|my daughter yesterday|
SENTINEL ARCHIVE OF EARTH
AOE is a bear of a story I wrote when the little girl in the picture was a baby playing with pans under the kitchen table. 8 years later I'm writing it again from scratch. It's my favorite book I ever wrote. So working on it again is mostly a joy. And I'm refining the characters with more finesse than I had years ago. Some years back, when I had 4 largely unreadable drafts of the SENTINEL series, which contained the inklings of a good story and yet no discernible skill to tackle something that epic, I realized I had a lot to learn. I realized I needed a LOT more skill to bring a four book series into publishable fruition. So now I'm closer to that point and it's kind of odd, really, to be more craftsman than learner. It's odd to have a sense of surety about at least some of my story and characterization. I'm not sure I trust it yet, but there you go.
Not that I'm not always learning. Once critique the first book got was telling the difference between the twins' POVs. Now, the book was revised with that critique in mind, and the editor liked it so I'm assuming it's not much of a problem anymore. But it's still a massive concern. Every time I launch into one of their sections I have to refocus. Aidan has always come easily to me. Kaelin, not so much. I've studied a few characters lately and mostly settled on how to best write Kaelin, our soft-spoken, dangerous one. Honestly, I've been studying some writers I consider masters: Brandon Sanderson, Charlie Huston, Richard Kadrey, Carol Berg, and George RR Martin.
I think studying the masters of our craft is something writers tend to avoid because they're scared of plagiarism or stealing ideas. But reading similar characters to what I'm trying to create has been a great help to me. It's not a new idea. Students of painting have suffered through the assignments of copying master paintings. (For some reason, it's often one you don't like.) Art students are forced to endure expressing themselves in foreign styles for years in art school. (I used to run home and paint or draw something just for me to purge the feeling. And get annoyed when the disliked style influenced my work.) And try being an artist on commission. I painted tiles for kitchens and bathrooms, often matching wall paper with murals. People pick themselves some ass-ugly wall paper.
But it's only by such indentured servitude that artists can take what works and discard what doesn't.
Ditto writing. I've heard of people typing existing short stories, even a number of them, to see what the cadence and word choice feels like. I've definitely done it mentally, even inserting treatments and words I think would have worked better for me. That's a step in art we all have to take.
People love to say writers need to read read read. True true true. But it does you no good without thinking alongside the reading. (And then of course, you can't turn it off once you start. The Curse of the Writer.) I think learning this way is a long, slow process, best done next to writing your own pieces, and then starting to examine what is working in others' stories and what isn't - for you. Long, slow processes only benefit your art, by the way.
And the picture? I just think it's damned cute. Inspiring. She looks so little on the court, next to the hoop. Isn't that what writing is all about? At least it is for me. I think writing is staring at a basket way up there and hoping to get the ball through at least once.