This is part of a series of blog posts cranked out by my adoring proselytes — erm, I mean, faithful readers. I’m in Utah (er, presumably — maybe the plane crashed, or maybe I was forced into white sexual slavery somewhere in Dubai), so the task of entertaining you froth-mouthed moppets falls to others.
Today’s post is by Josh Loomis.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a slacker. Procrastination is, in fact, one of the arts in which I’m quite skilled. If I were to get paid for delaying ‘important’ matters such as paying bills, doing chores and being ‘productive’ in a corporate or small business environment, in favor of general faffing about activities like playing video games, I’d be living far more comfortably than I am today. Alas, I have yet to encounter truly life-changing fortunes regarding my career. I still find myself answering phones and bowing to the whims of my financial superiors. Despite this, I refuse to give up on my dream of a truly slacker lifestyle, and to get there I need to write.
Ah, but what to write? In the immortal words of Harvey Korman in the character of Hedley Lamarr, “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”
“God darnit, Mr. Alchemist, you use yer tongue prettier’n a twenty dollar whore.”
Anyway, I’ve made a few posts about simultaneous projects in progress and have tried juggling them back and forth. On some I’ve managed to make a marginal bit of progress and on others I’ve found myself completely stuck. It’s a bit like getting in your car, knowing where you want to go, and then opening your garage door to find there’s six inches of snow on the ground that appeared when you weren’t looking. Sometimes to get where you’re going, you need to plow through a dense, wet and cold mess.
In my case, it took a moment’s pause and some conversation with my wife to realize why I was unhappy with how my writing was going and what I could do to change. Like plowing a road to get through the snow to the pavement, I likewise cleared away everything on my mind and got down to basics. What do I know? What am I good at? What ideas make me the most passionate and feel the most fresh and original?
I’ve been playing D&D for decades. I’m a long-time Tolkein and Lewis fan, and I’d add Rowling to that pantheon without too much reservation. I can see where Beastmaster and Dragonheart went right when it comes to movies of the genre, and where In The Name Of The King went horribly, horribly wrong. I may not be a card-carrying expert, but I think it’s safe to say I know fantasy.
When I got on the subject of the story idea I have for the fantasy genre, I began to pace as I laid out the world history, political dynamics and plot points. I knew, in the back of my mind, what was happening as my better half and I bounced ideas back and forth. I was getting excited. There was a fresh surge of passion that I’d been living without for at least a few weeks. Even when I started axing characters, streamlining concepts and changing the direction of the plot, the changes didn’t bother me so much as the idea that I was shaping – or, rather re-shaping – something I really care about.
With that experience in mind, I resolved to make the fantasy novel my primary focus. I’d like to think other incidental projects will come along, but unless one of them’s paying me, it won’t have the attention the novel will have. I don’t want to work in a vacuum either, as that was another problem I was having. As I tried to push forward on one project or another, I felt I was doing so alone and it was difficult to tell if what I was doing would be successful or not.
Once again my wife comes into the picture, acting as both surgeon and assassin. She’s surgical in that she is excising unnecessary bits from points in the plot, and assassin-like in the way with which she dispatches ideas of mine that, while perhaps decent, are more darlings than anything else. Normally, if you’re cooking for more than one person, you want to make sure that what you consider to be a good taste is also considered good-tasting by others who are going to eat. The same goes for writing – you take a bit of the prose, stick it on a spoon or fork and let another person give it a thoughtful taste, paying attention to their reactions & feedback.
I know the Magic Talking Beardman told me I wasn’t under any contractural obligation to go with the project I chose for this little reflection, but the more I work on the plot, characters and themes of this little tale, the more I feel I’m on to something really special. Not just something to follow a trend or make a buck or get turned into a special effects showcase laughably called a ‘movie’. My goal as an author of fictional prose has been to take people away from the mundanity and mire of everyday life into a place they’ve never experienced before, allowing them to forget about their troubles if just for a moment as they invest themselves in the adventures and lives of characters that act, speak and think like real people. Becase in my mind, and perhaps in some odd parallel dimension proposed by Heinlein, they are.
It’s more than just putting words on a page. It’s laying the tracks for a journey into the unknown. And when everything is ready, the engine of the story burning white-hot with ideas and the passenger cars of chapters ready to speed travelers along, I sincerely hope people will be interested in buying tickets.