writing

Progress report

Took it easy today and just fixed some things that had bothered me after I finished writing yesterday. In the process I realized that a major scene in one of the last chapters…also happens about 10 chapters before. Whoops! The perils of having a lot of time pass between writing days!

Progress report

I edited through chapter 29, which is as far as I've written.

I feel a little ergh about the first draft--the first section is great, but that's because [SPOILER] is happening, so there's kind of a natural story arc. The problem is that after [SPOILER] is [SPOILER]ed, things start to wander a bit. So I need to ramp up the tension a little, which I think should be doable, since [SPOILER] happens next--I just need to rework that part so that its full impact is felt, which isn't happening right now because [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER].

In addition, you can tell that there was a long interruption to writing it, because some of the much later chapters read like I'm trying to introduce the whole fictional world all over again. So that needs work before I push on.

Progress report

I got some sleep last night, so today I took care of something I've been meaning to tend to for a while--I went through both Trang and Trust and copied out all the physical descriptions of the aliens. It's been a while since I've worked on this series, and I'm glad I posted a note to myself to do this when I was doing the rough draft, because in Trials I was giving the White Spiders eight legs instead of ten! (I did notice a minor continuity error between the first two books regarding the height of the Pincushions--let's just say they look bigger when they're charging you!)

I also noted the description of the station, the history of the portals, etc., etc.--stuff like this is why the Trang books are so much more complicated than a stand-alone novel. And honestly, this is why I have so much respect for the Harry Potter and the Remembrance of Things Past books--I mean, yeah, you can complain about this aspect or that, but given how tough it is just doing a regular series, trying to make something that's six or seven novels but is actually one ginormous book just sounds so hard!

Progress report, and differing attitudes about beta readers

I've been editing the hard copy over the past couple of days--12 chapters done!

I had an interesting moment because, since this is a YA book, I wanted to have my 12-year-old niece give it a read (she's done this for other writers, so it's not a huge, weird pressure for her). So I asked my sister about it. My sister has been putting out books of her own these days, and it was kind of alarming how she was like, "Yes, she can beta it! And this person can beta it! And that person can beta it! And this other person can beta it! Oh, if we're going to have all these people beta it, we can't leave so-and-so out!"

Oh my God--I had to stop her. It's just the difference in process: My sister will take something that she doesn't consider really done and have a million people beta the crap out of it. She's totally fine with that and considers it completely necessary. I wait until I'm basically happy with the book, and then let a couple of people who I trust beta it. Really all I'm expecting them to do is catch things I've missed--like, oops, you never described your protagonist, or oops, you've got some crucial event happening offstage. I feel like if you invite in all and sundry, you'll wind up with people like--well, like me if you asked me to read over your romance novel. People whose input is Less Than Helpful.

I think part of it, too, is that (even though it's been taking me forever to get things done) I do like to be efficient. Waiting for an entire community to weigh in just seems like a big waste of time to me--they can do that after the book is published!

Glory, Hallelujah! I have been cured!

I've had a couple of high blood pressure readings at the doctor's office--I've pretty much always gotten white-coat syndrome with new doctors, but this is a doctor I've had for a while, so she was a bit hmmm about it. After tangling with the blood pressure machines at the supermarket (which are free for a reason) I went ahead and bought a home monitor--they're not expensive, and I really wanted to have reliable data. If there's a problem with my blood pressure, I don't want to ignore it and wind up like my brother, but I also don't want to be put on medication just because some doofus almost backed me over in the supermarket's parking lot.

I've been reading up on how to take accurate measurements (do it in the morning before you've had caffeine), plus I've been taking it at various times during the day just to get a sense of what my own patterns are. (At this point, it doesn't look like there's a real problem.)

So after I finally managed to get some writing today, I took my blood pressure. And in spite of the fact that 1. it's the afternoon, and 2. I drank a whole bunch of caffeine to help the writing along, my blood pressure reading was the lowest it's ever been--and I took it twice to make sure!

And, you know, this is what I have been telling people! Like, yes, what I'm doing for the family is very important and meaningful, and yes, there are other enjoyable activities out there--but they're not writing. They're just not. And if you're a writer, there is simply no substitute for the real thing!

This again

One of the things that's been happening that's been preventing the writing is that I've been traveling A LOT over the past year or so.

There's been a few reasons for this. One is that I never did travel very much before, because I was a freelancer and travel meant I had to both pay for the trip and forgo earned income, so it was extremely expensive. The other thing is that my family was scattered all over the country, so what travel I did was to see family, not to go on some adventure.

We're more consolidated now, but because I've taken on a bigger role in the family's financial management, I've still had to travel quite a bit for family--and not fun trips, but ones undertaken to ensure that taxes are paid properly and the like. You know: Meet with lawyer. Meet with bank. Search in file cabinet for documents. Meet with lawyer....

I started to really resent this, and as a result I booked a bunch of fun travel. Everything I'd ever wanted to do, but couldn't before! Carpe diem! YOLO, dude!! I went to Hawaii! And London! I rode the Coast Starlight train all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles!

That was all great, but...lately when I see these things on my calendar, my reaction has been "Not ANOTHER one!" I realize that this is the very definition of a Rich Person Problem, but it's been very frustrating to me to not be making progress with the writing, and these trips really fracture my focus (especially when they are followed up by persistent sinus infections).

So, I have another trip coming up soon (with family, but it's supposed to be a fun trip, not a work trip), but then I should have no trips at least until the holiday season. I still want to travel, of course--I want to see the world! Whee!--but I need to find a better balance and try to schedule trips around the writing.

Coming back to life

So, that blew, but it's pretty much over, and I'm catching up on everything that had to go on the back burner because I either wasn't here or was drowning in snot. (I'm also looking into ways of preventing sinus infections when I fly, because that keeps happening and it really sucks.)

In the meantime enjoy this Wall Street Journal article characterizing creative process as mental illness! Symptoms include:

1. Creating fictional characters

2. Creating storylines for them

3. Preferring creative work over working in retail

I am in huge trouble.

The POV Games

I'll probably start writing again tomorrow, but in the meantime I've been watching the movie versions of the Hunger Games books, which has been pretty interesting from a writing standpoint. (Spoilers ahead!!!)

I really liked the book The Hunger Games a lot, but I found Catching Fire and Mockingjay to be very disappointing, in no small part because they were very repetitive. ("Let's play the Hunger Games--again!") I haven't watched the two Mockingjay movies yet, so perhaps I'll be let down, but I have seen the movie versions of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

And I was really surpised by how good they were. With The Hunger Games I was surprised by how much the movie improved on what I thought was a very good book; with Catching Fire I was equally suprised by how much the movie improved what I thought was a tiresome and unoriginal book.

What made the difference? Getting the hell out of Katniss' head.

I realize that Katniss' voice is a big part of what made the series so popular with teenagers, and it's not like she doesn't have reason to be bitter and whiny, but bitter and whiny is what she is--the adults in her life suck, and she has to take on all this responsibility if she wants her family to survive. Being a teenager, she does so with as little grace as is possible, and she makes zero effort to understand the people around her--in her eyes, they're all just jerks and oppressors.

That's not a huge problem with The Hunger Games book, but it is part of what makes the movie stronger: The gamemaker, who Katniss just sees as a heavy, is revealed in the movie to actually be a naive idealist, which was to me much more interesting.

Her limited viewpoint becomes more of a problem in the Catching Fire book because Katniss knows less. In The Hunger Games, there are actually two games going on at the same time: The overt game where you kill everyone else off, and the PR game where you win viewers' hearts. Katniss knows about the second game, and she plays it very well--which is why both she and Peeta survive.

In Catching Fire the second game is political revolution, and Katniss knows nothing about it. Her scope of vision is limited to survival, and her experience is limited as well--in her mind, the second Hunger Games isn't meaningfully different than the first.

Of course, it's entirely different, and the movie makes that evident much earlier. You see President Snow's political calculations, and you know that the decision to put Katniss in the Hunger Games again isn't just another lousy thing to fall upon her out of the blue, which is all it is to her. (Adults suck, man!)

And honestly, I had much more sympathy for her tunnel vision in the movie, because I wasn't trapped in it for the duration like I was in the book. At the end of both the book and the movie, Katniss is shocked to hear that, in response to the revolution, her home district has been destroyed. In the book, that annoyed the piss out of me--she's been afraid of something like that happening the whole time, she's been blathering on about it at length, over and over again. Why is she surprised? In the movie, her bafflement at the speed at which events have unfolded is simply more understandable--she is just a kid, after all.

You know what I'm missing?

I cannot for the life of me find the cheat sheet I made up for the soldiers that lists all their jobs, when they came onto the station, etc. I made it first with Trang, but it really reached its glory with Trust because Patch had so many scheduling conundrums to deal with in order to keep his laser tag games going and still have a proper team to go to the Cyclopes planet. Now I can't find it anywhere--ah, the perils of a lengthy hiatus. I guess after I finish this draft I'll have to read Trang and Trust again, and take notes!

Tandem noveling

So, I've got the rough draft of the young adult novel finished (YAY), plus about 34,000 words of Trials. So what I think I'm going to do is my first! ever! experiment with writing two novels at once.

The idea (and we'll see how this works in practice) is that working on one helps clear the brain to edit the other. So I'm planning to get back in on Trials, finish that draft, then edit the YA book, then edit Trials, etc.

Where I really see this breaking down is once things get to the production stage--I don't see myself laying out two books in a row and living to tell the tale. But that just means that, at that stage, I can choose which book goes out first--and I'm thinking that book should be Trials.

Anyway, all this of course relies on sleeping (I woke up at 4 am today and had a bloody nose. Either I'm a cokehead, or it is allergy season) and the general cooperation of life. We'll see how it goes.

This Is a Really Good Film

Things are, as expected, kind of crazy right now--it's family stuff that I can't really talk about, but we've made some legal moves that will hopefully allow everyone to be taken care of in a way that is both effective and manageable for Team Responsible Adults. In the short term, it does mean a lot of extra work for me (I'm going to computerize things! A shocking idea, I know), but I'm hoping I can set things up so that I budget a certain amount of time for all that, and then can budget a certain amount of time for, you know, the stuff I actually enjoy doing. Like writing.

In the meantime, I watched This Is Not a Film, which is a movie about the Iranian film director Jafar Panahi and his experience being under house arrest and banned from making movies by the Iranian government.

It's excellent, but it's one of those movies (like Barton Fink or Adaptation) that is very much about being a creative person, which means that 95% of the people who watch it (even if they like it) really have no idea why it was made. The thing is, here's this guy who really is compelled to create, and he is prohibited from creating--so he's incredibly frustrated, which really brings out so much about the creative process because he's so nostalgic about it (plus he just can't not do it, no matter how dangerous it is).

The result is a movie that basically goes step-by-step through the various aspects of creativity: There's world creation (he literally tapes out a set onto his living-room rug), there's a whole meditation on how you start out making something but then it starts to make itself, and there's the fact that it's really therapeutic. At first Panahi's art is a welcome distraction from everything that's going on in the real world, but then what's going on in the real world become impossible to ignore (and there's that moment of guilt about having used art to escape). Finally, he gets behind the camera and starts making art out of what's going on!

Anyway, it's really brilliant--it's so much more than, "House arrest sucks!"--and I heartily recommend it. And obviously I hope Panahi gets his freedom sooner rather than later!

What's in that free book?

I'm traveling for the holidays, so I loaded up my phone with e-books--mostly authors I know (Lindsay Buroker!) but also some free books from writers I don't know.

I finished the first one last night, boy did it make me wish I'd never started. The plot was basically Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her, and at the conclusion, Weepy Girl, after losing everything that ever mattered to her (and weeping about it), dies. Weepily.

The End.

Wow, that really . . . does not motivate me to shell out actual money for the next book.

Now, the book was science fiction, so maybe Weepy Girl's not really dead and there's some kind of exciting sci-fi twist in the next book, but since I'm unhappy about having spent my time and energy on the first book, it's not like I'm going to bother finding out. If the author's other books are like the free book, I don't want to read them. Ever. If (as I kind of suspect) the author half-assed their free book because they saw it as just a teaser for their "real" books--well, that's obviously not much of a marketing strategy, is it?

I've also seen free books that are basically jacket copy for the actual book--the free book is very short and very basic, and it doesn't really give you anything more than a description would. ("Zombie Deer Hunter, Book 1. Fred is a deer hunter--but the deers he hunts are zombies!!! Also, he may have the hots for the mysterious doe-eyed priestess who provides him with special zombie-killing buckshot. The End. Follow these links to buy Zombie Deer Hunter, Books 2-347!")

I mean, I can see how writers convince themselves that it's OK to not bring your A game to a freebie--you can't possibly give away all your hard work, you want to be paid for your time, you're worth more than this, etc.

But you know the freebie that made me instantly shell out for the entire series? The first book of Hugh Howey's Wool.

You absolutely cannot argue that Howey did not bring his A game to that book--it's excellent all on its own.

(I'm gonna get spoilery about Wool here--be warned!)

Ironically, Howey did the same thing in that book that the author of that Weepy Girl book--the main character dies at the end. But it happens in such an unexpected way (unlike Weepy Girl, who dies exactly the way she'd been weepily expecting), and the book is so well written that I just had to read the rest.

And hey, that Lindsay Buroker! The first book of her Emporer's Edge series is a freebie, and while you could argue that it's not her finest novel, it's definitely complete--she wrote it as a novel, not as some marketing teaser to the "real" story. The same thing is true of the short stories she gives away or sells for very little money: They're actual stories that work on their own and add to the EE universe, not just "Click on these links if you'd like to receive some actual satisfaction from your reading!"

Like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you waste my time with some crappy hack copy in your free book, why on Earth would I assume that you've got anything else in you?

Some things resolve nicely, others do not

As you can tell, writing has had to go on the back burner again--just a bunch of stuff going kaflooey all at once. The good news is that I have my car again, and it seems to be fine! The bad news is that spring is going to be really busy, so it may be a while before I can finish off the YA novel and start in again on Trials.

Anyway, I've been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Netflix. (I tried watching it when it was broadcast, but I just couldn't swing it--I've gotten really spoiled. And it was so much better on Netflix.) I finished the first season, and it reminded me of something that I've always really appreciated about Joss Whedon: HE ACTUALLY FINISHES HIS STORIES.

I mean, I'm going to try to not be spoilerly here, but there's this big plot arc and a lot of character arcs and a supervillain, and by the end of the first season, it's all wrapped up. It's done. Sure, they've set up the next season, but it's pretty much just, "Now that this is over, you'll have to go do the next big thing!" not some huge mass of quasi-nonsensical cliffhangers.

I've obviously been having a lot of frustrating story experiences lately because that struck me as damned near a miracle.

I know Whedon's attitude has always been to wrap up each season individually, because you never know when you might get canceled (you can tell he grew up in a television-industry family). It's just so nice to see--so nice to get a proper resolution for once. And honestly, it's a major reason why I seek out his stuff--I trust him to actually end things in a satisfying way. I don't make the same effort for the gazillion writers who try to jerk me around with cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger.

Oh, look, training wheels

This week is turning into such a lost cause that I got a flu shot today--I mean, why not? Stuff is getting done on the house at least, albeit nowhere else.

Anyway, I started reading Game of Thrones last night--I'll probably just start watching the TV series once I finish the first book, considering the length of the others and the reputation they have for diminishing rewards.

I'm about 100 pages in of the first book, and while I think overall it's pretty good, you can definitely tell when something is written for the mass market, you know? I mean, I don't begrudge anyone their success, but I seeing some really familiar things that I think the book would be better (but probably less successful) without.

Namely (spoilers ahoy!):

The repetition. "Winter is coming." "Waken the dragon." "Catchphrases must each be repeated two dozen times within the first 100 pages."

The over-the-top bad guys. "Quick! Let's murder this child to protect our incestuous relationship!" Jesus Christ, Snidely Whiplash is subtle in comparison.

The unbelievably clueless authority figure. The king--the king--is concentrating all his kingdom's power into the hands of a family that is not his. Isn't keeping potential rivals from amassing too much power like, Step #1 in the Ten Easy Steps to Maintain Your Throne?

And who is the family? It's his wife's family. Guess who never much cared for his wife? Guess whose wife has ambitious male relatives about the right age to take the throne?

The well-meaning but incompetent advisors. "OK, you remember back, like, 10-15 years ago, when you first took power? This guy made it really clear back then that he wanted your throne. Yeah, I dunno why I didn't tell you this back then either, but I'm really worried about it now. What? You're saying it's water under the bridge? You think that if I felt like I could sit on this warning for more than a decade, it must not be that important? Hm--I never saw that one coming."

The sex scene that probably should have been way less explicit. Let's say your book features a young man who is easily cowed and is being treated abominably. This young man, who is VERY, VERY, VERY MUCH a virgin, is sold in marriage to an older, beautiful, but extremely forbidding woman. On their wedding night, much to everyone's surprise, the woman turns out to be a gentle and considerate lover who warmly initiates this young man into the joys of an erotic life.

You do this via a fairly explicit sex scene.

And in the course of this fairly explicit sex scene, the experienced, considerate women never once touches the young man's penis.

That would be ridiculous, right? But guess what Martin does with a young virginal woman and an older, oh-so experienced man, who with all his abundant expertise and profound commitment to making the sex good for the woman, doesn't seem to know what a clitoris is?

I mean, I understand discomfort with writing this kind of thing--I myself will probably never write an explicit sex scene--but once you've decided to do it, you can't pretend that certain anatomical realities don't exist. Especially not when it's written from the woman's point of view!

Longmired

This has also been a tough week for writing--lot of family crapola. Hopefully things will improve sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I've been watching the television series Longmire, which I started after reading this article on how it was canceled despite good ratings. (An interesting case of the network's business model not being aligned with ratings per se: Advertisers think the audience skews too old, while the network doesn't own the program and won't get any revenue from streaming or DVDs. ETA: Netflix has decided to ressurect the show.)

It's a very good show. I'm almost through the second season, though, and one decision they made really bothers me.

This is going to get VERY spoilery, so be warned. Again, the show is excellent, so you very well might want to stop reading this and go watch it first.

If you're still reading: Longmire is the title character, and he is the sherrif of a rural county in Wyoming. His wife died the previous year, and he is still very tramautized.

You discover through a gradual series of reveals that he has especially good reason to be tramautized: His wife had cancer, but that's not what killed her--she was murdered while getting treatment in Denver. Longmire kept the fact of her murder a secret from everyone except a particularly close friend of his who owns a restaurant. Longmire traveled down to Denver, found out who his wife's killer was, and murdered him.

Now Longmire is desolate and remorseful--and no one other than the friend knows why, because he's still keeping everything a secret. He talks a lot about how he never realized the horrible things he was capable of, and he throws himself into high-risk suicide missions whenever he can.

Except that, in! a! shocking! twist! it turns out that Longmire didn't murder his wife's killer--his friend did.

UUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH.....

I don't know if this was just a twist-too-far decision or a preserve-the-main-character's-purity one--or maybe the writers wanted Longmire to have yet ANOTHER secret, because he just didn't have enough already--but in any case, I don't like it.

Think about it: Before, Longmire was tortured because he did something very bad. Now's he's tortured because somebody else did something very bad--that's called being an emo drama queen, dude.

Before he was throwing himself into these high-risk suicide missions because he felt despair and remorse. Now he's doing it . . . I guess because of his frustrated homicidal rage, right? That makes me kind of worried for the residents of his county, to be honest.

And before a lawman crossed a line and applied a harsh and inappropriate form of justice because his beloved wife was murdered. Now a guy who serves burgers and mixed drinks committed murder to keep his buddy happy. (Hmm. A lot of homicidal people in this county, apparently.)

I hate it when the integrity of a character (or two) is destroyed because someone just had to tack on another twist. You have to have these things make sense. If it's going to turn out that a person didn't do what everyone thinks they did, then they need behave from the beginning like someone who didn't. Otherwise it's just cheap.

How to make a romance excruciating

The house is keeping me busy, so I decided it would be nice to unwind by watching more of the Hong sisters' output, starting with their very first show--you know, made back before they had the pull to make a non-generic drama.

Remind me not to do that again.

The show is called Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, and in theory it's supposed to be a retelling of a folktale, except that it's not. The interesting and very funny bits actually are, but they are few and far between--and they are incredibly frustrating, because you can see the Hong sisters' wit and humor come out to play for a tiny bit, but then all the good stuff is shoved back into its cage and we're just stuck with the annoying generic romance.

It's annoying because its the kind of romance that gins up drama by having the characters be crazy and dumb, which I dislike in any story but I think is more of an issue in that genre because it's so character-driven. If the ENTIRE FOCUS of the story is a relationship between two people, shouldn't that relationship and those people actually be worth something?

I mean, the vast majority of people have some level of relationship skills. But that's not helpful to a romance writer who needs to pad out a book or script! So the characters act like a pair of hypersensitive 14-year-olds with attachment disorders!

Let's see if you are a real-life adult or a badly! written! romance! character! with a quiz!

You really, really like someone! In fact, you're in love! Do you:

1. Show affection for the person and ask them out.

2. Treat the person like dirt and repeatedly inform them that you don't even like them--don't worry about them taking it seriously, they can read your mind!

A significant other--or even just a friend--suddenly is in a very bad mood for no apparent reason. Do you:

1. Ask them what's wrong, and offer to help if possible.

2. Assume the worst! They hate you, and if the two of you are dating or married, they're cheating!

You are in a serious relationship with someone you love very much. A problem crops up in some other area of your life. Do you:

1. Discuss it with your partner.

2. LIE! LIE!! LIE!!!

You are in a serious relationship with someone you love very much. Their psycho stalker ex, who you know full well would do or say absolutely anything to sabotage the relationship, tells you something negative about your partner. Do you:

1. Laugh in their face, then go home and have a good laugh about it with your partner.

2. Believe them completely!

You are in a serious relationship with someone you love very much. A horrible, abusive relative of theirs tells you it would be better for your partner if you went away, leaving them isolated with said abuser. Do you.

1. Laugh in their face, then go home and have a good laugh about it with your partner.

2. Do exactly what they tell you to!

You are in a serious relationship with someone you love very much. The two of you are extremely close, and you communicate very well/have a wonderful sex life. Someone who is not nearly as close to your partner as you are suggests that you radically alter your communication/sexual style. Do you:

1. Nod politely, then go home and have a good laugh about it with your partner.

2. Accept the advice and follow it slavishly, without (and this is key) discussing it with your partner first!

You are in a serious relationship with someone you love very much. Some random person tells you that your partner has done something very wrong, and unless you do exactly what they say, they will reveal this misdeed to the authorities. Do you:

1. Discuss the matter with your partner and figure out what to do together.

2. Submit to blackmail alone, because teamwork is for suckers!

Wow, that got bad quick

(So, yeah, HOUSE has eaten all my time, plus I've been really sick. But at this point, the hazard-abatement stuff is pretty much done, plus I found a general contractor to deal with the flooring/painting/renovating stuff, so there's less of a burden on me to schlep out there every day at the crack of dawn to meet various workers. And I'm starting to feel better, although still tired. So I may get writing again fairly soon. ETA: Yeah, that's not going to happen--as more stuff gets done on the house, more decisions and preparations have to be made for the next steps. Sorry.)

I've mentioned that I like the show Sherlock. My sister really likes it, so she recorded the third season when it aired, and I've been watching it at her house.

And man, was it bad! Like, yelling-at-the-television bad.

It's always painful to watch a show go downhill, but the speed and efficiency with which Sherlock has taken the plunge has only been matched by a few shows (the first season of Enterprise springs, ever-unbidden, to mind).

The main problem as I see it is that Sherlock used to be a mystery show with engaging characters and the occasional vague conspiracy. Now it's a soap opera featuring vague conspiracies and a bunch of whiny dysfunctional characters who yammer on about their feelings and, every now and again, make reference to those mysteries they used to solve back when they did that sort of thing.

Mystery is a very logical genre. And unfortunately it felt like, in deciding to abandon the rigor of mystery, the Sherlock writers decided to abandon all other forms of rigor as well. Sometimes this lost rigor was logical (Why would North Korea want to blow up Parliament? Why would an evil genius reveal to his opponents the only way to stop his evil plans?), but one of the things that really stuck out to me was a bit of lost production rigor: The show stopped showing Sherlock's thought process.

That was one of the more-original and better-done things in the first two seasons of Sherlock. Sherlock would come across a crime scene and examine it. As he was doing so, little words (or sometimes images) would appear ("damp" maybe, or "clean clean clean dirty"). It usually wasn't enough for you to easily put the pieces together, but when Sherlock later did, you could see how he got where he was.

It was a neat trick, and it tied the television series to the original stories quite well, since Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was always noticing these tiny details and making deductions from them. It also was something that clearly took a lot of work on the part of the writers, the production crew, and the actors--so of course it had to go!

In the third season, the visual element is divorced from Sherlock's thought process: He looks at stuff and words and images appear, but it's like a music video--looks cool, doesn't mean much. Then Sherlock just kind of magically knows things--unless it's more convenient for him to remain completely clueless, even in situations where he is paying close attention. The degeneration of the Sherlock character from puzzle-solver to convenience-clairvoyant reminds me quite a bit of what P.G. Wodehouse did to Jeeves.

In addition, what the third season made me realize was that I found the character of Sherlock engaging specifically because his thought process was entertaining. He was doing good and delighting me to boot, so I cared about the fact that he was a recovering addict and that he couldn't have sex and that he was deeply attached to Watson, even though he tended to treat Watson like crap. Take away the interesting bit of his character, and I'm left with the dysfunctional, soap-opera stuff--I MIGHT TAKE DRUGS! I DON'T HAVE SEX! DON'T GO WATSON, I NEED SOMEONE TO CRAP ON!--and no particular reason for me to care about it.

Certain jobs are REALLY not stories

The HVAC guy took forever yesterday (verdict: the furnace can be saved; the heat pump, not so much), so I wound up reading a bad novel by a writer who is famous, but not for novels. (Which means that all the jacket blurbs were these atrocious, ass-kissy, "What a masterful genius!!!! I only hope you write more of your WONDERFUL novels (and give me a job!)"-type things. I was like, Dear God, don't encourage this crap.)

One of the WONDERFUL aspects of the novel, showing the author's masterful genius!!!, was that the actual plot did not begin until fully a third of the way into the book. Instead, the entire first third of the book was dedicated to describing the day-to-day life of . . . a professional writer.

Not just any professional writer--a professional writer who doesn't write novels (but would like to write one), and who is about the same age and lives in the same area and is the same gender as the actual author. (Yeah, he really dug deep into his imagination for that one. I'm gonna assume that the resentful ex-wife and adult children are his, too.)

I keep reading this. Since everyone who writes a book is a writer, there are a bazillion gazillion not-particularly-imaginative books out there about, you guessed it, life as a writer.

As I've said before, someone simply doing a job is not enough to carry a book. And let's face it, writers have about the most boring jobs imaginable.

Especially established writers. This guy's not poor; he's not uneducated; he's not desperate. What does he spend an entire third of the book doing? Oh, you know, arguing with his agent, worrying about the wording of his latest contract, wondering when he'll get time to write that novel, wondering if he'll have to (shudder) teach another university class (the horror!!!) to maintain his middle-class lifestyle.

These are the kinds of thing that, when Tweeted about, get you on White Whine. Honestly, the only way the stakes of that story could have gotten any lower would have been if the guy was having lots of great sex, but not with the woman he really wanted to have sex with.

Ooops! Sorry! That was in there, too!

In a way, the book reminded me of Michael Chabon's The Wonder Boys, if The Wonder Boys had sucked instead of being awesome. Once the plot starts, the guy . . . kind of realizes that there is a world around him? But not really. The book is not, Guy Realizes That He Is a Self-Indulgent Prat so much as it is, Self-Indulgent Prat Learns To Feel Better About Himself, which . . . what are the stakes here, exactly?

The itch is returning

First off: Happy Holidays! Enjoy your movie and Chinese food, or whatever festivities you have planned!

(Is it OK for me to make that joke? I'm not actually Jewish. But the Church of Paranoid Christians has been putting up signs where I live saying that if you don't say "M---y C-------s" every single time, you are an Evil Satanic Communist, and I really want to join that group now that the Illuminati has vanished. (Or has it!?!))

Anyway, I've been increasingly having the itch to write lately--to just sort of write anything. I think that after the visiting relatives decamp next week, I'm going to start in on the young-adult fantasy novel I've had outlined for ages.

Without question, I will be getting back to the Trang series--Trials is partially written, both books are outlined, I even have covers!--but right now it's simply too hard. Basically there's a really unfortunate combination of where I was in writing the book (just where things got really depressing) and life circumstances. To seriously mix a metaphor, I can't pick up the thread of the one without touching the third rail of the other.

The young-adult fantasy novel is not nearly so focused on grief and loss, so hopefully it will be more doable (and hopefully I'm not killing the urge by making this post). I want it to be fun and cute (while also being deep and meaningful, of course! I iz broody artiste!), and something I will really enjoy writing.

ETA: Oh, and according to my last Amazon statement, I've sold copies of Trust in France, Germany, and Japan!

The telenovela thing, some more

I was just going to respond to Jim Self's comment here, but then the reply just got longer and longer, and I figured I might as well make another post out of it. We were talking about how, now that Netflix lets people watch television shows however they want, they seem to want to watch them pretty much the way you read a novel.

Jim wrote:

What I find interesting about this is that people are now consuming other kinds of media in the way they always read books. When you discover a new series of books and love the first one, you immediately go out and get the next, and next, and so on. Now we do it with TV shows.

You know, come to think of it, that doesn't just apply to TV shows themselves: If I really like a show, I'll look for other shows by the same author. Obviously that's been a thing with movies for a while (and certain television producers, like Norman Lear, have always had name recognition), but Netflix makes it so you can click on a name and get the person's other work, just like you can with Amazon or a library catalog. So I wonder if authorship is going to become more important in branding shows--it seems likely that it would, especially as television becomes less focused on mass-market ratings.

So, at least anecdotally, it seems that people prefer to consume lengthy stories all at once. That can cause people to put off a show they'd otherwise watch weekly, though. I keep meaning to continue Breaking Bad now that it's complete, but I never do.

Yeah, I feel the novel form has been around for some time now, and now that they can people are kind of molding television-watching into a video novel, so maybe the format just appeals to our psyches in a way that episodic media does not.

It's definitely a challenge to the industry. One thing I've noticed as I've shifted to Netflix is that, in the past, I might watch an episode of a show and not like it. And then a year or so later, assuming the show was still on, I'd check it out again, sometimes to find that it had improved considerably. Then I'd start watching it regularly.

With Netflix, though, there's no way--a bad first episode or a weak first few episodes, and I'm gone. If it takes a show a season or two to hit its stride, I'll never know, because not only am I not going to sit through all the bad episodes, I'm also not willing to skip the first 20-odd or 40-odd episodes to get to the good part--which is new. Before I didn't feel a need to start at the beginning and watch every single episode, but now, interestingly enough, I do.

So I think that as television shows are consumed more like novels, first episodes will become extremely important, the way the first chapter of a novel (or really, the first chapter of the first novel in a series) is.