Just finished up my writing goal from last week, so I figured I really ought to get going on my weekly post for this week. One of the main reasons I do this each week is for accountability – and I’ve gotta say, this week? It worked.
Let’s get to it!
This week (and for the next few), I was focused on reading nonfiction. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately – which is good, since consuming fiction is important to being able to write fiction well – but in focusing on fiction, I lose the connection to my nonfiction interests.
It’s all a balance.
While I was initially re-reading The Myth of Sisyphus (by Camus) last week, I abruptly realized why it irked me the last time I read it. In philosophy, I have something of a predilection towards Analytic (a predominantly British branch of thought which tends to be very ‘hard-minded’), and reading from the existentialists can drive me a bit nuts.
Camus is a very literary author, and I find Sisyphus to have this odd, meandering style which is really quite frustrating. To me, the things he has to say aren’t nearly as complicated as he thinks they are (although this may well be because I’m reading him over 80 years after publication).
So I said screw that and went to read some nice, comforting Aristotle. Because Aristotle’s obviously an easier author, right?
I do actually love his Poetics, and spent a nice piece of time re-reading it this week. Aristotle’s theory of literature lies at the core of Western literary traditions, and I think his notion of tragedy and the tragic hero ought to be used more often. Briefly, tragedy to Aristotle is more complicated than a pitiable fall from a good state to a bad one.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I only just finished my writing goal for the week. But hey, I still finished it! So that’s good.
This is the first time I’ve really thoroughly re-written a chapter. I’ve edited the first several, and wrote one substantial new scene for Rule before, but this past week was probably some of the trickiest editing I’ve ever done. I pretty much just scrawled all over the printed copy of my first draft in conjunction with handwriting longer chunks of new material.
I haven’t stuck it all into the Word document for my second draft, yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be a nightmare.
In hindsight, I doubt that this editing was actually particularly difficult in comparison to what potentially can happen. A big part of my struggles to revise The Rule of Iron is that I’ve never edited something this size before. I honestly don’t think you can actually be taught how, or learn how apart from just getting thrown into it. Just trying to mentally grip all the moving pieces is a challenge in it’s own right.
And that’s when I’m not getting distracted.
This section will probably come and go on a weekly basis, but this week I think it’s relevant to add.
So, one of the main challenges in accomplishing my writing goal this week was that I got distracted by watching an anime (a Japanese cartoon; their target audience ranges all over the spectrum) called My Hero Academia.
In part what caught me was the spectacle (it’s basically a superhero show), but I think what kept me gripped was more artful. The story’s pace and style was, simply, good.
As a writer, it’s far too easy to think that we need to primarily consume written works. There’s definitely some truth to that; when I’m reading in the right manner, I’m paying attention to the art of the author’s prose, to the cadence and pace of each chapter. I’m trying to take (conscious and subconscious) notes about what works, and what doesn’t.
To paraphrase Stephen King: if you don’t read, you won’t have the tools to write.
Being someone who thinks of himself as primarily a fantasy author, I get to think a lot about magic. One of the major ways that magic is effective in stories is that it has a cost. The Ring corrupts Frodo and Boromir, Voldemort splits his soul to gain immortality, Rand’s channeling slowly drives him insane. Part of writing fantastic stories is balancing the power and wonder of magic with the cost of using it.
My Hero Academia‘s main character is a non-powered teenager in a world of superhumans, who earns the gift of an incredible superpower. The cost is that it is very dangerous to his physical body. What really, really works in this story is that Deku (the main character) rarely uses his superpowers – his greatest asset is his mind. He reacts very quickly and decisively, and is cleverly analytic. Most of the time when he wins, he triumphs against the superpowered through very human means.
This creates a powerfully compelling character. Deku allows us to indulge in the power fantasy of superheroes (because of the raw power he can choose to wield), but it’s easy to identify with him because of that power’s cost, and how rarely he can use it. He is a character first, and a superhero second.
Additionally, the show lets us get to know Deku before he gains this power – we see Deku both as a mortal and as a demigod. My Hero Academia also does a good job of fleshing out the side characters, providing them with motivations, desires, and capacities which match well against one another.
If you enjoy the occasional cartoon (as I do), it’s definitely worth giving a watch.
Last Week: Spend some time reading nonfiction, and finish editing a chapter of Rule. Complete! (Just barely, but hey – a win’s a win, right?)
This Week: Pretty much the same. I’m going to spend some time with Plato this week (probably Republic, but not certainly). He’s probably my overall favorite philosopher, and it’ll be nice to stick his thought back into my brain. As for writing, it’s battle scene time. I think I’m ready to move it into its new home.