Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On Writer's Block

Recently I've been pulling out some of my old short stories, trying to decide what I want to do with them. However, it's proven harder than I'd anticipated.

In particular, I'm looking at several of them and trying to figure out what I even want to do with them. I wonder if I should completely redo them, or even toss them out altogether and start over, telling the stories afresh with completely new words.

And at the same time, I'm wondering if I'm becoming hypercritical, to the point that nothing looks good. There are points at which our awareness of writing craft outstrips our ability to actually produce, so we're left feeling like all our work is hopelessly inadequate.

In The Steel Breeds True, Amanda Lordsley-Starcastle is struggling with just such a period. Her internal editor, which has become externalized in her mind as a sort of miniature Yezhov, is continually telling her that every single word she puts on paper is trash. She is a published poet, who even has had her works picked up by textbooks and anthologies that pay her money, yet she is struggling with an overwhelming sense of complete inadequacy.

Is it any wonder that I, who have managed only occasional sales, should be wondering if everything I've written is a load of horse manure.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Points of View

After years of letting it simmer on the back burner, I've finally taken The Dolphin-singer back out. It's an expansion of the short story "Spiral Horn, Spiral Tusk" (published in Sherwood Smith's anthology Beyond the Farthest Star), and I'd originally started it way back in 2000, when it became increasingly clear that the story of Rissa and Admiral Shayell simply did not lend itself to a series of linked short stories. It's set during the Isolation, perhaps a century or so before Codyland Reunion, although there is almost no overlap in the characters, so it can certainly be left ambiguous until I actually need to fix the relative chronology.

As I'm outlining Chapter 2, I'm realizing increasingly that the intricate web of misunderstandings that are so critical to the story really need access to the heads of both Admiral Shayell and Lord Benton. It's just as important to see what each man meant as what they misunderstand the other as saying and doing. However, to try to do it in tight third-person POV would mean a whole series of tiny scenes, switching back and forth.

However, I'm not sure to what degree I can get away with switching to omniscient POV, particularly given that omniscient is severely out of favor right now. An established author can do it -- viz. Sherwood Smith's recent novel Inda, which uses omniscient to great effect in several scenes. But a first novel already faces a major hurdle just getting past the "read to reject" first readers, and burdening it with an unpopular POV choice could be just one too many issues.