Thursday, July 26, 2012

Choose What to Leave Out

Yet another installment from Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (you can find him and his awesome book here)! This chapter falls under Rule 10: Creativity is Substraction:

Choose What to Leave Out.

In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what's really important to them. Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying.

The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom. Write a song on your lunch break. Paint a painting with one color. Start a business without any start-up capital. Shoot a movie with your iPhone and a few of your friends. Build a machine out of spare parts. Don't make excuses for not working - make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.

The right constraints can lead to your very best work. May favorite example? Dr. Seuss wrote The Car in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn't write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling children's books of all time.

"Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want - that just kills creativity." --Jack White

The artist Saul Steinberg said, "What we respond to in any work of art is the artist's struggle against his or her limitations." It's often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn't shown versus what is. It's the same for people: What makes us interesting isn't just what we've experienced, but also what we haven't experienced. The same is true when you do your work: You must embrace your limitations and keep moving.

In the end, creativity isn't just the things we choose to put in, it's the things we choose to leave out.

Choose wisely.

And have fun.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Writer, Know Thyself

Guess what? I'm dropping Project MS.

I know, I know - you are shocked. Me, drop a project? Unheard of!

So what's my excuse this time? The simple fact that I am ruining it.

As explained in my previous post, Project MS is technically the 2nd Draft of a finished manuscript. But it needed a complete rewrite of the first half, and a complete overhaul of the Main Character, a woman who had no life.

For the past month I and said MC have struggled together to create her a family, a background, a life. But no matter how real she becomes, I have no idea how she will react when I drop her into the story. Stick her into a familial situation, no problem, but fold her into the magical diversion that is the story and I find myself forcing it. And if I have to force anything, I know I am doing something horribly wrong.

The final realization that I was, indeed, forcing came with the last scene I wrote. It flowed smoothly from my fingers, but once the scene was done I stopped and thought, "Is that really how the characters would've acted in that situation?" I still, at this very second, have no idea. I have never asked that question of a story before, and so I knew it was time to give up on the book before I ruined it further.

So I am tucking Project MS back into the trunk for another time. I am determined to finish it someday, but this is not it.

Now, what am I to do with myself? I'm still not ready to tackle Project V, and I don't quite hear the call to complete Project P. I actually feel the need to take a kind of story break and focus on blogging - both my own and a new Q&A blog I shall be launching for my Nanowrimo group. To fill any creative writing itch, Project BW has been wiggling its fingers at me and throwing winks my way, so perhaps I'll play with it a bit - it always proves such enjoyable company. I also want to read more research books. I almost exclusively read novels, and it's high time I broadened my literary world a bit.

I know it seems as if I'm always dropping projects, never to finish anything. But sometimes, a person just has to go with their instincts. And so I am.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Muse, a Fickle Mistress

My Muse is a fickle mistress. And seriously stricken with a severe case of ADD. She can't keep her attention on a single project for more than a month - as she proved this June, dumping Project P as it tried to push through into its second month. I fought against her, but eventually she won (as she always does), and I am now working on Project MS.

Although I am frustrated with said Muse, I am not upset to be working on Project MS. I'm actually really excited, because I've been wanting to give it my full attention for so long. And finally, the time has come!

Project MS is an Adult Urban Fantasy about a woman with unique abilities, wizards, tons of magic (mostly dangerous), and multiple worlds (though mostly set in our own). To give you a better idea of Project MS, here are six things you should know about it:

1. Project MS is actually a finished manuscript of over 100k words (my longest finished manuscript to date). I began it at least half a decade ago and got two-thirds written before my Muse lost interest. Then, several years later (for some reason I can't recall), I took up the challenge and finished it (my first finished non-Nanowrimo manuscript). So I am technically working on a 2nd Draft, which means I am finally trying my hand at Editing. I've been dying to be inspired to truly edit a manuscript, and now I have - bring it on!

2. Project MS is my Dream Project. That one story that is your Perfect Story, with all your favorite elements and characters set in your favorite places. The one story that, even though you wrote it and it may not be all that good in spots, you can't help but re-read all your favorite scenes every chance you get. That is Project MS for me.

3. Going over my 1st Draft, I discovered my main character (female) was awful. This rarely happens to me, especially when she's female. But originally I gave her the most stupid job and absolutely no life (for a reason, but still), so there are big blocks of the book where she literally sits around waiting for something to happen. She needed a complete overhaul, right down to a new name. Now seven chapters in I still haven't quite got a handle on her, but I'm getting close.

4. In complete contrast, my main male character is practically perfect in every way. This is another anomaly for me - my supporting love-interest guy usually ends up two-dimensional and such a bore. But with Project MS, the roles were reversed - my female was boring, and my guy the perfect balance of everything he needs to be, and so sure of himself about it! I can only add to his brilliance - at the moment with a nasty smoking habit. ;)

5. My opening scene just didn't cut it anymore. This was tragic for me because I pride myself on my opening scenes. But given the new angles of the main female it no longer worked, and has now been shifted and reworked to become Chapter 3 instead.

6. The first fourth of my 1st Draft is BORING. Seriously, who wrote this, because I could not have thought it would be interesting for anyone, including me! All my favorite scenes are in the second half of the book - mainly the last part written several years later. So now I have to go back and write a beginning (mostly from scratch) that makes the end proud to be in the same book with it. Luckily, I think I'm up to the challenge.

Wish me luck!