Book Cover Ideas

 

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So I’ve recently seen some other fantasy writers’ cover art (Aurian and Jin, among others) and it’s got me actively thinking about my own.

I’ve spend the past four years considering this book cover idea, and I’ve had several “THAT’S IT!” moments. To be perfectly frank, if this book were a baby, I’d’ve had two false labors and two botched C-Sections. Yeah. Nothing about this enjoyable piece is coming along smoothly. Actually, I’ve come to think of it more as a Pinocchio than a real boy. I redid that poor boy’s left forearm more times than anything else…

So the title was a really, really long process. The words themselves took half of Mr. King’s so-called million words, and the cover art is no better than anything else. I’m not sure if I have many followers, or watchers, or whatever, still interested in this webpage, but I want to run it by people, and if interested, you could leave your vote on your favorite book cover idea.

The tagline for the book is “Soren has run from his demons all his life, but when a priest begs him for help, he can’t help but take up arms against those in the Astral who would go to war against him. And this time? The demons are real.”

Three sentences. Yeah whatever. Given it’s book one in a series of seven (I like series of seven. I don’t know why.), It’s got a few themes. Titles, for instance. This novel is named “Of Salt and Wine,” because those are the symbols/tools most connected with the evil he fights. Book two is “Of Earth and Blood,” and so on. It’s taken from one of the lines he says in the book, 2/3rds of the way through: “Those of Salt and Wine, I come for you.” Kind of like a war cry, I guess. It was originally called “It Gave Me a Name,” because his darkness, yes, a character, gives him the name of a demon. I liked the rhythm, but it had too many words. People would get confused, I thought, so I strived to be more and more simple in my idea. It perhaps could even end up as “Salt and Wine,” although I absolutely love the “Of” at the beginning, as if it were part of a much larger thought. Which it is.

So the book cover should be as important. I began this project with the idea of a layout of symbols or tools, a la Game of Thrones or Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Book one would have a series of thirteen horizontal staves, or several pieces of jewelry, or better yet, a vintage 1800’s tattoo of skulls and vines and whatever the evil looks like. Several experts added their thoughts, stating the best way to sell a fantasy is to depict a scene from the book on the cover, with Magic: The Gathering-esque card art for the cover, similar to the Wheel of Time books. It would most likely have Soren standing in a septagram on the altar of a church while a big read, Diablo-inspired demon pours green liquid into a played priest’s throat. I like those ideas, but I’m thinking a little more traditional. Something I could lay out for all seven books in the series, with small but connective variations. In fact, I’ve already rough-draft finished book two. I’m that serious about this stuff.

So, I’ll run through a handful of ideas. If any single one presents more of a visceral response, please please please say something about it. I don’t mind if you’ve never been here before and are never coming back. I’d absolutely love the feedback.

1) Horizontal (or vertical) staves, all of different woods, straight, like prison bars

2) The “O” of “Of Salt and Wine” being Soren’s personal symbol, while the S of Salt is actual salt and the dot of the i in Wine is actually a goblet of wine

3) The wall of masks Soren has in his home, all looming down

4) A tattoo of Soren’s, laid over polished hardwood floor (he has twelve)

5) The Blackwood Shillelagh, his Modus Operandi for the book and most important item he uses, glowing at the bulb

6) Vintage 1800’s art in the form of a tattoo, possibly using a human or demon skull as the focal point, with dandelion leaves spread out (think this, only inked and not so 3D)

7) Closeup of a man in a suit, tightening his tie, with his sleeve cuff charred or burned or even aflame

8) Closeup of a man in a kurta, signing a mudra, the head of a snake tattoo stretching across his wrist

9) “Evolution” type silhouette, with the four demons, Jack, Olivia, and Soren, walking down the street one behind the other

10) Demon symbol for Ferrulous (circular and striking)

11) Soren at the top of the stairs, wailing at a door half-covered in tar

12) Soren in the septagram, hands up pleadingly, in the classical pose like daVinci and other Reformation artists, toward a demon

13) Soren’s childhood door, half-covered in tar, with Soren’s symbol scratched in chalk

14) A goblet of wine, ringed in salt like a Margarita

15) A man in a top-hat, face obscured, standing off-kilter to a backdrop of brick

16) A man playing chess alone in a park

 

That’s all I got. Any thoughts? 

 

Chris

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Let’s Talk About Drugs!

Said the clown to the priest.

No. Writing a book based on any level of “realism” (or at the very least, depth) requires the writer to study the periphery. The periphery could involve any number of things. In fact, in fantasy (and dare I say, in reality) the possibilities are damn near endless. Writing an urban fantasy novel (UF from here on out) usually brings about images of sardine-packed apartment buildings, grungy streets, dark alleys, bricks and concrete and unnatural yellow streetlights. What good city doesn’t have those? Farther on the periphery, the main character (MC from here on out) hears dogs barking–which a friend of mine once wrote a very in-depth analysis of what part these barking dogs have in our subconscious; interesting little read–or perhaps people talking in the distance. The MC passes shadowy shapes in alleys, perhaps, or nobody at all. The MC is silhouetted against bar windows or restaurants or vacant buildings. The MC stops in front of graffiti. All important.

Yet. One major aspect of the Real Life Urban scene is drug use. I haven’t read much UF with drug use as a periphery. I don’t know why. Given I’ve never done illegal drugs, never inhaled mary jane, never rolled Ecstasy, perhaps most fantasy writers haven’t either. It’s something they know nothing about, therefore it is either overlooked or ignored in the story.

I understand it. I don’t like it. We write about dragons but not drugs? We write about hellfire but not drug-use? The only time I see much discussion of it is when it’s a pivotal point of the story, where some supernatural investigator seeks the truth in some drug-user’s death–usually, where the drug is the magical, I dunno, tool used to move the story forward. Which is cool. I love those stories. I just want more of it. Especially in UF.

And high fantasy (HF from here on out) included! What? Pirates didn’t use opiates? Your scoundrels exist in a drug-free world even though there’s an ecosystem as complex as anything that exists on Earth? Hell no. I refuse to believe it.

Now if you want a fairy tale with no drugs, that’s fine. Plain and pure and storytelling at its best? Sounds perfect. Go for it. It has its place. Drugs are a dark side to society most people want to escape from. It might not have a healthy place in your story.

But I want more of it. I want the guy that’s high as a kite, he just might, stop and check the MC out. I want the Trent Reznor-type in an intimidating-as-shit black duster roaring in the MC’s face as he’s hyped up on PCP. Why not? It’s scary. A kind of scary a lot of people don’t want to get involved with. Perhaps a little Too Real. But it’s UF. And, if you do it right, it’s a damn easy way to make an intimidating Antagonist downright terrifying.

Take The Professional, for instance. The movie made in ’91 (or was it ’94?). Gary Oldman stars as the bad guy, a crooked cop that’s actually head of the DEA. The guy’s a loose cannon. Not someone you want to play Russian Roulette with. Add his little pill he pops (literally pops) in his mouth, he transforms into something else. Every single aspect of what makes that man sane, and with boundaries, is gone. Whisked away with the intense high.

Here’s the thing. It can be just on the periphery. It can be a secondary character that simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It can be an average joe the reader trusts. And he can change in an instant. That stuff is powerful.

To extend the thought–magic. Oh crap, magic! You can have a magical drug that does nothing to most but changes a few. You can have a time-delay magical drug that simply gives all the peaceful effects of a steaming cup of tea, but have three successive loud noises, whoa Nelly! Run for the hills. It allows you to create monsters out of timid mice, sleeper agents who truly know nothing of their place, or just, heck, plain old frostbitten Josh Nobody looking to take the edge off his gangrenous foot. For as long as humanity has existed, drugs have coincided. Alcohol aside! I think there’s a huge market for any writer willing to get his fingers dirty, understanding drugs and, farther in, humanity’s need of them.

A professor once told me to use the rule of ten doors. Major decisions require ten outcomes. Write them down. Pick the best. Go to a smaller choice. Rule of ten. Write them down. Choose the best. And so on. It helps with writer’s block and everything. It also does a great job of painting the picture when it comes to drug use: drugs have different effects for different people, even the same dose. It makes for wonderful storytelling and, given the magic world the MC lives in, could possibly turn bad into worse or good into terrible.

I’ll do it now!

Dashing Tom Perfect just had a run-in with Josuha Random Reefer Toking while on his way to deliver a medallion!

1) He puts his head down and ignores him, creating foreshadowing for JRR Toking later in the story
2) He takes a moment to listen to JRR Toking and his far-out stories of Nevernever Earth and inadvertently adds humor to the otherwise stoic, dry story
3) He realizes Mr. Toking is smoking Magical Marijuana, and any contact high could relinquish DTP’s perfect mental control over himself, creating small conflict
4) He listens to JRR Toking, who is really an escaped torture victim for (Antagonist’s name here), and he can only survive this hellish life by smoking the reef and drifting through the world as a vagrant
5) JRR Toking is smoking to get up the courage to talk to Dashing Tom, because he has Vital Information!
6) DTP has had a negative experience with potheads, where his half-brother (half-elf) smoked too much pot and burned his life away to mediocrity, despite having a brilliant mind. DTP therefore puts Toking in a choke-hold and ties him up in the back of his pedivan.
7) DTP smells more than marijuana on JRR Toking’s breath, recognizing the effects of a much more damaging drug, the Soulfie, where JRR Toking slowly gives his soul away to a powerful douche-cerer.
8) JRR Toking is a conspiracy theorist who loves to think about the possibility of a universe whole-mind, where everyone can talk to each other psychically and nobody has to poop. That’s all. Oh and he’s a cunning thief in disguise and steals the medallion.
9) DTP recognizes the sociopolitical ramifications of JRR Toking walking the streets in such rags–but wait, isn’t that the insignia of a freedom fighting group he wears as a patch on his skinny jeans?
10) JRR Toking reminds DTP of a friend DTP once had, stops the man, talks to him a moment, and realizes the poor bastard is a war vet with A WHOLE LOT OF STORIES TO TELL. And firearms training.

Alrighty. That’s just one line of decisions, all rife with information. I’m not feeling particularly inspired at the moment (Really stressed) so I bypassed some of the deeper thoughts. Any one of those decisions could lead to another major decision. So on and so forth.

So. I advocate drug use. In fantasy novels.

My Brand of Fantasy Magic

…isn’t really fantasy at all. Magical realism, perhaps?

I recently re-watched Constantine (starring The Man of One Face: Keanu Reeves), where the protagonist spends his life fighting to keep the balance between heaven and hell via magical relics, know-how, and insight into traveling to hell and back. He’s dark, brooding, quippy, and so self-destructive he’s dying of lung cancer. It’s a delve into what I consider magical realism: people, many people, believe wholeheartedly that the ability exists (even if it’s only for one person) to… insert random miracle here. Be it travel through hell, talk to the dead, turn water to wine, transform into a totem-animal, talk to rocks, converse with ancestors long dead, see auras, dowse, possess another person/animal.

A lot of people don’t. And that’s cool. A lot of people pursue religion as a form of self-government, so instead of spending the time to understand themselves, they look to religion: “This is bad (according to the Book), so I won’t do it.” It also kills multiple birds by creating a community of similar-thinking people, which reinforces the feeling of “this is right.” Which is cool. That’s what certain governmental bodies do. And we’re governed by many circles, be it personal, family, friends, religion, spiritual (separate from religion), communal, work, local, federal, world. And that’s just what I pulled off the top. This is a digression and I’ll stop it now. I’m trying to show how this also holds its own forms of power: any single one of these bubbles could specify “this is bad” and a person follow it simply because, well, someone says to. Even the “personal” circle. Which in itself is a form of mind control.

I had a simple purpose when I began writing twelve years ago: have fun, connect with people, share my thoughts. It’s still the same purpose, albeit a little evolved. My thoughts developed into something a little stronger: magic is real. Some magic is real. Not all. Magic Missiles and two hundred foot orc giants with enchanted tree trunks for armor isn’t. Science keeps trying to say it has all the answers worth knowing (while people touting Science as the new religion also try to say, like a marijuana enthusiast, Science has ALL the answers), but it doesn’t. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, “That’s what’s so great about science. You don’t have to believe in it for it to be true. It exists without your permission.”

Mostly.

I know enough about Science to know the importance of “observable” and “human fallacy.” I’ve been reading about human beings having more than five senses. More like nine. Pressure, balance to name two. It really doesn’t matter how often Science revises what truths it accepts as fact. What matters is it’s always changing in its definition, always updating its databases.

Next, to define science into two subcategories: hard science (physics for one) and soft science (psychology for two). I know too many well-meaning Science worshippers who put it all together. Soft sciences, the stuff our thoughts are made of, the stuff of our dreaming, of our extra-sensories, of our deeper knowledge, of our abstract pattern recognitions, is very wide open and mostly unexplored, despite the 100 or so years we’ve had to study it. Why? Unobservable. Or, difficult to observe. Assumptions based on calculations and patterns of tests.

Magic is a soft science. In fact, eventually, all that “magic” will fall into some sub-sub category of either a sense or quirk of one or two chromosomes in some errant mutative family line (or, you know, something a person develops through meditation and a proven set of practices). Since our realities are subjected to the extent of our senses, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–to say I can’t dream another person’s dreams, for example. Or travel a place constructed wholly of peoples’ thoughts, over time, like a great big living world placed overtop our own. Or fight constructs of modern religion with sheer self-certainty alone.

We all give off energy. That’s a fact. We exist because of it. Byproducts of processes going in in our bodies. We can’t see it. We assume the effect of said energy release is negligible to our surroundings simply because, since we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I find a new awakening going on, in this culture. In this society. A long, long time ago, during the time of the birthing religions (200 BC to, say, 1000 AD), the understanding exploded of a second, third, and perhaps even fourth sublayer above the Real. This is the stuff of the new old religions. It is the backbone. Now that religion is failing so many people of this time of “Scientific Certainty,” they’re turning to Science and Atheism. Which is cool. They do their thing. As long as they aren’t killing in the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s all gravy.

The New Reformation, I guess, comes. Or a Second Enlightenment. I’m only sorry I don’t get to know it fully.

So the magic I use in my writing comes from a deep place, a sub-tonal to the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Gitas, and the Books of the Dead, and whatever else. It comes from a constructed place–a governing place similar to those I listed–where the reality is multi-faceted, science is currently too short-sighted to involve itself, and energy talks with the voice of long-dead preachers. The magic I use is energy, plain and pure, built up on the shoulder-plates of imaginative thinkers and socio-pariahs like Einstein and Twain and Jung who, in another century (or life), would be heralded as prophets or even gods.

My brand of fantasy magic comes from the coupling of intelligent thought and passionate realization, of fever dreams and deep stillness. My brand of magic is the extent of the human condition, of spirituality that exists for itself, of ripe power sieved through governing filters. And that’s just in the reality.

In my writing, it collects the results of What Ifs and runs tests until the pattern is undeniable in its repetition.

Sorry. Magic is a lot of things. For me, it must stem from reality. It must stem from science and its branches are religion. Its fruits are you and I, the readers and writers, and it’s more than simply an axe-like tool. It’s a whole undiscovered place, like a continent with slightly different rules. It’s a way of breathing. It’s a way of bleeding. It’s a way of interaction.

It’s so. Fucking. Sexy.

The Faceless MC (Another Writing Story)

Back in college a professor told me to mimic my favorite authors’ styles. He said it would do me great justice and help me in the long run.

I didn’t. In fact, college ruined me for reading books, too. I studied the crap out of Dante and Poe and Faulkner. And Morrison, but I love her writing so much I could never stop reading.

Six years running, I read next to nothing. I had a thousand excuses: I disliked the plots, characters, settings. I couldn’t stand the flow, the asinine story, the shallow and poorly executed tropes. I hated dissertations on society.

Etc.

Then I got d’beetus. *Queue violin* Wah. Long story short, I started reading again. And as an exercise for proactive publication purposes, I decided to read debut authors’ stories to see how they do it. After reading, oh, twenty or so books, I’ve realized what a lot of them share: a faceless narrator. A vessel in which the reader can view the world.

I think it’s called the Everyman in academic circles. Not exactly Mary Sue, or John Smith, or whatever. The android that interacts with everything FOR the reader, if that makes sense. Like that Avatar movie, where the government constructed some blue guys so the cripple vet could run free again and forward conquest. They tried to obtain unobtainium, by the way. Worst. Plot Device. Ever.

Anyway, since NaNo I’ve struggled with an idea I had–which was nothing more than a made-up religion–and fought through five or so incarnations of a story before settling on one that’s flourishing. Why is it flourishing? It’s a story about a young girl with no preconceptions. She has training, wants, dreams, but no message. She has no vim. She’s terrified. People die. But I’m testing something I find fabulous: stuff goes on around her, and she DOESN’T comment on it. To the reader. To the other characters.

This idea came from a particularly striking critique of my most “accessible” story to date, from my brother, who said, among other things, that David, who is thirteen, feels obligated to comment on everything. Every breath of wind. Every wayward glance. Every misused drumstick. Why? I wanted to create a school of magic where the MC bended the rules. I should have re-read Ender’s Game, because Ender is an Everyman.

If you want to write a fiction that focuses on setting or larger belief systems, it might be in your best interest to write a Faceless MC, where the reader can simply slip into it, observe and learn, and all his/her past experiences before the book began are moot or peripheral. Not in the forefront. Not ultra-important.

Simply put, a person experiencing life as it happens instead of someone obsessing about the present. I’m not sure if I’m the only one struggling with this, but I know, from reading at CritiqueCircle.com, a lot of people like to focus on the everyday, unimportant aspects of a story. It bogs the story down, I think, and makes the reader disinterested.

~x

Dream-Writing

I had a powerful dream last night, where I hung by one hand off a bridge seven miles high. I spent the whole dream remembering my life–a life I never lived–and making my peace with all the wrongs I did. At the end, when I gave up holding on, I fell the opposite direction, into space.

That’s the short end of it. I woke vitalized, and much as my peaceful emotional state in my dream, I did not wake mourning, but meditative.

After waking from every in-depth dream, I am motivated to write. I study the world differently. I absorb again, much as I did when I was a child chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Everything shows me its potential. For the day, at least, I am a different person–the person from the dream given fresh life, a second chance, a new opportunity.

An imagined person being given life through my eyes is a complicated thought, and one that requires more than a little thought to understand. My dreams have always been the backbone of my writing because they’re so defined, and when I wake, I truly feel changed. Perhaps it’s my propensity for the chameleonic (No. Not a word), or perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much time putting myself in others’ shoes, but I find no better place, or time, to write than after one of those dreams.

I am not the norm. I don’t believe more than 10% of writers write the way I do. In fact, with historical exceptions here and there, I’ve found none (Bradbury was one. Lovecraft, of course. Poe, possibly. The makers of the game Myst and subsequent publications. Tad Williams. Possibly).

So I ruminate, percolate, delve and dream. I spend my day working, but working through his eyes. (Some days, it’s her eyes.) I freely admit it’s an off-putting thing to talk about, or even consider. I promise you if you met me in real life you wouldn’t think a thing. I believe we all do this, to some extent or another, giving voice to the quiet whispers, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, empathizing, and even projecting. I believe it takes a chameleon’s mind to study it on a fundamental level, to glean the personality from the thing.

If I were a salesman, or a businessman, I’d use this. If I were a police officer, or social worker, I’d use this. It’s not only a writing thing, yet I’ve found ways to use it as efficiently as a pencil, a scalpel, or a pair of shoes.

The dream also effectively answered a question I asked the night before: should I continue banging my head against It Gave Me a Name or should I change gears to Mr. Roadkill (currently titled Red Wing Black)? The answer was, unequivocally, for change.

This is when I make note my work on IGMAN is at a stopping point (because I say so, per the signs) and the Hanged Man (yes. Delicious symbolism) has put me in the shoes of my other MC, and yes, he will hang.

~x

Real Life, Spun Fantasy.

My fiancee is an incredible person. She’s dynamic, dangerous, badass. She’s powerful. Sometimes scary.

I’ve never traveled the world. Never saw the towers of London or Pisa or India. Never drank the natives’ water. She has. Seven years of it, and before, a life of complex not-quite-reality. Hers is a story that would put Peter Pan to shame, that would decimate any horror movie you’ve ever watched, and threaten to tear the very seams of your understanding of the world.

Out of respect for her, I won’t divulge details. Out of respect for her, I put my work under Fantasy, because otherwise people would heckle, hate, and disbelieve.

I write fantasy because it isn’t. Turn on the TV, watch the presidential race, and look me in the eye and tell me people don’t believe in magic. Follow the brilliance of a disassociative personality that has constructed worlds with autistic-like dedication to detail. Follow any scientific discourse to its roots–any single one–and you’ll find the breath of the unknown. Study psychology to any degree: everyone has elaborate, constructed realities that are wholly different from each other.

We traverse worlds entirely our own, in this bubble of the senses, sharing with others only in limited quantities: sights, smells, sounds, tastes. But the things that come from behind the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, inner ear are entirely our own.

From a psychological standpoint, her story is definable. Anyone dedicated to the debunk will find precedent elsewhere, play it up to her elaborate ability to follow non-verbal communication, spatially understand emotions in a way most haven’t honed, understand nuances in tone, pitch, word choice. From a psychological standpoint, my fiancee is a body-reader. From the standpoint of almost anyone meeting her, she’s a mind-reader.

She dreams of apartments before we visit them, drawing layouts and dimensions that match perfectly. She follows unseen things. She’s a walking Tarot deck. She’s the most spiritual person I’ve ever met. She is, sometimes, a conduit to God. Other cultures were absorbed by her: when she walked around in India, people would stop and thank her for helping them. She had followers without even speaking a word.

She puts fortune-tellers to shame. She sees ghosts but does not speak to them, becaues they aren’t welcome. She grounds and calms and heals from across thousands of miles. She knows when a friend is pregnant and waits for her call. She understands people on a subliminal level.

From a scientific standpoint, she’s just lucky. She feels storms as headaches, is incredibly sensitive to food, vibrations, electricity–she’s developed, created, endorsed, reinforced a complex, complicated reality through false positives that retroactively verify her notions.

She grew up in a family of salt-of-the-earth republicans: father middle management in UPS, mother a stay-at-home, both Catholic. She had two older brothers that saw the same things she did, but never spoke about it. She lived a story any person would label as urban fantasy. Anyone.

I’ve had experiences in my life. I know, without question, everyone has. Everyone. She is my inspiration. She is my verification.

She is a normal person, working a normal job, in the armpit of the United States. She does all the things other people do. She’s quiet about what she’s seen. Respectful, even, because nobody in this culture shares her religion, her spirituality.

If Jesus returned to this earth, walked into your hometown, would you celebrate him? Or would you do the same thing the Romans did two thousand years ago and martyr him a heretic, a blasphemer, a liar? The whole world knows this answer. We’d kill him, either the masses or the vigilante Christians. I’m not saying she’s Jesus, or even close. She’s prophetic, at times, and she spent a lot of time hating America–even though she’s born and bred–because of how they ostracized her. Why?

Fear, perhaps. Her life has been one long struggle; sometimes blissful, sometimes agonizing. She’s a violently passionate, incredible person. She’s met psychics and knows who truly understands and who’s playing. She touches a person, true to Stephen King’s Dead Zone, and sometimes sees their past, or their future.

She’s sometimes wrong. She’s human. She usually isn’t. I feel blessed to share her life. I feel blessed to have such a fountain of inspiration, of truth, and depth of character.

Forgive me if my books don’t fit, or if their themes are too controversial, for their cores don’t come out of another book. I’ll be returning to the unique reality, from time to time, my fiancee has. It’s too big, too fulfilling, too credible to ignore. I spent a lot of time considering whether I wanted to write this entry. I debated for a long time whether I should take ownership of the elements in my books, and I realized that if I am to respect myself, I must declare that, at least at the core, nothing I write is fantasy.

It is dreamed, it is lived, it is experienced; not in some belief system of a faraway God, but as a way of life, as a way of interacting, daily, with the world around her. In the world around me. In the world around you.

Hope I didn’t scare anyone off…

~x

 

Fiction Writing as an Invention of the Observer

My titles probably seem pretty vague: I’m not in a creativity phase. I’m in a no-caffiene (heh. somewhat), focused force-to-be-reckoned with. It means, basically, Some Of The Best Writers Aren’t Writers At All. They are observers. They are adventurers. They are experts in their field, and know so much about a thing, they can write flawlessly about it. As fiction.

This blog continues on an earlier post (probably the most recent) where I run down rabbit-holes looking for answers to something I can’t quite ratify.

1) Writing is more than writing. Or should be. Otherwise, it’s just a plot biting holes in the tail-end of ideas masquerading as characters-of-motion.

2) Some of the strongest writers aren’t. They’re sometimes emotional, sometimes violent, sometimes drug-addled, sometimes starving and living out of garbage cans. They fight daily through a mire of retail, or customer service, or assisting a dying parent (or two) while desperately looking for a personal life. Some writers have to chew and tear through every piece of fabric and wall to explode into an editor’s office. Some writers are simply surviving. Some of the strongest writers are, simply, the daydreamers that feel so explosively compelled to write that they sit down, scream to a keyboard, and walk away with bloodied fingers. I used to be this way. If I were single, I’d be a volatile, poetic, violent writer. I’m not. I’m content.

3) Some writers write to make money, or be noticed, or be applauded, or be back-patted; the mama’s-boys after soccer practice hoping to impress their friends. Others write to learn about themselves; crises survivors or manic dreamers stretching possibilties between characters to understand–or perhaps explain–themselves to others. Still others write to connect constellatory dots in their heads, pursuing an internal hypothesis that invariably ends with the culmination of the story, or shortly before; researchers, drug-users, all those people diving into the possible what if of fiction. All have their places. A good, critical eye can see the writing of each. Usually it comes from an underlying fear or focus, like knowing the difference between scifi and fantasy in Avatar. What does Avatar focus on? The magic? Or the socio-political?

A writer doesn’t have to be trained. In fact, most hugely successful writers ignore all those molds and write what they want. I’ve read so many “So Yuh Wanna Write uh Fantasy?” novels my head spins. My best novel, in terms of cohesiveness and connectivity, is still the first one I finished in the fledgling years of college. It’s fun, compelling, all the story parts work together, no fat to the plot, no regurgitation to the dialogue, and all the characters grow without infodumping. The content is pretty bitchin, too.

Training sometimes stunts the writer. Some of the greatest advice I got in college came from one of my professors: “You want to be a professional writer? Get a science degree, make money, and focus on writing after you get settled in. You’ll be a better person for it.”

I didn’t follow that advice, even though I was obsessively in love with science-related fields. He understood something I didn’t: world experience only strengthens the writing. And I agree. It does. It’s incredible how much experience I get in understanding group dynamics by working in an office.

I’m working on a friend’s MS: he wrote an autobiographical (perhaps memoir) account of his college days, and the damaging effects it had on him. The work is tense, powerfully so, with sarcastic quips to separate bouts of intense frustration. He’s never written, or pursued a career in writing. He loves to write, and he’s been writing for a bit, but he had all but given up on getting published before I asked to see it.

I’ve read hundreds of books, fiction and otherwise, and his is a work I’d actually want to read if I found it on the shelf. I’m a picky guy, too, when it comes to all types of media (see previous entry).

It all comes down to a simple bit of advice: don’t worry about knowing everything writing-related. In fact, don’t worry about it at all. Finish your book, send it to someone you trust to read it, and let it flow. If you’re thinking about writing, do it. I know so many incredible writers who decided not to put any effort into the book, and let it dissolve in the alka-seltzer. So many brilliant ideas wasted, or ignored, or forgotten.

Even if you have only One Good Idea, write it. It could be world-changing.