In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right”.
While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!
The thoughts for this essay sprang up a few days ago when I was installing insulation batting with my son-in-law.
We’re doing some summer remodeling and in order to increase the amount of time we can use our three-season porch, we needed to insulate the ceiling. I was going to do it to save money, for the experience, and because the area I was going to do was comparatively small – fourteen feet by ten feet. Only eight joists wide, it would only take two and a half bats per joist.
Easy, right? Made easier when my son-in-law volunteered to help me on the 4th of July while his wife worked. Nothing else to do, right?
Wrong on both counts.
The job was hideous as the temperature in the attic was somewhere near 120 degrees F. It was also filthy, the ceiling was low, and the only way to work was on our knees. We put the bats in in stages, one row at a time with a water/breathing/survival break between each stage.
It was horrible.
I felt closer to my son-in-law when it was done. I couldn’t have done it without him and the shared HORROR of the experience was a shared slice of life.
Segue: I’m reading Kameron Hurley’s new book, THE STARS ARE LEGION. Nearly done, actually, and it has lived up with its cover blurbs. Hurley’s previous blockbuster novels have all been fantasies and while I haven’t read them yet, my guess is that while they may be a new twist, all of them will be an “old story”. Most of us writers know that according to conventional wisdom, there are only between one and 20 “master” plots in existence. There are thousands of books on Amazon for use in plotting your stories, and all of them have their proponents.
But upon reflection, it seems that no matter WHAT the plot is, you have a cast of characters who are out to do something. That something can range from defeating The Dark Lord to catching a husband/wife. It can be as profound as making dying teens’ last days on Earth joyful, to a frivolous romp to find a lost dog…
All of them though have their cast of characters pass through Dark Moments and emerge on the other side more closely knit. Reading Hurley’s book, I expected a powerful science fiction story – and I got that. But at its heart, THE STARS ARE LEGION is a quest novel, no different structurally than THE HOBBIT or Homer’s ODYSSEY and there is nothing wrong with that.
In fact, that’s good because I can relate. I’ve certainly not embarked on a ten year voyage home; but I have passed through trial, tribulation, and insulating a really nasty attic with my son-in-law and while the intensity of the feeling may be different (or it may not), the feeling is the same. As I’ve read Hurley’s novel, her characters are changing in the same way – linking a contemporary story of a vastly different future to a classic story of a vastly different past and passing through my very real present.
What more can I ask for in writing or life?