For Better Writing: Integrating The Disparate Parts of Self

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You are divided into several pieces; components of your overall being are often so different as to seem to come from separate beings. I knew an actor, for example, who had been horribly abused as a child. He had so repressed all expression of anger that he bottled all his annoyances and petty grievances up throughout the year and had one, almost-perfectly annual explosion at his underlings in the winter months. At all other times he was subdued, polite, and too careful of sharing how he felt.

That Actor Would Have Been Served By An Integration Of His Anger

It is not healthy to live apart from yourself, or to so compartmentalize your soul that you become some breed of Dr. Jekyll, who explodes ere long into a momentary Mr. Hyde.

When you write, and you have already begun to exist in a state of semi-permanent absence from your whole self, the work reflects your lack of unification.

You See This An Awful Lot With Sex

I’m about to make a sweeping overgeneralization, so if you’re easily offended, look away now. Many, if not all, people who exclusively write explicit sexual passages without making a living at it (amateur pornographers, if you will), have compartmentalized their natural sexual self from the rest of their souls, and they use the written word as a way to sooth and erase the barrier between their current and idealized selves. I am in no way speaking of romance, light sex, or professional erotica authors, which all require sufficient depersonalization of the self to preclude this division of self.

Victor, Sometimes I Think You’re Just Making Stuff Up!

Another area where this lack of unification is apt to appear is in the author’s inability to know his (or her) end goal. What I mean by this is, what does a happy ending look like? I do not mean the achievement of some end objective; no, I mean, the very happiest, best ending that could possibly be for each of the characters. Many, many authors shy away from the possibility of happiness because they, themselves, don’t know yet what they want, or what the evaluators are for their moral good, and so they unwittingly write a similar avoidance and ignorance into their novel, which is unfortunate because it creates a fog of unsureness in the mind of the reader.

Everyone, at bottom, must be good or bad.

Good Or Bad, Best Or Worst

When a human reads a story, he (or she) is looking for a personal derivative; he (or she) wants meaning. Am I like the good guy or the bad guy? Why? And what is a happy ending? And, in reference to that ending, how am I doing currently in my life right now?

People really do ask themselves these types of questions while they are reading. They may not always be aware that they are doing it, but they most certainly are judging and comparing themselves, their friends and acquaintances, and their living standards to what is portrayed in the book at all times.

We Want To Know How We’re Doing; Are We Winning?

Are we bad? Or are we good? How do we know? How can we find out for sure? We look at stories to give us context, and we apply the context within tales to our own circumstances, to find out where we measure on the scale of evil through transcendent good.

Great literature, the kind of stuff teachers throw at your face in schools, is the material that commentates openly and consistently on the measuring stick throughout the story.

So-called “escape” literature, better known as genre fiction, does not make overt value judgements, but the best samples of this style contains a wholistic moral universe, and vividly accurate examples of human nature in a range from corrupt to pure, good to bad, selfish to genuinely altruistic.

So What Does This Mean For Me, Victor Poole?

Well, I began by explaining that many people, perhaps even you, are currently living in a state of internal compartmentalization, and, by extension, your fiction suffers from a lack of intellectual cohesion.

Selfish people, for example, write characters badly, because they relate to other humans so awkwardly themselves that their dialogue and descriptions of the beings in their stories are halting, aggressive, and completely bare of nuance. Folks who don’t listen in real life listen even worse when they are the God of the narrative, and this creates ugly prose, and harsh characterizations and scenes.

For one more example, writers who do not exercise thoroughly in real life write terrible action sequences. Having very little muscle themselves, they have no real conception of the weight, binding nature, or fluidity of significant musculature, and this is reflected in the way they write physical action of any kind.

I could go on, for there are myriad samples of poor integration, and corresponding openings between delivery and intent in the resultant fiction, but for now we will look at an example of how such a lack of integration might appear in the flesh (or the pixel, as ’twere), and then I will impart to you a basic integration visualization.

Be Cautious Of Any Person Seeking To Integrate You; Humans Steal

Yes, I include myself in this group. Anyone who reaches into your energy management is getting something from you; be very wary, and excessively aware of what they are doing while they’re in your spirit, and of what they leave behind. Beware, or risk losing things, and becoming captive to forces you probably don’t understand.

I suppose I should cackle evilly right now, and tap my fingers together in the manner of a villain. But, to work.

Examples

Bad Writing (Analytical Thinking Absent):

Solace has never wanted so badly to run away, but her legs are pinned under a shelf, and she can’t move her lower half enough to get out. Her mind races. She wrestles the furniture, but it is lodged under one of the stones from the roof.

She hears another person crying out; she didn’t hear enough to know who it was. She grunts, and pulls harder. A tall shadow moves through heavy dust that is flying through the crushed room.

“Are you fine?” a man’s voice asked. Solace shivers; she does not know this person.

“No,” she gasps.

Good Writing (Integrated Thinking):

With a crash, the sky fell into the house, carrying with it half the roof and most of a tree from above the eaves. Her mother and father were crushed under a great stone, but Solace dove left, and she was merely pinned beneath an oak shelf, unharmed aside from bruises. She couldn’t move, and after she battered helplessly with a shard of rock at the shelf, she resigned herself to a lingering death.

She could hear a cry echoing sadly through the house; it was grandmother, she thought. Solace opened her mouth to call back, but the dust caught in her throat, and she choked and coughed, and when she got her breath back she found that her windpipe seemed to have closed up for good. She could not make a sound.

What Can You Do In Terms Of Integration?

As promised, the integration visualization: Imagine that inside of you is a sharp line of blue-black (like the color of a healthy black horse). Now picture the ground below you, and pretend for a moment that it is a sea of white light. You know, like the lava game you most likely played as a child, and the floor was burning orange? Except this time the floor will be bright white, and it will be water, not lava.

Noe imagine your whole body, starting at your feet, and then your ankles, sinking gradually into the sea of white beneath you. Let yourself fall slowly into the white water. As the water touches up against the blue-black line, see it burn up and disappear. The line can be anywhere; it might run up your middle, splitting you in half, or it may form a vigorous jig-jag maze. Your subconscious mind is tremendous at pinning down problems you aren’t fully aware of yet; whatever you picture the line doing in your body is exactly right.

Now, relax down into the water, imagining the shining, lapping fluid rising past your knees, and your hips, and up your back. Watch the blue-black line, wherever it may be, scrub entirely away in the touch of the white water. Let your shoulders and your arms go down into the water, and then your neck. Feel your jaw lap into the white ocean, and then your cheeks. Your eyes next, and your forehead. Finally, listen to the feelings in your body as your last bit of skull sinks down into the brilliant white water.

The blue-black line is now gone. Stand up out of the water, and draw a new black line all the way around the edge of your body. You know, as if you were a body being chalked around by the police at a crime scene. Just go ahead and trace your own black line all around the verge of your being. This is an outline that separates you from the world around you; your body longs for division of some kind, and if you give yourself this outside-inside line of separation, you can avoid reforming the original fragmentation of your inner self.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I’m working on an exciting new cover for the Ajalia books, and I made an embarrassing mistake yesterday. My cat is asleep at this very minute; she’s adorable.

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!

Why You Repeatedly Embrace Failure (And How To Write About It)

big horse

Adequate fiction takes a fold of the human consciousness (yours, preferably), pulls it apart into pieces, and arranges it into a coherent line. Real life is chaotic; many things happen simultaneously, and unless you are a very clever worm, like I am, you will never adequately parse through the levels of concurrent emotional action that unfold through your personal story.

Remember How I Have An Imaginary PhD In Human Nature?

I am exceptionally good at tearing apart characters, and getting to the bottom of social interactions. It is why my dialogue is so fresh.

A Sample Of Fresh Dialogue:

“Are they all mine?” She saw that he knew what she meant. She could not see his eyes clearly, but she saw his jaw tighten.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“All six babies,” she said. “Are they all mine?”

He considered her. His eyes were blank.

“No,” he said.

“Have you done this before,” she asked, “to me?”

It took him a long time to respond.

When you write a story, and it comes from inside your body, you set yourself up to replicate the relational patterns from your true experience of life. This means early childhood. Most of us stop having any authentic emotional experiences after about the age of six, when we enter the natural development of the ego. Very few people integrate fully after this point, and some of us (not very many) never even get that far.

And Now, For A Word From Our Sponsor

If you’ve ever noticed how strangely funny and pathetic I seem, in my writing, it is because I am a dead person, functionally speaking. I ought to be physically dead as well; most specimens of my type are decimated early, and then reformed into facsimile humans. Slave-zombies, if you will. I was not successfully converted into a thrall, and am therefore a floating, autonomous nonentity. My ambition is to become real; according to the mythology of Yeshua, this manner of energy transference is theoretically possible. Yes, I am aware of how I sound. And if my experiments are successful, I will become a person and stop talking so much about energy and such esoteric things.

My current non-person status means that I cannot hang onto physical possessions; I also have extraordinarily porous boundaries (which makes me both an excellent listener and the best director I’ve ever seen). Yes, I know how that sounds. No, I’m not completely insane.

Your Temporary Framework, In Terms Of Your Soul, Is Based On Rejection And An Inability To Achieve Intimacy

All humans require a bedrock of acceptance and admiration to function in everyday life. I provide just such a foundation, but there is only one of me, and far too many (see, all) people steal and piss on resources, which makes me like an overeaten corner of the commons.

I can convert the people around me into extraneous engines, replicating my abilities, but the setup is expensive, time-wise, and I end up in the same place I started: overused, worn out, and eventually discarded. Avarice, you know, and short-term thinking.

Not Being Insane, I Am Trying Something New

I have been experimenting with different formats for my childishly generous nature, and have so far found no sustainable ways of improving life for everyone. There is only one of me, you know, and there are so many of all the rest of you.

I thought for years that I would eventually stumble upon another of my kind, but each almost-meeting of the minds turned eventually into yet another extortion of my invaluable whatever-ye-call’t.

I have determined that my spirit, having stalled in a state of infancy, requires further parenting, and have therefore been turning my inward eye towards myself.

An Experiment That Will, I Hope, Prove Fruitful

So I’ve taught myself to write books, and I am now painstakingly reconstructing the stalling points at the verge of my consciousness. I have been alternating between male and female protagonists, in order to balance the development of my adult persona. Harmony between the parts of self, and all that.

Throughout this process, I have been careful to preserve a sense of whole energy within my published works. There is a great deal of violence, perhaps more than someone like you can handle, and it is conveyed realistically, which will cause your own early traumas to erupt through your consciousness. Being a responsible and conscientious guide, I have provided secure frameworks and rebuilding analogies directly after each of these violent incidents, so that there is no danger of a negative outcome in your inner self.

Dostoyevsky Irresponsibly Disseminates Mental Plague, And Dickens Seeds Self-Loathing, The Cad

First part:

Ajalia wanted to escape, and there was no escape. She wanted to escape from the way that she lived, from the place that was her experience within her own skin. She wished that she could go home. A niggling doubt rose up in her mind at this thought. Did she mean the East, she asked herself, or did she mean the place she had come from? The East, she answered herself quickly. She did not want to go home.

Home meant the narrow, cluttered house, with the dirt in the corners, and the crooked, uneven floors. Home meant her little brother, and the endless, relentless, continuous series of days that did not change. Home meant trying to make her mother and father happy, trying to make them peaceful, trying to make them satisfied, and failing, and failing, and failing.

Ajalia closed her eyes, and tried to press the memory of the dark, shadowy closet in her childhood house out of her mind. She could not. The closet was dark, and it smelled of musty clothes, and everyone had known she was hiding there, but it was the only place with three walls and a door, where she could close herself in and pretend to be hiding.

Second part:

“Are you all right?” he asked. She could feel the whole world throbbing and spinning around her in crazy circles. She told herself that she was going to throw up, and she stumbled to her feet and went to the door. Ajalia’s eyes were covered over with sparks of light; she could only partly see. She heard Denai speaking behind her, but she didn’t hear the words. His voice made a soft murmur to the loud thunder of her heart, and the heavy bellows of her breath. She thought that she would be able to breathe, if she made it outside. The darkness was all around her, and within her. She was made of darkness now. She pictured herself as a creature of night, with darkness and the studded night sky all over her arms and her legs. I want to be dead, she thought, and she stumbled towards the dim moonlight that showed the entrance to the dragon temple.

Denai was following her; she still could not understand the words that he spoke. She wished that she had still the slim leather book; she had hidden it away in the forest, when Delmar had been unconscious. She had not wanted him to read anymore of the book, and she wanted to study it herself. She had thought that she would have settled her house by now, but things, she told herself wildly, kept happening. Stop happening, things, she shouted in her mind, and tried to laugh. She stumbled out into the moonlight, and half-fell down the steps. Denai put his hands on her arms, and guided her around the corner of the street.

Third part:

Ajalia reflected on the way that Delmar was looking at her now, as if he had a right to her. She remembered the way he had lied to her, and kept money from her. She remembered how he had hidden facts about the magic from her, and how he had tried to keep her from knowing about his grandfather in Talbos, and his father’s status as a slave. Delmar is bad for me, Ajalia thought, and she remembered her father. A recoiling disgust flung up against Ajalia’s throat, and she wanted to empty herself out in a heap, and burn herself away. I hate being me, Ajalia reflected, and she smiled.

“What are you doing?” Delmar asked suspiciously.

“Purging my father from my soul,” Ajalia said in Slavithe, without opening her eyes. “I am going to get rid of my father,” she said, “and then I won’t have any use for you.”

If You Try To Succeed, You Will Fail

Not to burst your bubble and be the ultimate shatterer of your dreams, but you are probably not dead, like me. If you are not dead, you cannot do what I do, because I’m moving through energy hell. Essentially. And that would kill you. It doesn’t kill me, because I’m already dead. See how that works?

You are, however, probably mired in a lot of confusion and stifled impulses. If you are a decent soul, you long for internal freedom, and the power to know yourself, and become what you secretly hope to be. To find yourself as, in the end.

Reading my books is hard, because the impulses are conveyed with accuracy. I also did not skip any steps from one stage of emotional development to the next. I wrote without giving you any help, for the most part. Particularly with Ajalia and her cohorts, I never stopped to explain things. If you are not able or willing to dig into the circumstances, and to be a novel-detective of sorts, some scenes will appear, at first glance, to be nonsensical. Harder Than Rocks is the easiest to read, followed by Intimate Death. Ajalia is hard; the depth of internalized action, and the intensity of the character transformation make for a journey that, if you lack empathy, will seem impossible.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I’m a dead guy, kind of like Caleb, though I have never been eaten by monkeys. If Thursday keeps on being Thursday, it will never be Friday.

How To Align Your Head To Improve Your Writing Right Now

 

 

The way you sit and habitually arrange your muscles controls your breath; the way you breathe directly influences the amount of oxygen getting into your brain. How well your brain is working has a lot to do with the clarity of your thinking, the vividness of your sensory experience, and your ability to communicate clearly to the outside world–in this case, other people. Ergo, your breath (and with it, your particular habits of tension-holding) control the freedom of your writing mechanism. To open and free your writing ability, you must open your breathing.

Allowing The Sternum To Collapse Into Your Chest Restricts The Expansion Of Your Lungs

Try an experiment, for a moment: imagine that your hips are the walls of an oval tunnel running through your whole body. The shoulders are an important juncture in this channel. First, send your mind into your hips and pelvis, and see what the angle of your hip-tunnel is currently like. Some people tilt their hips forward, creating a sharp bend in their lower back, and some people (very few) tilt their hips back, making an unnatural angle in the lower abdomen. What you want is to have the walls of the oval tunnel, your hips, to be perpendicular to the level of the floor.

An Open Channel From Hips To Shoulders Frees The Muscles From Unnecessarily Supporting Your Body

So try for just a moment to un-tilt your pelvic cradle, and to align the oval walls of the tunnel in your hips perpendicular to the floor. When you have done this, you should feel some unfamiliar movement in your lower vertebrae, and perhaps some slight stretching in the outer muscles sheathing your upper thighs.

Next, Align The Ribs

The oval tunnel walls extend in as smooth a line as possible up from the hips through the ribs; send your awareness into the body, aligning the walls of your ribcage with the same perpendicular line you first made in your hips. Next, you are going to slightly lift your shoulders up and back, as if you were placing a final interlocking block on top of a tower. The shoulders also form part of the inner cavity, this oval-shaped tunnel we are building within your body. The outer walls of the shoulder-frame should be arranged just on top, and in line with, the ribs and the hips.

And Finally, Your Head

Your head is very, very heavy, what with all the brains and fluid you carry around up there, so it’s incredibly important that your skull and its accompanying contents are positioned easily over the center of the tunnel. Imagine, if you will, that your head is a ball, and the oval tunnel of your torso is a basket through which the ball must pass without touching against the sides.

You’re Doing It Right When You Feel A Rush Of Internal Heat

Your skeleton is designed to support the whole weight of your body, without assistance from your major muscle groups. Many, if not most of us, have been taught throughout our lives, either by stupid people or by forced constraint to perpetual sitting and slouching, to rely on our muscles to hold ourselves upright. This creates horrible tension through our whole bodies, and crushes much of our intended breath capacity. If you breathe shallowly, and in a cage of hard tension for a very long time, your mind is gradually starved of oxygen, and you stop thinking very clearly.

Breathing Better Now Improves Your Writing Immediately

Opening your body, learning to rely on the skeleton for weight-bearing, and aligning your head over the center of your shoulders, ribs, and hips, will, over time, do much to rectify this deplorable state of affairs. However, if you align your body right now, you will immediately experience a release of tension, and an influx of breath, which will improve your work right this very moment.

Blergh Writing:

Luther ran a finger along the blade of the enchanted sword.

“It is very lucky,” he intoned, his sky-blue eyes piercing through her like butter being sliced open with a hot knife, “that you brought me this weapon. It’s magical, and I think you wouldn’t have had the fortitude to handle it alone.”

“My father gave it to me,” she lied. She was a very good liar, having practiced often over her homework with the abbess of the priory.

“And what was your father?” Luther asked. A half smile passed through his skinny features.

“He got it as a present,” she said.

“Hm,” Luther replied. “I don’t believe you at all.”

“Well, it’s true.”

Better Writing:

The sword had a blue hilt, forged of the isolated rock of the gem quarries, and the blade ran out in a strong thrust from the tang. Scraps of black shadow adhered to each part of the old metal, as if ribbons of dark mold had grown up from the depths of the weapon.

She brought it in a hand-woven scabbard of green cloth. Her father had said it was a useless thing, this clasping of fabric, but Halka found it charming, and it had come with the blade. The guard of the old man’s estate was a bland old fool, and she talked her way past him in five minutes.

Halka, runaway and thief, presented the ancient blade to the old man in his study, and asked for a suitable reward. Luther, for that was the old man’s name, drew out the sword and examined the mottled blade.

“Where did you find this?” he asked, turning the blue hilt in the light from the open window.

“My father left it to me when he died,” Halka lied. Luther’s eyes traced slowly down the whole blade; he laid it down and turned his attention to the woven green scabbard.

“Your father was a valley troll?” Luther asked, amusement strong in his voice.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Sun salutation is kicking my butt right now (actually my shoulders, but hey). I would like to illustrate all of my books eventually.

Why Re-Writing Your Novel Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead)

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I just finished another cleaning sweep through the first two books in my fantasy series. I caught a couple of typos, and several phrases I wanted to tweak a bit. I think I cut one sentence this time. I get the impression, from reading about other writers, that I edit differently to everyone else.

Most Of You Chop Things To Bits, I Hear

I’ve talked about this before on my blog, but a couple of years ago I wrote a novel. It’s one of my editor’s favorites, but I haven’t published it yet. I thought, when I wrote it, that I would need to cut it all to pieces and rewrite it from scratch. I even tried to do this, several, several times. Having been around the creative block more than once, I had the perspicacity to save a copy of my original draft.

Months Passed; I Hammered At Re-Writing

And the novel, you know, just kept getting worse. It was as though, with every new tweak and alteration, the heart of the writing skipped farther away from me. Finally, after months of “progress,” and feeling a little bit jaded from my seemingly-fruitless efforts, I pulled up my last-edited file and put it side-by-side with my original draft.

I’ve Learned This Lessen Several Times; It Didn’t Stick At First

I found, as I looked at the original and at my painstakingly-improved draft, that the story I had written down first was stronger, more playful, and contained within it an unbroken chain of impulses that drove the action forward.

My edited draft was like a cup of lifeless nails. There were words describing actions, but no heart within the writing, and no flow inside the plot.

The Impulses Are Key, Here

I’m an actor, and a director, and my job, in that area, is to unblock and link together organic, deeply-human, aesthetic impulses from within human bodies. In a way, I have an advantage over many writers because I’m approaching my prose with an eye to the overall performance aspect. I know how to follow organic impulses, and how to drive the action into the heart of a scene.

It’s Called “Getting Work Out Of People,” In Theatre

Getting work out of people means that I take actors and crack them open, artistically, and make sure they have the framework they need to essentially bleed, emotionally and spiritually speaking, on the stage in visually pleasing ways. There’s a reason acting is cathartic; it is the act of unearthing from within yourself a deep humanity, and offering it freely to the audience.

In Writing, I Get Work Out Of My Characters

When you edit your work, your natural impulse is to hide yourself behind an unbreakable facade of cleverness, emotional depth, and know-it-all maturity. This results in dead writing, in that no organic impulses are left inside the work. And no reader wants to read (see, consume) dead work.

Impulses Are The Life-Blood Of Performance

You may be over there thinking to yourself, “Yes, but Victor, you’re a nobody! You have lousy rankings on Amazon. You have a huge series that nobody reads. Are you an idiot?” You might be thinking that, and I’m not going to defend myself to you, because I’ve been around the block, artistically and business-wise, and I’m digging a foundation for myself. I have a plan. I’m aiming for long-term sustainability.

When You Edit, Make Sure You Aren’t Disrupting The Embedded Impulse-Chain

Editing while preserving the inside of the story, the throbbing chain of impulses that led you to write what you wrote in the first place, is very difficult. I’ve been studying the creation and preservation of impulses for almost fourteen years, and I still have to stop myself from tearing parts of my work to pieces. The desire to protect yourself, and to look invulnerable and perfect to others, is very strong.

Examples

Original Draft:

Bruno was the very first person to see the aliens arrive. They had spatial transponders, and vibrated into being on the sidewalks, and in the center of public parks. He had meant to be at work early that morning, but the cat had spilled his orange juice down his suit, and then the dry cleaners had a line, which Bruno thought was absurd at seven in the morning.

He had to wear his second-best trousers, and the jacket that was a shade too dark. He hoped the client wasn’t going to notice the difference, but today was the Fishars, and he was sure they would.

Bruno was just running down the steps to his first-floor lobby to unlock the case files when, with a crackle that threatened to shake the windows free of their moorings, a long, tall shadow of murky green appeared in the street outside.

Bruno went to the double doors, and pressed his nose to the glass. The shaking grew, and the shadow became solid. A row of brilliant red eyes, arranged in a wide circle around the being’s head, stared straight at Bruno; he dropped the keys, and they made a slight jingle when they hit the floor.

Destructive Editing:

Bruno saw them first. Their green discs in their hands seemed to be a machine that allowed them to appear at will.  They came first into the wide avenues and busy sidewalks of the city, each of them holding one of these ominous devices. Bruno saw them first, and he was immediately sure that the world was over. He saw them first because he had a series of unpleasant accidents through the morning, one of which involved juice and a busy dry cleaners.

His suit didn’t match, though the aliens would not care about that, and he had been in a knot of anxiety about his clients, the Fishars, who were picky about dress. They felt that the snazziness of their attorney merited respect, and Bruno dreaded the looks he would get from Mrs. Fishar in particular.

He was on the steps to the bottom floor when a buzz in the windows made him stop. A premonition in his spine made him look up, and he saw a weird smudge out the window. What could it be? It reminded him of his unpleasant childhood.

He went to the glass doors and looked out. The aliens looked like nothing he had ever seen before. He was sure the being was staring right back at him. He dropped his keys.

Excellent Editing:

Bruno was the first person to see the aliens arrive. They had spatial transponders, and they vibrated into being on the sidewalks, and in the center of empty roads. Bruno had meant to be at work early the morning of the invasion, but his cat had knocked orange juice down his suit, and when he brought the wet clothes to the shop around the corner from work, there was a line, which Bruno thought was absurd at seven o’clock in the morning.

Bruno had changed into his second-best trousers, and a jacket that was a shade too dark. Most of his clients weren’t going to notice the difference, but this afternoon he had the Fishars, and he was sure they would.

Bruno, keys in hand, was just running down the last steps to the ground floor to unlock the day’s case files when, with a crackle that threatened to shake the windows free of their moorings, a long, tall shadow of murky green appeared in the street outside.

Bruno saw the shadow; he went to the lobby doors, and put his hand against the glass. The vibration grew, and the shadow turned solid. Elongated limbs, lean with muscle and glistening green skin, supported a strange figure. The being was tall and thin, like a rod of coarse stone, and a flat head lay atop a narrow neck. A row of brilliant red eyes, arranged in a wide circle around the being’s head, stared straight at Bruno; he dropped his keys, which made a harsh jingle when they hit the floor.

You’re reading a blog by Victor Poole. My books are here. My cat, Rose, has been staring at the neighbor’s dog with her ears laid sideways lately; she looks like a small, furry window guardian.

Why A Healthy Sense Of Boredom Leads To Better Plotting

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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.