Heaping stones

Some lines by Gary Snyder that I can’t find on a quick skim of my poetry bookshelves, so this may not be quite accurate:

“When creeks are full / poems flow / when creeks are dry/ we heap stones.”

There are times when the book in progress is like a trout leaping and flashing through a spray of cold water in a peaty burn, something so very much alive that I’m typing as fast as I can just to keep up with the scenes and dialogue flashing through my mind, and that’s glorious.

And there are other times when I feel as though the trout has disappeared, and to find it again I’m going to have to dam that Highland burn, one stone at a time.

One paragraph at a time.

One sentence at a time.

Okay, if necessary, one word at a bloody time!

Two things sustain me through spells like this:

One, I know from past experience that when this book is finished and I’m editing the manuscript, I will not be able to tell the passages that I wrote in a mood of high exaltation from those that I plodded through as I’m plodding today. Neither the glory nor the blood comes through onto the page.

And two, as a math major, I know that 500 words plus 500 words plus 500 words plus 500 words adds up to 2000 words. You learn that kind of sophisticated numerical reasoning in four years of … well, okay, the exact relationship to general topology isn’t exactly obvious, but trust me, the math works. Even if it gets down to 500 words per day, or even less, I’ll still get there eventually. (And nobody mention Zeno’s tortoise, or we’ll have to have a very serious talk about convergent series, capisce?)

It may be more fun to get those 2000 words in one glorious dash rather than in four glumly resentful, earth-bound sessions of refusing to get up from the computer until the timer sets me free, but the book doesn’t care. The book wants me to get to the end of the damned story and doesn’t care how much I whine and protest along the way. And today, it also wants me to figure out why the Wicked Widow would turn Lord Kinross into a swan. Sure, she blames him for her misfortunes, but by the close of the book she blames just about everybody on the face of the earth for her problems; why does she target him in particular? Maybe she doesn’t, it whispers, and then where’s your dramatic climax?


The water’s cold today, and the stones seem uncommonly heavy. But I’m heaping them up anyway.

And, not to beg or anything, but as I plod along here, let me just casually mention that a review of one of the books I’ve already finished would be extremely inspiring and might help me stay out of the Halloween candy.


    1. You pick a phrase, you pick a rhyme, repeat the sound another time,
      Five iambs, then an extra beat will do ya.
      Another rhyme, a rising note – congratulations, you just wrote
      Another goddarn verse to Hallelujah.

      Not my original, but I have no idea where I got it. Seemed related.

  1. I blocked on something, hard, so I shifted projects. That also blocked, I suspect because the story shouldn’t be as dark as I was trying to make it.* So I’ve been doing some writing on a lighter project, reading for Day Job, and doing a little research. The well feels as if it is refilling, slowly.

    *The Muse hit me with a clue-by-four at 0315 this morning that the story will not permit me to have a character do something to a person. To a rabid animal, yes, but not to a human who is standing in the open. This isn’t supposed to be that sort of story.

    1. Not even if the character deserves it? 😈

      Maybe having the character actually doing something nasty when the hero kills the character. 😉

    2. Shifting can work but you have to get into the habit of circling back. Otherwise you end up with a pile of half-finished stories.

      (If you do, read the pile. It’s amazing what can leap out at you.)

  2. Maybe its going around. I’m stuck waiting to figure out what kind of surprise weapon a 10,000 year old pissed-off AI would drop on the objects of her discontent. Nothing so crass as a nuclear weapon or orbital particle beam strike. Those are a dime a dozen. I want something so scary that all the other AIs will be like “holy shit, girl!”

    But she can’t kill the bad guys, because she doesn’t do that. Killing them is too easy. We want something -scary-.

    Its surprisingly hard to think up something like that.

    1. Phantom, can she hack them with nanotech and ‘fix’ them, so they aren’t ‘bad’ anymore?

      Insert results for ‘fix’ and ‘bad’ that create an even worse mess for the, if any, sequel.

      1. She can, which is terrifying. But she shouldn’t, because of the reason you just said. There’s been enemy uses of zombification, the overwriting of a human body making it into a meat-bot. Also short-term chemical mind control, and temporarily hijacking people’s bodies and driving them around like a stolen car.

        These things are frowned upon in polite AI society. As you might imagine.

        So what I need is something subtle, and scary, that only a human would think up. Something legendary, that a really sharp Egyptian architect or priest would come up with if she told him about nanotech 3,000 years ago. Like a babayaga’s curse, industrial scale version.

        She’s 10,000 years old, she’s had a lot of husbands and a lot of kids. They would have thought up some scary stuff over the years.

    2. Biologicals are always scary. Especially if they’re biological that remove the ability to climb out of the gravity well / access communications. Nannites can suffice, if sufficiently programmed… and a nice EMP strike followed by a plague that destroys higher tech? That’s scare AIs who live by higher tech.

      1. She’s attacking some humans that are being irritating. The AIs are aliens, and allies. Also very, very old, the 10,000 year old one is young compared to them. But because she’s been living here with us, she’s got more experience than they do. Space is boring, right?

        I’m leaning toward a nanotech attack that subverts the human will. When the nano is present, the humans become her willing accomplices in whatever she’s doing. They immediately switch sides. But it isn’t scary enough. I need something so nasty it’ll make the million year old AI say “holy shit!”

        1. Is this a few individuals irritating her, or a whole community?

          A nano “repair” suite that actually changes men into fully functional females might have a salutary effect on other humans who might act against your AI. Especially if there was a rumor about it being contagious.

          The older alien AIs might be baffled by the horror the male half of the human population reacts, rather than being horrified themselves.

          1. Now we’re getting somewhere.

            This is a group of secret squirrel foreign agents getting ready to attack a facility where there’s a mystery she needs to investigate. Nobody knows why they’re there yet, nor how they know about the facility. (Not even me, there’s shenanigans by an as-yet unknown force or entity and I don’t know who it is.)

            So these guys are somewhere they shouldn’t be, with heavy weapons they shouldn’t be able to get, aimed at something they shouldn’t know about.

            Turning them all into women would be interesting but not that scary. Turning them all into little kids might be a little more interesting, but still not scary enough. But that’s a great direction to go.

            She doesn’t really care about scaring the men themselves, she’s got combat spiders to do that. She wants to scare the entity who sent them.

            1. Upload their consciousnesses to a Windows 10 computer located in rural Central/Northern California in the year 2019.

      2. Nanites.

        Nannites are evil little bots created by our ethical and intellectual superiors to force us into the lifestyle they have decreed would be best for us.

        1. To be really nasty, the Nannites force us to “be good” but we’re aware of what they’re doing. 😈

    3. So, scaring the humans is rather incidental. The humans need to be stopped, but not killed. The other AIs need to be scared.
      I would think an AI would have a rather broad definition of “not killed”.
      What about uploading the humans into a simulation that’s exactly the same as their current situation but with a really, really slow clockspeed? The universe ages and dies and they’ve moved two feet. They are “alive”, but totally irrelevant to anything. They’re not “harmed” in that they still feel fine and think everything is nominal. However, if she can drop the clockspeed of this simulation, why couldn’t she do the same thing another AI? That’s scary – trapped and not knowing it.

  3. I’ve been heaping stones and because — as I told DIL today — I don’t trust myself not even a little bit, I thought that I was just being lazy. Then I realized I’m still very slow at reading, and falling asleep for an hour in the afternoon.
    It’s that post viral syndrome…
    But at least I WANT to write again….

  4. I have little scenes to write, to flesh out largely written books. Facing a huge monster of words, begging me to organize into a series. Biggest danger now is the temptation to spend time on formatting, covers,other art,etc. All that crap is well and good, but it’s not WRITING. dive into Scrivener, and the day seems wasted 18 hrs 18 hrs later.

    1. I agree with that. The formatting etc. is polish for after you finish the writing.

      Something I’ve noticed about retail: the fancier the store, the less people are in it. They go down the street to the crappy crowded store to buy. In the nice store they only look.

      1. I haven’t so much as set a foot in a dept. store (Macy’s, Palais Royale, etc.) in prolly twenty years. I visit Wallyworld about twice a week. But I am an Amazon junkie.

        1. Right. I go to the weird hole-in-the-wall stores, I never go to malls.

          From a book perspective, I would say that beyond making the book functional for the reader, time spent on formatting is not going to give a good return.

          1. I’m old-fashioned enough to think if the characters are likable, or hateable, as needed, the plot is clever, and your words and dialog are memorable, minor errors are forgiven by any reader worth cultivating. Not that is any excuse to be slipshod.

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