Monday, February 21, 2011

Gut-sucking aliens - write what you know and stuff

Hi Everyone - I just returned home from On the Brink Conference in Jacksonville, Alabama yesterday evening. I am scrambling to catch up! I do want to tell you all about the conference and trip, so I will do that later this week. For now, I am going to repost something I wrote for Author Culture -- actually below is the draft of what would end up being polished a bit before going to them, but I didn't keep the polished version *teeheehee*  I'll be back later to talk about my trip. I hope to be by to visit soon as I catch  my breath!

At book events, I often hear, “I have so many books in my head,” and I answer, “Then let them out!” That’s all that makes a writer—we let out the books. It’s both as simple, and as complicated, as that. I could have talked about Tender Graces till the cows mooed home, but until I sat me arse down and wrote the entire book, that’s all it would be: Talk, talk talk talk talk.

So what about this thing called writing? Well—

A writer writes –Yup, that old cliché is a cliché but as with most clichés it holds truths. If you want to be a writer, you must write, there’s simply no way around that one, although I’m sure there is someone out there breaking the rules and getting around it. However, for the majority of us, just as a dancer, a basketball player, a gymnast, or pianist must practice their craft, and practice often to become better at what they do, they must also produce a “product” from that practice. It is so with the writer.

Writing is work. Okay, yeah, writing can be fun, and wonderful and beautiful. Personally, I don’t want to do anything else, and all the years I had to work in an office instead of writing as I do now were soul-sucking years. I feel incredibly fortunate (hold on a minute while I shout out a big WHAHOOO! Because I get to write anytime I want to). However, there are times it feels like work, and there are times we may hate it. Suck it up and write anyway.

Make a schedule if you must until you are into the habit, or until you find your confidence. Oh, wait, I hate schedules, so how can I tell you to stick to them? Dang. That sounds like do as I say and not what I do. Okay, then try this: Find your comfort, find that thing that makes you want to keep your butt in your chair and write. Write anything or everything. Write when you are happy, sad, mad, in love, out of love, hate, disgust, yippey yi yo kai yai—write when something happens, write when nothing happens, make up something. Just write. That’s about it.

Read. What? You hate to read? *pant pant* Hold on a minute until I catch my breath (‘lizbeth, I’m coming!) Okay, I picked myself up off the floor. How can you be a good writer if you hate to read? Shoot, how’re you going to read your own work if you hate to read? I can picture it—you write The End and sit back with a satisfied sigh, there it’s done. But wait! You hate to read. What ever will you do? You certainly can’t read the 30,000 word novel you crafted, since reading is sooooo boring and awful and just so harrrrd. Oh, you mean 30,000 words isn’t enough? Well, dang. But you’re borrrreed and ready to write something ellllseee. Besides, you can read your own stuff, since you bet it’s the best thing you’ve ever (not) read. Well, then you may be the only one reading it because I stand by my statement: To be a good writer, one must read. I tell you what, since everyone who knows me knows I always say, “There are always exceptions,” I challenge you to find me a non reader who writes good books, or, I challenge you who hate to read to write a good book. There, the gauntlet is thrown—ha!

Write what you know does not mean you had to have experienced that particular event or feeling. For example, I can write about a character who is running from an alien who sucks all the guts out of people (or lives in their guts as in ALIEN). I’ve never run from a gut-sucking or gut-living alien, however, I can convince my readers that I know what I’m talking about because I understand fear, from my nightmares, or watching movies that inspire fear. I can tap into those horrific terrified feelings if I were to write something terrifying. Learn to zero in and write from the core of that. Don’t try to fake it; your reader will know you are cheating or just trying to “get by.” Writing what you know means convincing your audience because you tap into something you do know: think of it in the abstract as well as the concrete.

That's all for now - be back later.


The Boat House said...

Love your blog, this particular one inspires me to write about the "Tacky Road Trip" my husband and I took our grandson on when he graduated from high school Aliens be afraid, be very afraid!"

Greetings from Nancy at the Boat House in Birch Bay

Tipper said...

Great tips!!

Mei said...

Wow... great read! Hope I learn something from here... always dream to write a book one day about cooking and my friend bipolar. But this dream is a real dream... hard to work. My English and Chinese only half bucket full! :-(

Nina said...

Hi, Kat! As a thoroughly soul-sucked cubicle-dweller who's really supposed to be writing novels (but can't quit my job for variou$ rea$on$), I would love to hear more about how you finally got out of the office and into the pages of your wonderful stories.

I love your words on how important it is to read. I know a few self-proclaimed "writers" who don't like to read--and their writing makes me not like to read either!

rosaria said...

I'd love to read the entire article, K. Yes, indeed. You have to feed your heart and soul before you can produce anything.

Titus said...

I just love that phrase 'suck it up'. Must import it properly to the UK.
And the picture kind of goes with it. Cool.

Karen said...

Thanks, for those tips! Can't wait to hear about the conference.

michiko said...

I never has been a book warm,some reason the books made me put me on to the sleep:-)
Sorry I'm pretty much outdoor person.
I will look after your gardens..
No problems ha ha ha
Have a great day,

Carolyn V said...

Writing is work! Why don't my neighbors get it? *sigh*

A Cuban In London said...

'Write what you know does not mean you had to have experienced that particular event or feeling.'

Dear, oh, dear! We're in synch and you don't know how much. That's the theme (well, somewhat) of my next post coming out tonight:

'Should writers be acknowledged as thespians, too?'

As to 'Venti', I love it, too. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.