After years of psyching myself up while at the same time learning to let go of doubt and fear and perfection, I fulfilled a promise made to myself from years ago. I finally finished something.
It’s taken me 5 months, and the length of it should reflect the time invested into it. But, no. Although, I’m not entirely sure that taking a long time on a project is a bad thing. Five months to write something should mean, according to most bloggers, that I have spawned a full length, 180,000 word, child booster seat usable, make War & Peace look like a diner menu type novel. Instead, it’s pocket-sized, and I’m okay with that.
“So, whatchoo been doin’, brah?”
Oh, I just completed a draft for a short story.
“Ah, that’s pretty righteous, Mr. Edgar Allen Bro. How long it take? A week or two?”
It took me five months.
“Oh…okay. Well, hey gotta go do my pecs. Catch ya later, Brotato Chip.”
For those of you who were wondering, yes. I did just equate people who win at NaNoWriMo every year to gym bros. And before you start crying foul about it, it’s a totally fair analogy, because in both scenarios, I think I’m making great progress at what I’m doing, until I see how far along other people are, then I just want to go home and bury myself in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
I’ve finished. And yes it has taken me an especially long time to do so, but I don’t care. One of these days, I’ll learn to set personal benchmarks and deadlines, but for now, I’m enjoying this achievement. This is big for me, realistically and spiritually. The race ended a long time ago, and everyone went home, but I’m crossing that finish line covered in sweat and puke stains come hell or high water.
The magic number was 10,000 words. That’s all. Just get to that level.
Hit 10,000 words so it could be trimmed back to 7,000 so it could be easily be digested in one sitting, and if I’m lucky, sold into anthologies and stuff. That was the intent.
September 2017. The Beginning.
I have this terrible habit of not finishing things. Call it Fear of Failure. Call it the pitfalls of being a Perfectionist. Say that I’m a chronic procrastinator. Throw all those things into a word salad, serve it with a steak, and I’d give my compliments to the chef. There is always that other thing. That story I need to at least get an opening scene happening for so I don’t forget why I wanted to pursue it to begin with. For me, this has meant a folder full of barely started manuscripts that are still miles away from their resolution.
This has been my go-to destructive habit for a bit too long, and so in September of last year, I decided to put my foot down, draw a line in the sand, find a hill to die on and… um… I dunno… choke a…yak with a… uh… banana-nut muffin? Anyway, I decided to make it a priority to find one last project and stick with it until completion.
Okay, yeah. Sure. I slipped a little Flash Fiction somewhere in there, so what? It wasn’t a complete distraction. If anything, it helped.
So, five months later, I have finished my short story. Well, technically my first draft, but I still finished it. My goal was for 10,000 words. It ended up being just south of 12,000. I added a little wiggle room on purpose to see what could be saved and what couldn’t.
What I have just completed is the first step into uncharted territory. I have read several blogs on what I should be doing as far as prepping for publication, and I will be taking them all into consideration. But, as with most advice I seek out, I’ll have to keep in mind that it’s all subjective and what works for one person may not work for me. My experience won’t exactly reflect their experience because YMMV.
My original intent for this post was to make a Top 5 list for Things You Need to do After Completing Your First Draft…ugh… Seriously, would you follow the advice of some unpublished noob? Of course not. I wouldn’t.
I’m just feeling my way around at the moment. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll admit it. I am going to make mistakes, and more importantly, I am going to own my mistakes. I’m not at that point where I can properly dispense wisdom, and something tells me that when I do, I probably won’t be as forthcoming then either. So, no advice from me. I promise. However, the SEO gods have to be appeased, and so I must document something on this here bloggeroonski in regards to my current endeavor.
I could do research on what would be the next steps to publish and give you some worn out list that has been offered over and over again by a dozen different authors. But from me, it would just sound ridiculous. I mean, more than it does now. It wouldn’t make much sense. What would make sense, I think, would be to blog about the current state of the project as I’m going through it. That way, it will keep me honest and motivated into seeing this through. Plus, it’s always satisfying to read an origin story. Maybe I’ll offer sneak previews and such here and there. You know, like what a real blogger does.
Consider this an introduction. The next few steps should be coming relatively quickly because I’m practically there.
I am going to publish my first work. This is new to me, and it’s very exciting. I could fall flat on my face, I could turn out okay. Who knows?
At the beginning of the year, I think I may have caught the Hipster Flu. You know that type? The kind that enables the almost unreasonable want for skinny jeans, locally sourced floppy hats, ironic tattoos and analog technology. Case in point, I got it in my head that I needed to get a camera. Not wanted, needed. Not a digital, film. It had to be a discontinued film camera from the 80s or earlier, because the high definition digital camera on my Android phone wasn’t cutting it anymore (he says in a tone more closely resembling a question than a statement).
For about a week straight, I gave myself a crash course on exposure, aperture settings, lighting, film speed. I basically crammed a semester’s worth of Art School into a few days because it wasn’t the camera that I really needed. Oh nonono, see the camera wasn’t the end result. It was a means to which I will get to an end result.
This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing either. This wasn’t some random impulse buy. This wasn’t an urge to satisfy some irrational yearning for some random material object that I will most assuredly purchase but never use because reasons. I attribute this particular need to discovering Lomography back in 1999. Since then, I have desired to someday purchase a Holga or a Diana of my very own for the soul purpose of capturing a moment from the hip, and framing it.
But why stop there? Why just decorate my own walls? Makes no sense to be completely selfish. Why not sell my photos? I could start a little cottage industry on Etsy. I could build a website. I could I could I could…
Last week, it was something new that caught my attention. A video appeared on my YouTube channel’s “Recommended” list which featured how to carve an intricate design into a garden stone using a grinding tool.
Immediately, my mind jumped to Volusia County Rocks. It’s like a community Easter Egg hunt that lasts all year long, but instead of eggs, you’re hiding and looking for…well…you know. The family is quite into this activity, and so we have a bunch of rocks laying around the house just waiting to be prettied up. I thought I could offer a little something unique into the mix, and maybe get a following happening in the process. And then, I could probably extend that craft into opening an Etsy shop. I could build a website. I could I could I could…
A few days ago, I started getting into woodworking videos…
…I could I could I could…
It’s not compulsion. It’s not ADD. It’s something that looks an awful lot like it, but isn’t as clinical or severe. As far as I can see, there is nothing that can come close to what I have. Every attention deficit test I take marks me up as below average. If I had to be quantified into a category, I guess I might be considered a textbook Compulsive. But, I have lived long enough to know when to say when. I was close to a thirty year, pack-a-day smoker who quit cold turkey, I think I can keep myself in check.
I guess what I have is desire in a vacuum. And I know that sounds like I might be a latent appliance fetishist or something, but it’s not, and shame on you for going there, ya perv. You could call it Compulsion with Intent; I don’t desire to acquire whatever I’m fixated on at that moment just to have it, I intend to invest in whatever that thing is now so that it may become useful later. The intent is harmless, but it’s deeply flawed. It doesn’t get me into trouble as it would want to do if left unchecked, but it does occupy my time when I should be concentrating on other things.
This is what happens when it’s January, I’m still unemployed, and I have copious amounts of time to devise a plan like Wile E. Coyote stocking up from the Acme catalog. Tragically hopeful that this will be the year that I’ll finally get that scrawny-ass Roadrunner. Completely oblivious that these new plans that I come up with have nothing to do with writing books. At least, not on the surface.
Compulsion with Intent. “Why yes,” I would say to myself. “I do need to nurture a very expensive hobby that I have no experience with because this is how I will bring in an income, and this is how I will fund my future writing projects.”
Need. Not want. And I know what you’re thinking, but honestly it wouldn’t be the first time I walked into a job not knowing what I’m doing.
Forget that I’m kind of late in the game for pretty much everything. If I were to do something like this, I should have started about twenty years ago.
Forget that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m learning as I go. The first few months spent on a new project will mostly be taken up with nothing but filling the Giant Failure Bowl of Shame daily. This is time that could be better spent on something that I’ve already started.
Forget the up-front investment needed in order to start generating said income.
Forget that there is no guarantee that I will achieve immediate ROI.
Forget all of it, because I’m on that path already. Throwing words into the void is really no different than snapping ironically out-of-focus pictures or grinding stones for children to find. Switching paths is equal to starting over, and I don’t have time for that now. I have a singular goal to get to first. My goal is to not be a useless lump writing occasionally. My goal is to become a financially well off lump who contributes to society and tries to make the world a better place… who also writes occasionally.
This always happens in the month of January. I’m energized at the possibility of achieving something more, something better. Do something. Make something. Sell something. Work at what you love and the money will follow is the credo I will follow, but the work that I would love doing seems to involve crafting something … anything, other than stories.
So, why not make storycrafting the thing?
The first thing you do when attempting to keep your head above water is flail because your arms are instinctively trying to grab a hold of something to float. It’s survival.
Photography, t-shirt design, woodworking, random eclectic art are all examples of me flailing. Writing is the thing I’m drowning in.
Up until recently, I haven’t yet mastered being in control of my own time so that I can devote at least a few hours to a manuscript. Distractions have placed me in front of the computer screen late at night when the rest of the house is asleep. Up until recently, I was okay with thinking that the best way to deal with crippling doubt, Imposter Syndrome, and writer’s block is to jump into a new task altogether. Projects, particularly first drafts, especially when I’m not established, feel like they take an unnecessarily long time to refine and publish. A long time, with no income. Things have got to happen much quicker at this point, and if writing’s not done, then it’s time for a plan B.
Just like it was last year.
And the year before that…
…and the year before that…
Always forgetting that this brand new shiny red ball of opportunity that I found has nothing to do with writing.
This is what drowning feels like.
“So, you seem to want to flee when things aren’t happening fast enough, is that what you’re saying?”
Yes, Voice In My Head. You would be correct in saying that.
“You also seem to gravitate towards making things with your hands or utilizing tools.”
Yeah, I suppose that’s true too.
Well, because I see people more at peace when they make things with their hands. They seem genuine and whole when they do something they love, and I so desperately want that. Because the end product they produce is more immediate than sitting around waiting for your characters to talk to you so you can finish a chapter, let alone the story. Because people make it look so easy. Because they are practicing in a more sought after skill. Because I’m a guy and guys like power tools, dammit!
“Well, if that’s the case, you have tools available to you too, ya know?”
“Of course. Listen, if you believe that tools are your key to your salvation, then you’re in luck. You don’t have to seek out a new skill, you don’t have to go into debt purchasing tools you can’t afford for projects you’ll never finish, you don’t have to go chasing that shiny red ball. You can help yourself move forward by doing what you’re doing right now. It’s normal to want to try something else, and that you want to turn it into a marketable skill is admirable. But there is a way to improve and keep you focused without busting your bank or your knuckles. Turning away from something you started just because it’s taking a long time to finish isn’t how the song is supposed to go. You need to see it through. If it’s a tool you desire, then I know of a perfect one for you.”
Ooh! Is it the laptop that I’ve had my eye on for a while?
“Nope. Something much, much cooler.”
…cooler than a laptop? What is it?
“Have you ever written with a fountain pen?”
…I hate you sometimes, Voice In My Head.
It has been noted, and by more than a few people in this World Of Wordcraft, that a journal, an actual bound journal with paper and covers and stuff, an ancient arena where you are forced to slay the dreaded Demon Blankpage with the stroke of a pen, is kinda necessary to improve your craft. Writing something down in a journal, so I’m told, is good exercise. While not necessarily a cure for writer’s block, it could make those inevitable bouts seem less troublesome. Somewhere in the research process, it was suggested that if one were able, writing in a journal with a fountain pen would heighten the experience.
This was information I gathered during gift giving season. I hate gift giving season. It’s not that I don’t like getting things, I do. I really, really do. I find that these occasions where you’re expected to give and receive a little annoying. Because I have to guess what some people want and people have to guess what I want, and in the end, it’s… how should I put this?… It’s the thought that counts. Let’s put it that way.
In any case, I forged ahead in my research of writerly gifts on Amazon and found a moleskine, a fountain pen, and a jar of ink. Humble, inexpensive, and unexciting. In the end, I still wanted the power tools and the vintage camera. But, necessity won out. A Dremel tool isn’t going to help me finish my book. Bottom line.
Happy birthday to me, my package arrived a few days later. The Pilot Metropolitan pen felt heavy in my hand as I removed it from the case. The replacement ink cartridge that came with it, I quickly found out, wasn’t that necessary (which is to say that the directions were a little unspecific on how to install it… which is to say, I had no idea what I was doing… I’m seeing a pattern here, how about you?), and so the obligatory splattering of ink got out of the way right off the bat. Noob status achieved, I filled the pen’s bladder by dipping the nib into the well, squeezing the bladder until filled, and reconstructed the pen.
I had no idea what to expect.
After filling a page in the barely cracked moleskin with fresh ink chicken scratch, words are lacking on how to describe the experience.
It was like sipping fine whiskey.
It flowed. So easily. So deftly. The nib was gentle and the inkflow graceful. It was as if the poetry wasn’t in the words, but in the wrist.
The world slowed down. That was the most important part. The world. Slowed. Down.
The last time I wrote anything in cursive was my senior year of high school. I was trained to write like this, as with the rest of my classmates, because good penmanship was the key to adulthood or something. I resorted to writing out everything in Roman letters by my Senior year because it was easier to read, and I found it better suited to writing notes faster. The ability to write elegantly was almost completely lost.
Even though I wasn’t looking for it, I found the ability again at the bottom of an inkwell. The way the pen moved over the page forced me to remember how to write a certain way, which I did. I was compelled to do so, or else I wasn’t pleasing the Cursive Gods, and so they would demand a sacrifice. Slowly, the lessons came back. The words were barely legible and adorably sloppy…
…but it felt good.
The world slowed down. And for someone who insists they might have some sort of Asperger’s, this is a really big deal. If the world spins really fast, then I must as well. Anything that roots me to the soil and draws my attention away from bright and shiny objects is to be respected. You can’t feel the spinning when your feet are on the ground.
Things came into focus. I was able to actually focus. Nothing else mattered. Not desires, not needs, not fear, nothing. I was in “The Zone”, but instead of intense music and explosions, it was that quiet room in a cabin in the middle of the woods I secretly desire. I was looking for catharsis in all the wrong places, and now, with a few strokes of a pen, everything is how it should be.
I have finally found the tool that I needed. This is the year that I’ll finally catch that Roadrunner. This ritual might not be for everyone. Some people might find it a bit boring. But if you had an opportunity, I would highly recommend giving it a try. Who knows? Maybe the world might slow down for you too.
Will this make me a better writer? Probably not, but hey, it doesn’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. To be sure, I have plenty of notebooks, and most of them are filled with notes related to other things. But none of them are a place where I can just talk to myself, and therein, I think, is the base of most of my problems.
The simple act of slowing down, taking the time to form the word, concentrating on making it legible, then making it beautiful, it is there where secrets are revealed. We live in a world that has become too convenient and quantified. Film photography, crafting your own items, these are all not just trends. There is a greater purpose. There is a greater need to create than there is to purchase. I recognize the craft, and by extension, I have allowed myself to be open. To listen. To feel. I am perfectly satisfied, and somewhat healed. I have found my own craft.
Also, this could lead to exploring different pens… or even building my own! Can you imagine?! I could learn calligraphy so I could make and sell my own typeset, you know the ones that are all swirly and hand drawn that seems to be everywhere you look these days. I could build a cottage industry on Creative Market. I could build a website…
More to come.
Thanks for reading.
Helllllllo everyone. Thanks again for reading, it’s much appreciated. As you can tell from a couple of the links posted above, I am an Amazon Affiliate (aka Associate). I’m not really in the habit of folding products into blog posts, but if you click on the links it would help me out a little bit. You don’t have to purchase a fountain pen. Although if you did, you’d be pretty swanky and so much cooler than all of your friends. You could get laundry detergent, a new pair of shoes, the Exploding Kittens game. Everything that you get by shopping through these posted links helps me, helps this site, helps all future projects. This will probably change once I have my own items to sell, but until that time, every little bit helps. Thank you so much. Hugs and kisses.
Fame? Money? Noise? Pissing off your parents? A violent soundtrack to subvert and bring down the current establishment?
To a geezer like me who’s old enough to remember when MTV actually had music on their… ya know… music channel, it could be any number of those things. I say this as someone who spent his early teens consuming mass quantities of Hair Metal, whose main messages are all about fame, money and the rest.
And, I suppose it is what it is. Those embarrassing years from when KISS went disco, to the moment Axl Rose threw a temper tantrum at the beginning of a concert breaking up the band in the process, it was the next, inevitable, logical step that Rock music had to get to in order to survive. Yes, it was abrasive and deafening, and some of it sounded like it was written by a fifteen year old who found the liquor cabinet. Yes, more emphasis was placed on theatricality rather than musicianship. At that particular point in time, in the dark days before Nirvana, that’s what Rock was; obnoxious, easily consumable, and increasingly ridiculous¹.
Sure, it was pretty to look at like a Michael Bay explosion, and loud as fuck, and oh boy, is his guitar AWESOME, and wow Tommy Lee is a full blown maniac. But aside from that, could we draw a direct line from Little Richard to Kurt Cobain? Are we doing a service to the trail blazers by acknowledging their contemporaries?
The answer is no. Of course not, dummy. More Neil Young, less Cinderella if you want to pay respect. Rock music is never about straight lines or following rules, or repeating what came before. The essence of Rock & Roll is finding that one thing that inspires you, picking it up, making it your own, and leaving it in a different state than when you found it. The origin of the term can be bandied about ad nauseam, but this is the essence of what Rock & Roll means. It means putting your stamp on something, and in doing so, altering the shape and sound of it to inspire others. Like a large object rolling down a hill and causing other things to roll along with it.
Something… like …a rolling stone, perhaps?
Robert Zimmerman knew this more than most. He was influenced by Little Richard when he was younger, but somewhere along the way, he knew that there was something else to it He knew rock music wasn’t just three chords and a couple of dance steps. It wasn’t too long before he discovered the works of Dylan Thomas, and found a new music hero in Woody Guthrie, whom he would adopt as his mentor. Leaving his middle class life behind in Duluth, Minnesota, he dropped out of college after one year, hitchhiked to New York City to meet his hero, who by this time was gravely ill. He settled into the Folk Scene in Greenwich Village that was beginning to blossom. He would have plenty of gigs. He started making a name for himself until he was discovered by John Hammond who would sign him with Columbia Records in 1962. At this point, he could have started his career under his own name, but instead he chose to pay homage to the person who influenced him to go on this journey to begin with, and changed his name to Bob Dylan.
You find that one thing that inspires you. You pick it up, make it your own, and leave it different than you found it. For his first three albums, Dylan was the torchbearer for Mr. Guthrie and used his words and passion to fight against war and corruption. He became quite adept at phrasing, at lyrics and poetic imagery. It wasn’t too long that the myth that was created would slowly take over the man. He was no longer this middle class kid from Minnesota, he was instead created from the pages of a Steinbeck novel. He came from the dust of a sharecropper’s field; a downtrodden troubadour who was born on the open road. The very definition of American Romanticism. Success caught up to him quickly.
By 1965, Bob Dylan had become restless with who he was. He was never one to stay in one place, or be satisfied with with where he is. He released ‘Bringing It All Back Home.’ This was significant in that he was starting to step away from the protest material and dip into the personal and abstract, and in doing so, finding his own authentic voice.
…Oh, it also marked the beginning of him ‘going electric’.
‘Highway 61 Revisited’ came soon after. It was considered a critical darling. A rare specimen that stands the test of time with songs like ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. His knack for wordplay and imagery, now instantly recognizable, were miles, years ahead of its time. A pop star was supposed to sing about love and relationships in ways that would be easily digestible for mass consumption, and here comes this guy, seemingly out of nowhere, writing lyrics about the human condition and loss and yearning. He heralded the beginning of the Singer/Songwriter movement. There were a few people who dismissed this album as a complete head-scratcher, because no one had heard anything like this before. But those same voices in the same breath lauded it for elevating the artform from its current state.
Whether it was on purpose or not, the awesome trilogy of groundbreaking albums came to its brilliant conclusion the following year with ‘Blonde on Blonde’. Considered an instant masterpiece and one of the most important albums of all time, it had completely changed the landscape of what songwriting was, into what it could be. It was also the first double album released ever… not much to say about that, just wanted to point that out.
In the months that followed, there was nothing. He had all but vanished from the public eye. Some say it had to do with a motorcycle accident he was involved in near his home in Woodstock, New York. Some say it may have had something to do with the press, and how they kept diving deeper into the myth and poking their nose into things he’d rather not let them see (related: ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’). An increasing drug dependency, marital issues. Perhaps a salad bar sampling of all of the above. He would still release albums, but he would tour less, and give fewer interviews. In any case, it felt like we were losing his voice.
On October 13th of this year, The Nobel Academy had given their prize in literature to Bob Dylan. The reason given was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. I suppose it was gracious of them to give him this award while he was still alive. But my biggest question is, why now? The source that they were sighting was ‘Blonde on Blonde’, something that was released over 50 years ago?
Why did they wait so long to award this particular poet? There were strong enough contenders who have released works this year? Why not them?
His name had been tossed around for years, but never put into serious contention. He had already won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize committee in 2008 for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In 2012, it was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Maybe the time was right for another literary award? Maybe the time was right to pay proper homage to a man who has influenced generations of poets and songwriters?
The short of it was that Alfred Nobel was a little vague when it came to exact criteria to award writers for literature in his will. Double irony points because the committee notes that it was a poorly written will, and so the requirements are left open to interpretation. Maybe now was a good time to recognize the juggernaut that is the Bob Dylan library.
Not so you’d notice from those critical of the Nobel committee. Citing Karl Ritter from the Associated Press:
Others lamented a lost moment for books.
“An ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” wrote “Trainspotting” novelist Irvine Welsh. “I totally get the Nobel committee,” tweeted author Gary Shteyngart. “Reading books is hard.” The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said it was too bad that a “real” writer didn’t get the award.
The sting and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from purists and critics the moment Bob Dylan had the gall of picking up an electric guitar are still present today. It’s less the notion of ‘You can’t please everyone all the time’, and more like they awarded a fraud.
Personally, I’m happy that he won. Upon hearing the news, the first words out of my mouth were, “It’s about damn time”.
Who gives a rat’s ass if he ‘went electric’? Who cares if he isn’t the character you thought he was? A “real” writer? Apparently he’s never heard ‘Hurricane’ and not have his blood truly boil. Apparently he’s never dared to unpack the cryptic bombast of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Apparently, he’s never found solace in the cold comfort of ‘Shelter From the Storm.’
A “real” writer? Does a “real” writer to you have to be dead in order to be real in your opinion? A chi ha scritto questo articolo, credo che non si sa quello che uno scrittore “vero” è stato, se lui si avvicinò e si schiaffeggiato in faccia unta. So, go take your hipster ass somewhere else, because nobody gives a shit what you think a “real” writer is.
Yes, Rock is usually not known for its poet laureates. But then again, there aren’t many Rock musicians who knew there was more to this music than verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus. There aren’t that many Rock musicians (left) who knew that there’s more to this than how many albums you sold or how many appearances you made on television. There aren’t that many Rock musicians that know what the essence of Rock is.
Congratulations, Bob Dylan. It’s about damn time that they recognized your contributions to the world. Thank you for your words and your passion.
I love the stories of the hard-nosed, double-chinned gumshoes who have a proclivity for cheap booze, snub nosed .38s, and sweet, whiskey-throated dames with access to lots of
cash obtained through questionable means. The women are all viewed through a glistening, Vaseline coated lens, and the men all have their trousers belted just south of their armpits. Everyone speaks like they have a need to project to the back row after mainlining a couple of Red Bulls. There’s always a Mcguffin involved, and someone is going to get shot. I love this stuff.
The thing is, what I think is Noir is actually regarded as Film Noir, which is almost completely disassociated from Noir fiction. In Film Noir, it’s all about the stark lighting, the fisticuffs, the Private Detective set forth to save the day, but he almost dies at the end. In Film Noir, justice is always served, though most of the time it isn’t wrapped up in a neat little package with a bow. That means that even though the case is solved, but the hero could be dying in a ditch somewhere outside of town. Technically, since the good guys still won in the end, that counts as a happy ending.
In Noir Fiction, there are no happy endings. Hell, there doesn’t have to be a detective character at all.
These are the facts I learned while researching this next Flash Fiction piece. This was my submission for a short story contest that I alluded to earlier this year. I think a sufficient amount of time has passed where I can feel free to post my stuff… on my site.
What I learned is that Noir Fiction, in its truest sense is the antithesis of what would be considered drama, because it is what it says it is; Noir. Black. Hopeless. Dark. Abandon all hope and break out the blended whiskey because you’re in the middle of nowhere with a bullet in the gut. Someone is going to die, and it’s probably not going to be the bad guy. Someone is going to come out on top, and it’s probably not going to be the good guy.
Noir is hard stuff, which is probably why you don’t see too much of it these days. In print, you’ll see it pop up here and there, mostly in anthologies. In movies, great examples would be Chinatown or more recently, Brick. Noir is also hard to sell to a mass audience as in television viewers. The closest I’ve seen recently to a decent Noir, as in Film Noir, is Jessica Jones on Netflix. All the tropes are there, all the characters are there, that they’ve flipped the gender roles that were traditionally set in stone (in this case, the detective is a young woman. The love interest and the crux of the story is a guy) is a welcome and refreshing change.
As with the First Lines Challenge, I had to create a 1500 word story based on a picture. Everything about it said Noir to me. I’m not that experienced in writing in this genre, so I wanted to get it right. It didn’t win, place or show, but I’m still happy with it.
Thank you for reading.
With All My Heart, Loretta-June
As the smoke spun in lazy circles from the end of a lit Winston which dangled from her heavily painted lips, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t how far she could hold the ash before it falls to the floor like the Hindenberg. Nor was it the gaping wound in her side, or how quickly she was bleeding out as she reclined nude and resplendent in an empty claw-footed tub. No, the first thing that came to mind as she snapped back into consciousness was her pearl-handled Derringer, and that it had one bullet left in the chamber. Soon, he’ll come home to a bloody mess. Soon, the bathroom door will be ripped from its hinges and shredded to matchsticks by thick, meat hook fingers. Soon, there will be more blood. She pulled on her cigarette, let the smoke fill her lungs, and as the nicotine gently swaddled her pain in a gentle narcotic haze, she dipped her index finger into the pool of blood, she scrawled a messageinto the bleached white marble wall and sighed…
“Well, Geraldine, you really fucked up this time, haven’t you?”
When she came to again, she heard a car door shut, then another. It was his car. Edgar was home. She memorized every sound of that damned thing every day for five years while she was kept like a pet. It was a Cadillac V12. Out of his entire stable of Detroit’s finest, he took a shine to this one. She was his favorite. It was his faithful steed that he would show off down on 12th St. every Tuesday night.
Edgar’s primary occupation was separating hard earned pensions from little old ladies, shaking down local business owners for protection money, paying off cops, and greasing the palms of elected officials. He owned the cops, the mayor, the press. Edgar owned this town, it was no secret. What was secret, was his penchant for certain indulgences.
There were rumors of three day orgies at his mansion involving members of government, Hollywood Fat Cats and young boys flown in from Southeast Asia. Depending on his mood, there were times when he asked for the company of a young, Midwestern girl to engage in a menage a troi with a six foot tall Haitian. Sometimes, all three would tangle. Other times, he’d let her watch. His palate for the carnal was legendary. Being born of privilege has its perks. He took what he desired. He always did. And since tonight was a Tuesday, he wanted Geraldine. Out of the entire stable of 12th St. ladies, he took a shine to Geraldine. She was his favorite.
Geraldine was not born of privilege. She was a mistake. By the time she reached eighteen, her chances at a better life shrank like the burning end of a cigarette hanging from the lips of a dying woman. It was no surprise that she would end up on the street. It was also no surprise that she would live a life of ill repute, given the lack of options. And it was no secret that she was his Tuesday Night Fling.
Edgar, as twisted as he is, has always been a respected member of the community. Geraldine knew that to speak of his double life would be the end of her life as well as his. His secrets were his under penalty of death. Although he paid well, and was great in the sack, he will never have her heart. All her secrets were hers to keep.
Again, she snaps back into consciousness. She has no idea how much blood she’s lost, but she’s fairly certain that she is not long for this wretched world. She can barely keep her eyes open, let alone be bothered to flick the cigarette sized ash from her lips that has since burned down to the filter. She must save her strength, just enough to stand up to her captor, point the gun, and pull the trigger.
Any minute now, Edgar and his meat-headed right hand man, Francis, will discover the failed hitman bleeding and broken at the base of his elegant marble staircase. Any second now, chaos will ensue when they have to use Plan B.
As the footsteps get closer, Geraldine stiffens herself, and spits the filter of her spent Winston into the nearby toilet. Whatever happens, she’s ready.
First comes the courtesy knock, as if there were proper etiquette to murder. Then comes the jiggling knob. Before they came busting in, guns blazing, Geraldine found the strength to fill her lungs. “Occupied,” was her battle cry, followed by a one finger salute.
“The boss wants to have a word with you, street rat,” growled Francis from behind the door.
“Francis?” Geraldine asked propping herself up. “Is that you? I almost didn’t recognize you. When did you start speaking in complete sentences?” It was her half-mocking tone that would always send him into a rage. He was never the brightest, and Geraldine often took great delight in exploiting that fact. She knows she should mind her tongue, but she was so tired of this life. The sooner it ended, the better.
“There you go again,” Francis said. “Runnin’ off at that pretty little mouth again when it could be used for somethin’ better.”
“Like I said before, you walking hamhock,” Geraldine said, adrenaline pumping. “When you find that little thing between your legs, let your mama know so she can wash it for you.”
The bathroom door buckled from the force of a giant’s shoulder being driven into it. “That does it, you little slag! When I get a hold of you, I’m gonna rip your tits off and shove ‘em…”
“That’s enough, Francis,” Edgar said over his shoulder, his voice was calm and soothing. “Thank you for finding her, now be a good boy, and get Dr. Werner here on the double please. I’m sure she’s been through enough today.” It wasn’t unusual for Edgar to be the steadiest one in the room in stressful situations. Geraldine knew better. It was the calm before the storm. “Geraldine, my love,” Edgar said. “Why don’t you come out of there so we can talk.”
“That’s cheap even from you, Eddie,” Geraldine’s said. “Did your goon that shot me wanna talk too?”
“I see you used the Derringer I gave you for Christmas. Didn’t I tell you that it would come in handy, my dear?” Edgar’s voice was a slick, greasy grin. His fingers busy themselves with the lock.
“You’re always so thoughtful, Eddy.” Geraldine found her feet, and stood tall in the tub. “I take it you heard from my lawyer?”
“Indeed I did, my dear. I know the man, and I’m surprised that you could afford his services, but then again, I should have given you a smaller allowance years ago. Live and learn, as my mother used to say.” Edgar’s voice was steady as the lock yielded to his advances.
“Oh, I couldn’t afford him. You’re right about that, you’re right about a lot of things. But you’re an idiot to think that I didn’t have a life before you walked into it, Edgar. He was a good customer of mine. He owed me a favor, and he’s not the only one.”
“That’s right. The agreement.”
“It’s what we agreed, Edgar.”
“Yes, yes. Not to ask about passed lives, live in the present, it’s all so neatly packaged. And while it could be argued that you stuck to your end of the deal,” the door slowly creaked open. “your definition of present time is slightly different than mine at the moment.”
“Come on. Get it over with, you pompous ass,” Geraldine thought. “Enough of the bullshit, Eddy. Just let it out.” Behind her back, the Christmas Derringer is gripped a little tighter.
“When were you going to tell me, Geraldine?”
“About what? That I had enough of being your plaything?”
“You stole from me, Geraldine.”
“I’m not a bank, Eddy. You gave me that money, did you honestly think I’d give it back to you.”
“I didn’t think you’d funnel it to somewhere else. Where is she, Geraldine?”
Terror and resolve changed her expression,“Go to hell, Edgar.”
“Where is the child that is taking half my empire?”
Geraldine leveled the barrel her Derringer, right between his eyes, stopping his approach. “She is safe,” she said. ” Just out of your reach, where she should be.” And with that, she raised the pistol, stuck the barrel in her mouth, and pulled the trigger.
Dr. Werner declared her death a suicide. The cops started their process of getting their stories straight and clearing him of any wrong-doing. The press did their Dog and Pony show for legitimacy sake. Edgar was secure in the knowledge that this will all become a memory in a couple of days. No one is going to miss a dead hooker.
What he never saw coming was another one of her favors being cashed in. Perhaps it was an oversight, perhaps he wasn’t vetted properly, but the crime photographer on the scene, was her Wednesday night.
The following morning, when he received the paper with his breakfast, he nearly choked on his coffee when the front page of his own paper had the crime scene splattered all over it. The message that she scrawled out in blood, was barely legible and made worse by flash photography. That was hardly an issue, as the photographer took notes. He knew her handwriting, and in turn deciphered her epitaph for the entire world to see…
I bought Scrivener as a birthday present for myself earlier this year. The reviews I read before clicking the “Purchase” button were filled with cautionary wailings of, “Ooohhh…it’s overwhelming…Ooohh… steep learning curve. So complicate. Much computer.”
I figured, “How bad could it be? If I can find my way around Photoshop and Blender, this was going to be a cakewalk.”
Turns out, it was. Sorta.
Here’s the thing, and this is a personal observation of course, whenever I get a bloody nose from smashing my face against the writer’s block, I point my frazzled creativity need-thingy toward something else. Don’t feel like writing? Make a t-shirt. Don’t want to deal with Photoshop? Write a blog post. Keeping all creative outlets open and related in some way to each other, I find that it keeps the juices flowing, my ADD from jumping the pasture fence, it dulls the pain of unemployment, and keeps me busy in those moments when the kids are napping. I realize everyone is different, and some people are used to doing their own thing.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that this post is a reaction to a blog I read a few days ago. It was written by someone who tried Scrivener themselves and was almost on board with it but found herself very much attached to the Old School ways of mountains of paper on a desk, journals bursting with character sketches, and walls papered sticky notes.
It sort of reminds me of every school year from 9th Grade, all the way to Senior Year of college. I would start out every year with a fresh batch of back-to-school gear, saying to myself, “This is the year I am going to get and stay organized.” Flash forward to about Mid-March, and you’d find me passed out amidst various puddles of class notes, crumpled in various stages of frustration, gripping a tankard of coffee that has gone cold hours ago, whispering something to the effect of, “Well, maybe next year.” My version of being organized appeared on the surface as anything but. It was frantic, messy and chaotic, but it worked for me. As someone who is infinitely wiser than I will ever be once said, “Hey, you do you.”
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m completely down on this way of doing things. In all honesty, I was a part of the Old School way (back before the days of the internet). Speaking as someone who still remembers the Old School, I can appreciate the dedication to the craft to the extent that someone would go out of their way to cram their working space with as much information as necessary. Or in the case of some, more than necessary… you know who you are.
I too have these romantic visions of myself writing the next Great American Masterpiece; ink permanently embedded in my fingertips, bloodshot eyes strained from inadequate light, drowning in an ocean of first drafts, second drafts and abandoned plot points. Someday when I grow up, I almost hope I will be.
And even though I find these visions extremely endearing, the truth of the matter is that I’m a slob. All good intentions will melt away the moment I try to keep a wall full of sticky notes; children, animals, humidity, frickin’ Sasquatch will inevitably knock them down, and make them not-so-sticky. Romantic visions suddenly dashed by the thoughts of neon-colored sticky notes blowing in the breeze like some psychedelic cherry blossoms.
[Picks up a pen and finds a notebook] Note to self: Find an excuse to use ‘psychedelic cherry blossoms’ in a story…
I love notebooks. All kinds. Moleskines, composition books, cheap spiral-bounds that are practically given away at the end of summer. I’m even downright snobby about the type of pen I use (uni-ball Signo Micro 207. Black.). I make sure to have one close at hand at all time to capture the random thoughts and ideas that come drifting through. But the truth is, the notebooks are barely cracked and the pens have yet to sing because all the good stuff tends to wash out when competing with the day-to-day of Stay At Home Daddy stuff. I have a stack of unused spiral-bounds just in case I feel the need to get a wrist cramp scribbling in my doctorly chicken scratch with my righteously boss pen!
My organizational skills are weak to begin with. Forcing myself to write everything down on sticky notes does nothing to strengthen them, which is I suppose goes against the point of the exercise. I got a copy of Scrivener for my birthday because I happen to like sticky notes. I just don’t like the idea of losing them.
I’ve been tinkering with it for a few months now, and admittedly, I will drift towards Google Docs just because it’s there. It’s useful in case I get an idea I want to play with, and I need to get it down before I actually commit to it. And that seems to be an important factor for me. I have an idea for a story. If I’m just kicking the tires, then I’ll fill a page in Google Docs and call it good. If I move to Scrivener, then that usually means I’m committed and will be added to the growing stack of works in progress.
As of this post, I have three projects working at the same time. After a day or so of taking Scrivener out for a test drive a couple of months ago, I can honestly say that it’s the best $40 I ever spent. It is indispensable.
It is also kind of a pain in the ass.
What I Like About Scrivener.
It Keeps Me Honest. It used to be with every project I would start, it would more than likely involve several different tools from several different sources to make the process easier. The problem is, that this method isn’t really helpful. I’m essentially substituting actual random pieces of paper for digital ones.
I used Google Docs. I still do. But in terms of using it to craft a story, it can only be utilized for so much. I still have to jump from tab to tab if I want to reference notes or another chapter. And even though it’s super convenient to save all my information in an online space, jumping back and forth will result in fatigue. Fatigue leads to checking my social spaces, which leads yet another day of me staring at a computer screen filled with kitteh videos with a half-eaten burrito hanging out of my mouth wondering where the hell the day went.
Scrivener accommodates my every need when writing my next project. My outlines,
my storyboards, my drafts, character sketches, everything I would need is all in one space. No longer going back and forth between tabs. I can format on the fly, convert to PDF, track my word counts, set word goals. It has a quick reference tab where I can check word definitions in a pinch. I can split the screen and reference my outlines on one side of the screen, and build my story on the other.
Google Docs and Microsoft Word are both good for what they are. Both have some pretty good features, but neither of them has the ability to split your workspace so that you’re able to see your notes, nor do they have a space to keep random notes to remember in later drafts. (Example: Your character finds a specific item, or drives a specific car, or said something that is key to the plot and you want to reference later, there’s a space on the lower right-hand part of the workspace where you could keep track of that.)
It’s like this, Word and Docs are good for writing documents. Scrivener is excellent for writing projects.
Oh, and the Project Target tool is awesome.
Set your goal for your project and your session. The closer you get to your goal, the more the level changes from red to green. Watching the color change the longer I type is a very sublime motivational tool.
What I Don’t Like About Scrivener.
If I learned anything about finding myself alone with no responsibilities, plenty of time on my hands, and a bottle of Patrón in my immediate area, it’s that knowing what my limitations are might be in my best interest.
Also, having the number for poison control on speed dial would be a good idea too.
But I digress…
It’s nice knowing where your limits are. It’s comforting, right? Our lives, all of our lives are dictated by limitations. How much to eat, how fast to drive, how much money to spend. Knowing how far you can go before you start swimming in the deep end. Knowing how far something can bend before it breaks. I think it’s a byproduct of living in a competitive society. We desire to know how much a certain celebrity is worth. Athletes study hours of films from other teams to exploit weaknesses. Chefs who have garnered a repertoire of dishes know what part of a recipe needs to be started first in order for a dish to be finished all at once. When I started playing around with Photoshop and Illustrator, I started to think in terms of layers, which sort of altered my way of seeing the world a bit. Measurements. Metrics. Limitations. Instructions. We live our lives according to these. It’s comforting.
Then, one day this tool gets invented, and one of its major selling points is that there is no wrong way to use it. Suddenly, life has no meaning.
Maybe it’s because I’ve disciplined myself to the point of masochism. Maybe it’s because I’ve logged in hours and hours of Photoshop tutorials on YouTube. Without rules or instructions in place, I become a little agoraphobic. I have become dependent on people telling me how to do things. I spend more time seeking advice than I do putting things into motion.
Secretly though, I like this feature. This “Sandbox” approach to preparing your workspace. It’s like decorating and rearranging your new office cubicle or unpacking for a weekend stay in a hotel room. I have to keep in mind that the more I depend on advice from others, the more power I give to them instead of assessing a situation and bending things to my will. Which is what I’m not used to. It just so happens that it’s exactly what Scrivener was designed for. You can craft your workspace and use their tools however you see fit. There is no wrong way to use it.
So basically, the problem isn’t with the program, the problem is with me. I need to remember the value of playing.
I guess if I had to nitpick, I wish there were a version of their mind-mapping application, Scapple integrated inside of it. Other than that, I really can’t find anything much to complain about it. It is extremely versatile, it’s easy on the eyes, and as far as the learning curve to use it is concerned, it isn’t that steep. It’s not like you’re forced to learn a whole new language in order to use it. Amirite, Mac users? </snark>
Take it from an Old Schooler, if you’re tired of losing your notes, if you’ve had enough of trying to decipher your shorthand that you scribbled down on a candy wrapper while you were half asleep. If you’ve gotten over forgetting your fantastic idea about one of your characters after you killed him off, and a pen was nowhere near you, then do yourself a favor.
$40 is what, a month of lattes? Scrivener is pretty much the Gold Standard when it comes to finishing your manuscript.
My son turned two recently. This means he’s reached that magical age where he gets into everything he’s not supposed to, and screams “no” a lot. Except that, he doesn’t say “no” a lot. Frankly, he doesn’t say anything resembling a full sentence. My son is two, and he’s going to be a late talker. Now, whether this is because of blockage in his ear canal, or he doesn’t feel the need to express his wants and needs beyond a window-shattering screech remains to be seen. Mommy and Daddy have been put on a list for speech development therapy, and hopefully something will come of it.
Still though, he’s happy. Despite his lack of vocabulary, he’s healthy and happy and loves to play and get into trouble as every two year old should. And just to be clear, no, he isn’t on the spectrum. He responds, he interacts, he smiles and laughs, and most importantly, he tries to speak. He wants to speak. A lot and at length. He wants to pontificate and sing and argue. But, as of right now, the best he can do is sound something like an octopus that desperately wants to join the world of man, so he disguises himself Clark Kent-style to go about his business on dry land.
Boss: “Johnson, have you finished those quarterly reports yet?”
Octopus: “Glorba BLORGA blorga glorba blorgablorg!”
Boss: “Ah, very good. You know Johnson, I like you. You’ve got the right attitude to make it in this business. Wilcox, how come you can’t be more like Johnson?”
Wilcox: “Because he’s a cephalopod, sir.”
Boss: “Have you always been this racist, Wilcox?”
He likes to talk. He wants to. And when he starts chugging along on his little sibilance choo-choo, I am convinced that he thinks he’s making perfect sense. I am convinced that he’s got The Gettysburg Address, The St. Crispin’s Day Speech, and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas completely memorized, and he’ll roll it off his tongue at the drop of a hat. The thing is, no one can understand him, although not for lack of trying. His family all just smile and nod and do their best to understand. And he’ll still get frustrated at us because we still don’t get it.
I cannot help but sympathize. Sometimes, I feel the same way when I write. Especially when I blog.
So, You Want Your Voice Back?
For the past couple of days, I’ve allowed, as an old friend used to say, The Black Dog to
come to my doorstep.
The beginning of my blogging days were cultivated in the dark, dark days of the now defunct Yahoo 360°. For those of you too young to remember, Yahoo 360° was a social profiling site along the lines of MySpace and was the perfect place for the more socially averse who weren’t quite ready to jump on board the Facebook bandwagon. Those were the days where I was still cutting my writing teeth and finding my voice. Although, as I think back to then and reflect on what I do now, not a lot has changed. And I’m not quite sure I found my voice yet.
Among the new friends I accumulated at that time was a fledgling author. At the time, she was doing the song and dance of getting herself published. Her blog kept her friends and followers in the loop as to how and when the publishing was coming along. That is, when she wasn’t regaling us with tales about her kids, or refurbishing a house she and her husband just bought, or random pieces of erotica that she wrote. Her writing would have us in stitches, but every once in a while, Doubt would come calling, along with her kooky cousins, Anger and Depression. She would apologize for her candor, and blame it on the Black Dog that showed his teeth when she tried to step outside of her house.
It’s over ten years later. The people I knew on that site are now scattered to the wind, and I wish them well. It’s over ten years later, and it hasn’t been until recently where I’ve actually considered getting published myself. I haven’t thought much about that time until now. I would have been satisfied leaving it in the past, but presently there is a familiar beast who has found himself just outside my own door with a sign around its neck reading, “Isky sends her regards.”
I get lost. More times than I’d like to admit. It’s so hard not to in this brave new world of self-published authors and readily available information. I want views and notoriety just as much as anyone else who starts down this road. I want to write as a career, and I’m willing to work for it. But sometimes I get impatient, and the void I scream into doesn’t respond back. Then I start to question my motives and practices, and maybe I should return to the “real world” because my blog hasn’t sold enough widgets and the placement of my SEO has gone all screwy or whatever. I get nervous, and the Black Dog gets hungry.
When I get lost, the first thing I gravitate towards are the hectares of blog posts that are so eager to dispense advice on how to boost your blog traffic. Their oh-so clinical and categorical language always leave me more confused, frustrated, and about as satisfied as forcing myself to eat a freezer-burned Lean Cuisine when I really want a pizza. Then come those days where I just want to detach altogether, put a ball-peen hammer through my computer screen and spend the rest of the month binge watching Gilmore Girls. When I get scared, I lose my voice. When I lose my voice, I get lost. When I get lost, The Black Dog will find me.
But I’m not alone in this. I take the smallest grain of relief in the knowledge that there are others out there like me who are worried that they haven’t found their voice yet, or fear that they may have lost it all together. However, in acknowledging this, I have discovered something that’s been in my pocket for a long time. In worrying about not finding your voice, or not finding your words, you allow doubt to take over. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration, afterall.
Full disclosure, I didn’t go to school for writing or blogging or business. What I have learned, I learned on my own through my own research and just sitting in front of a monitor every day while my fingers tap out a few thousand words, and, most importantly, allowing myself to make mistakes. I’m not an expert, but here’s my advice for whenever The Black Dog starts growling.
1. Ignore Just About Everyone.
“Okay, Google.” blingityblink
[Seconds pass as the lifeboat sinks a little deeper.] blink “Here are some websites to tell you what to do in case of drowning.”
“Not very helpful, Googleblubblublblub…” blink “Sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.”
Research should be second nature to you, right? Blog post, genre fiction, non-fiction, book report, burrito recipe, doesn’t matter. We used to spend hours raiding the shelves of our local library, now everything you need can be held in a few tabs worth of Google searches. You put the time and effort into researching everything before submitting anything which is the way it should be. However, I think the byproduct of living in the age of Google is that we have become too dependent on it. We rely on it for everything we need to know. Unfortunately, Google can only tell you so much. Case in point, in terms of advice, Google is really good at telling you who said what and when, it’s not so good at telling you whose to follow.
“Okay, Google.” blingityblink
“Tell me I’m pretty.”
[Seconds pass as the mascara runs further down your face.] blink “…errrrrrmmmm… Can we just be friends?”
There comes a time when you can only absorb so much advice before you realize that you haven’t put any of it into action. Are you honestly looking for advice because you’re stuck, or are you looking for someone to validate the exact same thing you’ve been thinking about for the past week? Have you painted your manuscript into a corner, or are you licking your wounds from a really bad review and in need a virtual drinking buddy? Taking advice is fine, just remember that most of it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. If you want to write, get writing.
2. But, Be Careful With the Advice You Seek.
The biggest pet peeve I have with blogging/writing advice is the presumption that it should be done with full intention of getting views/clicks and generating an income. Every post on the subject is a “Top 10 ways to blahblahblah,” or “The Most Obvious Thing That Your Blog is Missing,” or any other form of flashy, deep-fried clickbait that gets you to read the same regurgitated information that’s been shared a thousand times before. It gets to the point with me that I figure the most guaranteed way to get more clicks, is to title my blog post “How To Get More Clicks” and give away a FREE BOOK on the subject that’s worth $100’s of DOLLARS and FILLED WITH VALUABLE INFORMATION that someone else wrote, but you can NEVER FIND EVERYWHERE ELSE if you don’t know how the internet works and BE SURE TO GET ON MY MAILING LIST because YOU’LL GET HERPES IF YOU DON’T!!1! FUCK YOU, SHUT UP AND CONSUME!!
Nothing against you guys doing what late night infomercials have been doing for years before the internet was born, but I’m looking for writing advice, not the P.T. Barnum Playbook with a foreword by Zig Ziglar.
Anyway, getting back on subject…
According to many pro-bloggers, blogging is solely designed to facilitate sales. That’s it. Not the exchange of ideas, and certainly not to be used for any artistic or abstract expression.To paraphrase from Halt And Catch Fire, “Writing isn’t the thing…it’s the thing that gets the thing…” Nope, it’s all about the almighty dollar, y’all. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that (I mean, c’mon. It’s the way I’ve chosen to pay my bills coughcoughCheckOutTheDonationButtoncough), it has very little to do with what I’m seeking help for.
What gets me so bummed whenever I think I lost my voice and I go out to find it, is that I’m not careful with whose advice I follow. After taking into consideration the wisdom that some gurus dispense, I tend to think that what I’m presently doing is wrong. Simply because I’m writing fiction and entertaining readers, rather than to just knuckle down and write some drab, emotionless fluff piece for the corporate interests of others while utilizing the tried and true Carrot-On-A-Stick Method. My intentions with this blog is to entertain because I want to, inform when I can, and yes, sell things that I’ve made (coughRandomMerchPagecough…sorry, allergy season). That’s the way that works for me. What works for you might be completely different, and that’s okay. Just don’t do one thing that’s disguised as another in order to make a buck.
Writing is fine. Self-Publishing is fine. Making a buck is fine. However, there is a difference between the three. And meaning and intention tends to get blurred in the ye olde Google search.
This is something I obviously struggle with on a regular basis. I hate to break it to ya, but nobody is going to tell you what’s going to work for you as a writer. Seeking wisdom from our heroes is always good for perspective, but if you really want sage advice on how to find your voice, keep reading.
3. Realize That We All Start Somewhere.
So, you lost your voice. The manuscript you’re working on has stopped making sense by the second act , your characters have all walked away from you while flipping you off and giving you the side-eye, and the fear of “not being good as your heroes” that you’ve shoved to the back of your nervous, flop-sweaty little mind, is now front and center wearing a Boater, a candy striped blazer and twirling a cane in his fingers singing, “HELLO MY BABY, HELLO MY HONEY, HELLO MY RAGTIME GAAAAALL…” Before you pack it in, consider this…
This fear is a good thing.
This fear means that you are on the right path.
Because, let’s face it. If you didn’t want to be a writer, you’d be doing something else by now like repairing lobster traps, or learning how to be a spreadsheet whiz-kid, or whatever you kids are into nowadays… with your Facebooks and your smartphones [shakes fist].
I’m presuming that since you are not any of these people, or have no intention on becoming one, that you have a story inside you that no one else can tell.
Great authors, like great football players, actors, surgeons and sandwiches, aren’t born. They’re made. Anyone can deliver a plot. Plot is nothing. Plot is the barest of minimums. But, you’re looking for something with a little more meat on its bones, right? You’re a storyteller, Harry. If you want to deliver your plot on something other than an a styrofoam plate, you need nuance and foresight and planning and grace and other words that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. All of which takes a lot of trial and error. All of which takes…
That is all. Practice. It doesn’t get any simpler or any more obvious than that. There is no magic pill, no secret that only a few know about, that is free with purchase if you order within the next 20 minutes. Nope. That’s really all there is to it. Practice.
If you want to write, write.
“But, I still lost my voice.”
Oh, that’s not true. You’d be amazed what could happen once you get going.
“I don’t sound like J.K. Rowling.”
A word about that.
Many writers will tell you, and I’m in full agreement with them, that there is something to modeling yourself after your heroes when you are first starting out. It helps with the process of writing the story as well as finding your own voice. Yes, we all want to be the next Rowling. Just like I want to be the next Robbins, Thompson, Gaiman etc. So, I study my idols. I dive into their works and study how they do it and with a little luck, I’ll come out on the other side with just the right colors in which to paint my own landscape.
We all want to be the next Rowling…
Have you ever considered being the first You?
There is a story inside you that no one else can give a voice to, but you. Your craft is to build worlds from nothing more than imagination. We’d all like to see it, but the only way we can see it, the only way that you can stop sounding like an octopus in a polyester polo shirt, the only way to bring The Black Dog to heel is to just keep writing.