Sometimes I am amazed by the things that come out of my brain. Whenever someone asks me “How do you think of what to write?” I always retort with “It never shuts off.” I’m of the volition that I don’t do or write anything spectacular. I’m certainly not the next Steinbeck or Hemingway. I’ll never write the so-called Great American Novel. While I enjoy reading classic literature and certain veins of LitFic, I can’t stand to write it. It bores me. I don’t have fun with it, and I don’t like to write anything I’m not having fun doing in some respect.
I carry with me a notebook or index cards and multitudes of pens at all times because I don’t want to get stuck at a red light and suddenly get an awesome idea for a scene and have no way to record it. (I used to carry a tape recorder around with me but i got tired of listening to my own voice talk back to me later). I’ve looked back at my old scribblings and I wonder where in the hell I came up with some of the stuff.
“Purple haired sewer mole that eats souls and it’s only weakness is purified water?!”
So I’ve put my other nearly finished projects aside because I am going through the final (at least I really hope so) rewrite of my novel. This little baby has been through five, yes FIVE, different versions. After writing and editing each one, I’ve sent it out and it’s not gotten any bites. So, after each round of no responses and polite “you write well but the story doesn’t draw me in”s, I sat down and read it and said “What am I doing wrong?” The answer each time was to do a complete overhaul.
It started out as something very different from what it’s become. And I can’t say that I’m unhappy about that. When I started writing this (four years ago, and yes I have written other things since, I usually put this away for about 8 months before going back to it) I was kind of happy with it. Then moving to a little happier. Now I’m at the point where I think I have the entire world created in such a way that should this ever see the light of day as the series I intend it to, I can continue it infinitely. I was limiting myself with older versions, saying it was going to be a three-part series. But the world and the characters have so many stories and lives to share that I just can’t limit myself.
The point of this whole drabble is that, yes I’ve gotten rejections and yes I’ve written sub par material and thought it was good until someone slapped me on the back of the head and said “Not engaging enough”, but I’m really not deterred. Writing is my life passion, and I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing. If I go a day without writing, even if it’s a measly 500 words, I feel sick and like I have wasted the day. I know the process once someone says “yes I’ll represent you” isn’t an easy one. It’s like any other job I suppose, there will be times I’m sure I’ll want to pull my hair out but with something I love this much I don’t see myself falling into my typical “after three years let’s try something new!” because….with writing I can try something new with each story.
It boils down to why I write. Some people act because they enjoy going into different lives and characters, and for the same reason I enjoy writing. I can delve myself into a world that doesn’t exist and shape it to my own desires and whims. I love being able to say “No, I don’t want to follow the laws of physics today.” and then subsequently bastardizing all science has taught us about the world. I enjoy making characters come to life for others, to bring others to that world of make-believe that my favorite authors bring me into. There’s something so rewarding (even when it’s just a friend, family, checkout clerk, insurance agent…) when someone reads it and says “more please?”. It makes me want to continue this arduous process of write, edit, rewrite.
Over the course of actually writing this novel, I’ve learned a lot about crafting a story. My biggest problem was always dialogue. I could write descriptions of Tolkien-esque length and create these worlds but the characters would be so fucking bland it made me crazy. So I studied. I started listening to people more, I had the conversations in my book with myself so they would sound more believable. I read up more on creating believable, rounded characters. I gave them each a fifteen page back story, I made them real. And that seems to have made the difference in my eyes at least.
I’m no expert, and I’m hardly a person to give advice but I’m going to. Don’t be egotistical. It doesn’t help the craft at all. We all have faults, we all write shit sometimes, and every last one of us makes mistakes in our writing. Letting other people read my writing has been invaluable for unbiased input. Also, choose people who aren’t going to praise your work and give you no constructive criticism. I love constructive criticism. BRING IT ON. I want to know what’s not working so I can fix it and make it shiny. If you can’t take constructive criticism then you can never grow. So grow, create, go out and write the shit out of something. Also, include talking kittens.
NOTE: Constructive criticism is very, very different from “You suck. I h8 u an everythin’ u write cuz i have no lyfe an like 2 troll.” People, honestly…..oh and when people do that to published authors I like? I want to grab them by the shoulders and stare deep into their eyes and say “You don’t even use proper english who are you to judge?! DO YOU EVEN READ?! Huh?! Do you? Do you?!!?!?” But I restrain myself. I simply shake my head, sigh and move on to more constructive reviews. The internet is full of grown four-year olds aching for attention, even the negative kind, and I will not be party to their antics. They can kick and scream in the corner for all I care.