Why Your Point Of View Needs A Subterranean Motive

Caleb NEW

This is a cover I’m designing for an update to my sci-fi thriller, My Name is Caleb; I am Dead. I got a great review for the book from Taylor Morrison, and I’m softening up towards commercialism in my cover designs. I wanted to fully embrace commercial appeal from day one, but I didn’t know how. I am approaching market viability one step at a time.

I didn’t realize that I’d neglected to update the interior of the book with Vellum, so that’s also in the works.

In Other News

The ‘a’ key on my laptop has worked loose, and refuses to adhere properly to the little hook parts underneath. I am training myself to type gently over the key so that it doesn’t pop off with every vigorous ‘a’ stroke.

Funnily enough, this quirk has made me grow fonder of my laptop. I have one of the MacBook Air laptops with the shredding power cords. I was patching it diligently with electrical tape, but my beloved spouse, observing the sticky and disintegrating cord, carried me forcibly to the Apple store and bought me a new one.

Now, Ulterior Motives For Point Of View

Your novel is necessarily written from one point of view or another; I tend to favor third person omniscient, but there are many kinds of point of view, and they are all good for achieving different effects. What we are talking about today is the message relayed by the style of point of view. What are you telling your readers, subtly, about the overall meaning of the story?

Every book relays a conglomerate of messages; the most long-lasting and impactful communication is that portrayed by the overall implications of the point of view. We’ll look now at some broad examples, to give you an idea of what I mean.

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is (mostly) written from a bemused, factual third-person omniscient point of view that gives the novel as a whole a sense of inevitable absurdity and reverence; the novel mourns for, judges, and prods acerbic fun at the characters.

Agatha Christie

Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, on the other hand, embraces a first person, past tense point of view, which turns out wonderfully in the final chapters when you find out the doctor’s been (spoiler, spoiler, spoiler). In this book, the subterranean message is one of deceit, danger, and false jollity. The book would lose much of its marvelously eerie, suspenseful quality without this point of view. The underlying message, that of the intensely personal and permanent nature of homicide, makes the scenes excessively memorable.

Victor Hugo

One more example is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you haven’t read the unabridged novel, you’ve missed most of the point of the book, which is a third person omniscient impassioned ode to the architecture of Paris. Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the emotionally impoverished Frollo are incidental to the main story, which is a very long and loving treatment of the city. This point of view creates a backdrop against which the characters move like miniatures picked out against an expansive landscape.

What Does Your Point Of View Say?

Books that have no second or third meaning, and that do not contain an overt message about life, art, and humanity, are books that do not last. The best and surest way to convey such a message is like this:

Examples:

Message: Life is hard, and people are corrupt inside.

Point of View: First person, present tense

I’m getting ahead of myself. I started to tell you about the day that I died. It was an afternoon, of course, broad daylight. Not at all the sort of scene you imagine, when you picture yourself dying suddenly. I always thought I would go in a car accident, if I died early. I hadn’t even found a girlfriend. It was incredibly ironic. I’d gotten away from my parents, I had a house that I almost owned, and I was current on my taxes. Plus, I’d just gotten a raise at work, and my boss liked me. I thought it was one of the best days of my life. Well, I wasn’t thinking right at that moment, this is the best day of my life, but I did have that feeling of something really great starting. I felt like I had been digging my way out of a deep hole, and I’d finally reached the surface and started to make some kind of genuine progress, and then Bam! Dead. Heart failure, or something. You don’t really find out, when you die like that, and are taken up right away. You don’t find out what it was that killed you. I suppose most people do some sort of hovering deal, you know, their soul hanging around over their corpse for a few days before they figure out that it’s time to move on. I would’ve found out what killed me, if that’d happened, because the ambulance would have come, and the people would have said to each other what killed me.

This is a passage from a book I’m writing about a young man who is enslaved by a goddess, and made to act as an undead guardian to humanity. This example is tricky, because it almost reads as first person past tense, but it is technically present tense, as Paul is speaking in the moment and telling the story.

I think I need to talk myself down from trickiness. I am apt to be too complex. In the meantime, here is another example:

Message: People are good inside, and honesty always pays off.

Point of View: Third person, past tense

Going inside the castle, she rummaged in the junk room until she located a putty knife. She took it out to the front steps and began scraping the wall until she hit smooth stone.

“Much better,” the princess said. The blackened goop peeled away in reams of thick, greasy sludge that dripped and seemed almost alive.

“No, no, please, oh please, no,” groaned the voice from the door. “Not my beautiful lovely sludge! I have been cultivating that sludge for decades, and now you mean to peel away my protective skin with a putty knife? What kind of a princess are you?”

“A cleaning princess,” she said, and got to work with the putty knife. After a few minutes she had cleared a sizable chunk on the wall, and she retrieved her rag, rinsed it clean, and scrubbed the stone. “That’s more like it,” she said, as she saw clean, bright white stone emerge.

And Now, For Contrast, A Terrible One

Before I jump into the bad example, remember that when you choose no message, your message is chosen for you by your psychological precedents. A message will be conveyed, whether or not you formulate one. Is it not better, particularly in the realm of art, to make a choice, and control the emotional outcome as far as you are able?

Bad Writing:

Message: I’m a super cool storyteller, and my readers love me!

Point of View: Psh! I don’t need a point of view! I’m a genius!

The house was dark; she held the phone against her chest, waiting until the time arrived. I knew he would come for me, even though there wasn’t any light to see by.

I’m outside the house, and there are no friends with me this time. I’m going to get that magical necklace she’s got. I don’t know where she got it from. It’ll be mine soon.

Her heart beats, and her knees shake. She doesn’t want to open her eyes.

I open the door. Then I realize I can’t, because it’s locked.

I hear the doorknob jiggle. My opening eyes take in the light from the desktop alarm, and the modem blinks. They aren’t afraid. Not like I am.

He goes to the window, and tries the casing.

Today’s Takeaway

The point of view that you choose inevitably creates a rhetorical framework, and determines the most lasting impression your story will leave on the reader. For example, in my very long and gradual fantasy series, the point of view is third omniscient, past tense, and the framework, the purpose of the novel and the overall message is about sex. Ajalia starts out as a severely-traumatized woman, and the whole impetus of the nine books, the through-line, is her sexual development. The moment she can get busy with Delmar, the story ends, because the point of the story is that sexual trauma is real, lasting, and possible to work through and heal from.

Well, Victor!

I’ve said this before, but I used to work every day with actors, and I found that every single one of them (yes, really) had severe energy blocks through the pelvic cradle. They could not bring their true selves onto the stage, and they could not mate. Their creative selves were almost completely obliterated. More to the point, they were incapable of love.

What Do You Mean, Incapable Of Love?

This problem fascinated me. I chose a female protagonist (Ajalia), because the damage in the women was incredibly worse than than in the men, and I framed the series as a practical exercise in releasing and integrating pelvic trauma. I gave Ajalia a perfect energy match (Delmar), and I went to work on their bodies.

The book unfolds slowly, and gently, because opening and integrating the pelvic cradle is delicate work, and it is dangerous. The characters heal, one piece at a time, and the series ends with a satisfying fade out on the wholly-integrated Delmar and Ajalia about to finally have sex.

The Ultimate Fade-To-Black

There’s a good deal of kissing, and even more talking, but the purpose, the sole motivating factor in the series, is real sex. By real sex, I mean sex in which both partners are whole, complete, and volitional in the practice.

The next time I produce a show, and I end up with three young women sitting forlornly in my living room and asking me to teach them how to date, I will be ready. And the next time I have a probably-gay actor following me around like an abandoned puppy, I shall have something more useful to offer him (because I cannot adopt the whole world, or my entire cast).

And Yes, Actors Have Tried To Move In With Me

The biggest obstacle in the past has been time; I can heal individuals, but the work often takes weeks, if not months, and everything moves like sludge because the subject has to understand what is happening in order to maintain the new energy forms after I’m out of the picture.

Because If Healing Doesn’t Last, It Does More Harm Than Good

Therefore, I wrote an extended analogy. If I meet an actor who is damaged, and longing for more, I can hand off a tidy pile of novels, and then have a ready lexicon for the eventual dialogue and individual work to follow.

This type of thinking may appear ludicrously long-term to some of you; I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t. I am satisfied with all of my preliminary trials of the novels; they appear to function as I intended them to. You, of course, are welcome to try them out yourself, but be warned that they are rather long, and will make a lot of anger and heat rise through your physical shell. Releasing old injuries often manifests as sudden rage, or as a fever.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t buy Caleb until I’ve updated it, okay? And many thanks to Taylor, who took the time to read and review my science fiction novel!

My Dragon Book Needs A Cover Evolution Saga:

dragon clip4

I had to add a couple inches of clouds. I think they look all right. (I probably shouldn’t be telling you I added clouds. Shh!)

I Added Clouds In SketchBook

Anyway, for this cover I started with an exciting mountain photo from one of the many free hi-def photo websites filling the web. (God bless all the generous European photographers who post free landscape pictures there. When I’m rich, I’m totally going to throw those little coffee buttons at them, en masse.)

I Shall Fling Many Coffee Cups

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I added text. I’ve been lurking here and there on youtube, watching tutorials for making schmancy text in Gimp. (Halla, free programs of the universe.) Hence, fancy text.

I had a silver theme going on originally (see, jpg below).

second queen small

But after some late-night Amazon Prime streaming, and too much sugar, I went crazy with some red, gold, and fiery jitter paint. Showing the result to my helpful spouse, I was informed that the resultant color scheme was “much better.” Cooler, as ’twere. More hip, in the parlance of yesteryear.

See The Result Below

Reddish theme, and some fire-smudges:

secondqueen5

I removed the top ridge of fire, and the upper portion of the scratchy black stuff. I also experimented with penciling gray all over the text of the title, and then blending it. I thought the resultant silver letters looked too messy, but was told they looked “awesome.”

Bending, once again, to the tide of popular opinion, I embraced the molten-silver letters and added some gold texture to the author name.

secondqueen7 copy 2

I submitted my Createspace files for review last night (well, yesterday afternoon). Now I am waiting for my partially-automated message from the Createspace people and I will order a proof copy of my latest brain-child.

This Is The Final Cover:

The-Second-Queen-Kindle

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My new book will be out soon! Your local librarian thinks you should read my other book in the interim.

The Good Fairies Of Writing Don’t Exist, But Your Ingenuity Does

denys-nevozhai-154974

It is important for the events in your book to have a certain charm; an element of coolness, or of social suavity builds the reader into a mental state where they want to be where the book happens. They want to hang around the characters, and they want to be part of the various adventures a-happening in the work.

Who’s The Coolest Person You Know?

What makes people cool? And that means, what makes the characters seem like the sorta people you would pay to stick around and stare at (because this is what paying for a novel and reading it means)? We don’t usually talk about making our writing cool, because many of us are trying to prove ourselves to Mrs. Hornswaggle from fifth grade who told us we would never write a whole book, or we’re secretly aiming for a prestigious award from the old people who have “arrived” on the literary authority scene, or we just want people to coo about how poetic our descriptions of the moon really are (in paragraphs, and publicly).

Oh, Victor, I Don’t Want Any Of Those Things!

But you want to be one of those authors who are mentioned in the big newspapers, and you want young people to call you and email you, begging for encouragement and advice, and you want to have a foreign bank account and a team of lawyers who are negotiating a TV contract for your latest novel. Right?

Okay, Maybe You Just Want A Tidy Book Deal

And an agent, and a fat advance with talented designers scurrying over your book . . . right? How do you actually, in real life, go about getting those things? Most people whom I have spoken to on the subject believe that such golden circumstances fall into individual laps by the grace of the good writing fairies. There is a moderate belief, in the people I’ve known, towards hard work and perseverance, but the main thing in their hearts is good old dumb luck and happenstance.

Happenstance Means Stagnation

There is work that makes a character cool, but there isn’t exactly a guide anywhere about, because if anyone had figured out how to reliably make people cool (and characters similarly cool), they would probably be selling their awesome methods. Right? One of the key draws of smoking, according to a book I read many years ago, is the sexually-slick aura of cool, older teenagers smoking around the vulnerable youngsters, who absorb the idea that cigarettes=awesome, and later take up the habit themselves.

I Knew An Actor Who Carried A Pack With Him For Fun (He Didn’t Smoke)

Smoking doesn’t make someone cool, but their energy carriage, style of hygiene, and attitude towards sexuality does. How can you impart some of these qualities to your main characters, in order to lure readers into a secret fascination with your creations? Huh. I got all the way down here, and I don’t want to explain this to you now. How awkward.

Squirrel!

squirrel-619968_1280

Ah, well. You know, I once spent half a shift in a casual dining place teaching my coworker how to pick up dates. He carried himself like a little boy, and had never learned to open his sternum or balance his shoulders over his hips. He had great hair, though, and he was popular. If he diligently eased himself out of the slouching posture of a ten-year-old boy, I was sure he would find romance easily enough. I had another lady come to me several times for work on her writing (she wanted to write plays). She was a puzzle, because I could never tell if she was genuinely stupid or really stubborn. I took a chance on her intelligence, and told her what I thought (which would form the subject of another blog about mixing gender types). Turns out, she was stubborn, not stupid, and though her dating life began to make marginal progress, she was unwilling (see, stubbornness) to apply any changes to her writing process.

Or You’re Wrong About Everything, Victor!

Always a possibility, my friends. Always on the horizon, the possibility of being a redundant old crank, but let’s get back to the topic at hand: attractive characters with a thick veneer of “cool.” To begin with, let us remember that a majority of persons in the world are heavily resistant to the influence of “cool” people, because of feelings of rejection and un-coolness, among other things. So if you’re aiming for attractive, emotionally-edible characters, keep in mind that much of your audience kind of hates attractive and awesome characters. You must therefore prepare yourself to overcome many objections (unconscious ones), and deep emotional resistance to your awesome characters.

Well, Where’s The Part Where You Tell Me About Characters, Victor?

I’m starting to close my systems up. I haven’t had a sealed system for a long time, you know. Constant tinkering, and active grafts and dilutions of pre-installed toxicity have motivated me to operate with an open core for years now; transitioning to genuine privacy is definitely a challenge. I don’t know if you have any idea what I’m talking about, but hey, hey! Let’s get straight to some examples!

Examples

Bad Writing:

Ocher, reclining beside the delicate female, made noises that attracted her sincerest attention. He seemed not-knowing what to say afterwards. He thought about mentioning the weather and the lack of a bright sky.

“It was not long ago when the two persons we were, you and I, had met,” he said.

She was silent, like a daisy reflecting on the purpose of life, and her eyes turned becomingly towards the pavement, broad and deep.

Ocher noticed each detail of her eyelashes. If only I were not married! Retribution in the form of middle age crept upon him, as it had been for much time now, and he felt twisted by the inevitability of his rejection by pretty girls he met who were in such a younger mental space than he was.

He regretted his similarly-middling wife, but she, alas, was not to know of his traitorous thinkings, as she was not present, and had been absent from the thoughts of his heart for many months now.

She turned her gaze on him, and if he had not already seated himself, the force of her glittering eyes would have cast a well of immediate gravity over his body, dragging his aged sinews now down to the seat where, already, he sat.

They sat for a very long time without speaking. She thought about things, and he tried to figure out if there was any hope for his tender feelings before the judgement of her bright eyes. Sigh. He thought. Her bright eyes.

He could not bring himself to speak to her of his feelings, and they two sat, thinking of different things. They thought of different things entirely. So different that they might have been from very different places. He remembered that they were.

Good Writing:

Ocher sat down on the steps near Ajalia, uttering a weary groan. He put his elbows back on the stone steps, and looked up at the sky.

“Are you usually that hard on him?” he asked idly.

“No,” Ajalia said. “Usually it’s coddling and kisses on the cheek, but he’s been temperamental today.”

“The new clothes must be going to his head,” Ocher said with a laugh. Ajalia looked at Ocher’s thick beard, which concealed a grim smile.

“Why do you stay with the Thief Lord?” she asked. Ocher did not look at her. She thought that he was avoiding her eyes.

“You’re a very uncomfortable person,” he observed.

“Goodbye,” she said pointedly. He looked over at her, and the smile had gone away. An expression of reaching, or of longing for something long lost, was in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“You’re not,” she told him. “You’re sorry that I don’t lie.”

“I’m sure you lie plenty,” Ocher said easily, resettling himself on the steps. “Just not about old men like me.”

“I don’t lie about anyone,” Ajalia told him.

“You lie about that young man,” Ocher said at once, his eyes fixed on the direction Delmar had gone.

“You don’t know that,” Ajalia said.

“He’s in love with you,” Ocher said. He sounded jealous.

“You’re guessing, aren’t you?” Ajalia asked him. Ocher laughed bitterly, and rubbed at his chin.

“I think he’d be a fool not to be,” Ocher said.

“Why, because I’m lovable?” Ajalia retorted. Ocher looked at her, and Ajalia did not enjoy the kind of fire that sparked in his eyes.

There Are No Writing Fairies

A lot of people (that I have known, who write) hide behind authorship as a way to avoid the whole popularity contest of life. They figure that they don’t have to become suave and desirable, because they can channel their wonderful personalities into their characters. What actually happens is that your characters reflect your inner level of social adeptness, so hiding behind what amounts to a reflection of your deepest insecurities won’t actually work. Energy carriage, style of hygiene, and attitude to sexuality; these are the broad categories that determine how cool you are. The very good news is that all these areas are highly receptive to alteration in every stage of life.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My editor says Ocher is really cool. Your next vacation will go more smoothly if you bring a nice book along.

Why A Healthy Sense Of Boredom Leads To Better Plotting

more dragons here copy

You may be wondering (or not) why I am writing a blog. Why are you writing a blog, Victor, you might ask. Why don’t you spend more time at your job, or lifting weights? Well, gentle reader, I’ll tell you why.

Oh, Wait! That’s Off-Topic. Update Time!

My novel is progressing soooo slowly, because I’m being careful. I have a lot of moving parts in my current work, and I don’t want to let any of them spiral out of control. And my last five chapters are coming together on my dragon novel. I made an experiment for a different cover (I’m on the fourth or fifth design now), and it was looking pretty nice, but when I made it a thumbnail to check how it worked, the color scheme and lighting were awful. I’m glad I checked it early, before I invested too much time into the texturing and details.

Because A Thumbnail Reveals Shoddy Contrast

I’m getting through the scales on my dragon, and I have another three books that I’m mulling over. I need to get through the paperback files for the Eastern Slave Series. Making the paperbacks is a lower priority, because I know I’ll end up tweaking the text on the cover files, and that will take time. I’m working over the blurbs as well.

And Now, A Word About Plotting

It’s often a great idea to embrace your short attention span, if you have one. (If you haven’t got one, try to cultivate impatience and a jaded spirit of “seen it all” –ism.) Why, you may ask, should you do such a thing?

Your Readers Browse Bored

Have you ever flipped channels on a television? If you are an exceptionally patient person and you haven’t, have you seen someone else determinedly flip, flip, flip? Readers often approach new books with the same kind of lackadaisical whimsy, and it behooves us to remember their limited give-a-hoot-ometer.

Plot Relies On Regular Velcro

Something needs to stick; some amount of action, or of wonder, or hooked premise must incentivize the reader to go on for another sentence, or another paragraph. People’s attention spans aren’t shorter than they used to be, but we’re all used to better presentation and condensation of information, and we consequently give fewer chances.

What Is This Velcro Of Which You Speak, Victor?

Have you ever passed a car accident on a highway? Did you look to see what happened? If you ever had drama-prone neighbors, did you begin to take an interest, however begrudging, in the day-to-day happenings of their lives (if only because you were hoping for peace and quiet)? When my first kid was born, we lived in the bottom half of a split-level house. Above us was a screaming person with anger problems, and we moved as soon as we could to a new place with nearly-invisible neighbors. The point of interest in my story is that I found myself, when we lived under this loud person, making constant notes of her habits and comings and goings, in an attempt to avoid the unfortunate scenes that unfolded upon occasion.

Books Don’t Have To Be Pleasant; Only Compelling

Really good writing often has an element of “is this really happening?” to it. This is sort of similar to the can’t-look-away nature of bad road accidents and surreal reality shows. We look at these unfortunate happenings not because we are horrible people, but because we want to know. We want to know what happened to cause the absorbing circumstance, and we want to see what happens in the end.

Examples

Bad Writing:

The bond was too strong for humans to understand, or even to grasp with their weak and impermanent minds. They were not strong enough, and they knew that their relationships ended only in familial setups and romantic ties.

His need was deeper than he thought it was. They were like plants growing together. Mary was close to him, and he watched her very often with the idea that she would go away when he had not remembered to look for her.

When he was made into a cyborg, she hadn’t really thought of where he was because she hadn’t known him then, or known that he would become a part of her life. She had almost died, and that hurt his heart, but when they had spent some time together he wanted to get away. Being close to such a weak person put pressure on him to live and be strong for both of them.

Tenu Nagoss had places hidden away where he could take him, when their partnership was found. He knew they would come, and he was sure they could find him without any of the fuss that could have lengthened the time between the searching and when he was caught.

Good Writing:

He had told her that he would rather die than be away from her, but he did not know, from one moment to the next, if he meant it. His devotion was like a yearning tendril of young growth, the yellowed stretch of plant that promises to grow thick and green with time.

He had not yet been separated from her in any meaningful way, and he was growing comfortable with her constant proximity. He did not understand the strength of the bond that tied him to her. He had felt it clearly enough when she had been dying, but his idea of the permanence of their relation to each other was immature and short-sighted.

A part of him looked into the future and saw, with the inevitability of the sunrise, his absorption into the alien empire. His master would come looking for him; he knew this. Mary would die, if he was unable to kill his master, and he would be whisked away to one of Tenu Nagoss’s hidden workshops.

This knowledge of what must be rested, like a subterranean building, beneath Ethan’s movements as he drew the flimsy fabric over his blood-stained skin. The robe, having been designed for humans, was too small for him, and his newly-restored inserts made shining bulges beneath the white cloth.

Drama: Fodder For Fiction

We can remember that there is nothing so compelling to the human mind as story, and we can comfort ourselves with the reassurance that ugly and embarrassing stories suck us in as easily as intellectually-stimulating writing. Your audience is often bored; if you embrace the help of your own hopefully-limited attention span, you can exploit the potential of your characters and situations to make an artistic train-wreck that many readers won’t want to look away from.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. I have a lot of work to do, and I’m avoiding some of it because relaxing is a new skill for me (and I’m enjoying myself).

What To Do When Your Book Isn’t Very Good

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It is the secret terror of every author: the novel they have labored over in the solitude of their private hours is rubbish, and everyone can see it but them. It is the ultimate intellectual failure, the final frontier of the inability to protect the ego from exposure, mockery, and shame.

Sounds Pretty Bad, Doesn’t It?

Indie authors live in fear of the scathing review that reams their work up and down; unpublished authors tremble at the thought of the withering dismissal from a coveted agent, and those with representation dread the possibility that no house will ever make an offer on their book.

Gee, Victor, Hyperbole Much?

So how can you tell if your book is great, or an embarrassing mistake? I would love to jump in here and tell you that of course your particular novel is marvelous in every way, but the truth is that there are always stories for each of us that function best as a private learning process. (As in, unsuccessful books. Bad novels, if you will.) They are valuable and essential to growing your powers as an author, but they aren’t anything you want to shelve at your local library, because they’re ideologically malformed, or poorly executed, or just plain personal and myopic.

I Have (Hidden, Secret, Super Unpublished) Books Like This Myself

In fact, I have a long, long list of novel ideas that I keep tucked way, many of which are dead-end ideas, or derivative non-plots, or simply ego-boosting pet projects that would spiral into unmarketable messes if I attempted to push them any farther. How do you tell that your book is like this? I mean, to speak plainly, how do you tell if your story sucks?

This Is Where Experience Comes In

I used to struggle with recognizing quality work. I had a private art tutor a long time ago who took me through reams of photographs, rejecting, rejecting, rejecting. She finally accepted two possibilities for a study of composition. “These would be all right,” she told me.

What A Prude!

I remember being taken aback by her pickiness. Later, when I became an acting TA, and I saw student after student presenting monologues, I started to understand better. Once I started producing, perspective came into play. I was working for money, now, and once money comes into the equation of art-making, sentimentality gets peeled away. What works? Why does it work? How, exactly, does it work?

Victor Poole, You’re Full Of Hot Air!

I like Bernard Shaw, but he was not a particularly wise man. Not like Shakespeare. He was convinced, or he pretended to be in his writings, that he had far surpassed Shakespeare in both skill and artistic application. Shaw believed, or he pretended to believe, that Shakespeare was a crock who fell victim to weak-minded sentimentality.

Ah, Poor Irish Boy

Yeah, that sounds really condescending, but he was a condescending guy, Bernard Shaw. Chekhov was kind. I approve of Chekhov. (He hated Stanislavski’s work a lot more than I do, and for good reason.) To the point: you can’t find out if your book is good or bad until you give it to someone to read. And then you have to be cunning, oh, so cunning, to parse and understand the reaction of your reader. Because, and this is a topic for another day, all but one percent of your potential readers are going to react as if your book is bad, but many of their negative reactions indicate that your book is good. Context, dear reader, is the key.

It’s The Wild West Out Here In The Art World, And You’re On Your Own

Yes, writing counts as art. Okay? And let’s say you shared your book with someone, and you came to the conclusion (it’s a common one) that your book is, in fact, bad. You feel terrible. Life is bleak. You think of giving up writing for a while. You browse classes. You think about taking up an easier pastime. But, at the back of your mind is a spark of hope, and a questioning; what if you’re wrong, and the book is all right? What if the book is not the greatest work of all time, but it’s good enough? After all, there are hundreds of books in bookstores and airport corners and public libraries that are only adequate; might not yours fit in with the crowd of good-enough?

Victor, Your Blog Is So Depressing Sometimes!

Ach, it’s my fake Russian streak. Old-timey fake Russian, not contemporary (I’m not Russian). I should probably delete that part. Ahem. When you have come to the conclusion that your book is not-great, but probably better than some published books (or even many!) it is time for a dose of cold, hard, productive reality.

And It’s Time To Write Another Book!

When a baby actor (of any age) starts to chase their dream, they are full of hot air (just like I am right now! It’s a natural part of the artistic metamorphosis!). They have an unrealistic belief in themselves, and they know in their bones that the rules are going to be different for them. As the crushing anonymity of their position begins, bit by bit, to bear in on them, they get a little, um, pulverized inside. Because whatever you look like, and however special you are, there are at least five hundred more that can pass as your twin at a stretch, and with a little makeup.

That Sucks!

The vast majority of baby actors immediately give up on really making it, and they embrace their automatic relegation to amateur status. Those who continue to dream get a little harsher, and leaner, and angrier. They edge into the all-mankind-is-my-enemy territory, and most of them become somewhat depressed. Clinically, usually, because the stakes are just so completely stacked against success. And that’s demoralizing. As soon as these last holdouts, these die-hard dreamers, cross the road into bitterness, their ability to succeed plummets, and they become second-rate chorus members (metaphorically speaking, or literally), and sometimes-extras for film and very low-budget productions. The few who don’t get bitter realize that they had better get far more serious about every aspect of their lives, because what they thought they were getting into is not what they find.

Politics, Personality Management, And Renting Out Your Soul

Gosh, I sound so pessimistic, don’t I? Luckily for you, we’re talking about your book, and not your hypothetical acting career (cheers!). If your book is not very good, you’re going to make one choice: is it worth publishing for the experience, or is it for the personal archives? Only you can answer this question, and if you don’t feel very confident, remember that you can always clean it up and publish it later when you have more experience. I recommend this option (it took me years to publish my third good-enough-to-publish book, and I am still sitting on two others I wrote earlier).

And Then, You Write Another One

Nothing teaches you to write a book like writing a book. Your first one is not going to be your best one, because when you are working on your second one, you’ve learned things. And when you start your third one, you’re ready to think more seriously about pacing. By the time you get to book six, you find yourself able to make more discerning choices about scene transitions and dialogue tags.

Channel Your Inner Dory, People, And Just Keep Writing!

In the big picture it really doesn’t matter much if the book you’re working on right now is “good enough.” What matters a lot more is whether or not you’re pressing your energy up and forward, and growing. Only you know if you’re growing upwards, or sinking into yourself. Don’t get bitter. Make yourself better.

Examples

Bad Writing:

The young man who filled up the boat had a bad-tempered expression on his lips, and even his eyes made a scowl in his well-fed demeanor. Here, you thought, was an angry juvenile. His mien of irritation was added to by the very expensive vehicle that he drove down the flower-carpeted avenue.

One immediately thought he had lost his job, or had a tiff with his mother, but the truth was much worse. The plump lad had been scorned by a lady friend, and he resolved, as the morning dew melted from the faces of the daisies below, to do something vicious about it. His first thought was to damage something, and as the curb presented a ready surface to pulverize, he steered his airborne vessel slightly to the left, and scratched up the curb. This exercise relieved a few of his hard feelings, but, as he soon found, his relief was short lived, for the enforcement of the law appeared in short order, and escorted him with furious expressions of disapproval to the local retainery for such louts as saw fit to damage public roads.

Good Writing:

Devan had no patience left, not even for the shiny chrome speedboat that spun down the avenue of flowers under his command. He was angry at the universe, for his dear friend Rosabud Curtleve had informed him breezily that morning that she had no time for his advances.

Marrying a banker! The injustice infuriated him, and he began, without much fuss, to knock his vessel against the left-hand side of the steel-coated curb. Bump, bump went the florid side of the boat, and crunch, crunch, went the curb, which scratched and dented under his reinforced hull.

It was only later, in the privacy of a municipal jail, that he told himself he ought to have gone and socked that filthy banker, Gerkins Dakly, right in the nose, instead of relieving his anger on the property of New Cilderbund’s city council.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. Here are my books. Remember, nobody’s on your side, but you can make it anyway, and once you build enough momentum you will find yourself able to assemble a team of support staff.

What It’s Really Like To Write Ten Thousand Words In A Day

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Disclaimer: I am not writing at this high a quota right now, for a variety of reasons (one of which being, it requires a very settled life to write this way), but I was chugging along at 10k for several weeks last year. And if you read my books, you can’t tell which parts were written at a sluggish 200 words a day and which were initially drafted during a 10k marathon over the course of twelve hours.

Let’s Get Right To It!

Let’s establish first that we’re talking about real, quality prose that may eventually go into a published novel or story, and secondly, that we are not slipping into a sort of enthusiastic NaNoWriMo stream of consciousness (which is a wonderful kind of writing in its own way).

I Wrote My First Novel (Which Is Not Published) Using NaNoWriMo

Writing a good amount of your novel in one day requires planning and preparation. During my 10k run of days last year, I started writing at 5 in the morning, and divided the work into chunks. I went from 5-7 in the dawn, and shot for 2,500 words.

I Set Timers, Sometimes

I’ll be honest, this is really hard to do. You have to know yourself, and your style, and you have to pay really close attention to your mood. If you slip inadvertently into a cynical or self-deprecating stream of thought, your creating mechanism slows, and you soon find yourself staring at the screen and talking yourself half-heartedly into going back to bed for a few minutes.

But Sleeping Isn’t As Interesting As Writing

Life interrupted, then, and all the usual things happened that generally happen in the day (that are not writing). I went for a second chunk of 2,500 words right before lunch, and then started on the last 5,000 at around 2 in the afternoon.

What I Learned:

Here are some things I learned while performing this Herculean (and short-lived) task:

  1. Writing copiously is possible, but requires great mental fortitude.
  2. You have to arrange your working life around your writing time, which is often impossible (my quota always takes a nosedive around big work projects and life events–like moving, or any changes in my job).
  3. You have to believe it’s possible. I know it’s cliche, but you, and your negative beliefs about yourself, really are your own worst enemy.
  4. Cheerleaders help. If you have someone in your life who believes in your writing, and with whom you can share your victories, checking in daily makes a big difference.
  5. You have to eat. This was one thing that surprised me, but I found that writing a lot meant that I had to be really aware of how much and how often I was eating. If I went too long without some kind of sustenance, my brain went on perma-strike, and the work stalled.
  6. You have to take days off, both to arrange the rest of your life for another sprint, and to recover from the pressure of writing.
  7. It’s really, really fun to see so much of your story unfold in the course of the day.

The biggest surprise to me, as I worked through this process (to see if it was possible, which I found it was), was how much I enjoyed seeing the journey of the characters unfold in front of me. Usually when I write, each scene comes together in gradual chunks; character revelations, and even scenes of dialogue, unravel slowly.

Because A Few Hundred Words May Not Take You Far In The Story

Writing ten thousand words a day meant I was chewing through two or three full scenes at a time, and I could see the arcs of my characters, and the panorama of the whole story in a way that was deeply satisfying.

10,000 Words, In The Big Picture Of A Novel, Is Less Than You’d Think

I really thought, when I started working towards ten thousand a day, that I would find myself hit a brick wall of “can’t-create-anymore,” and that I would find myself stuck at five or six thousand words (which I had achieved before).

But There Was Only A Barrier In My Mind

This actually turned out not to be the case. In fact, once I had gotten over the psychological barrier of the first half of my quota, writing became easier. It was almost as if the first five thousand words were a warmup, and the second were a free and enjoyable exercise of my writing muscles.

It Feels Good To Write So Much

I’ll probably try this again in the future, because it was really fun. The project I was working on at the time was very long, and I had been planning it for years, so it was a matter of writing down the story I already knew. This helped, also.

Examples

Bad Writing:

Forkengoshe was upset, because the last time Lady Dirvensharken had gone out hawking, she had promised him a brace of rabbits, and here she came, bearing the metal bird on her arm, and carrying not a hint of bunny anywhere on her person.

The horse snuffed, steam coming out of its nose, and Forkengoshe glared at his erstwhile fiancee.

“Where are my rabbits?” he asked.

“I let them go,” Lady Dirvensharken replied.

“Why?” he demanded.

“Because Harriden put the knob onto safe catch and release, and I didn’t have the heart to snap their sweet little necks,” she said.

“Go out again; switch back!”

“I don’t want to. You can go, if you like,” she said, holding out the metal bird.

“I don’t like the talons,” he said, drawing away.

“You won’t have any rabbits, then,” she said. She kicked the hardened sides of the horse, and he strode towards the garage.

“This is not fair. You promised!” Forkengoshe exclaimed. He followed her and watched the haunches of the artificial horse bob up and down.

Good Writing:

Fogerty fumed; the radiant Lady Dirvarken had sworn most solemnly, when she had last gone out hawking, that she would bring him a brace of rabbits next time, and here she came riding on a beautiful artificial May morning, bearing the enormous metal bird on her arm, and carrying not a whiff of rabbit.

The shining chrome gelding puffed, steam wafting out of its sculpted nostrils, and Fogerty glared at his luminous fiancee.

“Where are my rabbits?” he demanded.

“I let them go,” Lady Dirvarken replied, her measured words fluttering like golden bells in the perfect dawn.

“Why?” Fogerty asked. He knew that he sounded petulant, and he did not care.

“Harriden put my hawk into catch and release mode without telling me. He caught the bunnies just fine, but he didn’t harm them, and I didn’t have the heart to snap their sweet little necks,” she said.

“Well, fix your bird and go out again; I want my rabbit stew!”

“I’m all worn out. You can go, if you like,” she said, smiling and holding out her arm, upon which the shining bird sat, silent and imperious.

“I don’t want to go out riding with a great beast on my arm!” Fogerty exclaimed. He felt enormously wronged by the world this morning. He had set his heart on steaming rabbit stew, with fresh carrots and onions, and now there would be nothing but lumpy porridge for lunch.

“Oh well, then,” she replied genially, and tapped at the metal flanks of the horse. He stepped gamely forward, and Fogerty, still furious, stalked after her, watching the silver haunches of the artificial horse bob up and down.

I Hope You Have A Good Morning!

Remember, you can achieve your goals if you are realistic with yourself about your circumstances, your available writing time, and your attitude towards yourself. You can write quite a lot of solid material, if you get out of your own way and let yourself try.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I bet you can’t tell which parts were written in December of last year. Staying up late is a quiet time to write (but makes it harder to get up at dawn).

 

Want To Be A Successful Writer? Give Up Now

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A very strange thing happened to me when I started taking myself seriously as a writer; I couldn’t write anymore (this was many years ago). I felt so much pressure to write as well as I possibly could that I froze up and didn’t dare write anything that felt wrong. Because I had too little experience making stories, this meant that most everything unfamiliar felt strange and new, and therefore wrong.

So Much Pressure To Be Perfect Right From The Beginning

So I didn’t write much. I had some very lovely chapter beginnings, and one story that had an excellent collection of scenes almost completed, but I could not write an actual book. I would sit down regularly, as I supposed all earnest someday-authors must, and I would attempt to squeeze words out of myself.

Squeezing Words Out Doesn’t Work If All The Words Have To Be Perfect

It never worked. I was still convinced that I would, at some point, and by sheer force of will, become an author, but I could never break past the unendurable pressure to be really, perfectly good, right now, no matter what.

No Mistakes, Victor Poole!

I took up poetry, which I was good enough at to somewhat make up for my failings as a novelist. Eventually, and because I was an actor, I took up playwriting, which I turned out to be quite good at. The problems of conflict and continuity still plagued me, but I was good enough at dialogue to gloss over my inability to plot.

Failed Novelist, Average Poet And Playwright

Still, I planned on being a writer of books. I was dead-set on it. The years passed, and I never sat down and attempted to force myself to write books anymore. I was busy doing other things, and writing different kinds of projects. The idea of books nagged at me, though. I wanted more than anything else to write novels. They were, to me, the legitimate form of writerly creation.

Just ‘Cause I Like Books

Something really interesting happens when you give up on a long-held ambition. You relax, and many things that have been pushed under the surface by the pressure of expectation and fear begin to rise up, and become part of your awareness. I’ve seen this with actors; only when they become thoroughly discouraged, and say, “Well, I can’t do it. Nothing is working,” do they allow themselves to risk. Only when they embrace failure, and the humiliation of expected crash-and-burn work do they begin to be able to use their real selves in the act of creation.

And So, I Gave Up

I gave up on writing great novels. I stopped telling myself that I was going to be really good at books. I stopped believing that I had what it took to succeed. So much time had passed, and I had failed so unilaterally to write any kind of a book, that I started coming to terms with the fact that what I was doing was not working at all. I started telling myself that I was wrong, and that my future self would not spontaneously erupt into a competent novelist.

Goodbye, Unrealistic Expectations; Hello, Failure

At first, this made me very sad. I didn’t want to feel like a failure. I wanted to be good at things. I wanted to be proud of myself. Giving up on such a long-held ambition made me feel really stupid, and like I had failed an ultimate test of character by not finding some way to follow through on doing what I wanted.

Woe Is Me, Or Woe Was Me, At The Time

But, with reality staring me in the face, and cognizant of the fact that I had not even tried to write a single chapter of a novel for literally years, I gave up. After I felt all the accompanying emotions of miserable failure, I started to look about with some interest. I could not be a successful author, I thought, and there was no longer any pressure to write well. In this newfound freedom from expectation, I found that I kinda sorta wanted to sit down and write a book.

Once I Didn’t Have To, I Kinda Sorta Wanted To

You know, just for fun. Just for me. Because I didn’t have to write a good book, or a non-embarrassing book, or a coherent book any longer.

I Could Write Garbage! It Was Freeing!

So I wrote a book. I enjoyed myself so much that I started studying plot, and scene-building strategies. I spent several frantic months imitating great storytellers, as an exercise in storytelling.

I Wrote Many Novellas At This Point

A new ambition began to burn in me. I would no longer become a successful author; now, I wanted to be a person who actually finished projects. That, I thought, was a pretty achievable dream. After all, I had proven to myself that I could actually, in real life, write a whole book.

So I Finished Projects; I’m Nearly Caught Up Now

I spent more years writing books. Now I have come up against another expectation: I want to finish a great many books in an integrated world. As I approach this emotion, I am already beginning to give up. I’ve learned that giving up, and embracing utter, miserable failure is the quickest route to getting exactly what I want.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which I never thought I would write, are here. I’m working on a companion series about Philas right now.