Turning points

You have your main character and she is busy at work in your book, battling evil robotic androids in chapters one and two that evidently plan on enslaving humanity to work in their giant banana plantations. Then in chapter three she discovers that the androids are not robotic at all, nor are they even androids – they’re aliens! Aliens that thrive on potassium; suddenly the banana plantations make much more sense. In chapter four she falls in love but the beloved turns out in chapter five to actually be an alien in clever disguise. Torn between her love and her desire not to see her species reduced to a mute and enfeebled breed of the sort wonderfully depicted in the classic Planet of the Apes movie (Heston, not Wahlberg (although Wahlberg did a fine job too, really)), she… What? What does she do at this crucial juncture?

These are the points at which a plot is made or broken, a story arc enlivened, energized, or run off a cliff. These are the clearings in the philosophical sense, where what had been the character’s entire world flips itself inside out and in a sparkling moment of realization the character is transported not from here to there but from Planet Heretofore to Planet Unforeseen. These are the moments of rebirth, and each of our lives is filled (one hopes) with countless examples of them – and so too, naturally, for our characters.

Character development does not just entail acquiring knowledge and skill. Even a largely one-dimensional character such as the type used in action/thriller stories grows psychologically through the effects and nuances of the experiences they undergo. It would after all be impossible for them not to, for each of us moves through life in this way as we partake in what our fates dish out and how we respond to what we are served. This is most evident in the evolution of a character’s perspective; and as writers it is in the description and explication of character viewpoint where we are most able to bring this out. We have access to all of the inner workings of at least our main character’s mind (for first person works), and quite possibly for every character’s mind (third person, deep third, head-jumping, etc.). Through this privilege of place we can bring the reader in to observe – or even to be involved with, to participate in – the unfolding of this new world for the character in question. Think back to a time when your own mind clicked over and your eyes blinked once, twice, and the cosmos was transformed: nothing was for you the way it had been only a moment before. Call it an enlightenment, call it a moment of grace, call it a bolt of intuition, a touch of the unexpected, or even a simple transformative random encounter; whatever label you attach the profundity of such is unquestionable. Far more than any external occurrence it is times like these that define the course of our characters and our books.

Momentous events like these are by their nature rare, but they are no less important for that. They can be overused, and there is most definitely a sense in which we are all the products of our early formative years and try as we might – or the universe trying as it might – there are aspects of every person that simply cannot or do not change. For a character to go from a thoughtful and kind person to a malicious and cruel villain in the space of a few sentences would obviously be an outrage (well, short of a botched lobotomy or the like); but for a character to go from operating under one point of view to a freshly shifted one is entirely within the realm of possibility. Whether that is, or becomes, a welcome or unwelcome possibility is for the rest of the narrative to decide – and the potentials there are endless.

The judicious use of psychological turning points in our plots and subplots can add depth and beauty to our works. In my own reading of others it is these moments that really stand out for me in my memory of the stories, it is these moments that really separate out the good from the bad, quality from mediocrity, the heartfelt and lasting from the bland and forgettable. The effective employment of this technique is something that I think every writer needs to have in their toolkit, and it all starts from a consideration of just how very much is involved. In realizing that we can then start to consider, from our own pasts and from what we’ve read or seen, how such can be expressed. And then we plan. We experiment and we fail. We get it right; and the world (and our book) turns over a new page.

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Dylan’s speech, or Black and white lovers

Bob Dylan has once again been accused of plagiarism. This time though it’s not about his lyrics but rather about the acceptance speech he recently delivered to the Nobel Prize Committee just before the deadline that, if he had missed it, would have disqualified him from receiving the prize money. The manner in which it was done – procrastinated and procrastinated, content possibly copied from the summary/study website SparkNotes – “rais[es] the delicious prospect that, like any teenager in a band, he cribbed his homework off the internet in a last-minute panic.” (That lovely quote from Mark Savage’s BBC article linked to above – no plagiarizing here!)

Dylan, as we all know, has been accused of plagiarism before (see Nick’s posts here and here for some interesting takes), and he has defended himself (of sorts) by pointing to the fact that he has simply been working within the confines of folk music; and this is very true. I’m a longtime fan of the genre and my collection speaks to how artists, often in personal contact with one another, flowed and moved in and out of each others’ work, blurring lines and behaving now generously, now underhandedly, but always there in the heart of the music, the ethos, the movement or cause. Folk reached its peak in another time and generation and the thinking and the approaches taken were quite different then.

My own feel on all this is to question how much it really matters. I’m not sure if Dylan’s work actually deserves any literary prizes (let alone the Nobel), but he is a musician, and what is most important there is surely delivery, rhythm, melody. I saw Dylan in concert once a few years back and his delivery was terrible. It was automatic, emotionless, an exercise in paint by the numbers with Dylan behaving like a wind-up monkey toy mindlessly banging his cymbals together. The back-up band was fantastic but we were all there to see Dylan and he did disappoint. Yet in looking at the big picture that was just one concert in Osaka; what he has left on record have been and will remain treasures in my life, and for that I am extremely grateful to him.

And what has remained in Dylan’s own life? Evidently foremost amongst his individual treasures are Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. Why those three books? Well, why not? For whatever reason or reasons they spoke to him in a manner that goes beyond however they are or are not later described, leaving indelible marks on the spirit that he has carried through life. Surely that is what is of consequence, what carries significance for him as a reader, and indeed, for you and I too as readers in our own ways and on our own journeys.

Plagiarism is of course a very serious offense and I don’t mean to downplay that. But in his Nobel acceptance speech Dylan paid honor to three great books that acted as both catalysts for his development and as shapers of that development. In this case, at least, that is what strikes me as being most pertinent. His lyrics are another matter, and if it is or could be definitively found that he directly took them, or parts of them, from other uncredited sources then perhaps a more damning judgment could be made (ought to be made?). But even there again there are other considerations involved, and a part of those is the necessity of rolling one’s perspective back to an earlier era and different way of doing things. That does not mean that we justify all that happened in the past just by saying “that’s how it was then”, but it does mean that we admit that the situation is more complicated than a (purer) modern take might allow. Dylan loved and loves those three books – as writers we can only hope to leave a tiny portion of such marks on those who pay us heed by reading our works. Will anyone love the black and white we’ve put on paper and/or screen? Will anyone talk about it later in life? And if they do how will we react to what is said? For my part I hope it’s with grace and pleasure.

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Narrative direction

I have somehow become increasingly interested in time. It could just be that I never seem to have enough of it, or that the demands that pile up one after another force me to recognize and carefully distribute it, but more and more I’m noticing how the manner in which I choose to spend the limited time that I do have directly affects the type of person I am and am becoming. Surely that goes for all of us. The things we undertake, and the methods and means by which we go about them, speak to what we value, honor, desire, dream. We really are our time, even when just farting around.

In connection with the post linked to above then, I want to take another look at time but from a completely different angle. There I considered time from a character’s point of view and how much we stand to learn about a character given what the author tells us regarding how they go about using their own time. I suggested that in our fiction we include details that might not be related to the overall plot, subplot, or even current trajectory – just flavor that informs and enriches the environments of the text and those who inhabit them. In other words, we drop in all that boring crap about nothing that makes the world go round. Here I want instead to think about the big picture, about those plots, subplots, and trajectories. This is time writ large, time as a fundamental force of the cosmos (if such it be), time as that sweet swinging scythe.

The universe is a big place and I cannot begin to imagine all that it holds, all the life that is infused in it and all the ways and means by which each life might possibly unfold. But here on Earth, for us tiny humans, we have no choice but to experience our time in one direction. It flows in an ever-now abutted by a hazy past and an obsessed-over future. Although our minds are often (or always) on the next, next, next, we experience only the present and can go neither back nor forwards except in the fantasies of our heads. We are forced into a single-seat car on a one-way track going thatta way. Accordingly I suggest that we trust to convention and craft our stories with the same narrative process in mind.

This does not mean, of course, that we jettison any other time-related techniques, just that we be judicious and cautious in our use or experimentation with them. Flashbacks can be terribly confusing for the reader if not done well, and if we add to them flashforwards then we have a real formula for potential headaches on our hands. A good way to stave off any negative possibilities is simply to delineate the section within the text itself via an obvious visual cue such as carriage returns and/or inserted asterisks. More subtle signs can also be given by, for example, having a character refer to a famous event that the reader will know occurred around year X, or perhaps an earlier event from within the story itself. Subtler still would be to slip in a character’s age which the reader will know to be false, at least from the perspective of the narration told so far, and will therefore work out that the scene must be taking place in the past (or future). Getting too subtle, though, is where caution is called for. If your writing requires the reader to drop everything and start scouring the internet for information then your book that was dropped is unlikely to get picked back up. My own personal feeling though is that unless such are really called for there seems little reason to include flashbacks, loops, jumps, breaks, what have you. Beyond occasionally entertaining our own memories we don’t live that way and neither would our characters. That is not to say that there aren’t very good reasons for including such – giving the reader important backstory to fill out a character being an excellent example of one – just to stress again that for most stories less can be more in this regard. A book does take us through time in our own world as we start at its beginning and page by page finish at its end; all nice and clean and linear, just like our lives. Why not have our works reflect that, even if it is tried and true? True is, after all, how time’s arrow flies.

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Rewriting humanity

What is a book supposed to do in the world? What is your book supposed to do in the world? I know, I know, writers have enough to think about, and more than enough to juggle, as it is without raising such bothersome questions. And after all, isn’t a well told story justifiable by itself? By its mere existence? Does it have to do anything? And if so, what? Who says anyway? Ahh, leave me alone, I’ve got comma splices to fix.

We’ve all been there. The harrowing doubts that our story doesn’t work, that the characters don’t make sense, that they aren’t sufficiently motivated, that they aren’t sufficiently expressed. The writing is off, it doesn’t flow well, it lacks heart, it lacks beauty, it lacks depth. These are the issues we fret over; and rightly so, they are important and very worth every second we put into them. But still that first question this post raised lies there like a predator in the tall grass, eyeing us, ready to pounce. Few can look themselves in the mirror and say with a (non-ironic) grin that they are proud writers of pulp. Fewer still actually set out to write pulp in the first place. Yet what have I created? What does it do? That too is worth every second we put into answering it.

A book, I think – and most particularly a book like a novel – ought to challenge. It must. It is a creation, a product, of a living, breathing, growing, grasping, getting, striving, feeling, failing, singularly present being. It is an object that could never exist in the whole vast cosmos were it not for its author, for the unique and altogether transient voice of the one who gave it shape and form. To reduce the miracle of existing as a human being on planet Earth down to the piddling triviality of a purveyor of masturbatory letters is such a waste that it ought to be considered a sin. It might even be a sin in some corners; and good for those corners. What a book offers the world, what a book can offer the world, is another world.

A book is an extraordinarily well-equipped vehicle for ideas, and it is ideas that we need most in these empty and soulless times of ours. We have become trapped in the empirical, unable or unwilling to see beyond the measurable and the “objective”, incapable of finding or investing value in anything that is not dollars and cents. Even the very word investing has taken on so many stock market overtones that it threatens to strike the wrong intuitive chord every time it’s used. A book, and again especially a novel, is the antidote to all this, it is the antithesis of the conceptual cage we find ourselves in where truth is diminished to observable streams of lifeless data now marked out by the micron. (And I’m guilty of this too, see Chapter 5: “On the nature of truth” in my Tomorrow, as the Crow Flies. I would write that chapter very differently today if I were to do it over again.) A book can open a mind to what is only imagined, and what is only imagined is not a never-was but rather a not-yet. A book has the power to dance with ideas that are entirely unconnected with reality as we see it – a book deals with reality as we claim it. A book rips open the human soul and points now to this, now that, and then leaves tectonic shifts in its wake. A book has the power to reveal the possible, and absolutely anything is possible for we – the builders, conjurers, playful tinkerers that we are – are limited only to the extent that we limit our dreaming. And so why not dream more? Dream greater? Dream wider? What is your book supposed to do in the world?

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A Project’s voice

“Find your voice.” A writer is always being told by other writers to find their own voice, their unique style, them in words, them in syntax, self in twenty-six letters or less. It can seem like a daunting task, an effortful and painful task, and when we think about those we read it can even seem like an impossible task. Well, keep at it, they say, sooner or later you’ll get there. The important thing is to keep writing.

Indeed. The important thing is to keep writing, and if you remain chained to the keyboard and sweat and bleed enough you will probably get there – or be crushed by the sheer cruelty of the practice. Once you’ve found your voice though, assuming that your endurance suffices, what then? Do you churn out work after work that in the end might appear quite similar? (I love Vonnegut but I’d say this about him.) Or do you begin to experiment and try to forge a new voice for yourself after you’ve determined that you have enough finished products under your belt? (I’ve read that Murakami has been in this stage for his last few books and that it hasn’t been working, that he’s lost his touch. I couldn’t comment on that as I’ve never been inclined to read him, but if the accusation has been put forward in print there might be something to it.) Although it’s possible that we’re getting ahead of ourselves and that the mere (mere!) attaining of an independent voice is more than enough to worry about, I would like to suggest that there might be an alternative path lurking here in the shadows. That path is, of course, the current writing project itself.

You have determined that your story must be told, that this, this, is worth the easily thousands of hours of labor that you will put into it, the years of your life that will be devoted to its creation and the years of your life that the creation of it will take away from you – each book surely knocking at least one annum off the end of your span as the process takes its inevitable toll. You plan, you structure, you organize, you plot, and then one fine day you find yourself at it: actually writing, finally. The breath of life enters your characters or your thesis, the words pile up, the sections and chapters take form, and along the way the unexpected becomes something of a familiar friend. We all know the twists and turns that our projects end up taking as what was planted spreads root and sprouts, blossoms, grows. “Who knew that was in there?” The characters did; one could say they had it in them, whether their author/creator recognized it or not. And if we are wise we allow them (or again, our theses) to speak for themselves and to tell us just what it is that they would actually get up to in this situation, just how they might relate or respond or react or interact. In this way we soon discover that not only has our hard-won writing voice been carrying the day but that our project’s peculiar voice has begun to make itself heard. How can we then stifle that?

If there is anything truly and completely pleasant in writing surely it is in such little wonders. When re-reading, or endeavoring on round twenty of our editing, we might be taken aback at how unlike “me” this has started to sound. That is because it has developed to the point of now sounding like itself. Well done! To take a project to that depth, to that level of sophistication and intricacy, where it begins to sound like nothing else but itself is to have achieved a rare hallmark in the annals of our craft. You have not just excreted another middling “bestseller” bit of pulp, you have given the world a new form of life, a progenitor, an Eve. And you did it by not letting yourself interfere too much with yourself, by allowing your project to first find and then continue on with its voice. Your voice – your writing voice, your style, your special touch – will naturally still be there, but layered within and above it there will now be this something extra, this something emergent that takes writer and reader alike by surprise. The project’s voice. You plus it equals much more than you-it. You plus it equals this.

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The truth in fiction

I can’t recall exactly where I read this but I think it might have been a book by Karen Armstrong; certainly it was a book on mythology. To paraphrase: the truth in a myth is not in the events it relates but in its reflection on ourselves. A myth is “true” in the sense in which it describes a psychology or worldview or peculiar mode of thought. By form this is usually culturally applicable, and that is what gives myths their widespread power. Heidegger made a similar point about art generally and its relation to a specific culture, giving the example of a Greek temple as that which built the world of the Greeks, the world for the Greeks, defining their entire as-Greek lives in its structure, symbolism, messages, relations, associations. A myth, naturally, is one element of this, but what an element it is.

Our myths are rather less exciting than those of the Ancient Greeks, but they are no less reflective of our inner lives, and in so being they also teach us a great deal about our societies. We writers, you and I, are contributing to this with each fictitious word we pen. What is this “fiction” then? Is it really “untrue” or “made up”? We are now of course a tiny step from the all-important question of: What is reality anyway?

Two years ago, and I can hardly believe that I remembered this, I posted on perspectively-bound writing. That is a related topic but it is not what I’m trying to get at today. Nor is my concern here with any kind of empirical accuracy, any kind of direct relation between A and B that demonstrates consistency or measurability. Instead the issue at hand is closer to introspection, to what fiction reveals not of our externals but of our internals, what fiction tells us about how we feel our way through our worlds and our little lives. Epic battles have been replaced with the committing and the hiding, or the solving, of crimes, grand and glorious warriors with damaged and conflicted everypersons, heroes with unheroes. It’s hard not to be depressed by that, isn’t it?

And so we find ourselves, and our psychologies, shrunk down to the “me”; but I do not think that is an altogether bad development. In fact, I think it’s quite healthy, both for you and I and for humanity at large. The truths that we are now telling ourselves through our modern mythologies are only ever “true” (as in accurate) in so far as they teach us about how we are operating in our environments, about how we are moving in the places in which we find ourselves. We did not ask to be born and we had no choice in the where, when, and what of our births. To go back to Heidegger, we find ourselves thrown into our worlds. As writers we perhaps know this better than anyone since we do the very same thing to our characters. The truths that we reveal by our words and our works need have absolutely nothing to do with the events that are happening in our “real lives” nor our “real world”; instead they can, and should, have everything to do with our mental experiences as modern people going through the gauntlets of our modern institutions. There is nothing empirical about this. Nor is this a paen to the genre of magical realism. It is rather a suggestion, a song, to that which grows within in strange and subtle ways, that which takes shape and form not in centimeters and grams but in function and expression. Truth value here is determined by usefulness, by applicability. What does your book teach me about our ways of life? Our societies? Our globalized cultural aspects and our stubbornly localized ones? What truth is there in your fiction that I can find, if I am similarly directed, by casting a hard gaze within? “Reuben, Reuben, tell me truly true/I feel afraid and I don’t know why I do…” That “why” is where the truth in our fiction shows itself, that “why” is our area to explore and to expound, that “why” is where we shine.

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Time and spending time

For those of us living in post-industrial/digital societies the central question now facing us, and it is one that faces us daily, has become: How do I spend my time? For nearly all of us the daily struggle simply to stay alive has been removed as a topic of concern, in one way or another and to a dizzying array of varying degrees. Some of us are just barely getting by, but getting by, while others of us have so ridiculously much that King Midas would faint right off of his golden throne. Every minute of every day does not need to be spent towards obtaining enough food, water, access to shelter, etc., that many of our forebears had to pursue. The twelve-hour, six-day work week is a thing of the barely studied past, let alone the remembered past. We are healthy and wealthy but not, at least in this one regard, wise. That “one regard” is, again, time. What do we do with all of the time that we find on our hands? How do we use it? How do we prevent it going from a blessing to a burden, openness to boredom to ennui to…? Time, when noticed – and noticed by either its abundance or extreme lack – is only ever now, always now, an ever-becoming, ever-transforming. It is the one thing we can be sure of, certain to have because it’s right there – this moment, this great blank I face and must fill. This now. Only, ever, always. What I do with it is what I make myself, make of myself. It defines and creates the me I face daily in the mirror. I am my time.

This of course goes doubly for our characters. As creations of our imaginations they are people squared, human beings driven into the corners we craft for them, and forced to deal with their worlds as made entirely for them, without the choice to bend themselves in relation to it because we bend them for them. Maliciously or graciously as we determine, with beneficence or meanness in what we give. What then do we make of the worlds that we plunk them down into, and what do make of them in those worlds? A few months ago I wrote a post called “Boring crap about nothing” that considered the differing structures of stories with an external or internal focus and the fact that all characters, as people, have issues of identity, enjoy experiences and must react to those experiences, that feelings play just as central (or ought to) part in their lives as they do for us. To those ideas let’s now add time.

We could take the lowest-common-denominator, most-mainstream-of-mainstream approaches and have our characters running from one event to the next, never a moment to spare and never a second unaccounted for, leaping between car chases, explosions, helicopters spinning out of control, fisticuffs on a precipice where a well-placed branch tips the villain over the edge at just the right moment and the hero immediately celebrates in a long-postponed passionate kiss with the other hero; cue ending them, zoom out, fin. If we are very good we might be able to make a story like that mildly entertaining, maybe even a page-turner, but it will be instantly forgettable. And that because it will be so far from life as we actually live it, escapism in the absolute worst possible sense. Opposed to this we could keep many or even all of those elements (though I for one wouldn’t) but, considering time, we present our characters as confronted with the same conundrum that we all face: Here I find myself with minutes or hours to spare and must decide what to do with them. What our characters do then decide will tell the reader volumes about them as people, and will fill out our stories with a realism and vibrancy that all of those action-packed rolls of toilet paper lack in spades. Truer to life is truer to us, and all the more impacting for it. A story like that would be something that sticks with you, a story like that would be worth telling. And re-telling. A story like that would be worth spending your time on.

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Must we come to terms with money?

Ebooks can be given away very easily, Smashwords has a simple setting for this and even allows it specifically for libraries while other users pay whatever non-zero price you’ve decided on. Amazon’s Kindle, similarly, allows all sorts of ways that pricing and royalties can be adjusted. What is transferred from producer to consumer is, after all, simply bit strings, code that a machine translates into its root binary system and passively runs on its hardware. There is nothing there, really, and so nothing can cost nothing and no one is hurt. Paperbacks, on the other hand, require real physical production, and that means the use of resources for both manufacture and delivery. The most an author can do is to lower a book’s asking price down as close as possible to the production costs (keeping in mind that the printing service will take its cut as well); in my own case what that process worked out to was that I could make no less on a paperback copy sold than five cents. I was getting that nickel come hell or high water – unless of course I bought the copy myself and then gave it away by hand.

But what is this nonsense? “I could make no less”? And it isn’t at all that “There is nothing there, really, and so nothing can cost nothing and no one is hurt.” There is plenty there! Tens of thousands of hours of labor and who knows how much energy expended. That’s something all right! It is, of course, it is, and as our own Terms and Conditions state, an artist ought to be able to live by their work. Ought to. Welcome, however, to 2017. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, even by the mid-nineties it was being predicted that the way to make money from creativity was no longer through sales but through fame – give stuff away for free and then milk the celebrity you are thus able to “buy” yourself for profit, focusing particularly on niche audiences. (That has actually become a rather established formula amongst fan writers, by the way.) Does it work? Well, for some. For everyone else… Again, welcome to 2017.

I am in two minds about the stilted and unsatisfying relationship my writing has with money. On the one hand I would love to be able to afford to write full-time and to have a cool writing closet tucked away in some building’s loft where I hole up and am able to give myself exclusively to a keyboard, but on the other hand I have a family that hugely benefits from economic stability and I also realize that my day job provides quite a bit of grounding that I otherwise wouldn’t have if left entirely to my own devices. In that case I’d probably go even weirder than I am now. Not pretty. The main problem, as I see it, is not that I want to chase money, but rather that the world we live in forces us to chase money in some manner or other. Being read is really all the reward I’m after for the huge investment of time and effort that I put into my writing. But simply being read doesn’t help pay the rent or the kids’ daycare.

There is a deeper question to all this, though, and that is in the approach. I don’t want to live in the world we live in where everything is commodified, quantified, and disposable. I want to live in a world where art is freely shared and freely enjoyed for its own sake. Let’s trade: your new album for my novel. Why not? Such trends are happily taking place in some quarters, and the net (and of course ebooks, emusic, e-etc.) has made it all that much more possible, but still the thought sticks that work really should be recompensed monetarily. Perhaps it’s our inability to think in terms beyond the financial, perhaps it’s a result of the incessant consumerist brainwashing we’re all treated to daily, perhaps it’s just a marker of the historical era we’re passing through. I am not so naive as to think that giving my books away will help to make the world a better place – but then again, maybe it will; for you, at least, if it brings a smile to your face for even a moment. After all, an ebook wouldn’t cost me anything to send, and I’ve got some paperback copies just sitting on a shelf gathering dust to boot. But there I go again thinking in terms of “cost” – that’s the habit we’ve got to break, the monkey we’ve got to get off our backs. Here’s an offer I’m willing to make: In perpetuity throughout the age of the known universe, anyone who sends me a request through our DSB contact account is welcome to a free pdf of anything I singly author. Take that, capitalism! (The capitalists will naturally just see this as me shooting myself in the foot, but you and I, we know better. 😉 )

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The pain of editing, the pleasure of the next

Like any activity writing has its rhythms, its flows, ebbs, and tides. There is the idea phase, where a seed takes root, begins to send out tendrils, makes connections, and gradually, very gradually, a concrete shape takes form and presents itself. That is an exciting period, a feverish period, but hardly anything really gets done.

Then there is the initial writing, the first draft, the burst of creative energies that sees words splattered across the canvas, across the walls, the floor, the ceiling. Just get it out! seems to be the only driving mantra, and however carefully plans may have been laid or structures drawn up during the idea stage things have a tendency to shift – perhaps greatly.

Editing. Oh boy, here is where the trouble comes, where the fun ends and the work, the work, the work, sets in and bares its chest, demands to be respected, to be dealt with, to be endured. All of those wounds that were self-inflicted to your preciously tended little sprouting during its riotous first draft growth period now begin to fester and ooze, dripping pus all over your keyboard and desktop. Disgusting. Who wants anything but to wipe that up, toss out the filthy cloth, and try to forget that it ever happened. Except that to do so would of course be to invite disaster.

What is the point of a writing project, anyway? Why commit to something that will not reward you materially and possibly not even emotionally? Why think that you have anything of enough worth to say that it will justify the tens of thousands of hours of labor involved? Why does anyone create anything?

Creation is the most enjoyable part. Where the rubber hits the road, as the saying goes, is in the refining. And it is there that one’s motivation begins to wane. We all know we won’t get rich from our writing – those days, for however short a time historically speaking they might have existed, are long, long gone – but those of us who keep at it have accepted that, and anyway money is hardly everything and almost never worth pursuing for its own sake. We all find our reasons and on we go. Until we hit that wall: editing.

Stuck in the grind of what seems like, and usually is, a process that doubles or triples the primary investment put into the formation of the project, our thoughts begin to go elsewhere. To the next. The next! Without even noticing it another seed has begun to take root, to send out tendrils, to form connections, and a loose, almost phantasmagorical outline. What I’ll do after this… How does a writer react to this phenomenon? Ignore it? Embrace it? Put what one is editing on hold? Shelve it, table it, dump it? None and all of the above, I’d say; any guidelines offered on judging the worth of a project that I could come up with would be so vague as to be meaningless. What is more pertinent, I think, is the act of deciding itself.

Editing is the hardest of hard work, yet it is also extraordinarily important. Crucial even. It is also potentially endless and so some caution is in order not to overdo it. Editing is where all the consequential choices are made and where vision goes from dream to reality. Only you will be able to judge if your current project is worth what a full edit involves, but if it is worth it then surely you have to see the thing through, no matter how tempting those next ideas may be and no matter how many unforeseen rounds it suddenly seems to require. If you’re going to do it then you have to go full bore, anything less would be betrayal. And then, having finished all that, comes the joy of stretching your fingers out and starting to water that cute little seedling.

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Posted in Writing Craft & Self-Publishing | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

The Master of All Easter Eggs by Nick Cody

The final story in our By Prescription Only: Themed Writing showcase on the theme of Hollow comes from the author of Cata fame, Nick Cody.

Warning label: The following story is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, events, etc. are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in the following works of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. Some stories in this showcase contain adult themes, so reader caution is advised.

The Master of All Easter Eggs
by Nick Cody

Namaste, YouTubers! CineSeekers here with more commentary on everything movies. Remember to click “Like” and “Subscribe” to get our latest posts!

Remember that clever hoax from 1999 convincing the entire world that Stanley Kubrick had died? The pranksters must have been betting that the uber-famous director’s reclusive nature would help perpetuate their game. To this day no one knows who did it or why. Or, more accurately, loads of conspiracy theorists claimed to know but all failed to convince the general public. When one of those vloggers came out with the idea that it was Kubrick himself who launched the original announcement of death in order to promote his movie Eyes Wide Shut, the great director stepped forward and quashed all rumors with a live interview on CNN wherein he quoted that great line by Twain, drolly delivered: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”…

To read the rest as a free pdf, click the “Download Now” button below.

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