The Myth of the Writing Fairy

(The following article was written about a billion years ago when I was younger.  Sorry if you’ve seen it out and about on the web already but I decided to finally bring it home to my site.)

writing-fairy-3Here’s a fun question to ponder. What do The Stand, The Hobbit and A Christmas Carol all have in common? The answer is simple. Too simple. Irritatingly simple.

A few years ago I decided to write a novel. I had characters all outlined and plot points galore. I had my settings down pat and a nice storyline that would illuminate the main character’s journey into a self-activated person, hopefully sending a touch of inspiration my reader’s way when they turned the last page of my novel. I had a large amount of notes in an even larger amount of notebooks. I was a writer. Right? Wrong. I wasn’t a writer yet because I was still enchanted by the Writing Fairy.

You know what the Writing Fairy looks like. She is that magical creature that will take the dialogue running through your head and place it onto the page. She is the person that will fill in those little blanks that don’t seem worth worrying about while you’re in the brainstorming stage. She is the mythical beast that will take all of your imagination and creativity and turn them into a book for you. The Writing Fairy sits on your shoulder every time you pace up and down your room thinking up great new ideas for where your characters are heading and convinces you that you are on your way to being an established author. The Writing Fairy’s touch is the only thing you are waiting for before you begin to actually sit down and pound out the pages of your manuscript. Yes, as soon as the Writing Fairy says that it is time, you will begin to write in earnest. I have news for you. The Writing Fairy is none other than you because you are the only person who can do these things for you. And the moment you are waiting for? I have some news concerning that, too. That moment either comes right here right now, or it never comes at all.

Am I saying that brainstorming about characters and muddling over speeches is a waste of time? I most certainly am not. What I’m saying is that you reach a certain point where your outline doesn’t need to be refined any more, where it’s time to put it onto the page and nail it down in a more concrete sense. The Writing Fairy will make you hesitate to do this, promising you that thinking really hard is writing. She’ll tell you that you aren’t ready to put anything down on the page yet, or you’re not ready to go on with the next scene because everything just doesn’t seem right. Don’t believe her, she’s deceiving you. I’d like to say that she is flat out lying, but she’s not. Things aren’t going to seem right when they first start to appear on the page. This is what seems so contradictory about the writing process. Your dreams and aspirations seem to shrink down once you actually put them into writing. Being creative seems harder and harder as more and more words get put down. Don’t worry though; your dreams are big enough. Acknowledging that your finished piece is not going to live up to the sparkling gem you have inside your head is something that every artist goes through…it could be the reason why so many of us seem a little bit crazy. Pick any piece of art. Now, as great as that finished product seems to you, there is not a single book, painting, opera, movie, whatever, that came out exactly the way its creator intended it. That is a very large part of the creative process: surrendering to its limitations. And accepting this fact goes a long way towards chaining down that Writing Fairy and actually producing some work. Don’t listen to her siren song. Don’t think that it should feel one hundred percent right the first time. It won’t. That’s what the rewriting process is all about. Believe me writing is truly in the rewriting. Even Kerouac rewrote his stuff. However, in order to start the rewriting process you need a hard first draft to pick over and toy with. You need something concrete to look at and see which scenes fit and which don’t. You’ll find that a lot of your brainstorming gets thrown out the window. This isn’t a stifling of your creativity, is channeling your creativity into your selection process. And it doesn’t matter how horrible and off the mark your first draft seems to be turning out, you’ll polish all of that out later. But you need that first draft to really start things off, and it will never get finished if you continue to believe the Writing Fairy’s misleading comments.

writing-fairy

Take another look at the opening question of this article again. Any closer to an answer?

I have more bad news about the Writing Fairy. Simply sitting down in front of your keyboard and starting your novel cannot vanquish her forever. She’ll be back. She always comes back. Here and there she offers a much-needed break and a much-needed step back from your work to rethink things. More often than not, though, she’ll pop up as you write more and more detailed character sketches, or get sucked into researching something for hours and hours and days and days. She is very good at convincing you that more outside work is needed and that you don’t need to sit down at your keyboard quite yet. She must be stopped. When you really hit a roadblock, you’ll know. If you just need to sort some things out that does not qualify a three-week break from your manuscript. That’s the Writing Fairy singing her sweet song. You need to do more then just sit down and start in order to silence the Writing Fairy. You need a schedule. “But how can you turn your writing on and off like that? How can you force yourself to write if you aren’t feeling it?” I imagine that some of this is flowing through your head right now. The answer is that you can. It’s that easy. I’m not saying that you’re going to sit down and write Nobel Prize winning page after Nobel Prize winning page. But you must keep writing. Keep fleshing out your story and your scenes. Keep plowing through with your writing when you say your going to even though it doesn’t seem to be very good. You’re not going to submit it as it is anyway. The ending of my novel changed about three hundred times in the course of writing it. What’s more, I never would have reached the ending if I had continued to go over and over my first twenty pages wanting them to be perfect. It’s really silly when you think about it. You don’t have an entire book yet, how can you make sure the opening is perfect if you don’t know where it’s supposed to lead the reader? You don’t really know your characters yet, how can you expect them to be just right? Believe me, it is better to write it horribly wrong and then fix it than to never write it in the first place. Keep plugging away, keep going, keep heading towards that ending that doesn’t seem to fit and that you don’t really even like. Carve a few hours out of each day and just type away at the keyboard. You can always make a scene longer. You can always take out some dialogue. You can always change a character or a point of view. You can really do anything you want to, which is why it’s easy to get bogged down in the beginning. Keep in mind that while you can always change it, you have to write it first.

writing-fairy-2Now, do you want to know the Writing Fairy’s major-super-bonus-end-all-be-all secret? Here it is. Keep it quiet. Put it in the bag somewhere next to the cat or under your hat if you prefer. Here is my secret. You are a writer. Right now. With only what you have in your head as it is. You don’t need anything else. You are a writer. You just need to keep writing. Don’t let the Writing Fairy tell you that you aren’t. That you need something more, that you’re pretending to be something you’re not. Hemmingway wasn’t Hemmingway when he started. He was just a guy names Ernest who sat down at his typewriter. Believe me. You are a writer. You are a writer. You are a writer. And no, you don’t have to repeat that while clicking your heels three times. You don’t have to do anything but write. And that’s the Writing Fairy’s horrible little secret. I stumbled upon the moment I stopped waiting for her to show me a sign that the time was right to actually start typing and just went ahead and did it. Now is the right time; now or never.

So let’s go back to the question at the beginning of this article. Any ideas on what those three books have in common? They’re all in English? Okay, I’ll add Les Miserables to the list. They’re all from the last few centuries? Okay, let’s throw The Iliad on there. Give up? What those books have in common, what every book you read has in common, is that it was written. Simple isn’t it? I told you it was. That is the only difference between what is in your head and any book you have ever picked up. All the books you see every day were actually written. Someone sat down and wrote them out. That it. That’s the secret. That’s what the Writing Fairy is hiding from you. You’re ready to write your book. You just have to sit down and do it. I said that the secret was simple…I also called it horrifyingly so at the beginning of this article. Why is it horrifying? Because, as I’ve mentioned, the Writing Fairy is you. She makes it seem like she’s someone else. Someone or something you’re waiting for before you begin. But that someone or something doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is the fears she creates inside of your head. And that means that the person telling you to wait is you. The person holding you back is you. The person hesitating to write is you. And the only person who can make you ignore all of this and just start writing…you guessed it…is you. So come on, stop reading this, open up a new document, start clicking away at those keys, don’t be afraid, just trust me on this one…you’re a writer.

August-itis

I have no idea what is up with the month of August but I never want to do anything during it.  Possibly it’s holdover from the whole end of summer thing from my school years.  And, yes, I realize that it’s only late July still but I have a family reunion starting tomorrow and have very little gumption currently to get my butt in gear.

On the other hand, I did spend all day putting together posts for the next week as well as August’s contest in anticipation of heading out of town so maybe I’m just spent.

Either way, I’m out of town for the next week or so and will be back in August.

Kyo’s Workout Routine

kyofitness1I’m going to do something I rarely do today which is to drop a chunk of the current unfinished book here onto the blog.  I’m finding it odd to write with zero feedback, something I’ve never really done. I tend to write in sections and I used to send those sections out to readers as I went. The whole 26 Stories thing sort of cured me of that but I still find myself wanting to drop the occasional scene onto friends and I figured why not do it for my internet friends as well?

So the following passage is part of Kyo’s workout routine.  The notion that Kyo was going to sit around being just a normal tester seemed utterly preposterous and out of character to me.  And, sure enough, when I checked in on him at the start of the book it turns out he hadn’t been idle.  The guy doesn’t particularly like the idea of not being able to fight back. This snippet doesn’t exactly explain the extent of things but it’s a fun little scene and we get some Matthew as well.

Please note: THIS IS NOT EDITED. Partly because I never edit my fiction as I go and partly because I always enjoy sharing with fellow writers out there how my particular method works, and a good way to do that is to show your rough drafts.  So this is straight from my fingertips, typos and all:

Kyo was standing in the midmorning sun, his shirt off, a thick layer of medical tape wrapped around his torso.  Looped over the tape and his chest was a rope which stretched out behind him.  The other end of the rope was cleated to the aft of a small motorboat.  Under his feet was the deep blue of the Indian Ocean five-hundred miles off the western coast of Australia.

The radio on the boat was on, blasting out some peppy music as the current struggled to drag the boat westward against Kyo, whose feet were dug into the water like it was a plot of damp earth, his whole body trembling, flexed and sweating as he struggled to maintain the boat in a fixed position while the current fought to yank it towards the western horizon.

A repetitive beeping noise sounded amidst the wind ripping over the water and the music blaring from the boat and Kyo took a deep breath, then hooked his hands under the rope and pulled it off his chest, carefully pulling it up over his head and turning around.  He pulled the boat towards him with steady arm over arm motions, the current causing the rear standing deck of the boat to churn crazily against the water.

When the boat was close enough Kyo climbed on board, located his watch, the source of the beeping, shut it off and took a quick breather sitting on one of the plasti-leather seats as he dug a bottle of water out of a side pocket.

There was another bleeping noise and Kyo turned to see his phone vibrating along the top of the dashboard.  He rolled his neck on his shoulders, eyes closed, mouth open as he continued breathing deeply, and reached a hand out to grab it.  He looked at the number, his face composing in thought while his chest continued to breath heavily.  After a good thirty seconds of thought he seemed to come to a decision in his mind, flipped the phone open, typed out a text message, then tossed it back onto the dashboard.

He took another drink of water, the thin plastic bottle crinkling as his hand squeezed it gently.

“Kyo,” he heard a familiar voice say, “I-what the–” the voice tried to shout before it was cut off in a loud splash.

Kyo shook his head, his face amazed and amused.  “Fucking moron,” he said to himself, then stood up and walked over to the edge of the boat, hooked a heel against one of the seat, leaned way over and grabbed Matthew up out of the water.

“Where the hell are we!” Matthew shouted spitting out sea water as Kyo dropped him into the boat.

“Do you even look at someone’s number before you go visit them?” Kyo asked, disappearing into the little hold and coming back out with a towel. He tossed it at Matthew.

“Not really, no,” Matthew said, catching the towel, he was applying it vigorously to one drenched arm of his tuxedo jacket when he stopped.  He deliberated, then took the towel off his arm, his head bobbing as if to psyche himself up. “No,” he said, and tossed the towel back in Kyo’s direction.  “No…I have no body…I have no body…” he started repeating this to himself over and over again staring with concentration at his sleeve.

Kyo watched, eyebrows raised in sardonic anticipation.

The cuff of Matthew’s jacket began to dry off, the fabric no longer clinging and heavy against his skin, a marked difference from the rest of his suit.  He pursed his lips, his eyes screwing up in awkward forced concentration before he collapsed inwardly and swore.  “Just give me the towel,” he said, reaching a hand out, his face refusing to look over at Kyo’s.

Kyo tossed the towel back.  “You’re over thinking it,” he said, then took another drink of water and went back into the hold.

“Kyo,” Matthew said, toweling himself off as best he could, “what are you doing out here?”

“Working out,” Kyo said, coming up out of the hold with a massively thick length of chain in each hand.

Matthew stared at Kyo, his face frozen unable to figure out how to react to what he was seeing.  The song on the radio ended.  Another song started.  Matthew turned towards one of the speakers, an unbelieving little grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.  “And…you work out while listening to Avril Lavigne?”

“It’s a mix,” Kyo said, voice gravelly, chains thunking metallic across the thinly carpeted floor as he walked past Matthew.

Hope Eternal

I just spent a weekend at the beach doing horrible, horrible things to my body.  After 48 hours of crisping my skin to a nice even red, running around like a fourteen year old after Frisbees and footballs and staving off sobriety for an extended period of time I currently feel a bit like grim death. Definitely in Stage 5 at the moment.

Therefore I don’t have much to say.  I will simply give you this, my favorite clip ever on YouTube.  I enjoy watching this thing over and over again and I always marvel at this man’s boldness as well as his dedication to what seems like a perfectly good idea.

This is the best seven seconds on the internet.  I give you, “Man Going Off Diving Board in a Kayak.”

I am a Whore

I don’t do this often but here goes.

penguin

Cute penguins to distract from my shameless sales pitch.

Go tell people to buy my book.

You enjoyed reading it.  You know you did.  I know you did. You’ve tweeted me and emailed me. It’s okay. It’s not a secret.  And you have people who have asked you recently for a good book to read. So…

SEND THEM HERE!

I refuse to believe that my audience consists of cave dwelling, misanthropic, loners. You all have tons of friends who would be interested in the next great read.

"Generate sales or he'll kill me."

"Generate sales or he'll kill me."

And it’s not like I’m an underground cult-ish thing anymore.

“It’s a novel that I believe rises easily to the level of some of the best classics of literature ever written.” — Bestsellersword.com

Right? I mean seriously…that’s a hell of a quote.

So here’s what you do.

ducklings

Obey their cuteness

Go open an Email. Or log onto Facebook. Or open Twitter.  Or…well I hate MySpace so screw that one.

Then write something like, “That awesome book I was talking about got an killer review.  Seriously everyone needs to buy it.”

Then link to this page, or the review, or the amazon site.

Finally send it to all your friends.  And your family.  And that member of the opposite sex you’re trying to impress with how cool you are.

You know you want to.

"Teehee...do what he says..."

"Teehee...do what he says or it's the soup pot for me tonight..."

That is all.

A weird few days

Most of my last week/weekend was spent lying on my back on my floor with a sack of frozen peas under me.  I sort of tweaked my back late last week and I couldn’t get it right for awhile so I was forced to take a rather boring vacation from writing.

It was really weird.  Jimmy Stewart fans out there will no doubt remember It’s A Wonderful Life, one of his more famous movies in which he is given a chance to see what the world would be like if he had never existed, with the end result being that he realizes how special his life actually is and how much he has been taking for granted.

"Where did I leave my keys?"

"Where did I leave my keys?"

I couldn’t help but draw parallels to that movie during the seventy-two hours I spent staring at my ceiling.  I’m fond of complaining about writing, when you spend as much time doing something as I spend writing you inevitably wind up complaining a bit.  It was weird, though, being forced to lay mere yards away from my computer and not, no matter what, be able write.  Usually I’m in my desk chair longing to go lie down, not the other way around.

I’m not saying I’ll never complain about writing again, but I did get an interesting look at what it would be like if writing left my life entirely. I couldn’t even do research or read or even think much due to discomfort.  It was shocking how much I missed being able to tinker with my stories and characters and how much I wanted to get back to them just because it would be fun to do so.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson.  One which I should forget here any minute now.

Oilcan

tinmanthumbThere’s a new review of Probability Angels over at Bestsellersworld.com. I’m obviously biased because the review is very positive but I really enjoyed reading it and thought it was well written with some interesting points.  I’d advise you to go check it out.

In other news my back is currently possessed by the Dark Lord Satan and is doing some crazy stuff.  I’m unable to get comfortable in most positions and sitting at my desk for extended periods is right out.  Truthfully it’s rather comical and I bear a rather strong resemblance to the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz…only with less makeup. I am wearing a funnel on my head, though, but that’s for unrelated reasons.

I’m trying to do some rewrites on Part 1 of the next book but mostly I’m chuckling to myself at how stupid I must look standing up against the wall to get comfortable.

June’s contest winner announced

quizthumb1

Well the entries are in and the tabs have been tabulated and we have a winner for June’s contest.

Steven Rupp is the big winner and will receive a $100 Amazon Gift Card.

Mucho Congratso to Steven.

First off, if you’re wondering how your answers fared, please feel free to contact me.  I was trying to figure out a way to include an answer key with this post but the various open-ended questions made that a little difficult.

Second, I can’t begin to tell you how fun this contest was. The answers to the more open-ended questions were really enjoyable to read. How everyone went about defining Scarface’s Burden was just awesome.  I will definitely be doing something like this again in the future, possibly about Probability Angels.  And, considering that waaaaaay more people than I expected got waaaaaay more answers right than I expected, I’ll have to be a lot more devious.

For those of you who like to kick yourself, the biggest stumbling block was question 14 which was a deliberately sticky wicket:  What language (outside of English) is being spoken by the principle characters in “The Donkey of Vincento?”

A lot of people tried to guess the language without realizing that it was pure gibberish.  I didn’t want to peg that story to any real country, I wanted it to remain somewhat fairytale-ish, so when it came time to pick a language I opted to, in a rather elaborate manner, type pure nonsense. I also accepted, “The language of the people,” as that is how it is referred to directly and exactly in the text.

Thanks everyone for entering, the next contest will be announced in early August.

Oh, and I might be out of town next Tuesday so I might miss a blog post next week.  I’ll be back on Thursday at the latest.