HorrorTree Blog – 6 Things I’ve learned part 3
I planned to write this final installment on my front porch on May 2. Go full circle, I guess and then start the circle over again. I’m not ready to die or retire quite yet, this has just been lap one on the track. But alas, life and my “job” got in the way.
This is a long one too, and be warned, my tone changes drastically toward the end. Hard to believe, but I actually get pretty serious. It’s better that way.
Just a few quick comments on a couple of the things I posted last week. I said I like trying new things, and I do. I tried them over the last week or two, collaborating on a story with a friend. It’s the first time I’ve ever written with someone else. I think we nailed it, I’m really happy with the way it turned out and I hope the publisher agrees and accepts it. I’ll keep you posted, but it’s dirty and laugh out loud funny. Cross ‘em.
Second, last week I talked about the publishing business taking forever. Case in point, I had a story I submitted in September just get accepted for publication. There were several factors at play and while publishing does move terribly slow, 8 months is a very long time to wait. There were several factors at play (including me not querying) that I won’t go into, but a story that I’d given up on found a home. Hang in there.
Anyway, here is my final installment of 6 things I’ve learned, giving us 3 installments of 6. 666. When I started I said that 666 was way too many to write and I still do, but damn, I’d say I’ve learned pretty close to 666 things, maybe more. Narrowing all this down has been difficult, and it seems like *gasp* I always have a lot to say. Here’s the next 6 and when I run out of specific topics to write about, I might just pick 6 things and write about them. DID THIS COLUMN FINALLY FIND ITS IDENTITY!? I doubt it, but maybe. 6 more.
I swear a lot- I mean who doesn’t right? I’ve worked blue collar labor and third shift for almost half my life. I’ve heard some pretty creative things. Throw an insane amount of reading in with that and you can probably see how my mind is pure filth. I’ve even come up with a few originals myself. A story I recently signed a contract for contains the line “the room looked like the dumpster behind an abortion clinic.” I’m pretty proud of that one. If you think I swear a lot in these posts, you should read my fiction haha. Well, first drafts at least, I try and clean it up a little bit before submission, but I think I write in a fairly conversational style and unless I’m talking to my mom or my students, the profanity and sexual innuendo and all that other stuff flies around like shit in an uncovered blender set on liquefy. I don’t know how much is too much, I just try and write as honestly as possible. My first drafts are usually a nightmare, but most of the time they clean up okay. I swear a lot, I like to shock, I like to put a filthy spin on normal and often taboo subjects. So does Eminem… sue me. Well, sue him, if you sue me you’ll get like 8 bucks. That’s pretty much my savings account.
Music is a great motivator- I will be more specific: EMINEM and HATEBREED are the two greatest motivators in my life. Not to take anything away from those people that love my work and they enjoy it; that helps, it really does, and obviously my family and friends but those things aren’t accessible on demand. Eminem and Hatebreed are two constants in my life and they have been for a long time. I’m a metal head through and through, but I also have deep appreciation for Eminem. Most people that want to be writers always say the same thing, I want to write, but it’s too hard or I can’t find the time or I have no motivation. (you people pay CLOSE attention to points 5 and 6) Go listen to some Eminem, listen to some Hatebreed and look up the fucking lyrics. Go read about them on Wikipedia or wherever you kids go these days. Read their stories. Rags to fucking riches. Most of us can’t afford or are too proud to acknowledge the idea of a life coach. I understand the money part, I’m broke as shit but if you’ve got internet go listen to these guys on Youtube or Pandora or buy their albums. Cheapest and best life coaches in the world. I’m not saying you need to listen to them when you write, although I do sometimes and I love it, but listen to them when you wake up or when you think you want to write, or when you feel like shit. They’ll get you where you need to be. It always works for me. I could go on forever here and I might write in the future about what they can offer you, but HEAR ME: LISTEN TO THEM. Obviously “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, but also check out “Soldier,” “Not Afraid,” “Talking to Myself,” “Sing for the Moment,” and his verse of “Airplanes.” And Hatebreed? Christ, every song. But start with “Never Let It Die,” “Perseverance,” “Before the Fight Ends You” and “This Is Now.” Your homework is to go listen to all those songs and read the lyrics while you listen, and know the backstories of those musicians. Where they came from and where they are. If you don’t feel a boiling urge to produce after that? I can’t help you. I used to get off on playing the victim, and I think a lot of people do. These artists showed me that if you don’t act, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. And they help me act every day.
The writing community is incredible- This is actually something that shocked me. When I came at this with zero experience I figured that every writer was a greedy asshole hoarding advice and ideas about open markets to themselves. What I discovered is the complete opposite. I can only really speak to the horror and whatever else you want to lump in with that, community, but it is incredible. I have some great relationships with publishers and writers that I’ve never even met before, and I don’t think it’ll be awkward when I finally get to meet ‘em at a con or something. I’ve been helped out by several authors and publishers be it feedback on a story, a heads up on a new open market, or just friendly conversation, like when I met Brian Keene. Jesus look at HorrorTree, for example. I talked before about how hard it was to find markets a few years ago. Stu is a writer and he’s doing this to help other writers. Incredible. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve been friending a lot of writers on Facebook lately and it’s been leading to some good things. I can’t wait to see where else it leads. Also, I feel like I’ve helped some other writers out with this column, with answering emails and questions on my author page. I’m FUCKING THRILLED to be able to offer other writers something and I’ll be happy to do more. I know that with the ebook revolution and self-publishing and a lot of people trying to get rich quick by being shit writers and sugar marketers there is some hesitation and some contempt. Hell, there are a few writers I could name specifically that I know have bought/manufactured reviews, bought Twitter followers, and whatever other black-hearted shit they could come up with. I get that, and it’s intimidating, but they are the rare cases. Almost everyone I’ve come across is not in this to get rich quick, they’re in this because they fucking love to write and they want to get better and better and make the genre strong and more appealing, in turn giving other writers opportunities. I’m a part of that and I want to be a bigger part. To everyone who’s helped me (way too many to name) THANKS. I WON’T FORGET!
All plans go to hell as soon as the first shot is fired- This is a military quote that I heard for the first time in one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. Excellent series by the way. If your only experience with Jack Reacher is Tom Cruise, slap yourself and then go to your bookstore. Anyway, this adage totally applies to fiction. Stories, plots, characters and everything else have a way taking their own course no matter what you, the writer, had in mind for them. Sometimes, yeah, it works out the way you want but not usually. Don’t get frustrated by this. Instead think, “If I wrote this and had no idea what was going to happen, neither will the reader.” I don’t know if this is true, I’ve definitely had readers tell me that they saw shit coming a mile away. That’s going to happen. But I’ve also had more readers say, “never saw that coming.” I always say back, “good, neither did I.” Writing is truly unpredictable and I like it that way. Occasionally I’ve had stories do exactly what I thought they were going to do, and that’s fine, they can still be good stories, but don’t get discouraged if your characters end up in dialogue for five pages or you can’t get them where you need them to be. You can always cut later, let ‘em play, watch them play and make it nasty you slimy voyeur 😉 I’m dealing with this firsthand in a slightly different way now. I was prepping a unique approach to a short story collection and one of the pillars of that collection just sold to a market that I’d completely given up on. I had to make a tough choice: sign the contract or not. I thought about it, consulted some friends. I decided to sign and write something else to take its place. Now the book that I thought was so close to completion has gone back to the drawing board. I’m thrilled that I was forced to make that decision, but that was the shot and my book was the plan. I’m not worried about it though, I’m game for locking horns with the challenge.
I like to think I’m pretty funny when I write these posts. I hope you get a laugh out of them too, but more importantly I hope they help you become a better writer, maybe even a better person. These last two things that I’ve got to say are going to be completely serious. I’ll be back with my usual tone next week, and I don’t want to be a downer, but I think these resonate a little more without me making jokes.
Going at the blank page pissed off and/or with a broken heart and confronting your fears is a great idea- Fortunately, I’ve lived a pretty good life. I’ve got an excellent support system and the best family and friends I could ask for, but like everyone out there, sometimes stuff just gets to me. I can’t remember who said it, probably every writer, I guess, but the quote is “writing is cheaper than therapy.” In this last year I’ve come to understand that. I’ve confronted some of my deepest, darkest fears, and dealt with depression, guilt, and heartbreak. Actually the first story that got me started, “Precious Damaged Cargo” started with me pondering my worst fear and I turned it into one hell of a story. I can’t read it without crying. Writing is a blast, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s cathartic, it purges all that nasty shit out of your psyche and whether you write about it directly or indirectly, well, that varies. I love it when it’s fun, but I feel like I need it when it’s not fun. I’m pretty honest and pretty personal with my work and I’ve definitely used it like therapy, maybe even more than most. I think I’m honest to a fault in my writing (and in my life) and now I’m coming clean and doing it here too, but I think that’s important. In On Writing, SK says something like “write whatever you want, but make damn sure you tell the truth.” There’s no better way to cope, at least not for me, than spilling some ink and your guts all over the page. Writing gives you a chance to take the most horrible, nasty shit you’ve ever done or been through and turn it into a story. And you can make that story sad, happy, funny, horny, angry, depressing or any of those and a million more. I think that can really help you connect with the reader and while making up ridiculous shit is fun, I love to do it, but I think that shit that cuts the reader deep and the writer deeper, those are the rare stories that really resonate. I was going to provide at least one very strong example of heartbreak, but this is already too long. Suffice it to say, I’ve written more than one story to help heal my heart, and it worked every time.
I’m going to die- This is obvious, but it is not obvious. This realization came to me over the last few months. At some point, we all must confront our mortality. I learned this from people around me, I guess you could say we are/were acquaintances and maybe even friends. One friend, who I’m happy to say is still alive and doing much better, suffered from a nasty, rare illness that almost took his life. One, a server at a restaurant that I go to to write at sometimes, got murdered a couple weeks ago. Another, a female friend of mine, got shot in the head from an “accidental discharge” in Afghanistan. She died too. I am 29 years old. All three are/were (putting that / in there brings tears to my eyes as I write this even though I wasn’t all that close to either) younger than me. One by 9 years. While all of this is heartbreaking and sad, it comes with a lesson. We are not immortal. We will all die, maybe when we’re 90 and maybe I’ll take my last breath before this even gets posted, but I sure hope not. I’m not ready to die. We get a limited amount of time on this planet and our time is really the only possession that we own. Regardless of what you believe happens at the end, we can all agree that what you do in this life is your own. You own it. No one else does. I love writing. I love publishing. I love having people read my writing. I love helping other writers. I love a lot of stuff, both those things are top tier for me right now. There are a lot of things I could choose to do instead of writing but I’ve made my decision and I want to spend a vast majority of my limited time writing, creating. I want to entertain people, make them laugh, make them cry, make them fucking hurt, give them hope, make them think, make them confront their own mortality, show them characters just like themselves, make them question themselves and those around them, make them want to be better people. I just want to make them feel SOMETHING. I don’t know where any of this is going, my life, my writing, and everything in between. The only destiny I believe in is the one we make from ourselves and I plan on spending the rest of my life, be it until I’m 90 or until next Thursday creating, writing, and loving every minute of it, even when I’ve got to rip open scabs and scars to get to the stories that lie underneath.
I’ll be back next week with something a little more fun than the last two points and a lot less words. Jesus Christmas, this is like 3,000. But in the meantime, I urge you to consider what I’ve said in this blog and the previous two. I’ve learned a ton in this first year. I hope I’ve helped you, in life, in writing. I really do. If there’s anything I can do to help, you know the drill send me something at [email protected] The writing community has been great to me, I’ll be happy to do my best for you.
Keep reading, keep writing, and keep it real,
- Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: Crossroads and Intersections - January 14, 2017
- Ongoing Submissions: Trigger Warning - April 7, 2016
- Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: Not Ready To Die - September 19, 2015
- Ongoing Submissions: Black Girls Are Magic Lit Mag - September 11, 2015
- Ongoing Submissions: Creepy Campfire Stories (for Grownups) Quarterly Publication - July 24, 2015
- Introducing GRAVE MARKERS - June 3, 2015
- Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: Things I’m Thankful For (And a few I’m not) - November 27, 2014
- Ongoing Submissions: Flash Fiction For PMMP - September 11, 2014
- Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: An Open Letter to Publishers - July 5, 2014
- Ongoing Submissions: Cranial Leakage – Tales From The Grinning Skull - June 6, 2014