Most of what I've writtn in the past has been horror fiction. Some fantasy. Only a few sf stories, although I'm writing an sf story now. My first novel is also horror. I've also written a lot of poetry in recent months.
Welcome, I'd like to see your stories, if you don't mind. Is there any way we can read them? Also, if you haven't done so already, visit my "Who are YOU?" thread in the resources section.
Obviously everyone here is doing creative and constructive things with the talents God provided and Ray inspired. Ray's answer to "Amadeus" (if a work written previously to another can be termed an "answer" to it) is "Any Friend of Nicholas Nickelby's is a Friend of Mine." Just using your own talent--even if your talent is to inspire genuine appreciation of another's talent! (And if we were ALL Charles Dickens, honestly! Would Dickens himself be anything special?)
I now feel ready to answer this question and catch you all up on my latest little talk with Ray. As you know, I last called him on Presidents' Day, and determined to call him on St. Patrick's Day, which I did. Ray seemed the most reconciled yet, and even pleased, about this site when I told him of the people from all the countries we'd heard from here on the board--that the latest was Scotland and I hoped I hadn't left any off the list! He asked, as always, what I have been doing.
I said, "Well, I know you told me to write 200 short stories, but instead I've been working on a novel."
He said, "I never said 200 specifically, I said write a short story a week, every week for as long as you can keep it up."
I asked, "Would a chapter of a novel do instead?" (At this point it's going so well I think I honestly could turn out one a week, and 52 chapters in a year is a darn good-sized novel!)
He said, "It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's what you love. It's the love that's important."
I said, "Good, I'm glad a novel is okay because that's what I've been doing." I then started to describe my concern that, in working on a novel, I'm not getting the feedback I might from a number of separate stories. That is, there is the reluctance to show an unfinished work to ANYONE, so I end up keeping a whole pile o' words to myself.
I didn't even get as far as describing how showing a work in progress to anyone has at times proven so discouraging it did more harm than good, because before I even got into my latest plan, he was way ahead of me. Way, WAY ahead! He started hollering, and I mean practically SCREAMING, "DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT! DON'T SHOW ANYTHING TO ANYONE, THEY'LL RUIN YOUR WORK! JUST DON'T DO IT!"
I said, "Why, has this happened to you?"
He said, "NO, because I never show ANYTHING to ANYONE UNTIL THE WORK IS FINISHED! JUST WRITE YOUR DAMN BOOK AND DON'T LET ANYONE SEE IT!"
I swear, those were his exact words as nearly as I can describe without a recording, and certainly his exact tone.
Well, what can you do when you KNOW someone is right? Because I knew this even before he said it. In fact, I just picked up a book by a favorite author, Phyllis A. Whitney, to send to a friend from this very board, and I couldn't help remembering her advice in a book on writing when she gave several examples of writing situations, saying, this WILL happen to you, and described having someone read one book in manuscript and loving it, then showing your next book in manuscript to the same person, who hates it and is very discouraging. Well, I kind of had to laugh when I read this because this had ALREADY happened to me by the time I read her writing advice!
I guess I'd better explain a bit about my history here. I knew at the age of 10 that all I ever wanted to be was a writer--about the same age Ray identifies for the same decision, and at that age I had only just heard of Ray but had no real idea of who he was yet. So Ray never started anything as far as that goes--all he did was give structure, form, and validity to a belief system already well and firmly in place by the time he came along!
Now, as for making a LIVING at it? I've always been very much like the little boy in Lincoln Steffens's "A Miserable Merry Christmas," who wanted "a pony, or nothing" for Christmas. I'm 42 now, still waiting, and so far refusing to compromise has brought a whole lot of nothing. (Hope I don't end up like the little boy shoveling manure out of a stable saying, "There's gotta be a pony in here somewhere!")
I had some short stories published but was paid only in copies--no proverbial "first sale." The only book-length writing I was happy enough with to publish was rejected by 365 agents and publishers for various reasons. I ended up self-publishing. Those who actually read the book really liked it, but it met with fierce resistance elsewhere. This book was a novel, but closely based on historical fact. I only invented very little bits to smooth in and fill out the story.
After that came a huge transition. I didn't stop writing--I just didn't write enough! Once, at a historical re-enactment at which I was a pioneer a mountain man came up to me and asked, "You haven't quit writing, have you?" When I said no, he said, "Good, because if you do, someone oughta hit you between the eyes with something!" It was one of the greatest compliments I ever received.
The transition was not only between a story based on fact--where the facts provided a great guideline not only of story events but of what, exactly, to research--and fiction, which is much less structured--it was between, if the reading public or the publishers who make decisions for them are shall we say somewhat reluctant to accept what I've written based on a PERFECTLY GOOD TRUE STORY, how am I gonna pass off stuff I JUST PLAIN MADE UP?
I cast around writing various things and the fact that I'd be writing historical fiction became obvious. Contemporary fiction in just about all forms bores the living lights out of me. I don't read it except for some children's fiction, and I've spent my whole life ignoring what goes on in the real world so why should I start learning now just so I can write about it? Then Ray had already done better just about everything else as far as Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror that I'd possibly want to try, but not much Historical Fiction as the research bores and discourages him (which it doesn't particularly to me) so it just seemed the obvious choice.
Trouble (if you want to call it trouble and not a challenge) is that the historical fiction projects I seem to come up with are mostly not kids' adventure stories but HUGE adult epics! So I had to think how I was going to work these into something manageable.
I don't know what writing is like for other people here but for me it has been like navigating a minefield! Where something really worthwhile waits on the other side but with every kind of pitfall and hazard in between. So I wrote and published my first book and tried showing parts of one of my (unfinished) historical epics to someone who'd been very helpful with my first book in progress.
This transpired exactly as Phyllis A. Whitney said in her book and as Ray said on the phone tonight. Now, they didn't ruin my book as far as changing things for the worse because I didn't change anything based on what they said--a thing I tend to do sparingly and incompletely if at all--I just simply became too discouraged to go on and didn't finish it.
Just recently, circumstances compelled me to pick up on another of my epics which I felt reaching critical mass. I didn't tell Ray this (he didn't give me a chance!) but my plan was to sort of divide the novel into sections which represent phases of the main character's life. (The way I'm writing it right now I guess you could use the old clich� of a character's whole life flashing before his eyes but I trust the story won't be clich�d.)
Then choose 100 readers, figuring anything picked over by that many people by the time an editor even sees it has to be practically bulletproof. I decided to take the readers in waves of 33 1/3 each. First, my near and dear trusted ones in Wave 1, figuring as Wave 1 is jumping on Phase 1 of the book, I can be working on Phase 2, though Ray is sure to be right, showing anything unfinished to anyone may well result in the writer going back when they should be going forward. Then, when I have a first draft, bring in Wave 2 of somewhat tougher readers, then the real big guns in Wave 3. (A few of my friends are so DAMN discouraging I'm wondering if and when to tell them anything at all.)
So now it looks like Plan B. I must have a COMPLETE DRAFT (first draft anyway) of the WHOLE novel finished BEGINNING TO END (*sigh*!) before showing any of it to anyone! I said to Ray, "That's all right, I'm sure no one is waiting just dying to read it," and he said, "YOU'RE the one who cares!" (So sorry, any of you I spoke to about this who were just suffering for me to send you something right away.) In a way this is good, though, as it gives me more incentive to move along quickly so I will have something finished to show people!
Now, one thing, believe it or not, I have learned. I won't say I learned this the hard way but I did learn it the SLOW way, and Ray was the main one from whom I learned it. His stories hit so hard as they deal not in factual truth but emotional truth. We all know there has been nitpicking regarding facts in certain of Ray's stories. (I laugh every time I think of him hitting that smartass 9-year-old who told him he had the moons of Mars wrong--HA!) But he DID write the truth, that is, the parts of it which were vital to HIM, which obviously proved vital to many readers as well!
What I learned (which you knew I was getting to eventually!) was that this can be done, even in historical fiction, which trades in facts a lot more than do Sci-Fi and Fantasy. (Okay, it does when it's done right, though there have been some spectacular commercial successes using really crummy history--but let's not "go there.") I have obtained some historical resources and contacted experts, but it's been along the lines of, "What if this--?" and "What would happen if that--?" -- NOT describing characters and events in the story, just casting about for directions in which to proceed, which I think is okay.
At some point I will have to know SO MUCH to be sure I have everything I SHOULD, and I AM a stickler for detail, but things have been falling so miraculously into place I'm trying not to be all anxious obsessive regarding every little nitpicky item at this point. There is quite a core of emotional truth to the story, (TRUST me on this--if you had any idea of how long these ideas have hung around waiting for me to write them!--) around which the facts can be worked, and, yes, parts of the story can be, when necessitated by fact, changed without substantial damage, BUT what WOULD really damage it is if I got discouraged by criticism, even well-meant, at the wrong point. Ray didn't have to yell (though it sort of helps that he did!) I pretty well knew the truth of what he was saying before he said it.
So I asked him if he'd read "Metamorphosis/Metamorphoses" by Ovid. He said it was a wonderful book of which he had a beautiful edition with magnificent lithographs, but he couldn't quite remember the translator--some poet from the 1700s. (I'm sure he doesn't read Latin and I know I don't!) I asked, "Could it have been Alexander Pope?" and he said, "Yes, I think so, his version is wonderful!"
It so happens I've been having a bit of a struggle as the Pope translation, which appears in a version edited by Samuel Garth, is the best-known. I've found one I actually like better, but it is earlier and very rare. Well, here they both are and you can make up your own mind.
George Sandys, 1632: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/latin/ovid/sandys/contents.htm
Samuel Garth, 1716: http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Ovid/00000010.htm
Well, all I told Ray is that since I am writing historical fiction I'm trying to stick with books which would have been available to people then, and not the newer ones, and the way Ray put it was, "Yes, stick with those old guys, the new translations are all crap anyway."
I said, "I think I can handle it, I AM good for reading things besides Harry Potter, y'know," and you know what Ray said? "Harry Potter is wonderful, I'm wonderful, and YOU'RE wonderful!"
Now, what better recommendation could you have than that?
He asked me what else I was up to and I said I'd been getting my exercise fixing up the house and yard, telling myself when I get my environment organized I'll have my mind organized as well. He said, "Well, forget all that, just read and write, it's all that matters."
I had to agree with him that it's certainly all that lasts!
By the way...if I seem a bit out of it as to what's going on around here...this board has long since outrun my ability to read every word of every post on every thread. I just skim them to make sure everyone is behaving themselves! I'll have even less time for it now that I have an historical epic to write which HAS to be finished before I can show any of it to anyone, but I'll continue to pop in and keep an eye on matters here. Besides writing, I intend to continue my pseudo career as a musician. I don't know if I have anyone fooled, but I have them pleased, which in this case is just as good.
Are you sure THIS isn't an epic!?
Good to hear from Ray through you. He sounds great!
Glad to see that your have now jumped and are building your wings on the way down. (with acknowledgement to RB)
Yeah, he sounded great. I won't soon forget this little fit he threw. Guess I now know what *not* to do, anyhow!
I just LOVED your stories! The ending of Sunshine Walker literally gave me chills! But I was really impressed by the Bell Dance Hall. Wow! You really found your 'voice' in that piece! Awesome! I go around quoting it now, because my girlfriend is always trying to convince me to go out to a club with her and I tell her, "dancing is nothing more than..." well, don't want to spoil it for anyone else. You know the rest. Anyway, just wanted to say that I was really impressed! Keep writing!
Still got those stories? I'd love to read 'em!
[This message has been edited by groon (edited 03-23-2004).]
OOOooo...You sure my wife didn't put you up to that? You sure do sound a lot like her. Gives me chills.
My thanks for the read and the compliments. Nothing makes a writer feel better than kudos.
Ray's style inspired me, so I hope I didn't embarrass him.
Anyone know where to find Tiltboss's stories? I remember them being pretty good, and have been thinking it would be nice to reread them.
Thanks so much for bumping this up! Someone was just asking about my conversations with Ray and now I can share this one!
It's been a long time, I checked in out of curiosity a few weeks ago, and came upon this thread, so I thought I'd share what I've been up to. I've been teaching piano for 3 years and my animation career seems to be picking up a little steam. I've gotten heavily into brickfilming (stop-motion with Lego toys) this past year, and I just finished coordinating a collaboration project including over 20 teams and solo animators in 5 European countries and all across the US. Aside from producing the show, I wrote and animated much of it myself, incorporating the clips submitted by the other animators participating. The result is a half-hour long stop-motion animated Christmas special called "A Brickfilm Christmas" which can be seen on youtube.
Enjoy, and a Merry Christmas to all here!This message has been edited. Last edited by: groon,
rocket man-iron horse. tribute to sir Elton John
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