I suppose that for my third post, I should actually talk about writing. This is a writer's blog after all—it's expected. But I have trepidations about taking on that subject. It’s an important one and one that, if I flub, could really be detrimental. Why’s that the case?
The answer isn’t all that simple, and, besides, I have to make this entertaining for myself. Why else write it? So we're gonna play a game called Is It Enough?
(Insert cheesy game show music)
The rules of the game are simple. We'll keep it to three.
1) Play along. You'll miss out on the whole point if you don't. So no finding and exploiting loopholes. Play by the spirit of the game.
2) Everything must be read in one of those stereotypical, overly-friendly and exaggerated announcer voices. Starting now.
3) Be honest. That should be pretty self-explanatory.
How to win:
I will give you a set of situations. For each situation, you answer Enough or Not Enough. Answer Enough if you think you have plenty of whatever it is in that particular situation. Answer Not Enough if you want more. The more Enoughs you have, the higher your chance of winning. You win by having more Enoughs than Not Enoughs.
Got it? Good. Let's start.
1: Free cheesecake made by your Great Aunt Bethel (Damn, she can cook.)
2: Dog poo on the bottom of your foot (Barefoot)
3: Exams (Doesn’t matter where or when—just exams)
4: Time to do that thing you like to do
5: Batman and Robin (The George Clooney film from the 1990s)
6: Pastoral scenes from paintings in hotel lobbies
8: Halloween candy when you were nine
9: People who write novels, but start talking about the nitty-gritty details of writing long before the book is ever published
You can drop that announcer’s voice now.
How'd you do? I suppose I tipped my hand there. You can guess which question is the serious one and the crux of my problem.
I come from the world of academia—or at least a form of it. Everything has quantifiable proof, and everyone has proven experience. You keep your trap shut until you have enough papers, experience, and chutzpah to weigh down an elephant before speaking out. At least that was the case with my wife’s and my own experience. Maybe we are far enough removed now that the past is blurred. Or maybe that was the atmosphere at the schools we attended. I don't know, but what I remember coincides.
Yet, here I am, doing just the opposite.
Perhaps that’s why I’m keeping my silence on writing for a while. I can write well—damn well. My head is filled with definitive ideas on story construction and flow and all those little bits which make an entertaining tale. They bustle about like ants on a trapeze, and I never have to distinguish thought from instinct. I’m not perfect—no one is—but I am good.
So why not share? Because I believe that multiple roads lead to the same destination. I think we can all agree that many authors are talented—a simple enough fact. But not everyone does it the same way. Many roads lead to success.
Just the other day, I had a conversation on Twitter about authors. We discussed those who we felt were talented writers and what made them so good. Several names came up, including Robert Jordan and Anne McCaffrey. Both are incredibly talented authors, but I know for a fact that neither writes in the same manner. Fundamentally, Robert Jordan was an outliner. You can see it in his notes and interviews about his writing after his death. According to Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey claims to never have written an outline in her life. Both talented authors. Both took different roads.
Add to that the fact that my instruction on writing comes from names a bit larger than my own. And I am not talking about Joe Smith, who wrote a book on how to write a novel, or some English professor I had in college. My bibles are On Writing by a hack called Stephen King, Sometimes the Magic Works by that no-name Terry Brooks, and—above all others—William Strunk and E.B.White’s Elements of Style. They obviously had no idea what they were talking about.
Looking at them, who am I to tell you how to write? In good conscience, I can't. Question #9 from above is a whole new ball of wax. Some day, I may explore it. But today isn't that day. Really, all I'm going to say about writing can be summed up below.
Writing sucks. But it's also our heart blood. We need it like air, food, and water. That first draft tears your heart out. The lines suck, the paragraphs don’t make sense, and let's not even start about the plot. But that's its job—to suck . That's why we have editors and spell check and dictionaries. No novel is complete without your own blood, sweat, toil, and tears—sometimes literally and often—mixed into those of your characters. Without it, our novels just aren't complete. And we want them complete. Need them complete. It's what we do and who we are. We're writers, damn it, and we aren’t going to stop any time soon.