Write Your Book, Or You’ll Die Alone and Be Forgotten When You’re Gone (and your files will be erased by strangers), or HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I spent four months this year reworking a novel that now sits in files on this computer. It was a simple story, with a clear plot, and I knew where it was going.

I was reworking it because I had written it years ago. It needed some work.

Time passed.

I rewrote. The hero was more complicated, his story more personal.

It now needed more work than when I started rewriting it.

Time passed.

I rewrote it again. More time passed.

This summer I counted up how many novels I’d written but never got in final shape, never submitted for publication. The number was substantial. (I’m not going to tell you how many. There were more than five. A lot more.)

I set to work on some short stories. I sold some stories years ago, and figured they’d be a good way to get things rolling. I rewrote one, and wrote a new one from scratch.

I had my first computer crisis, ever. (I’ve been writing for decades.) I lost all of those new stories. One month’s work.

As I write, I mess around with very rough ideas of what a cover might look at.

Somewhere in here, the thought occurred to me that I could die, and the things I spent my time — my life — writing and not showing were going to end up as nothing but particles wiped from a computer someone sold for a few bucks.

I went to work on that novel, determined to finish it no matter what.

Four months later, I stopped. By a rough estimate, the first full draft, written years ago, was 400 pages, double spaced, @ 50k words. As I sit here, I estimate I wrote a total of 8000 pages. At least.

Last year, after Christmas, I said to someone, “I should start on my Christmas novel now so I won’t be late with it next year.” I had a title, and a vague idea, no more. I messed around a little but didn’t have a story to tell. You’d be surprised how common a problem this is with writers.

In November of this year, after the other novel collapsed, I started that Christmas story. Like an engine on a cold day, it wouldn’t turn over. No heat.

I started to grapple with the idea that I couldn’t write anymore.

I could write, many years ago. I once wrote 20,000 words in a sitting. You wouldn’t know that, because I never published that novel, either. (I was up to five unpublished novels even then.)

If you really want to mess up your life, decide you’re not going to really start it until you’ve sold your first novel. You might end up with nothing more than an expertise in regret, but you’ll have some kind of parody of an artistic life. Won’t be worth the cost, I can tell you.

I happened to read about a book that was nothing like the kind of book I thought of writing. Some of the best sources of original material are descriptions of other people’s books. Without even reading it, a description can get your imagination going. If you act on it creatively, you might think, “No, what *I* would do with that is…”

Then I had the brilliant idea of writing a book I felt like reading. Not the one others might like, but the one that I really, truly wished someone would create so I could enter that made-up world. This is such a basic motor for a book, and it’s behind the initial impulse to write. But sometimes this gets lost when you’re reworking. You sometimes end up in the woods, wondering how you came to be writing this other thing.

When you let go of your desire, your need to write the book that’s going to pull you out of your hole, whatever that hole is — marriage, booze, unemployment, or the much more common hole of despair about how you ended up where you are — and just start the story you’d like to sit down and read for pleasure, you MIGHT have found  a path through that very dense, very dark forest.

After working for months on one book, I thought up and wrote a short novel in a little less than three weeks.

Here’s where the trouble usually starts. This time, though, I was aware of it.

I usually end up hacking up the “final” version of a cover, and start over. I liked the “Ripoff” type, and the film frame.

 

I started rewriting this Christmas book.

See, just because I wasn’t going to let myself rework this new book to death, I didn’t have an excuse to vomit out something and then expect anyone would want to read it.

The key was rewriting from the beginning and NOT backing up to fix one or two things. That’s the route to never finishing something. I didn’t stop and make sure this was perfect. I didn’t start inventing new subplots.

I DID combine a couple of characters, better define the characters, tighten the story. I sharpened the descriptions, too.

Someone once warned me that I had a tendency to lose a book when I didn’t know exactly how the ending worked out. I kept that in mind.

The ending of the first draft was just awful, but this time I TRUSTED that I could make it right when I got there the second time. (I’ll end the suspense: to me, the ending is the best, most original part. And I didn’t have it until the third, final draft.)

The first rewrite improved the book. It was messy, and twisted, but something original was on the page — it wasn’t just “And the characters got together, and then they won.” The book doesn’t have a villain, which is a recipe for disaster. It DID have a situation with conflict, but as is often the case, the opponent was inside the characters–in some cases, literally.

This wasn’t turning into anything like a traditional Christmas story. It turned out it was more about the family that comes together in the workplace. And there’s a spirit. And the characters talk a lot about movies.

I wanted to read this book. If you feel this in the rewrite process, you’re on the right path. Keep walking it.

The problem was this: I knew this second draft still wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t going to sell to a publisher. It was just this story about a group of people who worked in a store, and then this ghost comes along. And then Christmas comes, and the hero resolves the conflict.

It was too small. The conflict was there, but it just sort of stopped.

I started to rewrite it again. This is where the movie viewer thinks “Uh oh.” This is where the orchestra comes in low, as the hero just knows he can fix things without screwing them up.

I got to page 100 and gave it to a friend to check out. He liked it. But there were a couple of problems…

Don’t go back, I thought. Just plow ahead.

I went back. I fixed those problems in what I thought was the locked first fifth of the book. I changed a couple of names of minor characters. And really, I should flesh out some descriptions…

I had a cover. Hated it. I reworked it. Hated it. As I continued on the third draft of the book, I took a new approach to the cover. It fit what the book actually was becoming, not what it started out as.

Shopping it to a publisher was a waste of time, for various reasons that don’t matter. What matters is that I needed one in the win column. I had to be able to know, “At least THIS one won’t go into the grave with me.”

The book was first titled NOT THIS CHRISTMAS. I don’t know what the title meant last year, and still don’t. It has some emotional resonance with me, but it no longer fit this more relaxed but fun little book. I came up with a new title. I like it, and it fits the tone.

The book won’t change the world. No one else may enjoy it. I want people to read and enjoy my writing, but that’s soaring, and I’m in a hole right now. Before I can climb up the mountain and leap and fly, I gotta get out of the damned hole.

I finished the book. I did not rewrite it again, even though I could. Instead, I accepted it is imperfect. If I rewrote it fifty times it would be imperfect, but also so tightassed no one could bear reading it.

I put it on Kindle. In minutes I went from third draft to published. Done.

The reason I wrote this, and why I hope you’re reading it, is to tell you this: Your life is going to end before you can accomplish all the things you really burn to do. You must learn when it’s time to let something stand on its own, and then you must move on.

I like the book. That’s the key to it existing now instead of being some vague ideas in my head.

Tomorrow I begin the next book. I don’t know if I’ll try to resurrect one of the others, or just go off and try something I haven’t even thought of as I’m sitting here typing. But it’ll either be making the rounds or be up online by January 1.

What you’re reading is a first draft. With a few minor touch-ups.

Tick. Tock.

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Dog Days and Irishmen

I’m kind of spinning around these days, lacking focus, but I’ll get back to regular posting someday. This is just a way of touching base.

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I’ve been reading a steady diet of horror stories these days, while I shape up and send out horror submissions. All this horror is surprisingly invigorating–the best horror stories aren’t about pushing your face into the mud. The finest horror stories have a core of wonder about the unknown.

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Still kinda bummed about Ellison. But when you get to be my age (old), you don’t have such tight connections to celebrities and other strangers as you do when you’re young.

But Harlan was a special case.

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Crumbling vistas!

BLADE RUNNER 2049 was just as good the second time. I still think it’d be better if they cut out the virtual reality girlfriend, and the unnecessary cat-and-mouse crap before K and Dekkard talk. But they’re minor flaws in the best SF film in years.

ALIEN: COVENANT still sucks, though. The first ALIEN movie I didn’t watch more than once. (I don’t count those Predator abominations.)

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I blew up my computer. I dug out an old laptop to use, and blew that up, too.

Two computers in 24 hours.

I had to reformat this computer, and lose a whole month’s writing. I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, other than to say it’s forced me to pause and consider what I’m doing.

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I just read this for the third time. I wish he’d write another book–his others are very good–but could such a book be written about the last decade’s movies?

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As Robert Silverberg says when asked for writing advice:

Read, read, read.

Write, write, write.

 

Harlan

When you’re a kid, people you know only through their art can seem unreal. Artists, musicians and writers are out there somewhere, in the big wide world, living exciting lives that are so very different from the dull, routine ones the adults around you live. Writers, for example, spend their days making up interesting stories. You don’t know them, but if you’re a kid who finds the world confusing and scary sometimes, a writer’s work can offer shelter and also guidance.

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Artists we discover as kids, when we’re susceptible to being inspired, can become heroic to us just by producing work that touches us. When you’re a kid, you don’t get to pick who’s going to inspire you. It just happens, and your life might follow a certain path because of a writer’s work, without you even knowing it.

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“I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” was the first Ellison story I read. I think; memory can be tricky. It is about the last few people left on Earth after a nuclear apocalypse caused by a supercomputer, which has kept these people alive in order to torture them. After several sadistic episodes, the story climaxes in what can only be called a stunning act of self-sacrificial homicide.

I read an obituary of Ellison that claimed he didn’t write about love or compassion, which did not fill me with hope for the state of journalism.

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I first encountered Harlan Ellison in an issue of Starlog magazine in the seventies. He complained about his treatment by Hollywood, he complained about how people behave, and he complained about science fiction. I had never read an interview with someone who talked like that, who was so passionate about writing. It made me want to be that passionate about something, too.

As a pre-teenager who liked comic books and Creature Double Feature, I was surprised that someone was pushing the idea that sci fi could be about important things, maybe things that weren’t important to me at that point, but things adults were interested in. I was going to be an adult someday, so maybe I should think about these things, too.

Harlan was interested in comic books and movies and fiction, but he was also interested in ethical behavior, and women’s rights, and racism, and doing the right thing. This was heady stuff for a kid whose favorite thing in the world was The Fantastic Four.

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“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” is about a prostitute whose soul ends up stuck inside a slot machine, and the loser who is seduced into changing places with her. It’s about hate and bitterness and the way love gets warped and can be used for selfish ends.

It’s also about the shocking idea that men have feelings, too. Women aren’t the only ones who are lonely, who long for love. Ellison wrote about this not in some fat-headed “privileged” way or as special pleading, but as one would talk about the simple reality that EVERYONE deserves love. Yes, even “white boys.”

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I bought every book of his I could get my hands on, looking for more of that high octane stuff. I bought lots of science fiction and often ended up disappointed. The few exceptions included the work of Robert Silverberg and Samuel R. Delany, whose works were not like Ellison’s but seemed rooted in the real world, too. Though I also enjoyed Roger Zelazny and Theodore Sturgeon, I discovered that Ellison didn’t write science fiction stories, he wrote Harlan Ellison stories.

I went to my first science fiction convention (I’ve only attended one other) and saw Ellison talk for a couple of hours. He was very entertaining, talking about Star Dreck: The Motionless Picture and his friend Terry Carr and so many other things. He made the 14-year-old me think the world was waiting for me, and it could be great or it could be terrible, but no one was going to hand you anything, you had to go out and live an adventure. The next day he had an autograph session. I presented two items for him to sign, and he said hello, signed the magazines. I stood there like a dope, saying nothing. I thanked him, and this ogre, this horrible man who says mean things about people, thanked ME.

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“Jeffty is Five” is the story of a boy who’s friends with this weird kid who’s into comic books and radio adventures. The hero moves away, goes to college, starts a business and comes back to his home town, where he finds that Jeffty is still five. It’s one of those stories that builds a little home in your memories, and even though you age and experience life and read more profound or more critically-accepted, less-sentimental fiction, there it is, still in there, making you think a little each time you remember it.

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Ellison kept writing. I bought each of his books as they appeared, watched the new Twilight Zone because he was involved, bought every magazine that included a story or interview or column.

And then, in the nineties, I kind of drifted away from him.

Or, he drifted away from me. A guy who was always complaining about how loathsome TV is seemed to grab every TV job that came his way; a guy who bragged about his upcoming novels being on the bestseller lists never came out with a novel in my lifetime; a guy who used to rack up awards and nominations started selling to few top markets. He seemed to go into the underground of an already subterranean genre. He seemed like what many of his critics called him, just a crank who talked a good game but was off to the side while others writers took the spotlight that you’d think Harlan commanded, the way he talked.

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As I came into contact with a wider variety of people I discovered that not all successful people not named Harlan Ellison were evil, and not all  non-white people were saintly–and that stereotyping them as such was insulting and dehumanizing. His patronizing attitude toward poor black and Hispanic people, as he does in his Twilight Zone screenplay Nackles, became annoying, and embarassing. When he was on, as in Mephisto in Onyx, he could use race and the idea of ‘white privilege’ to force the reader to question his or her beliefs about race. But he often came off as a typical Hollywood liberal, looking down on those who weren’t as enlightened even as he talked about how noble were the folks he didn’t seem to know much about beyond the cliches of a 60’s liberal.

Ellison was always bragging about how many women he’d been with, how much money he made, and how with-it he was. He’d throw something at me if he heard this, but the person in our culture who seems most like Ellison is Donald Trump.  Ellison’s reputation with women included an infamous case with a writer, which resulted in the man who championed the equal rights amendment to the constitution being considered a sexist pig. Yet for all his being a bigmouth, a womanizer and, frankly, a liar, Ellison is an example of someone who can be all those things and still be good at his work.

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“A Boy and His Dog” is great. The movie is great, but Harlan was right about that last line. The sequel story, “Eggsucker,” is heartbreaking. Killing off Vic and having Blood hook up with a woman seems like the act of someone bowing to pressure. Even self-described gadflies care what others think about them. In this case, I think he ruined something that could have been expanded into a novel.

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I think THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON was the last hardcover of Ellison’s I bought until the White Wolf hardcovers, which were reprints of books I already had. That series was abandoned, and Ellison seemed to get away from me. I’ve been told by someone who knew him that Ellison had many problems with publishers, which makes sense. Harlan discussed his own health problems and writing issues.

He was still alive, still working, but he sure seemed to do a lot of convention appearances. The people he used to mock, the sci fi fans, became a big source of income. I have zero problem with that, or with doing commercials or anything done to make money legally, but it’s odd to see all that when for years he made a point of how much he hated it.

He used to behave like the only writer who was on the ball, too busy writing big Hollywood movies to ever go back to TV or deal with those pimple-faced nerds, winning awards and grabbing headlines. But in the last few years he published a lot of books you could order from him but couldn’t find in a book store. He wasn’t writing the stories or novels people were talking about.

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“Shattered Like A Glass Goblin” is an anti-drug story, but it is indicative of something so few seem to grasp in the drug debate, that one can be all for people doing what they want and still criticize what they’re doing. Ellison didn’t do drugs, and believed in legalization, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t depict what a waste of time it is to do that crazy shit.

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I think that sometime in the eighties Harlan lost his way.  Short stories just aren’t a major part of today’s culture, not even today’s comic book and SF culture. People ask “Have you seen that new movie?” or TV episode or even read that novel; they don’t much talk about short stories. And Harlan was a writer of short stories. His television work was negligible, episodes of shows that never broke through to the audience I suspect he really wanted–for all his excellence, his knowledge of SF and comic book history, he never created a LOST, or a comic book adapted into a hit movie, or a STAR TREK (despite writing the best episode of the original show).

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Harlan’s introductions in DANGEROUS VISIONS and AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS are some of his best writing. Someone should collect all of his introductions into a book. Well, a series of books.

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Or it might be something else. It might be something that happens to many writers, including songwriters. Harlan got married. A video I saw a few years ago shows a husband and wife who truly liked each other. I don’t say this lightly, it might be the case that he just became a happy person and lost some of what fueled his work.

But something changed, and it impacted my enjoyment of his fiction. There’s a reason that almost all of my favorites of his work come from the sixties and seventies. He always had a streak of self-righteousness that emerged in almost every story, usually as the Ellison stand-in lecturing other characters and especially the reader as to proper behavior and the right way to think. Often his stories were dramatically flawed because Ellison did all the work for the reader–you always knew which was the right way to think about whatever issue was being discussed. The right way, of course, was Harlan’s way. Other stories were simply anecdotes, or situations described in his amped-up, excessive manner.

Luckily, I had all those old paperbacks of his, a kind of comfort food reading. Harlan would lose his lunch if he knew his sexual, violent stories, meant to burn readers’ minds, were some fans’ fuzzy teddy bears.

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Some of Ellison’s stories from the sixties deal with racism and loneliness in ways no other genre writer has ever dealt with them, with such open pain behind them. Later stories such as “Croatoan,” “Hitler Painted Roses” and “In Fear of K” address the wounds left by romantic relationships using fantasy backgrounds. I don’t think they’d find much interest from contemporary readers of SF and fantasy.

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It’s silly to try to carry childhood heroes into adulthood, but I think Ellison’s work was so fine, his manner so entertaining, and his talk about ethics and decent behavior so important that long after I tossed aside hero worship, I still kept an eye on his career, still picked up any books of new Ellison material, and was happy when he won awards. I liked knowing he was still in the world.

Harlan inspired me in everything from choosing to follow a writing career to working with the homeless and at-risk youth. He also inspired some of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. But there are borders of responsibility strangers cannot penetrate; we have to take responsibility for our own choices in life, not blame someone we never met whose work we got something from that changed us for life, for better or for worse.

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He talked and wrote about people who didn’t have anything, about victims, about the lonely and the oppressed, all in genre fiction which is either junk or P.C. pamphelteering. He was a significant person in a world where most of us just manage to endure, and he lived the kind of life most people never even bother dreaming about.

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“The Deathbird” is an example of a “dated” story, I guess. It’s a relic of the New Wave, it’s written in an unconventional style that would probably be mocked in a modern writing class, and its goals could be met in a more Carver-like way. I guess. But Ellison was a fantasist, and a lover of art and film, and in this story you can see someone taking the death of his mother and painting on a huge canvas in order to depict the depth of his feeling. Hemingway-like stripped-down language is not the only acceptable way to talk about things. Sometimes, depicting the death of your mother and your dog using planet-destroying birds can get at you in a way a more respectable method might not.

Just like writing a couple thousand words about someone you only met for a few minutes a couple of times can have meaning, if only for the one writing it, in ways more straightforward memoirs could.

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It just figures that when Ellison’s death is the topic I’d drone on too long, unable to express a few sentiments at reasonable length. But, like Harlan, I feel justified. Because to this person who didn’t know him, Ellison had significance.

I know no one lives forever, but I’m sad that he’s gone.

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Just Write

There comes a time when you have to stop reading How to Write books and articles.

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I’ve gotten SO much shit for saying that over the years. It’s nice that more and more writers are saying the same thing.

“But you’re learning–”

Shut up.

You’re hiding in your invisible study, thinking Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King has the magic formula.

Read. Keep reading. Read.

But stop reading How To Write books for awhile. A year. And actually write.

Finish what you write. Submit it to agents or publishers or magazines. Don’t let it be reviewed by people you will then owe a review.

Just write. Finish. Edit, polish.

If you’re writing a book, this will be a long, involved process. We all know this. But are you using the process to avoid being judged? Then write for your friends, who’ll only applaud.

Write some short stories and send them to magazines. Got a book finished?

“Yes, but I have to submit it to my crit group.”

Send it to a publisher.

Do you really know that it sucks? Then you can’t send it. Why are you online? Get off the Internet and rewrite that damned book.

Someday you’ll die. I don’t know when that’ll happen, but it won’t be on your schedule. That last day won’t be after you’ve established yourself as a great writer, probably. If you don’t get your writer’s nose broken a few times, it’s never, ever going to happen.

Create a schedule for writing every day. Stick to it. If you know you won’t stick to five hours, schedule one hour. If you can’t devote an hour a day to writing, you don’t want to write. You want to be Stephen King.

Stop running away because you’re afraid someone you really trust will say your stuff stinks and you need to keep at it.

Write. Now. 6 22 10 North End 114

Jealousy

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I could live up there. No, the one on top, other one’s too homey.

I’ll call him Bruce. He is about my age, came up in similar circumstances. He made different choices, had different opportunities. We both wanted to be writers.

Bruce had a big success–his book sold well, got a movie sale. I wasn’t happy for him, since I don’t know him, but I wasn’t jealous. Someone wrote a book people like, it sold. My book was doing a rejection tour of publishers and agents.

Measuring your own level of success against another writer’s is stupid, but comparing achievements in real time is insane, or close to it. So many things contribute to how you’re doing, how he’s doing. Also, his stuff is good enough to sell. Yours isn’t. You need to change that instead of worrying about the horserace angle of publishing.

Bruce married, had kids, nice house, nice life. For awhile it looked like he was done. He wasn’t. He was just working in movies. Then he went back to books. Sold more, sold to movies. Hit movies resulted. More success.

He came out with books in the genres I write in.

(Being jealous of someone’s success is poor form; don’t make it worse by writing about it. And definitely don’t put such writing out there for the public to read. If you’ve done this, delete it.)

More success. More.

In all this time, I hadn’t read more than a page or two of his work.

By accident, I read an anthology Bruce had contributed to. I went in thinking, “Watch this, it’ll suck.”

The book contained an early work by a writer I knew of; I had read little of his work. Reading Not Bruce’s early story, I noticed some flaws, some trite stuff, but I wanted to see how the story worked out. After finishing the story I thought, “That was good.” Not Bruce slipped from “Don’t Care” to “Will Try A Book” status.

Back to Bruce.

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I thought Bruce’s story was going to suck. It’s much more recent than Not Bruce’s story, and written while he’s on a career high. This is prime cut, as opposed to Not Bruce’s hamburger.

Bruce’s story blows.

It’s not okay, it’s not “good but not my thing.” It’s hilariously bad.

You think I’m delusional, but that’s okay. I’m actually kind of shocked that such a story was picked for this collection, which includes at least two writers I would call “great.” It’s a bad joke, with a dumb P.C. angle that dares the reader to disapprove. Like the politics = Like the story = You’re a good person!

I’m still jealous of Bruce’s life and career. This is something everyone tells you us poisonous. That’s true. I have always tried not to have such feelings about somone who could be a great human being. At the very least, he’s successful at having the kind of career I’d like to have.

As we get older and realize life didn’t go as we’d hoped, we realize this is the case with many, if not most adults. Very few of us die thinking, “Thank God I’m going, I can’t think of any awesome things I want, I’ve got ’em all.”

Maybe–I’m definitely not sure about this–jealousy is necessary in the arts. Without that uncomfortable, unpleasant thing digging at our insides like a fork, we’d be comfortable just writing and not achieving our publishing dreams. “I only wrote that for myself and my friends,” said a writer of a horrible thing with terrible grammar. If I were his friend I’d be offended.

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Writing is communicating. If you’re not successful at communicating, you’re not going to be successful at writing. And to be successful at communicating, you have to know who you are.

Even the truly shitty parts of you. Know what you really feel, and examine it, and see what you can do with it. Otherwise, it’s just going to eat you up, because it doesn’t go away.

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Boom.

I Need to Figure Out if I’m Going to Go ALL CAPS on the Subject of Each Posting

Coming soon: I will tell you which TV show has the most annoying laugh track on TV.

It’s kinda cute how people talk so much about white privilege, which they’d never be allowed to do if white dudes were trying to keep such privilege. Ditto folks who scream about fascism (or communism).

PONTYPOOL is one of those horror movies I was supposed to like because of what it wasn’t. It was okay, but ultimately comes off as pretentious. Good thing there’s a niche market for such movies.

I’m going to try to write a novel in three days. Will of course keep you posted as I write.

I’d write a vampire book, but I ain’t paying for a cover of a dude who needs a shave and has his shirt off.

I wanted to see what I was missing in crime novels, so looked at the opening pages of a few. Each of them opened with a shooting in progress. 5 out of 5.

Why can’t I get the GOOGLE browser to fit the page? Cuts off the first letter of ever line on the left.

Is it sick to stop taking medication because you want an excuse to visit your doctor?

Having trouble with a story? Remember the theme, and proceed with the intention of paying that off. I’m writing a story about a guy trying to get inside a building, but had no luck getting it GOING. So I asked, “What is this about?” I figured that out. The story is proceeding.

I don’t care if some dead person was a racist against people of my ethnic type. I like his stories. He’s dead. If I stop reading his stuff out of protest, he’s still dead.

I like feedback. Please feed back. Ask me a question, make a statement, mention something you think I’d enjoy. Just don’t yell at me, I’ve had a rough few weeks.

There are few things better than nighttime.

I’m hoping to have the revamped version of this up before you read this. Please check it out. If I note that it’s a revision, please consider buying it. If not, wait.

https://www.amazon.com/Year-Silent-Light-Story-World-ebook/dp/B00PJB4X9O/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1522914388&sr=1-2&keywords=year+of+silent+light

 

My Short Story Re-Education: Introduction

Coming back online has made me realize I need to stay offline longer. Reading these things called books has made my brain work better.

I’m not just spouting the familiar “How awful this Internet thing is, if ONLY we’d go back to The Page” line. As I’m typing this, I can actually notice a difference in my thinking and writing.

Look, it’s fashionable to bitch and whine about the ‘net. But it’s hard as hell to stay off it when you work at a computer and you have to be online to post, send out stories, correspond, work on your already-available books, etc. It was hard to stay offline at first.

It got easy, and quickly. As I spent days reading and writing (not much, but some) using paper, my brain started to slow down. This may not mean anything to you if you don’t have one of those quasi-ADHD minds.

This is an experience you have to experience to understand. It’s a slow process. It’s all about replacing the ‘net with the printed story.

Someone like me, who wasted so much time online, needed A LOT of stuff to replace all that useless (as well as the useful) online material. In my case, I’ve got a lot of rewriting to do, some crime, mostly horror (and horror-crime).

The idea is to program my brain with horror. Horror isn’t my genre of choice exclusively, it just happens that the stories I’ve sold are horror stories–not the fantasy (with one exception), and the science fiction stories have been horror-sf. Horror seems to be how I’m bent.

This is not an issue for 95% of the writers I know. They love a genre, they write in that genre. It’s not that I’m diverse or ‘not bound by rules’ or whatever self-romanticizing bull indecisive, unfocused writers use to dodge charges of dilettantism. For me, it’s the single biggest obstacle to success. I’m not fighting it (it’s not like I don’t like horror), I’m just going with the flow.

Cut way down on Internet. Cut WAY down on movies. Cut way down on writing.

Real life stuff has been complicating things, but it just might help me get to the real beginning of my reading program. THIS is just the warm-up.

Have you ever taken time off from the electronic battlefield and just read? What’d you read? How’d you feel? Did it impact your writing? I’d love to hear from others who’ve tried this.

My own story college is ongoing. More once it REALLY begins.

Sources for the freshman prep work:

darkness-073239578

9780765304452-uk-300

1778660008a7h8

0765315599

00368acb

9780765333629