It’s easier being passionate

You have to have passion for a subject to write about it. You can’t expect your readers to feel any excitement if it’s nothing but a boring writing exercise for you – Leonard Mlodinow

I’ve done the writing exercises. And I’ve written stuff where I went in perceiving them as writing exercises. Stepping stones in my ongoing development to becoming a competent storyteller. Let me tell you, those stories have been deleted or are sitting forgotten in a notebook.

For me, writing exercises and passion don’t exactly go together all that well. You can ask my mentor how well I handled those exercises and my early attempts to weave something together within the boundaries of the rules and conventions surrounding story form and any kind of genre.

The only thing I seemed to have adhered to is long-form storytelling.

If asked, I’m sure my mentor will admit that he has learned some interesting things about me as he acts as a guide in my development as a writer. He might even tell you what those things would be. And I would have to agree with him. How knowing those things would be of any benefit to anyone is anybody’s guess.

After having written two novel-length stories, it is clear to me that I really have to have a passion for the story and for the characters in order to want to tell it and do any justice to it.

Okay, yes, it’s only two novels but you figure out quite a bit of stuff the second time around. What that stuff is, I haven’t quite wrapped my head around yet. It’s not like sitting down and doing a post-mortem of the process right at that moment.

Considering the manuscript of the second novel is in the hands of my editor, I can’t really conduct any so sort of post-mortem until the manuscript becomes a physical object in the shape of a book.

But then the question becomes do I deliberately want to do a post-mortem of the process? No. For me, the post-mortem, the figuring out of who I am as a fiction writer is a process that happens over time. The answers or revelations don’t come to me all at once. It’s a process that will subconsciously inform and shape the way I tell the next story. It’s so organic that I couldn’t possibly tell you with absolute certainty as to when I’ve discovered specific traits about myself as a writer. Things like that are a blur to me. I don’t stop to mark these kinds of discoveries on a calendar. I can only provide approximations.

Regardless of what I learn about myself through the art and process of writing and being a storyteller, there is no denying that I have to be passionate about the story I’m telling. Otherwise, I have no chance of convincing anyone to take an interest in any story I tell. If I buy into it, if I believe in it passionately and tell it passionately, maybe someone will feel the same way when they read it. I don’t particularly care if the general population doesn’t buy into my stories. I don’t think my stories are for everyone. I’d be happy with a much smaller population buying into and believing in the tales I want to tell.

I’m not an ‘appeal to the masses’ kind of person. It has that ‘I want everybody to like me’ kind of vibe. And it feels dirty to me. I’ve always been the outsider. Intentionally, or unintentionally, I’ve been made to feel like an outsider, and I’ve always backed away or walked away and did whatever I pleased in the privacy of my own little world.

By being passionate about the stories I want to tell, I’m taking a big risk in revealing a part of me that is true and unwavering. It’s not all of me but it is part of what is fundamental about me as a person. Part of the core of who I am. Does that mean I’m being raw, honest and open about what makes me tick? I don’t know. I don’t think I’m too raw or too open. I might be a little too honest. Is there such a thing as being too honest?

But I am revealing a side of me that may make people uncomfortable. And that’s more than okay as far as I’m concerned. I might be bit of a sadist when it comes to making people uncomfortable.

And honestly, it’s just too hard and too tiring to be nice all the fucking time.

It’s easier being passionate. 

Until the chemistry is right

Many people think that it is important to have a title before you begin writing the book, but I think you should never sit around waiting for the right title to strike before you start writing. Crack on with the story, put in the hard work and the title will come eventually — Darren Shan

I think I may have come up with a title for my second novel. Imagine that.

It took me the weekend to come up with something. I’m not entirely committed to it yet but it feels like a good fit. I’m just going to let it linger for a bit.

Kinda like trying a new fragrance. A new blend of essential oils and aromatics. My blend already has the base and middle notes. I’ve been working with those from the beginning, refining as I move through the writing process. I’ve been playing with the top notes and they are the last pieces to the fragrance puzzle. A book title, book cover art work and the discerning eye of an editor as she combs through the manuscript once I’m ready to hand it over to her. The top notes are slowly coming together. Let each ingredient settle in, one by one. I have to see how the new title takes to the characters and the story landscape. They have to mingle. They have to be a really good fit before I can commit.

There will be chemistry. The good kind, I hope. Seriously, the last thing I want to have is the lab exploding in white hot heat. With some things, I’ll let the explosion happen. With the book, I’ll only tolerate a little smoke. Just enough to not set off the water sprinklers.

Now that I believe I have the book title, I can move forward with figuring out the art for the book cover. Can I do this myself or shall I invest in someone who has a bigger wheelhouse than me? I think I’ll have the answer by the end of this week.

I can also go back to the manuscript and work on a second draft. There’s one thing I want to add to it already. Just a handful of lines of dialogue. Then I’ll go over each scene (paragraph by paragraph, if necessary) to see if I can put a little more spunk and sparkle to what’s already there.

I stayed away from the manuscript for two weeks. But it was never far from my mind anyway. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that length of separation but I ended up finding a couple of stories to read online that had consumed certain aspects of my imagination. Let’s just say when I go in, I find myself going in for all or nothing.

And I have to drag myself away from all-or-nothing and turn my attention to a different kind of all-or-nothing — my novel, my characters, my boys. It won’t be difficult to fall back in with my boys. They know what I’ve been indulging in and, no surprise, they whole-heartedly approve of this particular indulgence.

Now, I must head back to the lab and play with all the notes, work with my boys. Just a little more experimenting, just a little more refinement until the chemistry is just right.

Getting it done

When I return to the writing process after being away from it for awhile, the first part of it always is being honest with myself: What am I into right now? Is it rock bands and guitars, is it noise, is it dance beats and electronics? Is it space, is it clutter? — Trent Reznor

When I finished writing my first novel, I never asked myself what interested me at that moment in terms of what could be my next novel. I wondered what I could write for a next novel but I never purposefully connected it to my interests. And I guess I assumed they would come out of whatever interested me at the time.

I can’t even remember specifically when the characters for the second novel charged into my life. I remember working on one idea when my boys burst in and demanded my attention. Who am I to say no with the kind of entrance they gave me?

Anyway, I never did a self-evaluation, as it were, to see what interested me or obsessed me. It just happened. That’s about as much as an explanation as I can provide.

As a writer, I haven’t asked myself what authors have I read whose work intrigues me. To be honest, I don’t read books these days. I read, but not books. Too much on the go. The times I have tried to make time to read a book I find interesting, I have failed to finish in a timely manner. You don’t want to know how many books I have not finished reading. Some folks would call the number of unread books shameful.

The things that do interest me are music and films. Most of my ideas are born out of that combination. But I do have non-sequiter moments. These are things I’ve touched on in previous posts.

The bulk of the music I listen to, isn’t what most folks would consider to be Top 40 stuff. I hardly listen to that at all. Doesn’t interest me. It may have something to do with my age but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I don’t care for a majority of what’s considered current.

I prefer contemporary instrumental, classical or orchestral. Although, I have to admit I have been listening Smashing Pumpkins’ Ava Adore and The Glitch Mob remix of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. The White Stripes tune is conjuring up imagery and ideas for a third novel.

I figure if I’m actually toying with an idea for a third novel, then I must be close to finishing the first draft of the second novel. You know what that means… I’d better get my ass in gear and finish the first draft so I can figure out the third novel.

I’m approaching the final leg of the draft. I’m pretty chuffed yet mildly disbelieving that I might actually be this close to completing the first draft. It is frighteningly exciting. And I’ll be more excited when I’m actually finished. Although my definition of finished might be a little different than most folks. We’ll see how it goes.

Gotta double down and get ‘er done.