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[process] More on Consumers and Producers - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-03-10 05:31
Subject: [process] More on Consumers and Producers
Security: Public
Tags:books, conventions, culture, process, sunspin, writing
First of all, my thanks to everyone who commented on the earlier installment of this topic [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. I appreciate the insights and the feedback. And yes, the phrasing of "Consumer" and "Producer" is rather culturally normative of me, but right now I'm trying not to stir too many pots at once, and they're handy labels that appeal to the Western dualism that sixteen years of elementary, secondary and higher education have beaten into me a few decades back. Not to mention being instantly parsable to virtually everyone reading this blog.

At the end of the previous post, I promised to discuss my recent insight on being a Producer and a Consumer with respect to the writing of Sunspin. I'm still getting there. I especially want to thank the folks at session one of Rainforest Writers Village who were willing to sit still for various installments of this riff as I repeatedly thought out loud.

For me, writing has always been a special case of reading. Which is to say, my Production takes the form of an act of Consumption. My biggest clue to this is the fact that with very rare exceptions, I always write in reading order. This is true even when I'm writing very strange, non-linear fiction. I need to experience the story as the reader will, or the process runs into trouble for me. This is also probably why it took me so many years to learn to craft outlines for novels, and even more years to learn to use them effectively.

In my case, my childhood history of social isolation has a lot to do with this. I grew up mostly overseas, without television and before computer games. We moved every year or two — nine schools on three continents in twelve years. I was always the new kid, I had rotten social skills, and I was too bookish and too bright to fit in until about high school, where being highly verbal and good at homework suddenly acquired social value instead of making me a target for bullying and scorn. So I spent a lot of time telling stories to myself. Not mumbling out loud, but constructing running plots in my head, often with maps and other illustrations doodled in the margins of my schoolwork and elsewhere.

I learned Story by reading immersively and by conducting a very long-running process of autonarration.

So when I write, I am a follow-the-headlights writer. I begin at the beginning, and end at the end, and tend be to quite surprised and delighted at the revelations that present themselves along the road. Like I said, as the author I experience the story in hand much the same way I would experience it as a reader.

This is still true for my short fiction, right up to the 25,000-word length or so. Novels however have required a significant morphing of my process. Even so, though I pre-think novels via the outlining process, while I'm actually drafting I'm still following the headlights. I just have a map now. Sometimes it's even accurate.

I am quite capable of doing a great deal of critical and literary analysis on my own work. For me, this is all post-facto, occurring when I reach the revision stage. So while the draft is very much an act of the Consumer in me, albeit in a highly specialized fashion, I put on my Producer hat to revise and rewrite. That is where I worry about character arcs and telling details and thematic consistency and story continuity and the tone of the language and all the myriad other things we writers like to sit around in the bar and discuss.

Framed this way, drafting rises from the same subconscious well in which I also Consume Story, revision takes place in the strongly self-conscious mental space of Producing Story.

Until Sunspin came along.

In the next installment of this series, I'll discuss how the current project is decidedly unsettling my auctorial wa.

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Reynardo the Red
User: reynardo
Date: 2011-03-10 14:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm curious to read this, because I'm curious as to how, where, etc the planning works, as versus the "headlights" method (which is sort of where I'm at).

I'm also curious where your titles come from. Are they there from the beginning? Are they what forms the germ of the story? Do they fall out halfway through? Have you ever had a story that didn't have a title, and if so how did you find one?

(Yes, it's something I'm stuck on too, and I'm not afraid to ask for inspiration and ideas for where to look for it).
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Jay Lake: writing-bookmobile
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 02:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:writing-bookmobile
Hi. Titles, ah titles.

The simple answer is, yes to all of your questions. Sometimes a story starts with the title, and that is the germ of the idea. Sometimes they fall out halfway through, often as an evocative line of prose. Sometimes they end without a title, then I stomp around cussing for a while.

See also these entries on the blog discussing precisely this issue:

http://jaylake.livejournal.com/2290408.html

http://jaylake.livejournal.com/1233793.html
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2011-03-10 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is very much the way I've been crafting my stories that never leave the confines of my brain. And I hit walls because I don't know enough about creating a story to create one good enough to write down. But I also revise my stories. I'll tell myself the same story many times trying to figure out where to go with it until I get tired of doing that or I read something else that has me creating a completely different story for myself. Getting a window into your process here is very interesting to me. What I want to know, because I have several stories in notes that I think have potential but that I haven't got the ability to write, is how do you go from ideas to a full story?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 02:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What I want to know, because I have several stories in notes that I think have potential but that I haven't got the ability to write, is how do you go from ideas to a full story?

I could write a book about this question... :p

Honestly, one sentence at a time. There's no other way through but forward. Start at the beginning, work through the middle, reach the end, put it away for a while until you forget how much you thought it sucked, pull it out, revise. That's really all there is.

Do that a few dozen, or hundred, times, and you'll have practiced enough to start getting it right occasionally. At least, that's been my experience.
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2011-03-11 03:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Honestly, one sentence at a time. There's no other way through but forward. Start at the beginning, work through the middle, reach the end, put it away for a while until you forget how much you thought it sucked, pull it out, revise. That's really all there is.

Do that a few dozen, or hundred, times, and you'll have practiced enough to start getting it right occasionally. At least, that's been my experience.


I probably knew that in the back of my mind but I'm so darned trained to want an instant fix. Darn things won't write themselves.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 03:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The secret is there is no secret.

Did you see this, btw?

http://romancemagicians.blogspot.com/2011/03/words-of-wisdom-from-author-jay-lake.html?spref=tw
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2011-03-11 17:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks, and thanks for the link. I need to get out of my own way. I have real problems with perfectionism. I tell myself things like I don't know how to write plot, dialog, etc. It seems the only way to know how to do those things is to write and learn.
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mlerules: Brain
User: mlerules
Date: 2011-03-10 17:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Brain
Fascinating. Thx for sharing the process & history & background and for laying bare the mental machinations of the you as you write. Appreciated.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 02:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thenk yew. The mind, she is a curious implement.
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oaksylph: blue
User: oaksylph
Date: 2011-03-10 18:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:blue
Weird. We started in similar places - very similar - but Claire appears to be a little different from Fred: Claire speaks, not in illumination along a path, but in oneirologues.

The present WIP emerged in a series of luminous-seeming, laden-feeling moments that flared amid the ongoing internal narrative (in which I long since ceased to be a character). Gradually, Critical Reader Brain translated the oneirotropes into story arcs by fitting narrative between the moments. Tropographic Brain (a/k/a The Bookseller) performed stellar cartography to determine the full orbital paths of the arcs and the mass and composition of the characters. Finally, Producer (in your idiom) used the tropography and stellar flight data from Critical Reader's passes through oneironic space to reverse-engineer weather, geo- and biological history, and daily life on a Goldilocksish planet and its very weird moon, i.e., the main character and sidekick.

(It doesn't escape my notice that almost everything I remark in your blog and mine turns into an allegory or at least a little conceit. Which is what dream narratives are, right?)

Looking forward to next installment....
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 02:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Looking forward to next installment....

Thank you. Monday, methinks.
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curious Eve: badgers
User: curiouseve
Date: 2011-03-10 21:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:badgers
Very interesting. Would you please define autonarration? I should probably know this, but I do not.

"a very long-running process of autonarration"
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-03-11 02:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"a very long-running process of autonarration"

Constantly telling myself stories. :)
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