Try as I might, I cannot seem to get into any books on writing. You know, books on *how* to write. Lord knows I have given it the ole’ college try. Just about every trip to my local brick-n-mortar book stores, I grab a book on writing and start perusing. It usually lasts bout five minutes. Most of the time, what I read is a rehash of other stuff I’ve read. Develop your characters. Avoid passive voice. Invert cliches. Never open with the weather. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. I once heard the phrase, "History does not repeat itself; historians merely repeat each other." I think the same philosophy applies to authors of How To Write books.
Really, once you get past Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, much of the rest is background noise (Amazon reviews notwithstanding, there’s a lot of truth in the pages – though I agree the price is hefty to own that wisdom).
There have been some exceptions; Bastards, Bullies and Bitches had a nice dissection of the shades of villains and antagonists an author can employ, but that was really just refinement on what I already knew. On Writing summed up King’s methodology nicely and if it worked for him (arguably the most widely read author in the English language, save one), who am I to argue? So what gives?
After all this reading, I reached an uncomfortable conclusion: I already know how to write a book. In my head, I already have a collection of tricks and techniques, pitfalls to be avoided, and methods to control my pacing. I’ve read all this advice, ad infinitum. I have the toolkit.
So why is this so goddamn hard?
I guess it comes down to the same thing as always: raw talent. Like golf, writing effective fiction is far more difficult than it appears to the casual eye. I think it was Stephen King that said (I paraphrase) you can train an average writer to be a good writer but not to be a great writer. A man with a box full of tools can learn be an effective carpenter but not to be a talented woodworker. A woman can learn to be a competent sculptor – but not to rival Michaelangelo.
So which am I? Competent writer who is pushing the upper bounds of my talent? Or nascent great writer who just hasn’t put it together yet? Am I ready to be another Koko, and show the world gorillas are people too – or am I just another trained poo-flinging monkey whose aim is a little better than the others? I don’t know either.
Guess I’ll find out as we go. 8K words into my new novel. I think it is going to work and be good but we’ll see.
Oh yeah: never eat pizza rolls right before going to bed. I had some seriously messed up dreams last night – the kind that probably would have got me put in a loony bin a century ago, had I ever mentioned them. I actually felt the numbing in my soul when I woke up this morning; it took me a good hour to shake the fugue state. It was that freaky. I blame Totinos.
And no, no details. Maybe I’ll save it for a story. No sense in letting good psychosis go to waste.
(No, this wasn’t the whiny entry previously mentioned. I held off, yet again.)