Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wasting Time Again

tambo strikes again:

Your Inner Child Is Sad

You're a very sensitive soul.
You haven't grown that thick skin that most adults have.
Easily hurt, you tend to retreat to your comfort zone.
You don't let many people in - unless you've trusted them for a long time.

The Long and the Short Of It

I hit 25k on Washed in the Blood this morning. The way things are developing, it looke like I may not even make 50k on the first draft. My characters have begun that last desperate slide into the maelstrom that will lead them to their individual Armageddons.

It's normal for me to write short. Mt first drafts frequently resemble a detailed narrative outline than a real story. My intention, particularly with my first real attempt at a novel, is to just get the main points and events down. Until I finish a second draft, everything is subject to change without notice. In terms of shitty first drafts, this one reeks most exquisitely. The potential for roses is in there, though.

I still have some sub-plots to develop, and one of the characters has stepped up and become a little more important than I originally intended, so he will have to be developed some more. He's a detective who has carried a torch for Maggie since he first met her years ago. He never really liked John and now wants to nail his hide to the wall in his trophy room. He'll be a good stick to use to stir the pot some more.

I'm glad to be back to work on this story. It means a lot to me, even if it does carry into dangerous territory from time to time. I have a real love/hate relationship with it. When I'm writing on it, I know it's going to be good, but when I get interrupted, I develop a great fear that it really is unredeemably excremental. I must keep telling myself that it's not supposed to be any good yet and to keep slogging forward.

Oh well, off to the salt mines. I have to at least act like I'm working until 10 o'clock. yay.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?

Some of the material for the2 Year Novel course at Forward Motion has got me thinking about the creative process. Always a bad idea.

One of the comments Zette made in one of her discussions was that the writer has to take control of writing the novel. Letting the characters dictate the course of the plot is reliquishing responsibility and control over your writing process and almost always leads to trouble.

I certainly recognize the need for the writer to take and maintain control over the writing to a great extent, but there's a high wire you have to walk in doing that. Funny how many of those delicate balances I keep running across as I explore this whole creativity vs. craft dichotomy. In this case, you have to maintain overall control while leaving yourself open to those bolts of lightning that strike so often as a story develops.

Giving your characters their heads and letting them explore soem on their own is not a wholly bad thing to do. It's really just a way to let your subconscious mind speak to you and tell you what it is thinking about. While you can consciously control the craft of writing, the creativity, or art, if you will, comes in through this back door. You have to be sure to always leave it at least cracked.

The most important thing is to be ready. When the creative lightning strikes, you have to be ready to capture it, channel it appropriately and turn its wild, potentially destructive energy into controlled, usable electricity on the page. That's one of the biggest challenges facing a creative writer, and another one of those scary places where you cannot be completely in control. Riding the lightning is scary and exhilarating, and it's one of the reasons I love to write so much.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Semi-annual Customer Service Rant

There's this one commercial on TV. You've probably seen it. At one point a girl promises that "when you call Customer Support, I will treat your problem like my problem".

No. When I call Customer Support, my problem IS your problem. THAT's what Customer Service is. There is no "like".

A whole lot of businesses these days have lost sight of one basic fact of business: your customer is your sole means of support. Lose customers; lose money. It's that simple.

When a customer has a problem, the business must take that seriously and try to resolve it in a reasonable manner. This is not to say that you should put the customer's demands ahead of the needs of the business. Anybody who has spent time in any Customer Service job knows just how unreasonable people can be. Sometimes, a customer just will not be satisfied. That is an unfortunate reality. However, the vast majority of customer issues can be resolved simply by listening to the customer, making sure that both sides understand the other's position, and then acting positively to remedy the situation.

"Going the extra mile" has become a meaningless cliche over the years. It sounds fine, but is very seldom put into practice. Going out of your way to help a customer is not "going the extra mile", it's normal, acceptable practice. "Going the extra mile" means taking initiative, being creative in your problem solving, and leaving the customer feeling like he or she is the most important person in your life at that moment.

One of the more unfortunate outgrowths of the whole self-esteem movement is that people are less willing to subordinate their desires to the needs of their customers. This is not in the least debasing or disrespectful. I can tell you from my own personal experience that providing top quality customer service will drive your customers to respect you more.

A key facet for a quality Customer Service Rep is the ability and willingness to give without expectations of reward. Helping others gives rewards beyond the monetary. Helping others helps you feel good about yourself and builds REAL self-esteem.

Quality service is every customer's right and every employee's resonsibility. If you're not getting it, let your wallet do the talking.

Monday, February 27, 2006

This means something...

...but damn if I can figure out what.

You Are Turkey and Gravy Soda

Gobble. Gobble.

Thanks for another time-waster, tambo.

"He chose...poorly"

In writing--and in life in general--I struggle to do things poorly. This is very important to me, because I expect myself to be perfect in all ways all the time. That is, of cource, a totally preposterous and impossible standard, which means I have ample opportunities to kick myself for not measuring up. It also gives me an excuse to stop in mid-project and give up, or else to not even start. The reasoning goes: if I can't do it perfectly, then why bother trying at all?

This is definitley not a good mental state for a writer who aspires to be a novelist. Shitty first drafts and multiple revisions are de rigeur for novel writing. Writing a novel is a complex and demanding task. Expecting perfection the first time is just insane.

These thoughts have been rattling around in my brain for a long time, now. Yesterday afternoon, I finally broke through a roadblock on Washed in the Blood that has been hanging me up for weeks. There is information that John must have in order to survive as a vampire, but I have been unable to get that information into his hands in a way that conforms to good writing practice. My solution: I purposefully wrote an infodump, marked it as a Fix This and forged ahead. Not elegant, not perfect, not even good writing, but at least it was a temporary solution that gives me permission to move onward, while also giving me time to consider this problem some more. Possible it will resolve itself in another way as the story unfolds.

My choices, both conscious and unconscious, put barricades in my way. By the same tokens, I can choose to climb over, tunnel under, go around, or break through those barricades. Once I'm on the other side, I look back and see only tattered tissue paper drifting away in the breeze. Self-made barricades are never as formidable as they appear.