All posts by CJ Casey

Waiting for Inspiration

Sometimes if you wait for the bus where the bus is supposed to arrive, it will come right on schedule. You’ll be there exactly when you need to be, you’ll have exact fare, and when you get on, you can easily find a seat and go wherever you need to go.

Sometimes you go to meet the bus and it’s a block away. Or a quarter-mile. Or your regular route was cancelled that day and you have to take a different bus. Or you can sit at your regular spot and hope it shows it. Maybe it will. Or maybe you would have gotten the bus if you’d walked around the corner. True, it wasn’t supposed to come there, but as long as you still get to the bus, it’s all copacetic.

Sometimes the bus never shows up. Maybe there was a strike. Maybe your route was cancelled. Maybe the driver just decided he was going to skip your block and there’s nothing you can do about it. You still need to get to work, though, and you can’t just tell your boss that you need to wait until the bus just shows up. So you either give up work and such luxuries as eating and sleeping under a roof, or you find another way to get there.

And so it is that sometimes you get up and hammer your words out while the coffee’s brewing, or have your painting sketched and all done but filling in the lines, or your clay nearly ready to be fired before you’ve finished that last mouthful of eggs. And sometimes you’re eating a late-night snack wishing you could put something on the blank page. It’s tempting to set it aside and say “Oh, when inspiration comes, it will come.” Damn tempting.

That’s a good way to miss the bus.

As I like to tell my friends, “90% of writing is showing up.”

Festooning the Bower

Picked up a rock on the beach today.
Striped minerals caught the light,
colours darting in and out of its surface.
For a moment, I saw you
bringing home rocks, happy about our treasure,
a weight in my pocket, then
catching the light on the drive home,
flashing between our seats.

It’s still the same, really.
You don’t bring them inside, of course.
You don’t point out how beautiful they are.
You don’t add to our collection when we go to the beach.
‘We’ don’t go, anymore.

But they still weigh me down.

Notes From the Front: the 96 Hour Novel

Yes, yes, I took an extra day on it. Still, I think writing a full short novel… 25,000ish words, a hundred pages… in a four-day weekend is something that I can be happy about.

Trust me, I wasn’t happy about it Saturday afternoon, and I can’t discuss how I felt Sunday without adding some sort of plug-in to WordPress that will randomly cuss every sentence. But by Monday, I was forging on ahead and writing at a 20 page per day rate. That’s about two and a half times my normal rate, and the effect it had on my creative brain (wringing it dry, breaking it down, and leaving nothing but the story intact) is something that has to be seen to be believed. Though, I think my next project will be a 100-hour short novel… perhaps I’ll try that back to back during NaNoWriMo since my hero, Agata, claims she has more stories to tell me.

Tuesday evening I had an interesting bit of exhilaration. I’d not opened my copy on my desktop since Sunday morning, and when I looked at it I realised I’d written 50 pages in a little over two days. It made me feel dizzy for a moment.

Anyway, my report is that everyone should try this once, and I myself am going to try it again in a few weeks. I wouldn’t write a literary novel this way, and perhaps not even one of my beloved surreal horror stories, but for something that proceeds at a frenetic pace (the action in this story, tentatively called “Agata and the Broken Train,” takes place over the course of four days) it’s a perfect method. I’m also curious to see what happens to this in rewrite… will I trim it to an under-90-pages length and streamline it, or will one of the characters/ plotlines jump out and demand equal treatment, adding on another ten, or twenty, or fifty pages, even as I tighten and refine what I’ve written?

If anyone’s interested in reading, well, probably not my rough, but my first clean copy, let me know… it will be prepared in a week or two. As for my other stories, I’m still more or less on track for my story-a-week project, and I’ll be putting the first refined story, up here next week for your edification and enjoyment.

The 72 Hour Novel: Day One

Well, by 14 or 15.00 today I had given up, freaked out, gone to take a nap with a horrible headache, and convinced myself that all was lost. Then I got up from the nap, made black-bean chilli since I realised I hadn’t eaten in well over a day (probably the source of my headache), and went from feeling like a failure at 5000 agonizing words to hitting 7K and saying “That’s enough.” Then I pushed ahead to hit 8K/ 30 pages in less than 24 hours. So even if I don’t hit my goal of writing a short novel (23-25K/ 80-100 pages) in three days, I think I figured out how I’ll be able to do it the next time I try. (And honestly, I’m worried that even if I do hit my word/ page goal by Monday Midnight, I’ll not be done with the story. One of my slippery good/ villain characters is more deep than I thought, and my main character is really having a lot of fun telling me her story. So, I’ll check in tomorrow night, and I’ll still be posting on Twitter with the #72hournovel hashtag.

Random observances:

Writing is physically draining enough when you don’t dash around the dining room, your patio, and your kitchen re-enacting an epic fight from your Sword and Sorcery novel. Today, I also learned that it’s a good thing I don’t write erotica.

When you try to force a character into a box she doesn’t want to fit into, she will rebel. Much like fitting a person into a category she doesn’t want to fit into. The difference is:  I can erase the character. I think that actually makes it harder to deal with.

Magic in most fantasy novels is glowing, mystical, and beneficent, or dark, chilling, and malignant. It has crisp edges and direct lines of attack. When a man is hit with a spell, he dies or is turned into a toad or whatever curse is laid upon him. But I’m a veteran. I’ve seen Fireballs, and Magic Missiles, and Called Lightning. I’ve seen especially what they leave behind. There are no crisp lines and magical effects in combat.

The 72 Hour Novel

So, I’ve been on track so far with my goal to write 50 stories in 52 weeks. (2 for 2… that’s a start, I think…) However, this next story is a little longer. A teenage girl from the same world as my current serial at Way Too Fantasy stopped by my head and convinced me to tell a story about what happened to her and her family while she was travelling with her Uncle’s wagon train to a busy port in the north. Seemed like a simple story so I agreed… and then I realised it was going to take me 80-100 pages to tell the damn thing.

No worries… I have Friday to Monday off this week, and I’ve always wanted to see if I could write a novel in a weekend. Well, a short novel. Michael Moorcock, and some of the other great prolific pulp writers did it. And since this is Sword and Sorcery, I think it may lend itself to this type of frenzied composition. We’ll see. It could just wind up a flaming heap of triceratops dung.

Today I spent outlining (I never outline, but it seemed necessary for this) and sketching and procrastinating, but it’s midnight. The witching hour. I have my snacks (apples and Doritos and caramels) and the first of what I suspect will be many pots of espresso (I have a 6-cup stovetop Moka pot, the kind they use in Italy… also, I don’t drink coffee much). I’ll be tweeting irregular updates @bovisrex and, if I remember, using the hashtag #72hournovel. I might also use #DiversityinSFF since my heroine is overweight, a minority, young, and not the typical swordsmaiden from these types of stories… i.e., no chainmail pushup bra and plate mail cameltoe. She wasn’t taught how to fight by an Uncle, or a boyfriend, or a brother whom she must now avenge… she grew up in a rough-and-tumble farming community and learned to fight with what she had. If she survives, she’ll get better.

On that last note, if anyone reading this can think of ways a 16-year old scrapper can ‘MacGuyver’ weapons and armour that she can use on her quest, hit me up here or on Twitter. By tomorrow, I might need a hand.

Alright, it’s five after midnight and I’ve procrastinated enough.