Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Operation Re-Inspire" + a book review + a reverie of magical Prague

The completely expected has happened with the "Bad-Ass Sci-Fi Novel." It has become the most un-fun book ever attempted. At around 40,000 words, I am barely treading water. Just thinking about it makes me want to slump over in a narcoleptic coma. Dreams of "Newt" are dancing around my head, wearing sequins and shimmying. I am a fun book, it is telling me, crooking its finger. Just abandon that heap. Forget it. Here is where the magic is. Oy. So tempting.

NOT going to give in. Just twelve days of November left to struggle through this thing and get some sort of ending cobbled together. Plus, I know what happened a few months ago when I got all fickle and jumped from one w.i.p. to a new one. The new one got all hard and un-fun too! It's just a necessary part of the process -- there are stages of un-fun in the writing of a book. The only way to finish a book is to commit to it until the bitter end, in sickness and in health, in fun or un-fun, until death do you part. The only way.

And I have learned on other books that it is always possible to re-inspire oneself on a w.i.p. It might take hours of brainstorming and coming up with a fairly major change to your set-in-stone notions of the book, but it can rejunvenate you. It can make your book sparkle again. It's true! I went through it on Silksinger plenty of times, when new, sweet books were trying to lure me away from it (namely, Bad-Ass Sci-Fi novel! See? It's just the way things are!) and I could not and did not give in to them. I might have occasionally allowed myself to take notes on the other ideas, but that's IT. Then, I would turn to re-inspiring myself on Silksinger, and as lethargic as I may have gotten at times, as demoralized and filled with despair, I always managed to come up with a way to get excited again. So this morning, that is what I will be doing. Operation Re-Inspire! There will be a lot of "what if" and "suppose that" or "maybe if" etc etc as I try to come up with shiny new ways to make my ideas fun again, for the home stretch.

How are YOU doing on your creative projects?

I'm going to squeeze in a book recommendation here too:
The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski really sang to me, so full of. . . well, of wonders. Cool magic! Gypsies! Prague! I love me some Prague. In fact, four years ago, I was. . . (hey! this unexpectedly fits into my above post!) playing hooky from writing my first novel, Blackbringer and had let another temptress story lead me astray. It was a collaboration with Jim which would be heavy on art and was set in Prague. I had also just gotten my first royalty check for Laini's Ladies, so we thought, heck! Let's go to Prague and really figure out this book! So we did. We rented an amazing apartment just outside Old Town Square -- right behind Tyn Church --
-- for nine glorious days, and we just explored and plotted and dreamed and ate dumplings and drank tea and absinthe (well, we didn't really drink absinthe, but we brought some home to look pretty on the shelf). Oh, man. What a city! But that is a post for another day. Suffice it to say I have not yet written that Prague book (but I vow I will), but I did get back on track and finish Blackbringer. Yay, me!

Prague is a city of alchemy and golems and marionettes, of dungeons and towers and ancient manuscripts, of music and magic and tumbled tombstones. It is so beautiful. Maybe the most beautiful city I've ever seen. Certainly the most magical, and Marie Rutkoski captures that so well in this marvelous book, the premise of which grows out of a grim city legend about the famous "astonomical clock." The legend says that the prince who commisioned the clock plucked out the clockmaker's eyes when he was finished building it, so he would never be able to create anything to rival it. Eww! Well, in this story, young Petra is the daughter of the clockmaker, and her life is turned inside-out when her beloved father is brought home from Prague. . . without his eyes.

Doing what any good heroine of an adventure story would do, she sets out (along with her mechanical pet spider) to steal her father's eyes back from the prince, traveling to Prague and getting mixed up with gypsies and getting a job in the castle, while her own magical gifts are starting to manifest. The fascinating historical personages of Rudolf II and John Dee are added to the mix, and some of the most fun and imaginative magic I have read in a long time. Read it!

The Cabinet of Wonders is a nominee in the Middle-Grade Sci-fi/Fantasy category of the Cybils.

On a side note, anyone who's interested in finding out more about the occult side of Prague, with real-life characters like John Dee, the mad prince Rudolf, and Rabbi Loew who created the Golem to defend the Jewish Ghetto, then try to get ahold of a copy of Magic Prague by Professor Angelo Maria Ripellino (1973). It's not in print here; I got it at a little English bookshop in Prague.

(See the cat marionette in the right side of this pic? It's like my beloved "Snoshti" that Alexandra got me in Prague years ago, and who Jim and I carried with us through Bulgaria, Turkey, and Italy. . . and whose name (which means "last night" in Bulgarian) I later gave to a Blackbringer character! When Jim and I went to Prague a few years later, we were tempted to find Snoshti a husband marionette, but they're crazy expensive now, so Snoshti remains unwed. Maybe next time. . .)


Alexandra Saperstein said...

Snoshti has a husband??? I didn't know that. I never saw that marionette photo. They must have been going through a marionette draught when I was there because I only had like 8-10 to choose from, and that was after going back at the end of the trip, where just by luck, Snoshti had manifested herself in the store so that she could immigrate to the US. She was so pro-America. Unfortunately, little Snoshti is a Republican. Thats why she never talks to you guys. She's biting her lip.

tone almhjell said...

You hang in there, you'll feel good about it soon! I've just finished chapter 15 and am done with a long stretch of re-writing.

And Prague really is wonderful. Pan and I went there before Christmas two years ago. I walked from courtyard to courtyard and fell in love with Christmas trees. They're such good guys. (Or are they girls? No, they're guys not afraid to pile on some tinsel.)

Christine Fletcher said...

For me, the hard part of my WIP has been getting it off the ground. Many, many frustrating days. But making a breakthrough, finally...oh, it's like discovering sunlight for the first time.

Your pictures and descriptions of Prague really are inspiring. Makes me want to go there and eat dumplings myself. :)

Amber Lough said...

A friend from Prague said the most magical memory of her childhood is when it snowed so much that instead of shoveling away the snow, they dug tunnels for the cars to drive through. Can you imagine!

It seems like everyone I know has been there but me.

Speaking of gouging out eyes, the architect of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow had the same thing happen. Ivan the IV (the Terrible) had him blinded to prevent him from building anything as beautiful for anyone else.

Laini Taylor said...

Amber, I didn't know that! Ick! I don't know if it really happened in Prague, or if it is just a legend.

And snow tunnels! I'd be afraid to drive through them!

Christine, best wishes on your ms! I'll be thinking of you as I attempt to re-inspire myself :-)

Wyman Stewart said...

Be Prague-matic and slay that dragon that stands between you and your quill magic. Vanquish the beast!

Amber said...

Wow, it looks just BEAUTIFUL! I have heard it is even better than Paris.

The book sounds great, too.


S R Wood said...

This is strange: your post about being uninspired has inspired ME! Or maybe it's the pictures of Prague, which looks like something out of a fairy tale. Beautiful.

There's something about an old city at night, or under snow, or with green trees and a river, that's magical.

I'll try my recipe of starlight and strong coffee to get inspired tomorrow. Your advice about remembering what I love about the story has worked wonders so far -- when I can remember to jot it down!

Anonymous said...

I was filling in a hole in my WIP a couple of weeks ago, and a couple of new characters sent me researching. The librarian checking out the books to me asked if I was a scout leader.

I'm at a point where I'm excited about the story and characters again, but I totally understand about the "narcoleptic coma" thing.

The pictures of Prague are beautiful. I haven't been there either, Amber.

Cuppa Jolie said...

You are amazing, girlie! Not only do you have double my word count for NaNo, but you're also reading about a thousand and three books for the Cybils.

Your words were great for me to hear this morning. I've been feeling this same way...frankly bored. I keep thinking, this is way unexciting...I wouldnt' want to read this. But I think I did this last time too. I had to get from A to B to C and so on and then later went in added most of the excitement.

johanna said...

Oh those marionettes! I. Must. Have. One. They are absolutely magical with a dash of creepy.

Wonderful pictures of Prague...I'm so inspired to go there and and drink tea and wander through snow tunnels...

Vivian Mahoney said...

I enjoyed The Cabinet of Wonders, too! And hang in there and keep writing. It is always when things go to the point of despair, that something clicks. See how I'm trying to get myself through the middle of my WIP?

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree -- I think Prague is the most beautiful city I've ever been to! Thanks for posting the pics. Makes me want to go back!