The Cold Dread of Editing/Rewriting

Earlier this morning I finished the first draft of an art/fiction project I’ve been working on for awhile now. There’s definitely a certain thrill and sense of satisfaction when reaching the end, in particular when the story resolves itself in a satisfying way.

Yet, there’s always that dread at the end, or even while writing, that there’s going to be the inevitable editing/rewriting process. As any writer knows, it can be a tedious process. One that can cause self-doubt and frustration. It’s not uncommon to write a first draft that seems like a great piece only to go back through and realize you have no idea what the hell you were thinking the first time around.  Sometimes a piece like that can be salvaged and rewritten or perhaps totally scrapped and used solely as background info for writing an entirely new piece.

Personally, I found the best way to go through the editing process is to correct spelling and grammar first, then I listen to an audio version of the piece. It’s pretty amazing what a difference hearing it read aloud can make when it comes to sentence structure, dialogue, and other aspects of the prose. A lot of the issues that come up are things I don’t necessarily notice when reading silently or aloud myself. Then I go back and fix those issues.

In terms of continuity errors and etc, I use the program Scrivener for my projects which makes highlighting and adding notes to a project or specific sections pretty easy. I avoid going back and fixing something while writing the first draft, because I find it only encourages self-doubt and second guessing myself while trying to write the story. I think the first draft is more about getting the idea, plot, characters and etc down on the page,  and not about passive voice, exposition, and all the other 1001 neurotic ‘rules’ writers face.

 

 

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Last Exit/Feed Your Monster

My sci-fi/horror flash fiction story Last Exit is now up on the website Feed Your Monster.

Synopsis: A lone survivor finds a means out of the wasteland, but trouble tags along for the ride.

You can read it for free via this link: Last Exit on Feed Your Monster

How To Hurt An Artist …

Earlier this week I came across a clever cartoon over on Hyperallergic concerning the trite and backhanded comments people dole out to artists. If you’ve been involved in any type of art, be it writing, visual, music, etc, I’m sure you’ve come across people like those in the cartoon. Comments like ‘My five year old could do that!’ or ‘People pay you for this?’

My personal favorite is when someone says to me something along the lines of, ‘Do you know (insert name of trendy author/artist/etc)? He’s awesome and makes a lot of money. You should do stuff like him!’

It’s always a gringe inducing experience when someone says something like that. I remember when I was back in community college and taking my first painting course. We had to do critiques in class of each others’ work and one of the things that drove the instructor (a man I learned a ton about making art from) nuts was when one of the little old ladies in the class would say, ‘Well … it’s interesting.’ The reason it pissed him off was because that phrase really doesn’t say anything at all. It would be fine if it was followed up by some constructive feedback, but by itself it is simply code for ‘I’m uncomfortable with this and can’t put together any real thought.’ Which an insult to the artist and the class as a whole.

Years ago, before I met my wife, I went on a date with this woman who asked me if I felt ‘depressed or angry’ because I was a connoisseur of people like H.P. Lovecraft and H.R. Giger as well making art along similar themes. I seem to remember laughing in her face, and telling her ‘No.’ Art and the themes I chose to work with are a creative/intellectual experiment and a form of escapism. If they made me depressed or angry I don’t think I’d be going to work everyday or going out on dates, let alone making more Art.

I suppose that from the outside the world of the creative person can be alien to some people but such callous remarks that mean next to nothing or are just plain insulting aren’t excusable.

These days I don’t get horribly upset if someone says something trite or belittling to me about my persuit of writing and drawing. I realize not everyone gets it and that some people want to knock people down. But I’m passionate and making the Art that I do, and those type of people aren’t going to get in my way.

The other day I saw this quote from Georgia O’Keefe which I thing sums it  all up very well.

“I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.”

Feel free to leave any experiences you’ve had with back handed compliments etc from others in regard to your creative work.

Gonna Party Like It’s 1924 …

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The original party monster…

 

 

Toward the end of last year I learned about a new letter written by H.P. Lovecraft to the editor of the legendary Weird Tales magazine back in 1924 courtesy of lovecraftzine.com Honestly, I’m generally not interested in reading letters from any author/artist/etc. But I gave this one I brief once over and I picked up on a couple things that I thought was rather interesting about good old H.P.  The first thing is that at some point he mentions that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I found that fascinating because I always pictured him as a stodgy Anglophile. It was even more fascinating and rather refreshing to read this because I don’t know how many aspiring authors I know out there that take their stuff way too seriously. As if it were manna from heaven or Asimov or Tolkien. People like that annoy the hell out of me. So, it was great to see that Lovecraft did not fall into that category.

Another point that Lovecraft mentioned in the letter was that he enjoyed the rather comedic horror piece that appeared alongside one of his own. Again, this kind of goes against the brooding darkness that most people have of H.P. and makes him much more human and relate able to me.

He also goes on to talk about the lack of interest in the Weird genre by the main stream reader and a lot of his concerns about it is still sadly relevant today.

If you’re interested in checking out the letter and some very good insight into it click the link below.

A 5,000 word letter written by H.P. Lovecraft has been found by a PhD student from London. Click the link to read the letter.

Source: New H.P. Lovecraft letter found!

Along with the newly discovered letter I found out about a short Lovecraft inspired movie called ‘Escape from Midwich Valley’. The film makers were inspired by Lovecraft’s short story, ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It had great production values, good physical special effects/makeup effects and managed to tell a good story with no dialogue and in about 8 minutes.  The only thing that bothered me was the choice of the music that played throughout. I could’ve done without it, but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. There’s one scene that uses CGI instead of physical special effects and it did seem out of place. But, it is still an entertaining little movie, especially if you’re a fan of Lovecraft’s mythos. I encourage to you to check it out below.

A long time ago in a polybag far far away…

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Last Sunday I watched the 60 Minutes feature on J.J. Abrams and the making of the new Star Wars movie. At one point he said that the Star Wars movies/franchise were like a religion for some people. I’d say that that’s a fair comparison. I know several friends throughout my college years and beyond that are borderline obsessive with Star Wars. I actually knew someone that had the dialogue lines from the original trilogy memorized along with the ability to hum/whistle the soundtracks in the proper order. Yeah … I wish I was making that up but it was true.

After watching the 60 Minutes piece I got to thinking about the whole collector/fan boy psyche. To be honest I never really got into collecting stuff or being an uber fan boy about any movie/book/show. Yeah, I’m a fan of certain authors like Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and etc. I like Terrentino and del Torro as directors for the most part. But I’ve never been obsessive about it. I’d be hard pressed to quote any of them, but I still enjoy their work.

 

 

The whole mentality of a collector/fan boy is beyond me. I’ve never had the desire to know every little thing about any book/movie nor its creator. I’ve never spent hours nit-picking the hell out of a movie trailer or the plot or back story of a minor character. My paycheck isn’t spent on paraphernalia or props or ‘rare’ items from any movie/TV series.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe I should be giddy with excitement over the new Star Wars or go to conventions and pay for VIP tickets so I can get autographs of obscure B-movie actors. Or maybe I should be like my former boss and spend an obscene amount of money on limited editions of novels by my favorite author and not read them. Instead I would just place them on a shelf still in their shrink wrap.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Rent’s due in a couple weeks …

There’s nothing wrong with being an obsessive collector/fan boy. I just don’t get it.

I’m far more invested in my own creative works and imagination. I’d rather spend hours creating and brain storming than being a spectator. I get more excited and filled with anticipation over my own story lines and themes/ideas then I have over any thing else coming to the theaters.

Maybe that makes me my own obsessive fan boy?

I’m not saying that I think I’m better than King or Abrams or whoever. I just find it more rewarding to use my own imagination like a compass to chart the wilderness of my creativity rather than walk the well worn paths of other writers/directors/artists.

My Muse’s Embrace Chills Me To The Bone.

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Last winter, somewhere deep in the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains.

 

So, it has snowed here twice this week and last night was bitterly cold. Personally, I don’t mind the cold and snow. I even enjoy going out to the nearby mountains and snowshoeing in it when it gets deep enough. It’s something I hope to share with my daughter in the future when she’s old enough.

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My idea of a relaxing weekend.

This morning as I sipped my coffee and looked out the window, and reassured my wife that we were indeed no snowed in despite her proclamations to the contrary, the fresh snow got my imagination going.

Some of my favorite works of fiction involve the snow/winter. In particular John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ comes to mind. The isolation and perilous conditions of the setting works brilliantly to amplify the tension of their situation. Another one is Stephen King’s The Shining. Although there are plenty of other aspects to the story that are a threat to the characters, the snow and ungodly cold again enchance the dread and sense of hopeless isolation that helps make the story more terrifying.  Jack London often used the theme of ‘man vs nature’ in his stories and novels like Call of the Wild and White Fang are good examples of this. If he’d set the stories in his home of the San Francisco/Oakland area of California it wouldn’t have had the same power as setting them in the Klondike.

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In either case if they’d been stuck at a tropical resort or some such the story wouldn’t have the same feel. In a lot of ways the setting/environment of a story is very much a character, often an antagonist, that is sometimes overlooked. But the proper setting/environment of a story can amplify the emotional turmoil and/or the physical threats. A good setting is much more then window dressing.

So, as winter arrives at my doorstep I may grudgingly sweep the snow from my car and scrape ice from my windshield but the reward is that my imagination has definitely found a worthy muse. In fact I have a bit of a story idea rattling around my head as I write which I may share here when its complete.

Would Shakespeare be a TV writer?

Dude ... I love this friggin' show!
Dude … I love this friggin’ show!

Lately it seems like every other books is being turned in to a TV series. Just today I read a short article about how Weaveworld by Clive Barker (c. 1985) is being turned into a series on the CW. The CW is an American channel that does a lot of shows such as Supernatural, The Flash and etc. I’m not too keen on books being made into series. Hell, I’m not too keen on books being made into movies. When I read a book part of the appeal is that I can imagine what the world, characters, and etc look and sound like. A really good book is a painting or play in mind’ eye. The reason the whole TV series doesn’t work for me is because it takes that away. You can get one person or a group of writers’ view of what that book looks and feels like.

That pretty much kills the magic for me.

Romeo & Juliet's seasons are way too short ...
Romeo & Juliet’s seasons are way too short …

On a lot of writers’ forums I’ve been on it seems like getting a TV series outta your novel is the lofty goal these days. The proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. Whatever happened to simply writing to tell a story? Writing to write the kind of story you’d want to read?

The one positive is that some times a TV viewer will start to read the original books and over time start reading more and more. I have a friend who did so by starting with the Game of Thrones show and getting into the novels more so. But I don’t think that the networks or even the author really has this in mind. I think its much more about the money in the bank then promoting reading. I think that once a book becomes a series its a product and a ghost of itself doomed to haunt Amazon and other online stores in the form of over the top merchandise and blu-ray dvds for all eternity or until the show burns out and fans distance themselves from it. In pop culture today I’d say eternity is one to two seasons or so.

Hopefully, the whole ‘turn everything into a series’ will wither. If modern writers are out there writing in a style and voice to appeal and cop the TV series out there now it’ll put a damper on contemoprary  fiction. I know not all writers want a series made out of their novels. I know some detest that idea. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.

When books merely become a stepping stone to get a TV series cheapens them. Books were meant to be read and enjoyed for what they are themselves.

Maybe my views make me a zealot. Maybe I should move to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I shoot my TV.

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Dead Shadows

Dead Shadows

Winds slither through the graveyard

moving across my body

like spectral hands

grasping at my clothes

urging me onward

unto the inky darkness

where unseen horrors lurk

like shadows on a dead man’s wall

where fear of the unknown

hovers like vultures

waiting to feast on my

fetid soul

 

Originally Published in Whispers of Wickedness, 2005

 

 

 

I Really Don’t Like You…

Well, not  you, personally.  What I’m actually talking about are certain fictional characters.  Over the past couple weeks, or so I watched the movies There Will Be Blood and The Wolf of Wall Street. I thought that both movies were well made in terms of acting, directing, and etc.  Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis are two of my favorite actors and they both did a tremendous job at chewing the scenery in their respective movies.  But the problem I had was that neither character was likable.  Neither of them  had any redeeming qualities to their personalities that made me hold out hope that they’d change their ways nor did I have any sympathy for either character.

Now there are certain fictional characters that are unlikeable but I love to hate.  The first one, that comes to mind, is the infamous Governor in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.  The dude’s a psychopath both in the comic and the TV show that has a devastating effect on Rick and the whole gang.  He killed off some beloved characters and his actions devestated Rick on a physical and psychological level.  The Governor even had a chance to have some redeeming qualities as a father, but even that turned into something twisted since his daughter was a zombie.  I loved to hate The Governor because he was so well written and such a powerfully messed up character.  He was the antithesis of Rick.  He was an example of the worst case scenario for humanity. He took crazy to a whole new level. And most importantly he got his just deserts  in the end.

Other characters I love to hate are Darth Vader, who in the end actually redeems himself somewhat. Sister Jude in American Horror Story, who does a proverbial 180 on a morale level.

I know that not every character in a story will change or be changed by the events of the story.  I get the whole idea of the ‘anti-hero’ that’s not necessarily a likable guy, but does the right thing, ie Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns.  There are more examples out there I am sure, but I think you get the point.

I think the reason, I really didn’t like There Will Be Blood or The Wolf of Wall Street so much, is that these unlikeable characters are the main character, the driving force of the story.  For me to really get into a story the protagonist needs to have some element of likability or relatability to them.  Neither of these characters had either.

So, what about you? Are there any fictional characters you simply can’t stand? Or ones that you love to hate?

Poetry: Riddles of Madness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(photo by Kevin Hurtack, 2011)

Here’s an H.P. Lovecraft influenced poem that I wrote several years ago…

Riddles Of Madness

Ancient riddles drawn in sand

alluring Man from across the land

pondering hidden messages from beyond

whether they come from above or below

not even the wisdom of the Elders know.

Plots are hatched and packs are made

the Truth is sought with pistol and spade.

Greed grows like the wicked weed in Mankind’s heart

Brother against brother no one is spared

for this ancient knowledge none will share.

In the darkness of alleys and in chambers candle bright

they seek to find the solution to this ineffable puzzle

only to have the Truth elude them like a Mirage.

Yet in the belfry of an archaic monastery one man labors

through the unknown hours of night he delves into ancient lore

desperate to find the knowledge no man has gained before.

Scribing hypothesis upon his own flesh he unravels the conundrum

but as he tugs upon the loose threads of this enigmatic tapestry

he unwillingly undoes our own reality

allowing hideous monstrosities to lurch back into our world

antediluvian gods held captive for aeons by a mad man’s ode

now unleashed to make slaves of humanity.

Ancient riddles drawn in sand

antiquated rhymes that are Mankind’s eulogy

Not the bomb nor disease has brought the end

but our insatiable curiosity for the mysteries

better left to the shadows and ossuaries.

~ Kevin Hurtack, copyright 2014