Friday, August 19

Everything interesting happens in the dead zone . . .




One of my favorite cartoons of all time has a physicist in front of a huge blackboard that is filled with this vast, intricate, insanely complex calculation, checking his work with obvious satisfaction. All the way at the bottom, right in front of the final "=1", there's a parenthetical notation that reads:

"Here, a miracle happens."




When I plot a novel, most of it is scenes that I can jump into inside my head: it's like opening them on a hard drive, or accessing them on DVD. I touch them, and I'm there. These are easy for me to write, because I'm literally inside the scene and all I have to do is transcribe what happens: what's there, what it looks like, sounds like, smells like, feels like, who does what to whom, whatever.

But in between those scenes there are always "dead zones." Places where I know what's supposed to happen, but I can't quite see it. It's only mist. I can't bring it into focus.

Now, I can carve that mist into workable shapes. I can make a quality scene out of just about anything. I've done it, and I can do it again. But, y'know . . .

I keep discovering those dead zones are there for a reason.

Those of you who read the Caine novels know that they tend to be Big Picture stories -- that even though they take place in short periods of time and are focussed on specific incidents and problems, the fundamental interconnectedness of reality in my personal universe means that a story about anything is also a story about Everything . . .

When I stare into a dead zone long enough, the mist begins to clear, and son of a bitch, y'know, what I knew was supposed to happen wasn't supposed to happen at all. Or not the way I thought. And the story gets better than I thought it was going to be.

Who's in charge here, anyway?

Where's Bakker? I need a Derrida expert, because I'm beginning to suspect that the author really is irrelevant.




Everything interesting happens in the dead zone . . .

28 comments:

Eric said...

It happens to me all the time. There is a song that I wrote the basics for back in Chicago. It had changed over the years, but never worked. It was always a bear to play live and never worked. I couldn't remember the words and all kinds of weird stuff for a song that I should have known. I put it away for about 5 years.

One day I was working on it again and I changed the name of the person in the song from a male name to a female name and the song worked. Just like that. It was just waiting for me to work out who the song was really about.

Eric said...

Oh ... and ...

I am a firm believer that I don't write these songs. I just let them loose.

Anonymous said...

I get that way about work a lot, I am banging my head against a wall to conceive a way to this client happy with in the strains of modern technologies and expenses, and then when finally give up and stare at my computer screen, it happens, like an epiphany, the explanation happens. There is nothing else like it really.

I mean it is not as awe inspired as finally understanding the message hidden the media. Sometimes you just have to let the river flow were it wants to go, instead of damning it up.

Thamos

Sammy said...

As someone in a giant dead zone right now, that was a great reminder that good things will come if I can just keep my head wrapped around my vision. All great ideas present themselves in time, & usually never how you expect them to be.

Hadrian: Dark One said...

Yeah, I'm right there with ya.
I'm working on a novel right now(my first) and I swear, it's changed as many times as what shirt I wear.
And like wearing a shirt, I try to squeeze more life out of it, knowing that this is what I like... only to have a hole rip in it, find a new shirt(direction) and love it even more.
Even since I've finally set a deadline for myself(something like four days ago) Several times the MC has walked up, slapped me and erased something I've been holding on to...
I'm a firm beleiver in the percolating school of writing. Nothing can come to you all at once on a scale like this, and if it does, well, I guarantee I could write it better.

Cameron White

Midelne said...

My girlfriend in college was really into Derrida. All I remember of it is that God has no allergies.

Hadrian: Dark One said...

Hey, Matt, I've got a question for you, kinda but not really on-topic.
Editors.
Did you and do you employ editors BEFORE you send your work to the publishers, or does Del Rey provide in-house editors?
I've gotten kind of confused looking around for agents, and stumbling upon freelance editor sites...
*holds head in hands because a cat landed on it with brick shoes*

MWS said...

I am the only editor I really trust.

Even at Del Rey, the inestimable services of such High Powered Pros as Shelly Shapiro and Chris Schleup -- and the much-lamented Amy Stout, who brought me there in the first place -- are there (as far as I'm concerned) only to tell me when I've fucked something up, not how I've fucked up it nor how to fix it.

I handle those parts myself. And keep on handling them until either

1) they tell me it's perfect and I'm a friggin' genius,

Or

2) they surrender from sheer exhaustion.

Sometimes they point out a particularly shitty piece of prose I might otherwise perpetrate . . . but even then, I fix it myself.

I am too arrogant and vain to have it any other way.

They may perform ancillary services for other writers. I can't really say.

I'm the kind who needs to be left alone.

It's that toiling-in-solitude-except-for-my-wife-and-dog-and-cats-and-horses-and-friends-but-none-of-them-help-me-with-the-books-well-except-for-my-wife kind of thing

Azrof D said...

Matthew,

Finish your book. Soon.

Hadrian: Dark One said...

So, another question.
Literary Agents. In my boundless searching of the net, I have stumbled upon a few that sound professional enough, but they ARE few and far between. I have a problem soliciting an agent with bad grammar and misspellings on their website, as you might understand.
Are there any resources you would reccomend for finding good agents, and, is 15% high or low for fees?

By the way, I'm about out of fingernails to chew, and I've already broken my knuckles on the floor in anticipation of CBK...

MWS said...

15% is what I pay. But my agent doesn't charge me for anything else. I mean, anything. He charged me copying fees on my first novel (because it was 500 pages, and he sent it to, I believe, six publishers -- 3000 pages at Kinkos in 1995, do the math -- so that ran to a couple of bills that came out of my advance, which was not, shall we say, huge), but that's all. Ever.

Some agencies still only charge 10%, but they often make it up in ancillary expense charges (overseas phone bills, that kind of shit).

Basically don't worry too much about it. If you get an agent and you're not happy with his or her performance, get a different agent. Do NOT sign "exclusive representation contracts" except under extraordinary circumstances, which would include consulting an attorney who specializes in the publishing end of entertainment law.

Those contracts are not your friend. They are the friend of agents who are afraid they can't trust you. You're paying them for their contacts and expertise. If their contacts and expertise don't prove useful to you, you need to be able to move on to someone else.

Tim said...

When you write, story-wise, how do you land upon the ideas? Is it a growth from a situation that you fling a character at, or does the vague outline of the story spring forth fully-formed from your mind? Or something in between?

Chris said...

Sounds like we need to put you in for a Q&A at Frameshift, Matt!

On the topic of agents, did you see the link I put on Frameshift? Was it hokey or decent?

MWS said...

That original agent site thing? Looked okay to me. I didn't dig into it too deeply.

You don't need to put me in for a Q&A over there. Anybody who has a question for me can just ask. I'm around.

Anonymous said...

Matt I have a Q for you...

When do I get to meet the Lady? And when do I get to meet the critters? And I'll let you have the boyo to yourself while you allow me the above?

puhlease?

(Ok, that was more than one question :P)

Hugs and booze!!!
-jenn

Shevchyk said...

Hugs and booze.

Jenn has her head on right.

MWS said...

She surely does.

jenn -- you get to meet The Fabulous Robyn at World Fantasy, where she will be amazing all and sundry and entirely eclipsing the minor brilliance of yrs trly. As for the critters, I can't really say. We can talk at WFC and see if a visit might someday be arranged . . .

Anonymous said...

That's cause ya'll think I'm smarter than I am :P

Matt, Woot! I'm excited about meeting Robyn and seeing you again. :) We must indeed talk about a visit :)

*goes about finding more booze and more hugs, for they are much needed today*

-Jenn

Shevchyk said...

*ahem*

I love giving out hugs and booze.

Azrof D said...

You know what? I could picture a young (See Princess Bride) Mandy Patinkin as Caine, were there to be a movie. Is it just me?

Also, Matt - do you have any idea how long CBK is going to be yet, compared to the other two? I know it may be too early to speculate, but I was curious.

Gah. Matt, your work is like a really refreshing swim in an otherwise sullied pond of death!

Azrof D said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Azrof D said...

Matt,

Pardon me if this sounds a bit impetuous, but I have a question or two after re-reading your book.
First: In BoT, when Shanna is on the other world and assumes the God-Persona, she appears to have quite a bit of "Divine" power. Why did she not heal Caine of his spine injury there, or why could they not use their resources to locate a healer?
Second: Why did/could the blind god not control Caine in BoT? He also had a thoughtmitter implant, along with the other actors controlled at the end? I have always assumed it was his black shell, but…
My last one and the one I least expect to be answered (fingers crossed), at the end of BoT it is visualized for us that Caine puts aside some of his differences with Ma’elKoth to show the blind god/earth to stop fucking with them; does that scene foreshadow that Caine, at least, allowed himself to be healed by Ma’elKoth so that in the next book we will have a whole, albeit older, Caine?

That’s all for now, I promise!

MWS said...

The goddess' healing powers are different in degree, not in kind.

For the rest, no comment.

Azrof D said...

Thanks for the response! (I know your blog isn't an interview location - I'll behave in the future)

MWS said...

Don't worry. You can ask me anything.

I rarely, if ever, comment directly on the text of my work. The work either speaks for itself, or it doesn't. Either way, whatever I have to say about it will be largely irrelevant.

I do, however, usually give a straight answer to a straight question.

Anonymous said...

Shev--

You're on.

But not today, had too much booze yesterday :P

Fridays are turning into my booze nights. :P

Hugs!
Jenn

Shevchyk said...

You. Scott. Saki.

Holy Fuck.

One bottle is some serious Fuck You juice.

Like grappa, but warmer. And more subtle. And then a big ole whammy...

Anonymous said...

hrm.. haven't had saki, I'm up for trying it though. Can't speak for Scott on the booze front, although I don't think he'd be against taking a sip and seeing what it's about :)

We'll meet up Shev, Oh yes we will :)

_Jenn