Dare to write the darkness. Also: ain’t no such thang as writer’s block.

“Everyone has talent. What is rare is courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”

–Erica Jong

Once upon a time, I got stuck and needed rescuing, and the above quote pulled me up out of the sucking quagmire.

*squelches*

Now, my darlingest readers, in order to help you understand just what happened, I must take you back in time to a place fraught with danger and derring-do, abysses and adventures. ‘Twas a place both frightening and fabulous, and feckless wanderers found themselves fettered in both frying pans and fires.

Yes. Yes, you guess correctly, my ingenious inklings.

It was The Climax of a First Draft.

The climax of Elevator People, Draft 1, to be exact, and I had a sad. The whirlwind of writing-insanity was drawing to a close. I’d overcome the heady challenge of Beginning, Middle, and Near-End. I yearned for the Twitter cameraderie of wordsprints and communal writing procrastination. I’d dropped like a stone from my keyboard-pounding mountain peak and found myself wallowing in the Valley of Deep Post-Climactic Sorrow.

That happens sometimes. I get past the story’s climax and lose interest. I’ve written the denouement so many times in my head, it’s a chore to type it all out where other people can actually read it. I mourn the time when the story was fresh and exciting and the blank page, while intimidating, sparkles with the beauty of unmarred potential. I get sad and go off rummaging around for sparkly new things.

But the only thing that lifts me aloft again is writing itself.

So, finally, I shed my mourning veil and stripped off my black mourning bands. I delved into Elevator People once again, and with the most enthusiasm I’d felt for the story since Chapter 5. I was typing merrily along when suddenly! Out of Nowhere! There Came a Great Ginormous Wall of Writer’s Block! Zounds and Oy Vey!

I struck and was stuck. For, dismayingly enough, that Great Ginormous Wall was composed of Dark Stuff I Didn’t Wanna Write.

Lest you misunderstand me, dear inklings, let me assure you that I don’t usually balk at writing the Dark Stuff. When I was 15 and completing my first novel, I killed off about 40% of humanity at the beginning of the story. A teenage psychopath attacked the protagonists halfway through, and the climax involved the main character’s boyfriend getting shot and bleeding out with his head in her lap. (Muy tragic, n’est-ce pas?) That’s fairly gritty for a 15-year-old, conservative Christian kid. “Dark” can be relative, that much is certain.

Writing darkness in light

Writing darkness in light

So. I’m not afraid of the Dark. But on that blockety-blocked writing afternoon, I got to a point in the story where I knew the Dark Stuff was coming. I looked at my computer screen, watched the cursor blink at me a few times, and said aloud, “I don’t want to write this.” I closed the file and walked away.

(Figuratively speaking. In reality, I probably just popped over to Facebook and switched my brain off.)

A day or so passed, and I didn’t go back to my story. Why? I simply didn’t want to. That’s all there was to it.

But then a new day dawned, and it brought Twitter, and with Twitter the quote I’m going to make you read again, because I’m feeling all vignettey right now:

“Everyone has talent. What is rare is courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”

–Erica Jong

Sometimes, synchronicity just reaches out from whatever dimension it lives in and slaps you right upside the noggin.

“Okay, fine,” thought I. Story 1, Courtney 0. Whoopee, that’s what I get for not doing my job. So instead of staring up at the Great Ginormous Wall of Dark Stuff I Don’t Wanna Write and slumping into dejected discouragement, I girded up my loins (yikes!), pulled out my trusty sledgehammer, and pounded my way through that wall until rubble surrounded me and a thick haze of dust lay upon the air.

I followed the talent to the dark place where it led, and I wrote the Dark Stuff because that was where the story needed to go.

I have come to believe this as truth: There is no such thing as “writer’s block.”

Let me repeat:

There is no such thing as “writer’s block.”

There is I’m Not Focused Block.
There is I Don’t Care Enough Block.
There is I’m Not Giving Myself Permission Block.
There is I Am Plain Too Lazy Block (this one gets me, too).*

And there is I Don’t Wanna Write The Dark Stuff Block.

But sometimes, you just gotta suck it up, gird your loins, put on your Big Girl Panties, and DEAL WITH IT.

Don’t shy away.
Hold your head high, grit your teeth, buckle down, and rubber-cement your buttocks to the chair.
ART HARD, GORGEOUS.
Art hard through the Dark Stuff.
Write the thing.

Not every story will need to go to that Dark Place. But some of them will. (I’d venture to say most of them will. Truth, even beautiful truth, is a scary, vulnerable place.) And when your story goes there, writer, don’t hide. Acknowledge your fear, but don’t be skittish. Don’t quit. Do as I say, not as I do: don’t let it make you quit for even a day! It’s too easy to let one day turn into two, then four, then twenty. That Great Ginormous Wall of Stuck (read: FEAR) gets higher the longer you let it stand.

Every time you give in to fear, that Great Ginormous Wall gets thicker.

Write the Dark Stuff.
Let it flow.
Let it be what it needs to be.

Your story will benefit–and you’ll be stronger for it.

*There are other forms of so-called “writer’s block,” but they are another story and shall be told another time.

ANNOUNCING: #Specfic #Horror #SF Short Stories Wanted!

Best-selling Far From Home Series author Tony Healey has put out a call for short stories. He’s publishing an anthology for charity in November and is taking submissions in speculative fiction, horror, and sci-fi. Here are the details from Tony himself:

TITLE: TO BE DECIDED

AGENDA: Charity anthology of Speculative / Horror / SF short stories with 100% of proceeds to go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR: One short story per person in the speculative, horror and SF genres no longer than 10,000 words. They can be previously published work, provided you have the rights to allow me to reuse them. For unpublished new work, it should be the best you can get it, although all new stories will go through an editorial process.

EXPLANATION: I am looking to put together an anthology of speculative, horror and SF stories to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

As this is a charity anthology, I cannot offer any form of payment. You will be submitting your work in the knowledge that it will be used to raise money for a charitable cause. However, you will be able to publish your story elsewhere, independent of the anthology. And, if the anthology is as successful as I hope it will be, you will gain free promotion of your own work from its sale.

I am in contact with an artist I have admired for years, who worked on numerous famous book covers in the 70’s. I’m hopeful that he will allow me to reuse a piece of his for the front cover.

I will be contacting several well known authors, both traditionally and independently published, to see if they will be willing to either contribute a new piece of fiction, or allow me to reprint something already published.

Note that in the case of work being reprinted where it has already been published, I will accept it ‘as is,’ i.e. there will be no edits required or requested.

The anthology will be professionally edited, formatted and will have a professional cover. It will be a Kindle exclusive. There will be regular updates on my site www.tonyhealey.com regarding how many copies of the anthology have sold, and how much has been raised.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email me at tonyleehealey@gmail.com with ANTHOLOGY in the subject line and your story as an attachment. The deadline will be the end of October, 2013 for a January 2014 release.

So, there you have it, folks. Get your short story engines revved up and let those writing fingers fly!

#Amwriting Your First Draft: The Editwock Will Steal Your Soul

NOTE: I wrote a version of the following post for JuNoWriMo 2013. Becca Campbell, one of the founders of JuNoWriMo, was kind enough to ask me to write a Pep Talk for this year’s event. I was only too happy to oblige. What follows is a version of that Pep Talk, altered to suit the needs not only of WriMos, but of first-draft novel-writers everywhere. Enjoy!

Greetings, O Ye Warriors of the Mighty Pen!

Word documents. Word wars. Word mongering. Wordiness. WORD COUNTS!

If you’ve committed yourself to writing a novel (which is not unlike committing yourself, period), then you’ve committed to hammering out that first draft no matter what it takes. Some of you have done this before, some of you are doing this for the first time. But whether you’re an oldtimer or a newbie, you know that words are key to succeeding in this crazed endeavor we call noveling.

This could be an Editwock.

This could be an Editwock.

Well, duh. It’s kind of hard to write a novel without using words. I suppose you could try using music notes instead, but you’d probably end up with some kind of post-postmodern, Wagner-derivative opera suffering from an existential crisis, and I don’t think any of us want to hear that. And writing your novel using Morse code might be tedious. So, words it is.

But the thing about words is…they’re tricksy. They flit like pixies across your page or screen, all innocent-like with their serifs and curlicues…and then they just squat there. Brooding. Staring back at you from your work-in-progress and making you care about them. Making you want to change them. Daring you to change them.

If you change one, you’ll want to change others. You won’t be able to help it; editing when you’re not an editor is some kind of weird addiction. Once you start, you can’t stop. AND THE WORDS KNOW THIS, PEOPLE.

One minute, you’re writing merrily along, something about Our Heroine rescuing the doomed prophecy puppies and drinking the magic elixir in the nick of time. Next minute, you start editing, and before you know it, your Plot Point #3 has turned into Carrot Magnetic Demolition Force 7 and there’s really no turning back after that.

What I’m getting at here, y’all, is that while you’re first-draft-ing, you must avoid editing. The words will tempt you to edit. They will lift their lovely faces to the morning sun, open their lovely mouths, and give voice to lovely siren calls of editing bliss. Do not listen to them! “Beware the Editwock, my son! The affixes that bite, the compounds that catch!”

*ahem* Sorry. Slight Carrollian digression there. But you get the point. First drafts and editing don’t mix. If you let yourself edit, you’ll slow yourself down. Those chapters won’t write themselves, y’know. You gotta put in your butt-to-chair time, and if you take that time for editing instead of writing, you’re going to be hard-pressed to slog through the Middle-of-Story Blues or have the energy for the Finish Line Sprint.

Your best friend, dear writer, is the admonition emblazoned upon the JuNoWriMo homepage:

JUST WRITE.

Don’t worry about the “mistakes” (better known as “happy little accidents,” right?). Don’t worry about the typos, the synonyms, the passive voice, the dangling participles. After you’ve used the last of your strength to type “The End,” you can give in to the sweet seduction and edit all you like. But for now, resist. Don’t worry, and just write.

You have a novel to finish. And the great news is, you can finish it and you will finish it. You’re sacrificing sleep to get there. You’re sacrificing time with friends and family. You’re sacrificing the calm that comes from not over-caffeinating 24/7.

And yes, you’re sacrificing the luxury of poring over your own every word and tweaking each word to perfection.

But all this sacrifice is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a first draft in your hands — and editing it will be glorious. So just write, hon. That’s your only job right now, and you can do it.

Now stop reading this and get back to it. : )

__________________________
Other JuNoWriMo Pep Talks by Nina Post (contemporary fiction), Hugh Howey (WOOL series), and Rayne Hall (dark fantasy fiction).

On Censorship

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”

~Henry Steele Commager

“Anytime you censor people, you are deliberately breeding weak people.”

~Aaron Pogue

This is really a propos nothing in particular; I happened to stumble across the Commager quote, and it reminded me of the Aaron quote. Both are worth sharing, and since blogs tend to be good places to share things and my blog has remained neglected of late, I decided to do my sharing here and now. : )

Writing Means Creating Hay

So. As far as significant blogposts go, I honestly got nuthin’ for ya today, y’all. The reason for this is that I’ve spent every possible moment of the past 36 hours working on the sequel to Rethana’s Surrender.

The goal, in case you hadn’t already guessed, is to get this sequel ready for editing before the baby comes. I feel like I’m pretty well on-track to accomplishing this; but still, I remain aware that time groweth short. So, with much aplomb, Ima make hay while the sun shines.

Over the past 36 hours, the creation of said hay has been: finishing up an entire chapter of new material and editing into submission two chapters of material I last tinkered with four years ago.

I LOVE MY JOB. : )

That is all.