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Marissa Lingen

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The Method of Fun [Jul. 15th, 2012|05:35 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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I have been kind of flailing--not specifically about fiction, but about stuff, and it was sort of carrying over into my work on fiction even when it really was suboptimal to have it do so. (It. It it it. English is sometimes suboptimal in structure with this it-ness.)

Last week I started doing a thing when I sat down to work on my current project. I asked myself explicitly, "What can I do to make this more fun for myself?"

I don't know, guys--I don't know what-all you're dealing with, what problems you have, what your approach is, all that. But for me and right now? This is the stuff. I mean, I hope that at some point the fun becomes more automatic. Like, I hope at some point I have done all this stuff to make it more fun for myself and I sit down one morning at the desk and go, "What can I OOH OOH I KNOW THIS ONE PICK ME PICK ME." And then again the next day. That would be great.

But in the meantime, here is what the Method of Fun did for me on Friday: it made my protagonist way more active earlier in the book, it clarified her relationship with an extremely important character, it clarified why that character is one of the good guys even when he's not getting along with the protag, it added hijinks to what is supposed to be a very hijinky book (shut up, English language, hijinky is a word now), and it fleshed out a bit of plot that was in semi-handwave mode. ("And then they figure out that X is sort of sketchy." Now he actually does sketchy things! Lots of them! Where the protag and her friends can see! In specific chapters, even!)

And also? I had fun.

And that was just Friday.

Earlier in the week the Method of Fun gave me two thousand words in 45 minutes.

And also I had fun.

So here's what I mean about the Method of Fun: it's not like the Method of Fun is giving me fun but is making my protag passive and putting handwave bits in, or making me feel all warm and fuzzy but not get anything done. And I think when I am flaily--maybe this happens to you, too, maybe not--I sometimes get into this mode where I feel like I R Srs Rthur, This R Srs Storee, and if I try the Method of Fun--if I try even thinking about what will be fun for me instead of Srs Rthur Srs Storee--I will end up fingerpainting on the kitchen floor.

And when I feel like that I should maybe go fingerpaint on the kitchen floor, because possibly the fingerpainting will be a fun and useful outline of Chapter 12. And even if it isn't, getting the hell over myself cannot hurt.

Possibly this is useless to the rest of you. But I was just going to put it down where I could look at it: Method of Fun. This is my new thing. Go, Method of Fun.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: elisem
2012-07-15 10:53 pm (UTC)
And even if it isn't, getting the hell over myself cannot hurt.

I am swooping down on this phrase and carrying it back to my nest.
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[User Picture]From: also_huey
2012-07-15 11:01 pm (UTC)
Hijinkies!
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[User Picture]From: chinders
2012-07-15 11:16 pm (UTC)
I think actually the word is hijinkalicious.
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[User Picture]From: also_huey
2012-07-16 01:10 am (UTC)
No, no. Hijinky is the new shenaniganism.
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[User Picture]From: rysmiel
2012-07-16 12:17 am (UTC)
mmm. I think I would want to be careful with this, in that it's all too plausible that many days what was fun for me might turn into a couple of thousand words of a character going off on a tangent that they thought was entertaining but that turns out to have no real connection to anything else, and I might awake to find myself transformed into a monstrous Neal Stephenson.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-16 12:27 am (UTC)
How sad for you.

But also--there are times in my life when the pressure of holding back Monstrous Neal Stephenson might be worse than just letting out the Monstrous Neal Stephenson, were that my bent.

And also also--nothing gets out of the house without revisions.
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[User Picture]From: rysmiel
2012-07-17 02:13 pm (UTC)
But also--there are times in my life when the pressure of holding back Monstrous Neal Stephenson might be worse than just letting out the Monstrous Neal Stephenson, were that my bent.

I can see that, all right. I think a lot of how I do get fun out of writing is finding ways to get my inner Monstrous Neal Stephenson (hence IMNS, I think) pointed at something that does other things as well as world-building.

And also also--nothing gets out of the house without revisions.

Indeed; my perspective here is probably shaped by the thing that I should be working on being in the process of a pass that involves cutting a lot of arguably cool but cumulatively excessive digressions.


Edited at 2012-07-17 02:13 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-17 02:21 pm (UTC)
Indeed; my perspective here is probably shaped by the thing that I should be working on being in the process of a pass that involves cutting a lot of arguably cool but cumulatively excessive digressions.

I thought that might be relevant, yes.

And if you feel that you can get to another of its kind without doing this bit, more power to you. I'm attempting to write a draft of a book that I won't have to revise to put more setting description in, because I'm rather tired of having to do that same revision every time. But...it still might not work. That might just be part of my process: draft book without enough setting description, put in more.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-16 12:41 am (UTC)
I didn't mean to be completely snotty at rysmiel when I said, "How sad for you." Because I think it's entirely possible that there are people for whom the results are not all that rewarding all that often. I wouldn't care to be the one to identify who they are, though--I'll let them do that.
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[User Picture]From: dancing_crow
2012-07-16 02:57 pm (UTC)
cast on with waste yarn, knit 5 rows, begin main color....

I know that process!
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[User Picture]From: rysmiel
2012-07-17 02:22 pm (UTC)
but I do also think there can be a prejudice against digressions, against just following a thread to see where it goes, whether it "pays off" in terms of story structure or daily wordcount or what - everything has to be all about wordcount! and story efficiency! and keeping a through-line! (I am not saying this is what rysmiel thinks, I've just seen it in, say, a lot of online writing advice columns, that sort of thing.)

I should probably note here that I actually really like Neal Stephenson's digressions; I do also think that very few people do digressions that are as interesting as his, and I'm certainly not one of them. I tend to find my own work more satisfying and generally better the tighter I make it and the more things any given element is doing.

I think Anne Lamott gets into this in Bird by Bird - how you can write four pages of trash and there's one image on the fourth page, and that's where your story actually begins, that's what you wrote the four pages to get to. So they're not waste product, exactly.

Oh, I know that feeling; I rarely have a central character who can't deliver fifteen thousand words of rant before I even get them to the start of the story, but not many books want to start with fifteen thousand words of rant, even amusing rant. I've had to cut that much from the start of a book at times; I just find it rather frustrating to do so.

Edited at 2012-07-17 02:22 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: rysmiel
2012-07-17 02:14 pm (UTC)
I didn't take you as being snotty, fwiw. All good here.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-17 02:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I figured it was good with us, I just wasn't sure for people who haven't watched us interact in person. Figured it was better to signal.
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2012-07-16 01:01 am (UTC)
For one of my current projects, I have a list of Things That Will Be Fun instead of a plot outline. Plot seems to be happening nevertheless, which I count as a win.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2012-07-16 08:15 am (UTC)
That's more or less how I'm approaching my current series. Hopefully the result will entertain others . . . .
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[User Picture]From: vcmw
2012-07-16 01:09 am (UTC)
Any reasonable and smart idea that validates a bit of fun in the universe is good for me... but this one was especially good for me at the moment.
So thanks!
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[User Picture]From: janni
2012-07-16 01:24 am (UTC)
Making sure I have fun is one of those things I struggle to remember, especially since I do believe that if the writer is having fun it will (after, as you say, revising) result in a book the reader is more likely to enjoy, because it affects the energy and nature of the whole story.

I like the idea of sitting down and deciding consciously, okay, where's the fun for me today? Like it so, so much better than most writing advice I see. Am going to give it a try.

Edited at 2012-07-16 01:25 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2012-07-16 02:44 am (UTC)
"Hijinky" is the BEST word. Today, anyway.

I commend your method. Fun is awesome.

P.
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[User Picture]From: aamcnamara
2012-07-16 02:49 am (UTC)
Method of Fun! Yes. I will use that, I think.
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[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2012-07-17 01:33 pm (UTC)
Going to see if I can apply that to my work. Not sure how exactly that'll fit into the whole "getting paid to do a thing" model of employment.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-17 01:40 pm (UTC)
It may have to be sneakier with the paid employment.
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[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2012-07-17 01:44 pm (UTC)
Nope. Not going to be sneaky. I picked this career because I enjoy many aspects of it. And I like my boss and her boss. No sneakiness allowed.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-17 01:45 pm (UTC)
Hey, if you can make Method of Fun work in a job that has meetings, I bow to your superior Funtellect.
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[User Picture]From: thanate
2012-07-17 02:00 pm (UTC)
Possibly my most useful take-away from Viable Paradise (besides "look! other people!") was listening to Steve Brust be enthusiastic about writing, and remembering that in fact that was more or less how I used to approach this stuff, um, fifteen or twenty years ago, and it was really quite silly to have stopped.

This is related, I think, to the thing I got out of a NaNoWriMo pep talk once about how if you don't want to write that bit, consider whether actually you don't need to write it at all, but could do just as well going on to the next fun bit and mentioning that this other thing happened in passing. Or come up with a better transition, or whatever...

These reminders, they are a good thing. Yay fun! Now if only I didn't seem to need a new one every six months or so.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-17 02:05 pm (UTC)
I write out of sequential order. So I really write the next bit that seems like the most possible fun. Happily for me, on first drafts it seems that by the time I get around to the bit that seemed like it wasn't going to be as much fun, it's often gotten to be more fun.
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[User Picture]From: thanate
2012-07-17 04:51 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I usually do better putting things together in more or less the order in which I would read them, as illustrated by the pair of first drafts I'm currently trying to reshape into actual novels after I sort of left out the middles of them. But doing all the best bits first does sound very inspiring.
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2012-07-18 04:29 pm (UTC)
I tried that. And then I found that I had a book-length collection of fun bits that weren't quite fitting together, and there was no plot.

by the time I get around to the bit that seemed like it wasn't going to be as much fun, it's often gotten to be more fun.

Sounds like it works great for you! (For me, it meant I had to do all the not-fun bits in one go.)

Hurray for ideosynchratic processes!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-18 04:36 pm (UTC)
Yep, this is why I am very careful to say that things work for me, and occasionally to ask whether people have tried doing things more than one way if that one way is The Standard Way, and otherwise I try to keep way the hell away from suggesting that other people's process should be like my process.

Because if we all discuss what shade of the beautiful rainbow we are and what its attendant joys and frustrations are, we might get something useful out of it. But if we go around going, "YOU should be INDIGO, dammit, INDIGO!", then nobody will be any better off.
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2012-07-18 10:08 pm (UTC)
I hate people who say 'you must do x' and I adore it when people talk about their process, because it makes me feel less weird: if everybody admits to doing strange things, we're all normal, right?

Your post has rattled something loose - I'm now thinking 'what would be the most fun scene to have in this place' rather than simply 'what happens next' and 'what does my character want'. That helped me to create a... ghost image of the scene is probably the closest - a vague feeling what shape the scene itself might take. And now I need to find words to fill it it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-19 01:58 am (UTC)
Ooh, ghost images sound promising.
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[User Picture]From: bummble
2012-07-22 01:55 pm (UTC)
Great post!
(here via Sartorias)

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-07-22 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks and welcome.
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