Category Archives: Art

Sickness Sucks

Major major arthritis flare here over the past six weeks. The medications are just kicking in, so maybe I will be healthy enough to get some work done. It’s pretty annoying to have stories and a novel ready to be published and not have the ability to just get it DONE. Had an attack of uveitis this time, which made my vision go blurry for a week. Now that’s fun– especially when you’re already nearsighted. You get used to not being able to see at a distance, and then, pow! You can’t see up close, either.

Anyway, I am going to go back and change a few little details here and there, but the basic premise is that I have missed my self-imposed deadlines not due to laziness, but due to my body deciding that “You know, hey, self-destruction is a cool thing to do for the changing of the seasons.”

Which forcibly reminds me that I need to go back and re-read a couple of books that I have about being an artist, being an artist in sickness and in health, and how to cope with the whole shebang. I need a little pep talk– it’s seriously depressing to say “Yes, I will publish this by Valentine’s Day” and have it almost be Easter and the thing is still not done.  This whole writing business was a lot easier when I was in my early 20s, before this disease decided to play hell with my life. Of course, everything was easier back then– that’s the reason all the middle-aged people look at young people and scream “ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN!” Time doesn’t change your inner self very much, and you certainly feel pretty normal mentally, but it does a real number on your physical self.

SO. To writing. One hopes. I’m trusting that this medication barrage will drive my inflammatory problems into hiding for at least a month or two. I usually get three good months out of it. So, cross your fingers, eh?


Alienating your Audience

Nightwish

I’ll be honest, I *think* this is has the newest singer in it, but they change them like shoes with the season, so . . ..

Okay, let’s just throw it out there. Artists are artists for a reason– they want to put their music, literature, art, whatever it may be, out there for the public to experience. (If they hide it in a box, this still implies a vague hope that someone will find it after they die. Otherwise, you’d burn that stuff.)

This often includes putting in a huge chunk of your ideals, religion, philosophy, and (most certainly) your personality. That’s just the way it is. And people’s opinions, religions, philosophies, and such all change over the course of your lifespan.

Certainly, I’m not the same person I was 18 years ago when I was doing most of my writing. So many things have happened to me that aren’t public record, so many little changes, experiences, traumas, and joys . . . you couldn’t expect someone to stay the same for that long. So I don’t expect artists to do it, either– and I don’t simply listen to artists whose views perfectly align with my own. I spend a good deal of my life explaining to people that, yes, I can listen to a musician who happens to be a flaming atheist without the least remorse. Some elements of their beliefs may come through in their music, sure, but I’m an adult, I can pick out the stuff I like and ignore the ranting bits.

And, hey, sometimes ranting is not a binary sort of thing. I was amused when Rage Against the Machine objected so strenuously to Paul Ryan naming them as one of his favorite bands. We don’t get to choose our audiences– what kind of art would that be? Some sort of self-referential masturbatory exercise, bleh. My opinions on Paul Ryan aren’t much more positive than Tom Morello’s are, I’m sure, but you have to admit that a rich musician has more in common with a rich politician than he’d probably care to admit. And, hey, Morello can always hope that his sometimes bizarre guitar solos will induce a seizure in the politician and bring about some kind of late-in-life political swing.

But anyway, wouldn’t you like to at least admit the possibility that the most folks in the country STILL don’t disagree with the people on the opposite side of such things on basic principles like babies shouldn’t be starving and nuking our world is probably a very bad idea. Maybe having people who disagree with you listen to your music or read your books or look at your pictures can be a good thing. Maybe, hey, you can open eyes through your art, who knows. Living in an echo chamber is boring AF.

The problem comes in when you suddenly do a 180 degree switch to something that’s out and out religious or political when your audience has previously not looked to you for wisdom of that sort. If you’re at all familiar with Rage Against the Machine, the fact that they stood naked on stage to protest censorship, or that they support the Zapatistas isn’t going to surprise you. If, however, Zach De La Rocha suddenly released a cd of Marian hymns and polyphony chant, you’d be more than surprised. Some people would be thrilled (hey, I would) but most of their audience would be pissed. That wasn’t what they were selling before, so what’s with the switch?

The Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish did something of a similar sort with their 8th album, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” Oh, Nightwish has always been a little wonky on the religion side of things– Finland isn’t exactly a hotbed of Christianity at this point, our efforts to Christianize them having fallen through quite some time ago. Finland actually has the lowest population of Catholics in Europe, and even most of those are emigre Poles. But the songwriter/mastermind of the band mostly confined himself to topics of fantasy, nature, and whimsy, with the rare song like “Wish I Had an Angel” that is actually blasphemous (in a sort of “I want to write a bad-boy metal song” kind of way.)

Then, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful. . . in which, Nightwish suddenly swerved into atheistic Darwinism of the most unthinking type– the type that considers religious people to be deluded and stupid and inferior, instead of just people who happen to disagree with you about the probability of the existence of a deity. Sigh.

It’s a painful thing when a band which you’ve enjoy, whose albums you have bought, decides to write songs telling you that “You live only for the days to come, Shoveling trash of the upper caste” in “Weak Fantasy.” And in “Yours is an Empty Hope,” he follows it up with imagining the vitriol that he will receive online with musings like “Feed me to pigs in your fantasies, Your sea roars bitter elegies . . . Yours is an empty hope.”

Well, gee, I don’t know what you expected, Tuomas. Basically, since Nightwish brought on the uilleann pipes guy, the lyrics have started to sound like they were written after a few too many late-night marijuana-induced discussions of the nature of reality. You had an audience, and doubtless you will retain a great part of it and probably gather in new listeners, too. And I don’t wish them ill in this. Musically, Tuomas Holopainen is a gifted artist. I’m just surprised, myself, at the tone that Mr. Holopainen has taken. A decade ago, he stated that he wasn’t religious, but “doesn’t consider religion to be bad.” Then, a decade later, there’s a bunch of trash-talking, virulence, and . . .  all this.

No, you shouldn’t expect your audience to like every change you make. Ask Chris Cornell (who was in Audioslave with three members of Rage Against the Machine)– he made a more pop-sounding solo album with Timbaland as a producer and the critics and audience savaged him over it. They have tastefully stopped talking about it now that he’s impressed them with a new Soundgarden album and his Songbook tour, so he’s largely been forgiven for his unexpected shift into different territories. (Me, I loved that cd, so I never considered there to be anything to forgive. I don’t see eye to eye with Mr. Cornell on many political subjects, but he’s a damn fine musician and a great artist.)

But, you know, there’s being dignified when you make a change and it upsets and angers people, and then just moving on, deciding what you’re going to do next, and working on that next thing. You can take some of the advice you get, reject the rest, and do whatever your heart and mind and soul tell you is the right thing to do. Or you can get pissy about it and probably finish the job of alienating those people forever. It’s always, always, up to you.

All I can say about my own work is that I welcome thoughtful criticism. Trolling and flaming, well, those suck, so don’t comment with those and we’ll get along fine. Trolls get banned, that’s the standard rule of the road around here.

And I can guarantee that there’s going to be religious and spiritual and psychological and horror and fantasy and blood and guts and sexuality and all sorts of messy topics in my work. Just so you know. But my treatment of those topics is what makes my work, well, MINE. Unless I have one of those guitar-solo-induced seizures and suddenly change my basic personality, none of that’s going to change too much.

 

 

 


A song to think about

Back in the 90’s, the first Sweet Relief album was produced to provide money to cover desperately needed medical care for Victoria Williams’s MS care. One of the songs covered on that cd was covered, in fact, by the Jayhawks, a member of whom was at that time Victoria’s spouse.

I was listening to the CD today and this song in particular reminded me of why I do what I do, and whether or not I remember to cherish the things that I’ve made that aren’t what I perhaps wanted them to be.

Listen. Enjoy.

Lights


Last Post . . . no, I mean the novel

So, I had urgent business that I had to finish before I dusted off my novel and got it ready for publication.

I had to finish reading Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy “Parade’s End.”

You see, the fourth novel in the book, “Last Post,” is a hard slog at first. You’d think that, after having hacked your way through the thickets of confusing prose in the first three novels, the fourth would be a breeze, but you’d be wrong. Because suddenly Ford throws a curve-ball and abandons his protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, leaving him entirely out of the book until the last two pages. So we’re thrust into the point of view of a bunch of people who have mostly been in the background, and the epic study of one obstinate man becomes more of a gossipy pursuit of truth through the various bits of information these characters reveal.

It’s jarring. But, having resolved to finish the book, I kept at it until I found the groove. Which came, oddly enough, from the one completely incurious character in the novels.

The other characters are always wondering about something, obsessing about something, sifting through memories and possibilities until you’re quite certain that all of them are more than a little bit crazy. None of them are introspective; they’re constantly obsessed with the actions and possible actions of others. When we finally get dropped into the POV of Tietjens’s sister-in-law, it’s refreshing. She’s completely incurious, to the point where it’s ridiculous. After so many hundreds of pages devoted to worrying about people, here is a woman who just wants to bottle some cider. Properly, the French way.

Graham Greene famously hated “Last Post” and tried to strike it from the tetralogy completely. It’s easy to see why– it’s so different in tone and style from the first three novels that it seems like an ugly duckling. But by the end of the third book, the only real “change” that Tietjens is capable of making has been made. We know him, we know how sentimental and hard-headed and absurd he is. What we haven’t seen before is the resolution of the conflict between the women of the novels and the fallout from WWI. Those are both messy topics, and not in the least anything that Tietjens himself would want to even think much about. It’s a much prettier ending to end the series with the third book– it has a classic romantic ending– but it’s much more psychologically satisfying to see the whole darn mess for what it is.

And that’s what “Last Post” gives us: a real conclusion. And I couldn’t move on from Ford’s books, mentally, until I’d moved past them. After the horrible shadow of jealousy and despair was dismissed, well, we can all move on. Until then, the reader knows that there’s no actual happiness in that romantic ending, because the banshee of Sylvia’s desire is going to keep haunting Tietjens and all his affairs.

Now that I’m finished reading the series, however, my lovely excuse for not working is gone so I’d better get busy.

Reading novels like these, however, does set the bar that little bit higher. How can I be happy with my work if I don’t try for “art?” I can’t, of course. But it helps to remember that Ford wrote dozens of novels, of which only this series and “The Good Soldier” are actually given any renown. Not everything we write really hits the mark. And sometimes, like this novel, it may hit it for some people and decidedly NOT hit it for others.

 

 


Very Special Snowflakes

Authors, I mean. I’ve been delving back into fandom recently. There seems to be a huge blind spot in fandom, wherein the members don’t acknowledge/admit that some of the author’s decisions were made simply to make the story work. There must be some REASON that all of the things written in the book happen. It must MEAN something larger. Conspiracy theory time!

Yeeeech.

Sometimes, we just make decisions based on “what has to happen to get the story to work.” Take GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example. In order for the plot to work at all, Tywin Lannister had to sit on his ass for 16 years, staying out of any political involvement in Kings Landing, just minding his own business at Casterly Rock. Otherwise, the Hands of King Robert wouldn’t have started investigating the king’s bastard children and threatening the stability of the Lannister’s hold on the throne.

Does it make a lot of sense that Tywin, who had already been a very successful Hand for several decades, would sit back and watch Robert piss away his grandchildren’s inheritance for 1 1/2 decades? Not really. Knowing Tywin, I’m seriously surprised that Robert didn’t have a lethal accident about ten years ago, with Tywin deftly stepping into the role of Regent at that point.

But, the whole setup of the novel wouldn’t work if that had happened. So the author left Tywin moldering on his Rock with Tyrion fixing his drains and ignored realpolitik for an unconscionably long time. This was, we were told, a man who was seething because Aerys had replaced him as Hand at the end of his reign. I don’t really believe he’d have let three more Hands serve without putting pressure on his daughter to at least get him a council seat. BUT . ..  for the author’s purpose, he had to act as he did. There would have been no series otherwise. But it’s still just an authorial decision. It’s not history. It’s not gospel. It’s just something the author manipulated to set things up for the plot of the book. If you ask “Why?” the only answer that matters is the author’s “Because I said so.” But it still is just a setup.

Similarly, he made Ned Stark have no close living uncles or brothers or sisters. If he had, then a Stark would have been in Winterfell the whole time. Again, ruining the plot of the stories. But authors aren’t more special than other people… they’re just better at telling stories. Stories can be amusing, entertaining, inspiring, and moving. In the end, though, they’re all just pretty lies. And the author is the Liar in Chief, making decisions ruthlessly just to advance the story he or she has in mind. Why do the characters do what they do? If they’re good characters, they’ll have motivations and reasons and justifications. But the author decided to put that particular character in just THAT place at THAT time, remember. It’s all a pretty mummer’s show. 🙂


Trigger . . . un-happy

So I started reading a very hyped and much-praised YA novel the other day.

I got five pages in, then I tossed it across the room and stared at it like it was a rattlesnake.

The book had almost immediately hit my personal triggers, bringing up painful feelings and wretched old memories.

Uhhh, thanks but no thanks, much-hyped author. Which brings us to a discussion of triggers and why you should gently work them into the novel and not, say, bang people over the head with them on the first couple of pages of chapter one.

Whenever you’re going to write about something traumatic, whether it be rape or child abuse, co-dependency or cutting, victimization or violence, you have a choice in how you handle it. Some readers will always throw your book across the room, even if you work it subtly into the theme and story arc. The chances of that are a lot less if you’re truly compassionate towards your readers and not, say, going for the juicy squishy eyeball-kicks and buckets of gore and disgust dumped out in the beginning to “wow” your audience and “hook” them.

Personally, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to write YA novels that normalize bad relationships. Bella and Edward? That’s a sick sick relationship, people. Ms. Meyer should be ashamed of herself for normalizing stalking, obsession, and victimization. It isn’t criminal, but it is wrong . . . why would we want to inflict another generation with stupid sick ideas? Shouldn’t we model healthy relationships for them? Shouldn’t we show that abuse is WRONG?

I feel that, if we are going to use abuse and victimization in a novel, it should be immediately apparent that it is wrong. It’s like the study they recently did on children’s television shows. The study showed that children’s cartoons spent 20 minutes or so on Bad Things Happening and then only 5 minutes on the resolution and Oh That Was Bad, This is How to Fix it. But, since the kids spent 4x as much time watching the bad behaviors, all they remembered from the episode was the bad stuff. They didn’t remember the “good” resolution.

The same thing is going to apply with YA novels. If you normalize the abuse at the beginning and only have your character “break free” or “wake up from it” at the very end, which message do you think you’re really sending to your audience? Or worse, if you have your characters never understand that what they’re living is full of squick . . . that’s a gross negligence on your part.

I know that my opinions on this sort of thing are strong . . . but that’s because we owe the younger generation a better deal than what we’ve been giving them. And we should keep our readers in mind when we’re writing. They’re real people, not just figments of our imagination. What we present and how we present it are important considerations.

Trust me, if I could go back and redact almost everything I wrote before the past two years, I would. I didn’t make good decisions and I didn’t write with any integrity. I can only hope that most of it is lost to time and won’t surface again. It’s just plain embarrassing to have written such dreck.

Aim high, and if you can’t aim high then just aim for humane. Consider if you’d want your great grandchildren to read a piece before you write it. Even if you’re not going to have any descendants, the thought exercise is good. Would you be embarrassed by this in a hundred years? Would you want to hide under the table if one of your writing heroes read it out loud at a convention?

Write well, and write with forethought. Some things, you can never take back.

 


Mining your Past– Part 2

So you’ve dredged up a lump of your past and it’s sitting on your desk, seething at you.

Don’t let it win the stare-down. We have ways of making it talk.

The second way that we control the process is by deciding what reactions we will use.

You see, when someone undergoes a traumatic experience, their own reactions will follow certain patterns. They probably will react to the trauma rather than acting freely and with forethought. That is one way that abusers manipulate people– they know that their brutal actions will cause someone to react in certain ways. They count on it and use the instinctive reactions to cause even more pain.

But we are the writers now. We are in control of the situation. We can choose not only how our abused character acts, but whether or not they react in the same ways that we did, in a modified manner, or in a way completely different than how we, ourselves, acted in a similar situation.

Now is a good time to read books about abusive situations and overcoming abuse. The insight you’ll gain into the psychology of those situations will help you immensely in writing out these scenes. Books like “The Courage to Heal“, “Victims No Longer“, “The Wounded Heart“, and “The Sexual Healing Journey” are valuable resources for writing about abuse, even if you never experienced it yourself.

If you don’t want to read about the psychology of victims, that’s fine. It’s enough to live through it for some of us. We know the mind games and how they’re played. So now, we get to play them again, in our book. THIS IS POWERFUL BAD TRIGGER JU-JU . . . so be careful. You are delving deep into the heart of your pain. I would personally advise having a counselor or a close friend or partner on your speed dial. When you get those suffocating feelings of anxiety and stress, stop writing and talk to someone until the panic passes. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, and then you can write again with a lighter heart.

The third way that we can control the process is by deciding What Happens. As writers, we are naturally in control of the ending of our stories. We have to consciously think about our payback to the abusers, however, because a bad ending will make the experience of writing about your traumas more traumatic instead of lessening the trauma. If your fictional bad guy gets away scot-free, that could be bad for you here in the real world.

In fiction, we can use the character arcs to make a larger point about the world. Those form the themes of the novel, and they are important. Choose what your trauma-related theme will be. What are you saying about the world through your fiction? What are you saying about abuse? Whether it’s “It’s better to put a millstone around your neck and jump into the ocean than to hurt a child” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, you have to pick the message of your novel. It may not be the primary message– the trauma may only be a small part of one character’s motivations– but the theme will be there, underlying the rest of the book.

Getting payback, even if it’s only through the pages of a book, is a powerfully freeing feeling. It will probably make it easier to dive back into that pit and haul out another radioactive element. So slaughter that monster, stake that soul-draining vampire, and send the villain into the teeth of a pack of rabid wolves.

You’ll feel much better once you do.

And your writing will be more powerful, now that you’ve opened up those mines of deep emotions to be used.

 


Mining your Past, Part 1

Somewhere, deep in your past, there’s something you don’t like to talk about.

It hurts to even think about it, maybe. It’s definitely not something you’d share with the PTA or the guys at work. It’s not just a skeleton in the closet; it’s the bedrock shame and fear and doubt that haunts all of your nightmares.

And we’re going to dig it out.

Therapy is great preparation for this. I spent quite a while in therapy, and I managed to crack open the seals on the door and peer inside. I ran out of money for therapy before I did more than scratch the surface of the material, though, so all that elemental misery is still there in my past, just sitting there. I have to decide: do I mine the horrors of my past and use them in my fiction? Or do I simply let them sit there, leaking their radioactive elements into my life?

It’s not much of a choice: all of that stuff is powerful stuff, filled with the promise of great writing and heart-wrenching truth. It’s much more deadly and toxic than ordinary topics, though. The fumes from the themes alone could kill. How do you delve into what is essentially a Superfund site in your mind without blowing yourself sky-high?

The way we do this is by telling stories, by using the emotion that’s hidden inside our past to lend our stories truth and power.

Before you do it, expect tears. Expect anger. Expect to get so pissy and tired and grieved that you yell at the dog and bitch at your spouse and wind up crying as you take a bath in the evening. It’s okay– that’s how you cleanse the toxins as they accumulate. Apologize to your spouse and tell them what you’re doing. Play fetch with the dog. And let the tears fall. You need them.

When you’re ready to begin, after therapy or restless nights or simply a lot of vodka, start simply. Let the first topic drift into your mind. Maybe it’s child abuse you suffered. Maybe it’s the loss of a parent or a friend. . . broken dreams, teenage angst, heartbreak, or watching your parents savage each other with words. Take that glowing, pulsing, deadly chunk of hurt and remove it from the closet. Set it on your desk and look at it.

Look at it good: this is part of your own story.

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in shame and blame. Those are games for abusers, not for sane adults. This thing happened, and now we’re going to use it. That’s all there is to it. Just looking at it clearly is a triumph, in a way. You survived to be able to write this story.

So here we go . . . YOU decide what happens. Does one of your characters get abused? Does someone they love die? What happens to who?

Decide how much similarity there will be between your own real life and your story. We’re not looking for exact 1 to 1 correlations here. Stephen King never had one of his kids die from dehydration while a rabid dog kept him locked in a tiny car in the summer heat, but we all felt the agony of that situation when we read “Cujo.” The helplessness and the frustration and pain . . . those were real. Where Mr King got them from is, quite frankly, not the story.

Your main character doesn’t have to be the one to suffer the injury. They can be, instead, powerful figures: cops, doctors, teachers, or warriors. They can discover someone undergoing a similar situation, or they can befriend someone who is living the results of that kind of past. Maybe you turn the abuse into slavery or prostitution or drug abuse. Allow the power of your imagination to alter the facts to fit the story. You’re using your pain to make the story ring true, not trying to describe your own life.

If the story IS a direct pull from your own life, you don’t have to tell the reader that, or your agent, or your editor, or even your Aunt Marge and your cousin Ben. It’s a STORY you’re writing, you choose who knows where it comes from.

On Thursday, I’ll go into Part 2: Reaction and Emotions. Until then, peace. And good story ideas to all. 🙂


Dealing with Doubt

If I had an easy solution for self-doubt, I’d be selling it for an obscene amount of cash.

Since I don’t have an easy solution, I’ll just have to go with my heart: one cannot be nearly as awful as one imagines in their times of worst doubt and fear. Simply put, you’re never going to be “the worst novelist ever” or even “such a bad writer that they should make it illegal for me to write.”

Doubt and fear stalk us, but unlike lions, they don’t just prey upon the weak and old and sickly among us writers. No, these hunters are indiscriminate. Pulitzer Prize-winning writers can suddenly have an attack of self-doubt that makes them wonder if their entire life was a waste. We can all be afraid that our work is somehow grossly flawed, and that we, as artists,  well . . . that we just plain suck.

I’ve had a fairly unenthusiastic response from some beta readers and it’s put the cold stark terror into my heart that my novel does, indeed, suck.

It’s a hard fear to shake. Even if it gets published, even then, there will always be haters and detractors. You have to feel sorry for the big names, too, for they draw some exceptionally negative attention. Ever read George R.R. Martin’s blog and comments? Ever read any of the several websites devoted to mocking him? Yeah . . . gotta kinda wince about that. Even he must have bad days where he wonders if he’s going to just be a flash in the pan of memory and have his books drop out of readers’ consciousnesses as soon as the series is done (or he is dead.)

That maybe, yeah, he sucks, too.

Overcoming this doubt and fear . . . it’s a difficult task. It may be the most difficult part of writing. I try to calm myself by reading books by inept authors and then reminding myself that I can string a sentence together better than that person, anyway. It’s not a big consolation, but when you’re at the bottom of the well, it’s better than being alone in the cold dark.

So, here I am, reading bad prose and then trying to recall all the “good” parts of my own work. After a while, it does help a bit . . . say, I DID write a nice scene there. And, yeah, my character IS particularly cool.

It’s small solace, but it’s what I have. What do you do when the bugbears come to bite?

 

 


What You Need for the Next Novel

So, the first novel is done, edited, and pretty much ready to be tossed out into the cold uncaring world, which means that it’s time for you to start the next novel.

The first step in writing any novel, as everyone knows, is selecting the music that you’re going to allow to drone on ceaselessly in the background for hours and hours and hours. You do this to create a writing micro-climate where words can be nurtured and outside influences can be blocked.

Sometimes, though, it will mean that you’ll be interrupted from your writing trance and you’ll look over at the interruptee, drool hanging from the corner of your mouth, and you’ll mutter “Joe Strummer?” in a bewildered undertone.

That’s okay. Joe would understand.

So, you locate the proper mood music, whether it is Bach or Led Zeppelin, Apocalyptica or Tom Jones. Or all four, which would make a novel that anyone would want to read. Srsly.

The next step is to write your outline.

Of course, at this point, all you have is a vague idea of the characters, one scene that woke you from a bad dream, and some scribbled ideas that don’t make any sense at all.

So, skip the outline. It will be completely irrelevant to the final novel, anyway.

Having skipped the outline, having no idea what you’re about to write about, and humming “Let it be Me,” your next step is to sit down and clean your desk off. All of the old notes, maps, outlines, candy wrappers, coffee-stained scraps of bills, and the credit card statement that you’ve been ignoring for six months all need to go. Toss them in a box and stick it in your closet. You will need that stuff later, when you’re famous . . . or at least when you totally forget which country was “north” in your novel and have to re-check those maps.

Now, you are ready to write.

No, wait, you need caffeine. Coffee, if you’re that type, soda pop if your habit of sitting at a desk for days on end hasn’t yet given you diabetes, and caffeinated gum for those poor suckers who are already counting carbs.

NOW, you’re ready to write.

Or, at least, to hit “shuffle” on your music player about fifteen times, to shuffle yourself around the room looking for inspiration, and to finally type out a scene that will not appear in any final version of any book, anywhere.

When all else fails, go re-read Stephen King’s book on writing, or read one of his novels, and then despair.

You will never be that famous. Ever. Sorry.

When you’re finished plowing through your existential angst, sit back down and work on another outline. Scrape something together that resembles a plot. Invent some characters that don’t totally suck.

And then you’re ready to write. Those first 2000-5000 words will come easy. It’s all crap, anyway, but enjoy it while it lasts. It’s what you do AFTER you begin the next novel that counts. The words you write after 6000, the plot threads that you start weaving together with some finesse, and the characters that suddenly start talking like real people . . . that’s what matters. All this other stuff is just girding up your loins for the suffering that’s to come.

Good luck.