Thoughts on Writing


Brandon Sanderson is an author I respect. Not because I like his writing. On the contrary, I don’t find his writing necessarily to my taste, but more because of what he has done with the craft. and how he ultimately offers advice to those who are also climbing the mountain he has summited over and again. I am in the middle of reading of some of his stuff on his page and he has offered this one particular gem that I have decided to pull out and disseminate.

Becoming a successful author is about practice, and I believe that the most important thing to learn while practicing is to understand yourself as a writer. – Sanderson

Very true. Just a couple of sentences before this he offered another piece of advice which is to learn how your own process works as a writer and do that. He even references George R. R. Martin’s analogy of the difference between the “gardeners” and the “architects” out there – those who write and let the story tell itself and those who design the story. Either way, all authors tend to agree that there’s no one way to the end of the maze. The point is that you keep walking and find out how to get there yourself.

I’ve been writing fiction since 2008. I’ve been able to have a few pieces of poetry published (though, there’s one I’ve looked for and it’s gone – the publication went under), as well as a short story. But that seemed a while back. I still write and I’m working on the next project. But the hard part isn’t the book, or the short story, or the essay, or the poem, or whatever. It’s not the words. It’s in the strength/the pull of the tale. It’s in the motivation. I think it is an alluring endeavor – to be an author. To be called an author, a writer. There’s a sense of sophistication, even panache about one’s whose work is to wield words as a profession. But, it has to be for you. Some people just won’t want to do it. Let’s face it – when it comes down to it, there’s on one else who is going to write the piece that you are going to write. No one who is going to tell the tale that you are going tot tell. No one else. There is you, and that is all. So, the question then becomes, what do you do with this time? There is a lot that goes on in one’s life, and at a certain point, you reach a place where much of your time in the day is stolen away. But you do have blocks. And these blocks of time you have, in some fashion or another, carved out for yourself. Time is made, after all; not had. Now, you have this block of time. What do you do with it?

You just write and see what happens then.

But, as I’ve alluded to Sanderson, writing to the end is summiting a mountain. It’s only about desire, really, like anything. You want to ride a bike, solve a Rubix cube, learn to juggle, write code, do landscaping, et cetera, it is always all about desire.

Once you have that, once you’ve found the wall you would like to break down, you then find your tool and start hitting. You practice. You fall down, you get injured, you grow tired, hungry, weary, weak. You begin to question why you are doing this. You know some chips of cement are falling from the wall, but you’re not sure how thick the wall is. Are you sure this is what you want?

Most stop here. It’s not right; it’s not wrong; it just is. Most stop.

Those who continue, continue because it’s what they want to do. They’re not concerned about the result. They are concerned with simply doing. Some have planned it all out, others simply keep the work going, and at a certain point, it is finished. The final chips of concrete fall, the wall is broken, and the project is complete.

This is where I am. There is a lot of concrete on the floor. I’m not sure how much more of the wall there is left, and there are times in which I stop hammering because I need a break. I am not sure if I’m hammering the right place. Is it the right wall? Am I using the right tools? I exhale deeply, closing my eyes.

Then, when I’ve rested and I’m ready, I open my eyes again. The wall is still there, as am I. I pick up my hammer and return to the work.

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Thank you for the “Excuses.”


(*Below is my thank-you letter to the cast of Writing Excuses – a true source of writing inspiration, humor, and kinship of craft. If you want to be a writer, and have trouble with inspiration, please consider this cast.)

—-

Dan, Brandon, Mary, and Howard,

Thank you.

My name is Levi and I have been listening to Writing Excuses since its inception. Right from Season 1 all the way to now, I have loved spending this time with you. This is not to take up a lot of your time, but I wanted to thank you for the inspiration you have given me in my writing life.

I have been writing since 2008 after reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, believing that I could do the same (maybe not as well, of course, but similarly). That I could be a writer. I grew up enmeshed in epic fantasy and science-fiction, and wanted to create and exist in those same worlds in my writing as an adult.

But I didn’t know how or where to start.

So, I picked a direction, something. I would read interviews with several novelists who I had admired growing up, articles and tips online about how to dive in, and I sat in on a writing group in the local area. But it was when a friend recommended Writing Excuses that I found a new series of fires had lit within me. From one episode to the next, I found myself listening to them four, five, six at a time. At that time, you were already into Season 3 or so, which allowed me to download handfuls of previous episodes and binge-listen to my delight. I had them on my phone, twenty-some episodes all locked and loaded at a time. If I needed to pause, I could pause, and I would come back to it and pick up where I left off.

And as I listened, I learned. Character, setting, plot, structure, language, dialogue, and on and on. And the two best parts were that the show is relatable, and maintains its level of interest. Let’s be honest, when you talk about writing, you can either make it appealing or not. In this way, I have to thank you on how very low you keep the level of suck. You have humor, you have varying personalities, you’re all very accomplished and have loads of anecdotes of experience to share with us, and unlike many other authors, who may carry an air of conceit, you treat us in a way that not only shows that you know where we’re coming from and what we’re feeling as beginner/amateur writers, but (and most-importantly) that you believe in us and encourage us to dig, and push, and create.

Brandon, thank you. My brother and I are both writers and huge fans of the Wheel of Time. His background of sci-fi and fantasy is heavier than mine, and when he says that the Way of Kings is the finest fantasy series he’s ever read, that’s saying something. Your prolific output, dedication to the craft, and generous advice and demonstration on writing (Youtube, lectures, interviews) continually inspires me. We met in San Francisco when you were on tour with Harriet. Your advice to me was, “keep going.” Thank you.

Mary, thank you. It is because of your dedication to your craft, your investment of yourself, and your honesty with your encouragement and advice for the rest of us is very inspirational. You hand-write letters to your fans and it was through this way that we met once at Norwescon in Seattle and I was introduced to and read Shades of Milk and Honey. Thank for you continued inspiration.

Howard, thank you. Your humor on the cast is great. It is so very nice to have you process the craft for the rest of us as it relates through the lens of the graphic art. When I check in on your site and see that you still putting up new strips every single day, it is very inspiring for me. You bring an art and style to writing that many may overlook and I would like to thank you for not only the exposure of your style to the craft, but your input as a writer and a cartoonist to the topics of the cast. Thank you. I must say that it has been some time since we’ve heard you give us the exclamation of “luxury” in only the way you can.

Dan, thank you. It’s always inspirational to know of those who know what they want and just walk out and get it. As a horror writer, you bring something to the table that the rest of us need to hear. It’s so nice to hear your method of how you break down your ideas into a structure (and eventual final product) for a story which affects its audience. Your Seven-point plot structure is a beautiful tool for writers and I thank you, as I am considering using it in a current project of mine.

Each of you has inspired me as a writer and I very much appreciate

Which brings me to the reason I wanted to write this letter. The most recent episode on true confessions is the best I’ve ever heard. Maybe you thought it was mediocre or just something fun to do, but it was the most poignant and apropos message I’ve heard to date. I think it’s easy for beginning writers to think ideas such as, ‘no, this can’t be the way to do it,’ ‘no, it’s all wrong,’ or ‘no, I’m just repeating myself, I don’t have any chapters yet, this isn’t even what I wanted to write about…..’ and on and on. “Failure” after “failure” after “failure.” And this episode is one in which you tell us to our faces, “Actually, that’s totally normal…and look at all the times I screwed up.” I love the fact that Mary said that it’s not really failure, it’s just data. It’s said that Thomas Edison screwed up over 1,000 times (and I’m paraphrasing) before finally inventing the lightbulb. And when asked about all those times, he is famously quoted as having said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times, I just found out 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.”

Math is not my forte, but if we’ve been at this for 12 years (you as the hosts, and me as the listener), then we’ve hit somewhere around 625 episodes – ballpark. And this one, above all, was the most perfect of episodes. No guests needed, no special theme, no writing prompt, just sitting back and listing some of the epic screw-ups that you’ve had, and reminding us that (as Howard said, and again, I’m paraphrasing), it’s not that you fail; that’s going to happen. It’s what you do with that discovery. You can either quit, cry about it, moan, and consider a professionally lofty bridge, or get back up and go at it again. You’re either a writer, or your not. What a period to end the season with.

Thank you for the inspiration. I am looking forward to the upcoming season on character, and if I may, and because I’m into language, I’d like to learn about character and presence – basically, the about of presence a protagonist (or side character) can have and how you can keep a character’s presence from overwhelming the rest of the story (i.e. maintaining a balance of character presence).

Okay, enough from me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued dedication to the craft we all love, and for helping us better ourselves in this venture. You do just by who you are.

And with that, although I am not quite out of appreciation, I am out of excuses. I’m off to write.

See you next year,
LP

Across the Wheel


wot

…Merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

~ popular American song (something of a tradition)

   The hours have escaped me again.

   There haven’t been too many earth-shattering changes going about of late. All has been relatively copacetic in the LP neighborhood, I’m happy to report.

   Well, there is one particular item I am happy to announce. My brother and I have begun an epic adventure travelling (You can’t see it, but a red line is under this word, which is weird because it’s correct in English) from on end of the Wheel of Time to the other. What is the Wheel of Time, you ask? It’s an epic fantasy series that was begun by the late Robert Jordan in 1990 and finished by Brandon Sanderson in 2013. There are fourteen books in the series and full of all kinds of alternate/high fantasy fun.

   Jordan, it can be argued, took what Tolkien did with the LoTR and made some magnificent tweaks to really streamline this fantastic fantasy tale. It’s inordinately long, however, and that’s why (perhaps) we’re doing it together. We started a new web-site (Across the Wheel) where we’re documenting our progress and generally placing our thoughts via the written word down as we go through this.

   We just got into it and we’re (as of this writing) only around 200 pages into the first book, The Eye of the World.

   In its entirety, the series spans 14 books and goes right up into the neighborhood of 12,000 words.

   We, of course, welcome you to stop by our site and comment away: www.acrossthewheel.wordpress.com .

   Other than that, I’ll just say that life has me running, and I’m grateful for the exercise. The writing has slowed, and there is no one other than me who knows it simply needs to pick back up again. I have been talking with all my good friends here and following Court of Swords with Jer and Skell, but honestly, I’ll have to slow down on that recently because I just have different priorities now. Love the show, but my attention is needed elsewhere.

   Much love. More in a bit.

-lp

Sanderson on Fantasy and WoR


You’ve heard me mention him before and I do it here again now for similar reasons. He loves what he does and he’s honest about his role in the craft. Here he is on the fantasy genre and his latest work (Book 2 in a projected nine-book series). I hope you enjoy, or if you can’t enjoy, at least I hope you find something of value here.

lp

Top Ten – Books Affecting Me


Leaving the Two Rivers
Leaving the Two Rivers

There’s this whole series of, well, let’s call them “re-postings” for lack of a better term, all over Facebook having to do with a list of the top ten books that have affected people. The verb that is being splattered all over the FB world is ‘impact,’ but I prefer to abstain from using it in that sense since ‘affect’ does the job divinely.

But the point is that I do have a list; I haven’t thought of it yet, but I let’s put it down. And let’s make it simple – books that have “affected” me…somehow. Right? Very well. Let’s be off, then.  *I’m not mentioning Tolkien in here because it’s a given.

 

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Probably the book that gave me the shove I needed into writing was this one. I remember getting somewhere around halfway through the book and thinking, “This is so easy. I could do this!” Just shows how easy Coelho makes writing look.

 

2. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan: It was sometime around 2000 when I first read this and I have since needed adventure fantasy books to be around me. The world Jordan made is absolutely stunning. He had it all there and the genre suffered a loss with his passing.  A must-read for anyone who wants to get into fantasy.

 

3.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: The best digital fantasy adventure book I have read in the past three years. I had the pleasure of meeting Cline in Seattle at a signing and what a cool guy. The concept he created for this book, and how well he wrote this is fantastic. A digital age in which everyone lives in a computer-enhanced world as their own reality is too dismal to face. Yet, within their world there is a hidden treasure and anyone who finds it will pull themselves out of any impoverishment they’ve ever known. An exciting book for the nerd/geek who grew up in the 1980s.

 

4.  After the Quake by Haruki Murakami: I had never laughed out loud at reading a short story until I read a wonderfully-penned piece called “Superfrog Saves Tokyo.” You can probably get from the name how amazing this story could be, and it was all that I thought it would be. Murakami’s style is wickedly surreal. A great collection of short stories, all with some relevance to the 1995 quake that rocked Kobe.

 

5.  The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett: When my brother told me about this, I had to take his recommendation. Not only was it a beautiful storyline (using ancient symbols to fight daemons? Umm, yes.), but the way it was told, I thought was strong. It’s a quick read, but a good one. I wanted to get to the sequel right away.

 

6. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin:  Laugh if you will, but this is the only Martin book I’ve ever read…and it was terrific! The vampire genre has been stretched really thin, but this Martin killed it (in the colloquially positive way)! Vampires taking over Mississippi riverboats in the 1800s? How kick-ass is that?

 

7.  Cloud Atlas/The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zöet by David Mitchell: There’s no one in fiction whose work I’ve ever read who has the command of English and masterful style of Mitchell. The man was born to write. I am a language lover to the bone and the way this man uses words is fabulous. He is a master crafter of sentences and a true storytelling artist.

 

8.  The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle:  I have been wanting to read this for a while and I was first turned onto it by following the blog of Patrick Rothfuss. Whenever Rothfuss had the chance, he plugged this book, and I’m so glad I listened to him. This book is, as Rothfuss said it, like a pearl – a beautifully crafted fantasy story. It’s a place that the reader wants to go and a world in which the reader wants to live.  It’s magic realized.

 

9.  The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss: There are two hugely popular fantasy authors (among a handful) at the moment – Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read a few Sanderson books, but Rothfuss really has it locked on. This book is a masterpiece. I have not read the sequel until the last of the trilogy comes out. I don’t want it to end, but hey, all good things, right?

 

10.  Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb: The first book I read for pleasure after college, and what a feeling. I went to Barnes & Noble and picked this out knowing nothing about it. I fell in and it was over pretty quick. One of my favorite authors; she’s been writing fantasy for a long time and I was able to meet her in WA. She’s usually writing about dragons and such, but this was the series that took off. A great solid fantasy series…you know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

 

There are universes of other terrific writers out there and just not enough space, but this is my list. You go get your own.