The Mysticism Of Writing – Misconceptions

The idea of being a full time writer has been bouncing around in my head for a long time, long before I realized what it the bouncing actually was.  From my early days of fantasy wrestling to my current endeavor of 3,000+ word days to built a body of work, it’s clear that this was the path I should have took years ago.

NoTearsPlease is still something I would like to get involved with and get developed but that is more of a passion project that I will try to get to at some point because it’s something I will enjoy.  It’s not something I’ll even really be able to monetize so it has to go on the back burner for now, especially with the looming period of unemployment rapidly approaching.

Writers-in-Real-LifeThis week I’ve made tremendous progress on my most recent novel.  I still don’t have a name for it; something I need to deal with at some point.  I’m on track to have three full length and edited novels completed before the end of the year.  If I can make a fourth available in January then I’m certain I will be able to make my announcement in February.

This project has just come up shy of the 34,000 word mark, meaning I’m a little less than half way there.  Based on my word tracking app, I’ve got 20 more days before I hit the 95K goal, and to be honest there’s no guarantee it’ll be that long.  It may end up being much shorter.

Anyway, as far as writing goes I’m making steady progress and it’s feeling awesome.  My shifts at work keep feeling longer and longer because I miss being at the keyboard getting my narrative out.

Now with that said, I want to rant about something that a friend posted on her Facebook.  Here is the image/blurb.

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My response to this on Facebook was a conflicted one.  I’m not really sure how I feel about it.  The fact this person is calling all writers liars because they do not share in the opinion is a little insulting, but their justifications do not come from an objective area.

When I read this I see a conflict between the general perception of writers in the eyes of the non-writing society, and a misunderstanding in the advice and opinions giving by professional authors when they talk about their craft.

Let’s break this down, first and foremost that opening line is a little ridiculous to me because I do not know a single writer who actually publishes work that would say this work is easy.  Yes, it’s something we love doing and there are certainly times when the words flow so smoothly that you swear you are just an extension of the keyboard; that doesn’t mean the whole process is an easy one.  For every day spend sitting back and being a passenger in my own story there are at least two or three sessions where I despise every word I put on the screen.

Writing is an endearing vocation but nothing about it is easy, nor have I encountered any credible professional who will disagree with that.

I agree that from the outside looking in people get this idea of writers as these uppity, zen like beings who dive into these fantastical worlds navigating treacherous perils and bring back the story to share with the world.  We are pilgrims in the land of imagination.  That may very well be the type of feeling we hope to invoke in the reader who is taking the time to read our products but I have my doubts that this is the way the average author will look at his work.

Attacking the “morning ritual” and “dressing as a writer” tells me the original writer of this passage is not a full time author or a dedicated writer.  The idea of the morning ritual is not some mystic feng shui.  It’s about finding that balance of variables that provoke the most creativity.  It’s not superstition, it’s psychology.

I discovered that in the night time if I wrote in my basement with two lamps to give a cozy lighting and a comfortable space, I basically doubled the amount of output that was fostered by sitting on my bed writing for the same amount of time.  There are conditions that work better with some than others.  For me it involves music being played and my table in the basement or my booth at the local Tim Horton’s.  I’ve tweaked with this a lot, and I won’t go so far as to say that I can’t write elsewhere, but through trial and error I found my comfort level was greater in these two locations and when I can sit down and write in those conditions I get more productivity.

It isn’t that the otherworldly energy is channeling through me and giving me the story while in these ritualistic areas, they are just places that comfortable places to write.

The “dressing like a writer” is advice that stems from the common workplace advice of “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Being a full time writer, especially a self-published writer is all about your interaction with your readership.  If I find myself in a conversation with a random person and tell them I’m a writer, they could very well be a potential customer.  They may love the genre I write in and be interested in checking it out, then tell their friends if they like it.

If I have food stains going down my shirt and reek of body odor then what is the chances that conversation will last long enough to ever get to the point, let alone will they be interested in looking at my work.  You are your own brand when you’re a writer and if you dress like a slob and unprofessional than that’s how your audience are going to react to you.

*Looks at the chili stain on his hoodie*… I think I need some new clothes….

Anyway!

Authors don’t “pretend their stories were shiny and perfect waiting to be written.”  This again is a mash up up two different schools of thought.  The idea that writers have it easy, which I already addressed.

Any honest writer, which is most of the talented ones, will tell you that every story undergoes numerous drafts before even seeing an editor sometimes.  In fact a big reason self published authors get such a bad rep is because of amateurish writers who are posting first drafts in amazon and touting it as great pieces of work.  No, stories aren’t shiny and perfect out the gate.

The second school of thought is also mentioned in the next sentence. The idea of a story being like brushing dust away from a fossil, discovering the whole body.

This comes from a Stephen King’s “On Writing” – which whether you’re a fan of him or not is a great read.  Especially if you’re a discovery writer like myself.

First I want to ask, “Has this person ever looked at the process of excavating a full sized fossilized creature?  King wasn’t referring to brushing a bit of dust from an arrowhead that can fit in your palm.  I’m sure he was more referring to unearthing a T-Rex.  You need to brush a little, dig a little, brush a little, dig a little, with pin point accuracy for fear of hurting the fragile skeleton.

Discovering a fossil and actually digging it up is a very delicate endeavor.  If you want to compare your righting to having at ice with a screwdriver that’s within your right.  To me that analogy makes writing sound a lot more clumsy than precise.  Especially when you are discovery writing you have to consider your overall story, individual character arcs, their personalities, plot twists, how even the most trivial action taken by the characters can affect the entire world you’re exploring… yeah, that doesn’t sound like hacking away, I wish it was as simple as just hacking away with tenacity.

The dust on the fossil analogy tries to paint it as easy, I see it as painstaking accurate and a lot more stressful.

Also, I mentioned Discovery Writing – that’s what the fossil analogy explains.  If you’re an Outliner than you tend to map out the whole body of the creature first before a spec of dust gets moved, and taking an accurate excavator to raise the whole thing, making sure it all stays together while it’s being lifted.   Just as challenging, just in different ways.

If writing is more hard and boring for you than anything else, you’re doing it wrong.  Yes I know I said there were plenty of days when you hate the words you write, but the point is if you’re a writer than even on those days you still love what you do.  It’s never boring to you.  – sure it wouldn’t make for good television is someone wanted to watch the story of your life, but who cares about that.  As writers we weave the tales, we’re not the stars of them.

Unless you Mary Sue it, but that’s a whole other discussion we would need to have.

Anyway, that’s it from me.

Cheers,
~Devin

Twitter:@ShallopNewf
Drop me a line here or at DevinleeNL@gmail.com.

Facebook Author Page To Come In February!

I’m Shyamalan-ing Myself!

It’s been almost two months since I began legitimate progress on my Janus project.  The fictitious city is rapidly becoming a fully flushed out and developed locale for my characters to roam.  I am pleased with how far along I am however there has been about a week of inactivity on the project, and this morning I began to understand why.

In case you didn’t get the picture from that first paragraph, this entry is more insights to the writing process so if that isn’t your thing you can skip this entry.  I will eventually get to that procrastination one someday ;).

janus_by_luka_basyrov_art-d4r17n8Janus presently is a story that has focused primarily through a man named Seth Ambrose.  He’s been charged with a job from his shady employer to locate a missing person.  The job would bring him to the Newfoundlands capital.  When told that the global corporate powerhouse Rossi Industries may be involved he wanted nothing to do with it.  

This job isn’t about money though, Ambrose ends up on a plane to Newfoundland when he finds out the true prize.  This missing person could be the key to finding a treatment for a deadly condition that has afflicted his sister.  Teamed up with an old friend from his past, he discovers there is a lot more going on in Janus than he could ever have predicted…

Janus, the city of two-faces.  Named for its economic growth, political stability giving it a very family friendly atmosphere… yet it still has one of the highest crime rates in the country and home to very shady business practices.

Alright so here’s my problem.  I know what’s going to happen to Seth, I know the revelations he’s coming to uncover and the epiphany(s) he may or may not end up having as a result of these events.  I know who’s the “bad” guy and the details of the hidden agendas or everyone in the entire city.  There’s already been some supernatural events happening, either that or Seth is losing his mind…

But trying not to be to disconnected in this entry but it’s in trying to describe this sensation that I realized that I’ve Shyamalan’d myself.

Allow me to explain.

I was a huge fan of the Sixth Sense.  You remember that one right?  Back in 1999 when M. Night Shyamalan was a very exciting up and comer in the business coming strong out the gate with this film.  The twist at the end was just so out there and fresh that I can’t think of any of my peers that were able to figure it out beforehand… (that is a feat in and of itself)

To watch the Sixth Sense now I would imagine that it still holds up okay (I’ll have to get back to you guys on this one).. but unfortunately that was the beginning and the end of Night’s credibility.  There was always something about his films that didn’t sit right with me.  The Village was a little eerie as well with a pretty good twist (albeit much more credible than Sixth Sense).. but from that there was no looking back.

Nightmares_Reign_by_geodexWatching Unbreakable, Signs, Lady in the Water, The Happening… It seems to me that Shyamalan puts more effort into his plot twists;  effort that should be concentrated on the plot itself.  It wasn’t so obvious in Sense or Unbreakable but I truly believe that Shyamalan created the characters, followed by the plot twists, concluded by expanding on the twists to make a cohesive plot.

If this is in fact true then I give him kudos to him because it gave us with a very good film (Sixth Sense) but the difficulty in making a  compelling story when you’re basically just expanding on your twists can’t be easy….

This of course brings me to right now.  I just concluded a portion of the Janus project that is satisfactory (until a re-edit) and the characters are now safe, out of danger… they need to soak in the recent events and knowledge and plan what the next step is… um, but unfortunately they don’t know what it is right now.. nor do I.

I know the emotion and sentiment I want to expose in these characters, I know what’s going to happen to challenge them mentally and physically.. I don’t know what to do to get them out of the damn house to keep this story going…

Hummm, maybe I should make something come to them instead.. maybe it’s time to introduce a little more antagonist to this stor…..

Alright, sorry I got to go.  I think I may have actually just solved my own problem.  Thank you again World Is Broken, you saved me again.
…. now if only I can get MS Word to work.

– By All Means Paint! Curse You Writer’s Block! –

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent van Gogh

It feels like the most common topic for me these days.  Writer’s Block has plagued me for far too long.

I’ve powered through it with the last few entries but now I face an bigger problem.  A very strange occurrence, I feel completely inspired to write and yet this block is such a daunting force that I am unable to do so.

I have come to a conclusion that what I want to do.. what I’ve always wanted to do… is to create a world and characters that I can write about.

Tolkien had his Middle Earth… Martin has his Westeros… even John Hughes had his Shermer, Illinois…

I am in no way comparing myself to these men in actual writing ability, but I want my own world that I can write about… one that will grow and develop natural throughout the course of my writing.

With a knowledge of characters and setting it one can let a story evolve naturally.

The idea that the characters you create can dictate the events and pacing of a story to the point where the author himself does not truly know how they will get from the beginning to the end.. or even what the end will truly be.

This spark started with that interview with George R.R Martin on Sword & Laser, where he commented on the stubbornness of Lady Stark and how she likes to go off on her own at times.

When I used to do fantasy wrestling and had to write up extensive roleplaying segments I found I had a very similar relationship with my character and the side characters that I was using at the time.  A lot of times I didn’t even know where a roleplay was going until half way through writing it.

I know this is a writing style that I am comfortable with, it has worked well for me in the past (I won a lot of my matches due to the strength of my roleplaying)..

But I just can’t get my mind to agree on an idea.  Every time I get an idea and put it down I begin to dislike it.  It will not be possible to achieve this kind of harmony with the world & characters unless I find the right setting.

I have to watch Finding Forrester again… as I recall that movie has a lot of good one liners when it comes to overcoming writers block… and for writing in general.

“You write your first draft with your heart and you re-write with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.” — Sean Connery

Anyway, I’m hoping to have something significant started soon.  I’m finding inspiration in almost everywhere I look, there are so many ideas shooting around my head that it’s getting very difficult to get them out and in text form.

I need to decide on the kind of world I’m trying to create.  The process of creating Janus for our World Of Darkness campaign was so natural and flowing… I need to find my next Janus, because I don’t think it’s the city that I want to write about for this project

Gahh… *Punches self in face*

I really don’t think I’ve encountered a feeling more frustrating than writer’s block.

“The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.” — Isaac Bashevis Singer

You said a mouthful there Isaac… if there was actual paper for all the trashed ideas I’ve written in the past two days I think it would register as an ecological incident. *le sigh*