Smart Writers Recycle
Quick tip today as I want to try to burn some rubber and tear up some asphalt and take a leap forward on The Devil’s Gunsmith — knock out some character arcs, and forge ahead on the outline.
The tip is this, and it’s a very simple one:
No, not the plastic bottles or cereal boxes — no, those you just throw into a trash can. Or you burn on your lawn, wafting poison smoke toward the heavens, laughing and stomping the ground as you cry, “Take that, Mother Earth! Take that, you… gl… globe!”
Then you sing paeans and send offerings to your god. A god named British Petroleum.
Again, that tip if you missed it: please recycle.
My novel currently under representation, Blackbirds, features a protagonist, erm, “borrowed” from an earlier novel. My second, I think. That novel was a little thing called Unclean Spirits: The Apocalypse Of Agnes, and was about a girl under the care of a drunken angel because she accidentally fell in love with the Devil and was having his baby and now the forces of heaven and hell were going to come after her. (If this sounds a little like Dogma, you’re right. I wrote this before that, though, which was all the more troubling when that film came out.) Anyway, point is, Agnes had a friend, and that friend was a character named Miriam, and Miriam was a moderately unpleasant character who was wholly pleasant to write.
Just plain fun. Loved her to death.
And so, when it came time to write Blackbirds, for some reason I reached into the grab bag and pulled out…
Side character became main character. Huh.
An exciting transition, and since that other story is hell-and-gone from my brain (not sure I even have the files around anymore), nice to not waste parts. That’s part of what this is about: don’t let your delectable brain squeezin’s go to waste. We’ve all put effort into stories that didn’t go anywhere, either due to our own uncertainty or to market forces. Why waste that? Take a hammer. Break it apart. Let it crumble to its constituent parts: themes, characters, even down to individual sentences. Then, pick those parts back up and use them as building material for a whole separate project.
Second reason, though?
Hey, it’s an excuse to be a little lazy. Obviously a writing career demands diligence and discipline at every turn, but this is a legit cheat that lets you cut corners in a positive way — you’ve done legwork that never got used, so use it. No need to double the work. Reach into the grab-bag, see what comes out.
Reason I bring this up is because I’m doing it a little bit in The Devil’s Gunsmith — some earlier ideas and story threads have been hanging around awhile, either in note form or in unfinished short stories, and turns out that those things will fit snug as a bug in a motherfuckin’ rug in this new book. Saves me a bit of time. Saves me a bit of effort. Stops me from wasting precious intellectual gravy. That’s not just a win-win.
It’s a win-win-win.
Or a “triple-dub.” That’s what we call it in the business. Or, “The Biz.” I hang out with a secret cabal of writers in an abandoned subway station, and we’re always high-fiving and saying shit like, “Yo, Grand Master Pen Goblin, way to rock that triple-dub on the WIP the other day, bro! You are face-fucking the Biz! In the face! With fucking!” And then Grand Master laughs. And then we go hunting for itinerant homeless whose organs we will eat and whose skin we will wear like jumpsuits.
…you did know that’s what all writers eventually become, right? Cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers? No? Oh. Well. Uhhh. Pro-tip: we all become cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers.
Anyway. Back to the topic: recycle. Do it. It feels good. Break the stained glass window and release the colors, free the images, and take them back. Use them later. It’s your stuff. It’s your brain. Make use of it.