Passport Please

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.” ~Buddha

Ever have one of those days where you feel like any average exposition class, in any average college classroom in the world could take your novel and use it as an example of how NOT to write fiction?

Yeah … me too.

You read other people’s work and you marvel at their adept prose, their adroit pacing, and their irreproachable characterization. Their adjectives are just the right adjectives. The amount of description they’ve coupled with just the right bit of telling, has you salivating. It has you wondering how you could possibly have ever picked up a pencil (because surely that’s where this misguided calling to be an author started, right?). It has you doubting, with no wounded hands to pick at in your search for hope that what you suspect about yourself is wrong.

And all the blogs you read confirm it. Ten Ways to Plot A Bestselling Novel. You hadn’t thought of a single one of them. Why Your Scene isn’t Really a Scene. And your scene apparently isn’t a scene. Does Your Protagonist Suck … if so Here’s Why. He meets three out of five characteristics for a totally unlikable protagonist. Five Ways To Spice up Your Dreary Ending. Didn’t even know the ending was dreary till now, thank you. Nine Ways to Drop  Your Adverb Habit. Terribly true …

You read all those ubiquitous, helpful, posts … the ones that are followed by nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine comments (that have been featured as Fresh Pressed on WordPress AND by Nathan Bransford himself) … and you feel humbled. No, not humbled. Down-trodden. If you drank, you’d head for the whiskey. If you smoked, you’d have a head-start on half-a-pack for the day. If you gambled, you’d bet yourself right out of a career.

Here’s the thing … those posts, and those books on writing that read more like technical manuals, and all those guest speakers (the ones who tell you that without an agent you’re nothing), they can’t tell you what makes your fiction totally unique and therefore, worthwhile. Do you want to know why?

Because they don’t know.

That’s why I usually refrain from posting specific advice on writing. I could, I’ve got loads of it. But, I can’t account for the subtleties of your individual creativity and style. I can’t just tell you to add some tension to your last scene, without having read your last scene. I can’t tell you to just amp up your pacing, without knowing the rhythm of your novel. I can’t tell you any of these things with any sense of reliability because in some cases, I’d simply be wrong.

But, as writers … especially when we’re feeling that oh-so-familiar downtrodden pseudo-depression, we seek consolation in rules and tips. We want to know that we can get better if we just know where to put our right foot first. We want direction. We want guidelines. We want assurances.

In brave writing … there are no assurances.

Everyone in your critique group can whittle away at your manuscript till it’s a different novel altogether than the one that got rejected 34 times, and yet … when it’s sent out again it can still get rejected. Multiple times. And probably will be. But, we do these sorts of things because we want to share the burden. If you get rejected on your work alone, then you can think to yourself, “God, I must suck at this.” But, if you let a group (and this can be agents’ blogs too) tell you how and what to write, and that work gets rejected, then, “It’s OK because isn’t me or my writing. It’s the market.”

We do that, because our doubt is often stronger than anything else we’re feeling. This isn’t always the case, but when we feel it … we feel it.

In this world we live in as authors, we’ll have more than a handful of ‘guided tours’ available to us. But the fear doesn’t completely go away even when you sign up for one of them instead of the solo trek. All I can tell you with any measure of certainty is that the solo trek, while positively the scariest way to go, is the most  beautiful. It’s terrifying because at the threshold, you’re not just handing over your passport to be stamped, you’re trading it in for citizenship. You’re making a decision that will mean, there is no going back.

That’s not to say that you have to travel alone. I’m not guiding anyone anywhere. As a creativity coach, I’m damn good at motivating others to keep on, to keep exploring. But that’s not the same thing as a guide. And perhaps that’s the biggest difference: We’re all traveling together, my footsteps just as unsure as yours are. I find comfort in this. More so than having to stand behind a huge crowd and listen to some schmuck ramble on for hours about the local vegetation.

But, there are no assurances. I chose to take that chance and while it looks appealing from where I stand and eavesdrop (read those posts like gospel) … looking at that group of tourists all taking pictures of whatever the hell that spikey thing is … I wouldn’t be any more confident over there than I am here. And right now, for me, is one of those moments where I’m sliding on pebbles and having to stop every five minutes to empty shit out of my shoes. It’s OK though, because you’re with me.

And because I have no choice, but, for it to be OK. I’ve handed over my passport.

Advertisements

Writer’s Conferences, Ravens and Writing Desks

Our trip was restful and rejuvenating. I am sleeping well and while I am not fully where I’d like to be on my current projects, there is at least a little more hope on the horizon. I found myself looking up writer’s conferences today, along with low residency MFA’a in popular fiction…only to find myself at a loss as far as where I fit into all of this ‘professional’ writing business. See, I don’t write short stories and with great frustration I found that MOST endeavors require them to be in your portfolio–if you are to attain any level of serious respect, as an author, anyway. Hmmm. I simply don’t manage ‘brevity’ well. I write epic level, worlds at war, kind of stuff. It doesn’t occur to me to write in short order.

Oak Mountain 2009

Oak Mountain 2009

So, after flipping through one non-encouraging blog after another, reading all of the necessities to become a successful full time writer, I decided that I should do something wholly non-official and unproductive (professionally speaking, of course)…I signed up for NANOWRIMO (or National Novel Writing Month). Now, before you laugh or condemn me to hell, let me explain why I don’t give a damn about your opinion on this either. See, I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me. And I’m fairly prolific anyway, so 50,000 words in a month doesn’t sound like any big whoop–considering that I can easily crank out 30,000 in a week if I don’t have anything else (much) going on. Yes, dear, I realize that quality is more important than quantity…but talk to Asimov (actually, I think he’s deceased) and King (whose status among the living has been debated since the publication of ‘The Stand’) if you want reasons for why being prolific doesn’t mean you’re a naffin at your craft. But, there are MULTITUDES of bloggers, experienced writers and generally recognized nit-wits out there who loathe this whole idea and spend an absurd amount of time whining about its existence in the universe. That might also be the other reason I have decided to devote November to this endeavor. You say it is ridiculous and a waste of time and will likely produce nothing but drivel…well, ‘swell’ I say. I wasn’t producing much more than that these last few weeks anyway.

So, in November, I will ideally begin work on a novel loosely titled “Ravenwood” and leave all of my other projects on a shelf till I have at least 50,000 words down (which if success is to be mine, will be the end of said month). I’ve drafted the characters and have a general idea of where the novel will go–it deals with warlocks and whatnot, since I’m all vamped out for the time being (what with playing vampire wars on facebook and all…*sigh*). So, wish me luck–or laugh at me, whatever fits your fancy. Why did I title this blog this way? Well, just why is a raven like a writing desk?