Friday, February 24, 2012

Journaling the Journey

I keep track of my writing. By ‘keep track’ I mean I journal—offline—about anything and everything writerly, even if it’s just “This WIP is cursed!” or “I’ve just read the most awesomist sf story.” It is not the same as free-writing fiction. Journaling is about self-examination without concern for audience, craft, or pointlessness. It can be therapeutic and enlightening, even if it’s just to rant, rejoice, or sort out a mess of thoughts. 

In an entry from two years ago, I had decided to compare excerpts from a few successive drafts of one my first sci-fi stories, dubbed ORIGINAL, FIRST, and SECOND. With many months, if not years, between them, it presented a good sampling of my writing over time. The results were pleasantly surprising.

The first thing I notice is how the paragraphs got shorter and more deft. 

ORIGINAL reads like a list: I did this and then did that. There was this and then that other thing. 

FIRST is immediately more active. The mc comes to fore—he’s moving, and experiencing the world in real-ish time, not just relating some past event, but the deets are still painfully meticulous and that SLOOOOOOWS the pacing down to a crawl. 

SECOND is leaps and bounds better as regards word usage, structure, and style. It has cadence and mood. The mc not only comes to fore but his voice is so much clearer. Many of the same details remain but are described more matter of factly and succinctly rather than painstakingly or with many words that don’t paint a clear picture. Oh yeah, and he talks! Lol! Hooray for improved writing skills!

Journaling has helped me track and appreciate how much I’ve grown as a writer, which is not always evident deep within the trenches of writing and rewriting. Taking some time to read back those ramblings might show recurring problems. Fits and starts resolve into patterns for a writing regiment, solutions present themselves, ways to break bad habits and reinforce good ones. Causation clarified. Improvement illuminated.

Read the excerpts I’d taken, below the fold.

There was silence all around me as I became conscious. I felt a draft run across my back where my covers should have been. From behind the darkness of my eyelids, there was light. I slowly opened my eyes to find there was nothing familiar to me. There was nothing at all. There I lay on the ground, looking up, and all I could see were white clouds of a bright but completely overcast sky. I sat up but immediately felt dizzy as though I was teetering back and forth. I realized it was not me that was swaying but the ground I was on. The ground appeared to be some kind of white, synthetic material, like an advanced form of plastic or vinyl. As I stood up, the ground would ripple slightly as though it was on water. I looked around at this place devoid of color and there stood faceless buildings; all white, all without windows, and all of them balancing on this strange artificial land.

A draft ran across my bare back, sending a shiver through my body. The air was stale and humid, and the back of my eyelids glowed warm orange-red. Stiffly, I rolled onto my backside and opened my eyes. White clouds of a bright but completely overcast sky looked down on me. I couldn’t imagine what I was doing lying outdoors, but the silence in the atmosphere troubled me even more.

Sitting upright, dizziness overcame me, as though I was teetering back and forth. The wooziness subsided after shutting my eyes for a moment, and placing my hands on the ground to steady myself. It was then I realized it was not I swaying but the ground where I was sitting. It was cool to the touch, smooth and rubbery. It appeared to be some kind of white, synthetic material—like an advanced form of plastic or vinyl. It depressed as my weight pushed down on it and then swelled up again when I relented.

Cautiously standing up, my eyes could scarcely believe what they took in. The ground rippled ever so slightly with a gentle lapping of water underneath it. It stretched out a great distance until it met the bases of structures along its circumference. The buildings resembled unfinished architectural models: white and faceless.

Everywhere I looked this place was devoid of color. The environment seemed dead and the windowless buildings seemed like tombs. There was nothing familiar to me; I couldn’t remember how I got there or even where I came from. I tried to think of something—anything, but my mind was as blank as the world around me.

The air was wrong, stale and humid. The ground felt wrong, artificial and cold to the touch. But the ominous silence troubled me the most, the silence in the atmosphere, but especially the silence in my mind.

Something should have been there, in my mind. It should have told me where I was, what I was doing there, and why. I should have remembered something, but my thoughts were as blank as the world I opened my eyes to.

White clouds of a bright but completely overcast sky looked down on me, and I stared back up at them, dumbstruck as to what I was doing lying outdoors. When I sat up, I could hardly believe what my senses were telling me, that the ground moved, that I was a doll in some giant, unfinished architectural model, that I was in an alien world completely devoid of life—of color.

Whether or not the world was alien, the ground did move. As I got to my feet, the smooth, rubbery surface depressed and then leveled out once I’d steadied myself. I took a few steps and the same thing happened, except I could see the faintest ripples form in my wake and hear the gentle lapping of water beneath the ground.

That in and of itself seemed beyond comprehension, but even more incomprehensible was that the featureless buildings completely encircling the plane where I stood, also stood on this flexible surface.
“Is this real?”

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