the reader wants to read this particular story, hesheit must meet me more than halfway. This is not for you.

Another thing that I've realized is that Imp is an even less reliable narrator than Sarah Crowe. In The Red Tree there was at least a voice of authority— Sarah's editor, Sharon D. Halperin —even if we might doubt whether or not the editor is being entirely truthful. In The Drowning Girl: A Memoir there is nowhere a voice of authority. There is only Imp's voice. Hence, the factualness of the manuscript cannot be determined (though it's truthfulness is another matter).

By the way, I have made at least one concession to expectation and convention, in that I don't think we will ever know how the manuscript Imp is writing has reached you, the reader. Recall that in some of my works that employ first-person narratives, such as The Dry Salvages and The Red Tree, I made a point of working that bit out. Anyway, it can't help but worry me, how the book will be received by my audience. But I also have to write it the way it should be written, which means the authenticity of the artifact, the product of the interauthor, is more important than the likes and dislikes of the novel's potential readership.

And if you're the sort who's bought into all that "reader-response" hogwash, well...what can I say? If you think the act of reading shapes the true meaning of a book and that the author's intentions are irrelevant, all I can say is this is not for you. In fact, none of my fiction is, if you're that sort of reader. Or if you're simply the sort who expects to be pandered to, the lazy sort who only wants bedtime and fireside tales.

And now, time to make the doughnuts.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
I awoke this morning to discover that almost all the soreness from yesterday's fall has, against expectations, vanished. It's especially surprising given I actually sat up and worked yesterday, after a hot bath and Advil. I spent most of the evening lying down with my foot up, but still. I'd expected many days of soreness, so...I'm very pleased this is not the case.

Several people yesterday said I should go to the doctor. One or two even stressed the need for an MRI. And all I can say is that I am a freelance author who doesn't make a great deal of money and who has no health insurance whatsoever. Given that (quickly checking online) I see the average cost of an MRI on an ankle is $1,500, it's entirely out of the question. Especially since the total cost of that doctor visit, and followup visits, would likely run around $2,500. Not a chance. If I am quite sure my life is at stake if I don't seek a doctor's assistance, only then will I do so. And even then I can't afford to do so. I'm already paying hundreds of dollars a month for medical care I can't afford, because I was finally left with no option. And I've looked into health insurance plans for the self employed, and everything I've seen isn't much better than nothing. Hell, given the absurd costs of medical care in the US, even good insurance isn't much better than nothing. In my life, the only preventative medicine is a good diet and exercise (and I don't get much of the latter).

But enough about my damned ankle.

Yesterday I worked on the table of contents for the "Best of" project. I'd ended up with a total word count of 237,712 words, were I to include everything I want to include. Obviously, this won't do, as my word limit is 200k. I did, however, email Bill Schafer to ask if I could go over, and if so, by how much. His reply, I can go to 205k, but if I go over that...well a visit from a teddy bear with a plastic machete was involved. So, I have to go back to work and shave off 32,712 words worth of fiction from my "wish list." Which might only be three stories. I just have to work it out. A good part of yesterday was spent deciding which of the Dancy stories to include. I read "Waycross" and "Les Fleurs Empoisonnées" and "Highway 97" and "Alabaster." I decided that the "Best of" volume will include three of these, "Alabaster" being the one that won't appear. "Bainbridge" and "The Well of Stars and Shadow" were never in the running.

Today, I have to, among other things, decide whether "The Road of Pins" or "Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)" gets a place in the life boat. They're too thematically similar for both to make the cut. This is a strange sort of undertaking.

All the comments the past couple of days on first-person narrative and the interauthor have been welcome, and many have set me to thinking in new directions, or helped to clarify old and well-worn dilemmas. Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] dragau wrote. I just realized that no one has used the word "biography" or its variations these last two days. Is its absence significant, something we overlooked, or is the word not relevant? And it's a very good point, as that's what we're really trying to get at here (or at least I am), with all this talk about the interauthor. Whenever a fiction writer is writing in first person they are, by default, writing a fictional autobiography.

---

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions and at the goodies in Spooky's Dreaming Squid Dollworks & Sundries Etsy shop. The latter now includes a hand-painted Ouija board!

Also, I've finished my first painting in many years. I was, in part, inspired by the paintings of Constance Hopkins in The Red Tree. And I think I've decided I'll be putting it up on eBay tomorrow or this evening. Also also, Spooky's made a new beanie platypus that we'll be auctioning with a copy of the lettered edition of Tales from the Woeful Platypus. We did this a couple of times back in 2007. I think we only offered four Beanie platypi, so....these are rare.

Okay. Here are painting and platypus photos. The mothmen say it's time to work:

Evil and a platypus )

Ow.

Aug. 8th, 2010 02:09 pm
greygirlbeast: (Default)
One of the side effects of one of my new meds (Prazosin) is that it can cause hypotension. And fainting. I've been feeling the former for weeks. This morning, I felt the latter. Violently. I woke about eight a.m., only four hours after going to bed (and taking my night meds). I lay in bed two or three minutes. I sat up and checked the clock. And then I stood up, rather quickly...which I know not to do. Only I was still probably half asleep. And I went down like a sack of bricks. Boom, straight to the floor. As I fell, my right ankle folded under me, and I landed on it. Hard. The pain instantly brought me back to consciousness. And I was absolutely certain I'd broken my foot. This was the sort of pain that makes you want to puke. The noise had Spooky awake in a flash, awake and panicked. I managed to tell her I'd fallen and thought I'd broken my foot.

She got me to lie down, and she took my sock off. I lay there on the floor like a goddamn fool while she held ice on my ankle. We waited for the swelling and discoloration to begin. I thought mostly about how I couldn't afford a trip to the ER. But my foot didn't swell. It's not broken. Eventually, I got back into bed and even managed to get back to sleep. I awoke feeling like I'd been in a car wreck. I have so many sore places I can't count them, and I'm having to hobble about with my cane, and I feel like an idiot. I swear, I have to put a big-ass sign beside my bed that says GET UP SLOWLY, FOOL.

I've had breakfast and Advil, and hopefully that will help.

---

My thanks to everyone (even those I disagreed with) for the many marvelous comments yesterday. I tried to reply to everyone, though I might have missed a few of the later ones. I wouldn't mind seeing a flood of comments like that every day. Of course, the truth is, I rarely provide something interesting to comment on. The act of writing is not a terribly exciting subject (though its end result is). Here are a few bits from yesterday I especially liked (so back to the matter of first-person narration and the interauthor).

I wrote, A first-person narrative occurs in a minimum of two time frames: the present (when the story is being written down) and the past (when the story occurred). And [livejournal.com profile] corucia replied:

And the interval of time between those two is also vitally important. If the events are being written as journal entries or the like at a very close remove from the primary action, then the interauthor might be unwilling to write down particularly upsetting events (perhaps only using a "something major happened today I don't think I can talk about" marker) but then bits of the event will creep into the narrative in later entries, possibly with a major unveiling and discussion later. On the other hand, if a significant amount of time has passed and the interauthor is writing down everything to make some sort of record, then she's going to be much more likely to do it in a linear fashion.

To which I can only say, yes, exactly. [livejournal.com profile] dragau wrote:

Another question that generally remains unanswered is why the interauthor is such a good writer in the first place.

This is a very, very important point that I've never seen addressed anywhere. In a first-person narration, the interauthor is usually the most important character. Not just a convenient storytelling device, but an actual fictional person. And, as the writer, I have to fully understand who that person is, their fears and desires, their strengths and weaknesses. To assume that all interauthors just happen to be good at expressing themselves in words— because I happen to be, and because I need the interauthor to tell a story —is to fall into a trap that, at least for me, can kill a piece.

Lately, I've been wondering, why are authors afraid to write interauthors who are much less skilled at writing than they themselves are, people who are much less articulate? That is, write a first-person narrative by someone who cannot write. Certainly, it would, in most cases, be far more authentic and realistic. Of course, there's the lazy fallback of having the interauthor be a writer (I might seem guilty of that in The Red Tree, and maybe I was, but it seems to me that Sarah had to be an author for me to tell the story I needed her to tell). But the message here is simple: The interauthor must speak as the interauthor would speak. If she or he is a cop or a stripper or a construction worker, odds are pretty good the narration will not read as if it were written by an author. And the challenge that a good writer must rise to, in these cases, is to write like X, whatever X signifies, instead of writing like a writer. This is lesson I'm still learning myself.

And there was this bit by [livejournal.com profile] bbluemarble that I have to quote, simply because it's succinct and very much needs saying:

After reading this post and the prior comments I've come to the conclusion that there are (in effect) two types of first person narratives: First Person Found Artifact and First Person Really Just a Bastardization of Third Person Limited.

I think this happened because every writing book ever written tells amateur writers that first person is easier to write and it's a shortcut to reader empathy. These are lies. Writing first person as found artifact is really hard to do well.


Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Most young writers make this very mistake. They use first person, think it's easy, or because some idiot writing instructor told them they should, without ever having puzzled through the inherent difficulties of the voice. For what it's worth, I've had such a longstanding suspicion of first person that I pretty much avoided it until 2003, when I wrote "Riding the White Bull" and The Dry Salvages in first person, eleven years after I began writing for publication, and even then I made mistakes. Oh, I almost forgot. In my first novel, The Five of Cups (written in 1992, unpublished until 2003), there are long stretches essentially in first person, and they're rather dreadful. I simply had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, I realized and switched to third person in all subsequent novels, until The Red Tree, sixteen years later.

I'm going to paste in the rest of [livejournal.com profile] bbluemarble's response, because it's easier than paraphrasing:

Maybe that's why it's [First Person Found Artifact] all but disappeared in favor of first person bastardization of third. I can't say that I remember the first book I read that didn't explain why it was in first person (remember when that used to be a rule? Explain that this narrative is an artifact and what sort of artifact it is or the audience will be unable to suspend disbelief!) but I do vividly remember the most unrealistic pseudo-explanation for the narrative being in first person that I ever read. It was something along the lines of "I'm thinking stuff. Right now. These are my thoughts that I'm sending out to the world in the hopes that someone will hear them and maybe write them down." Adhering to that convention actually pulled me right out of the story with thoughts along the lines of "What?! She's a vampire that's psychic enough to compel some random person to write her dying-moments memoir but she can't psychic her friends to help her escape? What a stupid superpower." In that case, it would have been better for the story to just dispense with the whole first person construct and do it in third person limited (but I get the feeling that editors/publishers/the powers that be to working writers thought the average teen reader may have trouble empathizing with a sometimes psychotic vampire that goes on occasional killing sprees and feels no remorse so...I know, write it in first person! Instant empathy!).

Really want to be a good writer who doesn't rely on crutches? Want to solve the problems posed by a given narrative, instead of rushing to what appears to be a quick fix? Then listen to all this shit. And think about it.

---

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions, and also at the very cool new stuff in Spooky's Dreaming Squid Dollworks & Sundries shop at Etsy (now including a hand-painted Ouija board!)

Okay. More than enough for now. I hurt, and I think I'm going to take a hot bath and lie down for a bit.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Cooler and, more importantly, less humid, here in Providence. I actually had to put on a sweater this morning. We had several days of hot, spectacularly humid weather, so this comes as a relief.

Today, I very much need reader comments, if only to help me stay grounded. Thank you.

Not a lot of progress on the book though. On Thursday, I wrote 1,081 words, about normal for me, for any given day. But then yesterday, a combination of self doubt and misbehaving blood pressure (thank you, meds) left me such a mess that I only wrote 14 words (I shit you not). Today, I'll try to do better.

But the truth is, almost a year after conceiving of the story that has, eventually, become The Drowning Girl, and just a couple of months shy of the two-year anniversary of having finished The Red Tree, it isn't going well. It's hardly going at all. Do I know why? I have a bucketful of conjecture, but no, I don't know for sure. I only know it's put me in a truly terrifying place.

---

Lots of thoughts yesterday on convention in novels. Conventions in first-person narratives. Such as, how so few readers pause to consider the existence and motivations of the "interauthor." When you're reading a first-person narration, you're reading a story that's being told by a fictional author, and that fictional author— or interauthor —is, essentially, the central character. Their motivations are extremely important to the story. The simple fact that they are telling the story, in some fictional universe, raises questions that I believe have to be addressed by first-person narratives. Why is the interauthor writing all this down? How long is it taking her or him? Do they intend it to be read by others? Is it a confessional? Reflection? A warning? Also (and this is a BIG one), what happens to the interauthor while the story is being written, especially if it's a novel-length work of fiction?

In my case, it takes anywhere from a few months (The Red Tree, Low Red Moon) to years (my other novels) to write a novel. I assume this is the case for most people who sit down to write something that's seventy- to one-hundred-thousand words long. These are not campfire tales. These are major undertakings by their interauthors. So, the narrators stop and start writing the documents over and over and over while it's being written. But rarely are we shown what happens to her or him while the story is being told (Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is a brilliant exception, and sure there are other exceptions). Some things will almost certainly occur that are important enough that they will intrude upon the narrative.

A first-person narrative occurs in a minimum of two time frames: the present (when the story is being written down) and the past (when the story occurred).

And it baffles me that so few readers or writers pause to consider these facts, and that so few authors address these problems in the text. A first-person narrative is, by definition, an artifact, and should be treated as such. Rarely do I use the word "should" when discussing fiction writing.

The other thing I thought about a lot yesterday was the convention of chapters, especially as it applies to first person and the interauthor. Does the interauthor actually bother dividing her story into chapters, especially if she's only writing for herself? If so, why? It seems patently absurd to me. She might date each section of her manuscript. She might divide sections with hash tags or asterisks. But chapters? No. That's absurd.

If I can ever get The Drowning Girl written, it may have no chapter divisions. To use them would be a ridiculous adherence to convention that makes no sense within the context of the artifact of the story.

One more thing: Most readers do not want to read books that are, to put it bluntly, smarter than they are. Such readers get very pissed, and resentful, and interpret their emotional reactions as a mistake or shortcoming on the part of the author (transference). This phenomenon will never cease to amaze and confound me.

---

Last night, we watched Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell (2009). It was appropriate to kid night: over-the-top goofy camp. Not sure if I liked it or not. It was fun, I suppose. Spooky probably liked it better than I did. For me, it was the sort of film I mostly enjoy while I'm watching it, but pretty much forget as soon as it's over. We also watched another episode of Nip/Tuck. We finished Season Two on Thursday night. And I have to say, the last episode of Season Two is one of the best, most-harrowing hours of television I have ever seen. I'm very glad I didn't give up on this show halfway through Season One, as I almost did.

Not much reading. It's almost impossible for me to read fiction while trying to write a novel.

And now...another fucking day...

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

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