In the middle of writing my last novel – which just wrapped up last week – I started reading “Zen and the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury. I had the opportunity to read several of his short stories in the past, and Fahrenheit 451 years ago, which introduced me to Bradbury’s style. In my opinion His Art of Writing is right up there with King’s “On Writing” – a great starting point of new writers and a great resource for those of us working in the craft on a daily basis.
But it’s so much more than that.
I don’t believe any one writer has all the pieces to the puzzle when it comes to great writing. The author you love – even the one you won’t talk about – has faults. Whether it’s a struggle for them to write great dialogue or they drone on and on for pages describing something, they need advice (and solid editing). I tend to hold the belief that each writer has a piece of the puzzle, maybe a corner or a middle piece with confusing bumps and openings. They need other pieces to get a better picture of what they want to bring to their readers, and the master’s who’ve come before us are a great resource for those pieces. This is why I tend to listen to different viewpoints on writing other than my own, because I know for a fact I only have the piece I’ve been given. I encourage you to stay open to what other pieces you find around you, while at the same time you stay strong in your own voice. Don’t lose yourself inside the success of the masters we have the joy of reading. If you have the gift – and I’m not saying I do, only time will tell if that’s true – use it every day.
I took Bradbury’s idea of writing a thousand words every day, not two or four. Instead of letting a flood of words out every other day or once a week, keep the demon chained a little. Feed it a few pieces of meat each day rather than gorging it on a Thanksgiving style feast. I took this idea because I decided to step up my timetable to finish the novel on February 7th this year. Putting a flag down on a specific date keeps my inner storywriter in a state of semi panic. The accelerated heart rate is good for him, or at least that’s what I tell him every day when I sip my coffee. True to form I made my goal, suffering a complete body breakdown that Sunday, and falling ill with some sickness I’d been fighting for the past week. I felt triumphant, like a runner at the end of a long race collapsing after the finish line. The work on the book isn’t done of course, with editing and revisions to follow soon.
There’s no doubt Bradbury’s process worked. It kept me loose and hungry to keep going each day. I found I had less peaks and valleys in the pacing of the story, with very few nights where I was wondering what to write next. They happened, as did Christmas week where I couldn’t commit the time to writing with so many family events going on. I compensated in the weeks afterward but letting the beast out a little more, knowing if I didn’t the numbers wouldn’t match up at the end. My process requires an end goal. It can’t move until I know the end. Now that doesn’t mean the story won’t change or flow in a different direction as I go, but points A and B have to be as close to stone as they can get.
As I’ve done before I do a fair of reflection after a piece is done. In the past three years I’ve produced five works for the eyes of the world, each a marker in my life as a writer. It also gives me a chance to show you where I’ll be going from here.
I’ve eluded on my twitter account to working on my chops as a screenwriter. I fell in love with movies at an early age, with my first big screen event coming at the tender age of three. Return of the Jedi was the first movie I saw with my parents, and while I know the plot backwards and forwards now, all I can remember from that first showing was Luke’s green lightsaber flashing against Vader’s red blade. I ate up movies and television during my early years, as most kids of the eighties did. My goal going forward is to write a spec script based off my Mythos Division series, and send it to a number of agents for their opinion. Getting new work out there into the hands of decision makers won’t be easy on my stomach, but it’s the next step for me. Along the way I’ll be going back to school, learning the craft of screenwriting and posting updates here. It means more blogging, but hopefully that will spur some interest in the development of my new process.
Look for Echoes of the Deep – the third book in the Mythos Division series in September.