It’s All Bullshit

I love writing stupid bullshit, because that’s what writing is. We put words on a page and we have no idea if it’s any good or not. It sound right in our head until next time. Sometimes we know it’s bullshit but we put up with it anyway, telling ourselves I’ll fix it later.

Bullshit is good, it’s the only way to write. Otherwise you take yourself too seriously and that’s the death of the story.

An altogether serious novel has no place in literature, it must contain some silliness, otherwise it’s a product. It’s just pandering to the reader and putting yourself up on a pedestal that you’re deep.

Writing is one of the few mediums where the artist have full control, make use of that and write your bullshit. 

It’s all bullshit anyway.

A simple story

I tried to make a simple story the other day, with simple language and a simple plot:

It’s about a girl who lives in a castle. She was born with a birthmark that makes people fear her because (as the story goes) people with birthmarks were touched by something evil before they were born. One day, this evil will come and get her…

(Is this stupid? It sounds stupid…)

She’s shunned like the plague and nobody cares for her, even her parents. One day, a distant relative comes and takes her away. She’d wished to leave the castle all her life but never did she imagine it would be like this.

He takes her to an old, mostly abandoned, castle in the mountains. It’s a mystery what he wants with her. He has no family, and most people, who used to live there, have gone away. But he’s nice and now she can walk around as much as she wants without being taunted by others.

There are two other characters, as well, that live in the castle. Their behaviour hints that they might not be what they seem. They are hiding something, for sure and she starts to wonder if the stories about her might be true. Does the uncle have something to do with the evil that will come for her or is he just a simple old man who wants company in his lonely castle?

Trying to summarise it like this the story seems dumb. Maybe if I develop it a bit more it might make more sense and it gets easier to explain.

Neil Gaiman said a thing

I listened to a podcast the other day and Neil Gaiman was the guest.

Lucky me!

One of the thing that stuck out to me was his fondness for fountain pens. According to Neil, the reason sentences were so long, back in the day, was because they had a flow with the fountain pen and couldn’t stop writing unless they blotch the page.

I love anecdotes like this, it makes the world a bit more loveable. 

If you can’t stop at every other word you have to think ahead before putting pen to paper. I never do that. I just write whatever comes to mind, I never think ahead and I’m wondering, is that a bad thing? According to Neil, using a fountain pen you get the kind of sentence you wanted from the start, instead with a computer, you fiddle with it until it become what you wanted.

I’m guilty of editing a lot and I can’t even imagine people who write ‘correctly’ from the beginning. How can you write a story and not edit everything as you go? How can you write and then say the story is done without editing major swaths of it?!

When I write a book, I feel like I write several stories worth because I edit so much. 

They say write as fast as possible on the first draft to get all of the ideas out quickly, and then at the second draft, you basically write the story as it’s supposed to be. The third draft is just the minor editing that doesn’t affect the plot a lot. 

That’s not at all how things go down.

My first draft is short and my second is also short, then I have a third and a 5th and it becomes longer and longer until it becomes a book. 

Maybe my approach to writing is wrong or maybe it’s the stories I choose to develop… Either way, I have a feeling that I’m making it harder for myself. 

You made the right choice

You wanna know what the worst part about being a writer is? You don’t know if you get better…

You can’t honestly tell if you are going in circles or not, making the same mistakes over and over. Only when you get published do you get validation; and even then you can’t be sure. 

You can say that you are good enough to be published, but there’s gotta be more than that. I mean, why do you even write? if you do it for money, congrats, that’s not how most writers are, I hope…

You can only have faith in yourself that you get better. It’s like the belief in god, there is no proof and there never will be. Sure, rereading old stuff and comparing it (or even improving it) might give you some idea where you are at but all it tells you is that you’ve changed, but can you be sure you’ve changed for the better?  

I’m not sure other writers contemplate like I do, maybe that’s what I enjoy doing, more than writing stories, even. Finishing books and publishing them, who cares…

I just need to make something worthwhile, then I can pat myself on the back and say, you did the right choice.

A rant about time

Video games, like alcohol, can be used responsibly but I’m not sure people in the creative profession can…

Honestly, if I didn’t have video games I would probably drink a lot. There are large swaths of the day that I don’t know what to do with and you know what happens when you don’t keep busy, you start to think; unnecessary thinking about things that aren’t healthy… 

That’s why I like to go to bed early because I can unclutter my brain from all those unnecessary thoughts and that’s why I like to write early because my brain is fresh and not cluttered with impressions of the day. 

Granted, I could use that wasted time in other ways than drinking and gaming, but I’m not very social. Perhaps if I had a family that would eat up a lot of time, probably too much time, and when am I supposed to write?! 

We like to keep busy.

But I’m gonna be honest, I’m not very good at managing my time, at least not at home. It is not my writer’s space anymore, it used to be. Now, it’s where gaming happens and watching shows and such… 

At my current job, (which I’ve had for 4 years now) I got the mornings largely to myself and it has become my time to write. But things change and neither of those spaces is my time anymore, at least not consistently.

Where do I go then to get away? Cafes.

I actually don’t mind cafes, that’s how I started writing way back when I was working in Cambodia. I used to get off early from work and beat the traffic and then I’d sit and write at a cafe until the evening because my apartment was a piece of shit and I didn’t want to spend too much time there anyway.

Besides, I didn’t have entertainment readily available to me either, apart from a playstation Vita, which you can only waste so much time on. Now I have movies and shows, MMORPGS and stuff to keep me occupied. 

I can barely write for more than an hour before I want to take a break. It depends on the stage of the story, of course, when it’s new and exciting and can barely get away from it…

So yeah, that’s my rant about time:

Create a writing space 

Always write on the same time

Write and read before you do anything else

And, don’t have a family, I guess…

Write too much or too little

They say that it’s advisable to cut a significant portion of your draft before finalizing, that a lot of it is simply filler, but I have the opposite experience, I write too little. I’m rather lazy by nature so I usually don’t add more scenes than necessary and I focus on the plot as a whole rather than the story. When the plot is done then I go deep and focus on characters, which might not be a good idea because characters tend to change the plot…

On the other hand, working like this almost guarantees that I finish something because I’m not too concerned with the quality yet. I want to finish rather than make something perfect right away. This might be good for short stories, now that I think about it. Novels are a bigger commitment and not doing your best will just end up wasting your time.

In my experience, when I start getting into the meat of the story, I see before me a large pile of puzzle pieces. I got some of them pieced together already but I have to sort them out with trial and error. Sometimes there are other sets of puzzles in the mix which complicates things… There might be an issue with the idea when that happens. The story might be too vague and I have very little to work with so I try to borrow plots from everywhere, haha.

Writing Simply is for Children?

Finding a style that works for you and for the readers is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I dream of a future where I can write something smoothly, meaning my style is set, I know what I can do and I’m good at it. But to reach this goal you need to know what you want and to read a lot of different kinds of books. I had a hard time reading children’s stories before because I thought they were very slow, but once I slowed down myself, and didn’t try to finish the story as quickly as possible, I find the story much more enjoyable. Also, I learned something:

In children’s stories, they really write simply, yet I can see exactly what they imagine. perhaps not exactly but they give me enough information to imagine for myself. In most other fiction, especially fantasy, everything is described in minute detail and doesn’t give much room for my own imagination. Why is that? Is it because adults don’t have imagination? Is it because adults expect books to be hard and children’s books to be simple because children are simple?

Who knows, I often think that books on the fantasy genre is a slug to read but never children’s stories, they are boring for other reasons, sometimes… Maybe one can use the best of both worlds, somehow?

 

Show or Tell, Both.

There is no doubt that you have to write down everything that happens to a character, whether it’s in the past or the present, because you, the writer need to have a clear idea what lead the character from point A to point B. But that doesn’t mean what you write will end up in the story at all! All those scenes that you have worked so hard on will sometimes never be shown, it will be shown implicitly through your writing. You will hint that they have happened, these scenes will appear in a conversation, never fully explained, but it doesn’t need to be. The reader only need to know the consequences of those scenes and will create new scenes with more depth, because you know more than the reader.

On the other hand, this does not have to be true at all! It all depends on the story you are making. A children’s tale, for instance, can have layers of depths, but that doesn’t mean everything is shown, but rather told, in a concise manner. It’s neither boring or superfluous because the charm of the writer bleeds through a narrative. People that read such stories know what they get into. Others will be put off by it, but that doesn’t matter. You write what you like to read, what you find fun writing and other people will find your style appealing because you like what you do.

Let me Indulge!

I have so many ideas it’s crazy… I’m super excited when I have them but I feel like I cannot start on a new project before I finish the first. But exploration is what I love about writing… And I’m wondering if maybe I could allow myself to indulge in these new ideas a bit before I continue on the main project – you know, to see where it takes me…

I feel like I need to do something with them, in any case, at least to find out if I should discard them or not. There’s not reason for me to work on stories with vague ideas or stories that I have difficulty to move forward with when I have so many to choose from.

If I explore ideas while I have them, I might be able to make a call which ones I want to go back to on a later date.

What do you do with your ideas? Do you get them everyday or just occasionally?

 

Stay True to Yourself

Have you ever come across the notion that writing in first person is bad? Of course, people can like whatever they want but I suspect they don’t like it because they were told to. Somebody told them that adverbs are bad, that cliches are bad while they themselves have never encountered these cliches themselves. Writing in first person was very common at the turn of the 20th century, which is why I believe they think it is bad because it is old, or maybe it is the industry that suddenly decided that this form of writing is bad, arbitrarily telling the readers that this is not what you want, like short stories and novellas, people don’t want that, they say. There’s no money in those and I suspect that first person stories tend to be shorter as well… But I’m not here to investigate this but tell you that I love writing in first person.

When I write stories, they tend to concern one character, the story has to start somewhere and that means the protagonist is the only thing that matters, at first. I tend to write without reason, there’s no logic at play, no plan, but it ends up coherent anyways. As if I’m not making a story but rather finding one which I’m trying to convey.

There is merit, however, to listen to industry visdom, because you do want people to read your stories, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon yourself, because if you are not true to yourself you are not true to your stories. Such stories are dull and they will chip away at your heart until you hate writing. I want to enjoy the process of writing, that’s my goal, and if nobody likes what I write, that’s a shame, but there are limits to how much I’ll change to please others.