Saturday, March 25, 2017

Work, Relax - A Needed Concept in an Author

It is amazing to watch others write.  Some write for the money, some for non-fiction as it is a constant source of income and I might do some of this if I ever cannot teach.  Some write for fame - but don't want the work it takes to achieve fame.  And some, write like I do, because the story bubbles behind the self conscious, teasing and creating anxiety until you write it down.  My brain sees things and goes - that would make a good story, hears things and goes - that will make a good story, feel things and goes... well you get the idea.

I cannot refrain from writing. If I am not writing, I am role playing which is just another kind of writing, but you don't know where the end will be.   I am also a pantzer - this means I don't outline. I am all about characters and well, they tell the story.

However, I do have a mentor that I strive to model my routines after - Ray Bradbury.  This amazing author wrote 1000 words no matter what and many of them never reached but a few in the public eye. Regardless, he wrote.  For those of you that like writing novels, that is a new rough draft every 120 days.  As an independent writer, the long tail effect begins to ebb after about 180 days.  So if you want to stay viable, you have to write daily and read daily.

Every famous author I have researched has held these two components, write and read daily,  as a requirement for success. Some of what we write, no one will see.  Other pieces will go out to a magazines and be seen only for a few.  And in there somewhere, you get better and better.  Persistence is the key to success as an author.  We all dream of being the next big name, but being the big name isn't all it is cracked up to be.  Consider that consistently read might be a better aim and if fame comes, well it comes.  I get excited every time a few books sale on the same day.  I have had my day with 400 downloads of e-books.  I have been top ten in my genre.  However, when you are independently published, none of that matters.  If you don't write more... your short lived fame will ebb.

Ray Bradbury completed an essay on Zen in the Art of Writing. I really encourage writers to read this essay. But for the point of my article today, I will reference it.  He teaches Work (1000 words a day), Relaxation, Don't Think, and More Relaxation.  Don't Think... now this sounds like my kind of advice. He goes on to say that Quantity gives experience and from that rises Quality. We learn what to leave out over time. It is like a surgeon, over time the fingers just know what to do.

I think the part that really encouraged me is that if you succeed with a piece, you learn what readers like.  If you fail, you still learn and move on. Over time, the mental muscle knows instinctively to leave out that passive voice of he.... and to use more descriptive words.  I am currently working on recognizing the use of a word too many times and this takes the work he speaks about.

"For if one works, one finally relaxes and stops thinking.  True creation occurs then and only then."

Ray Bradbury

He also says there is only one type of story... Your Story.  "Plot is no more then the footprints your characters leave in the snow."    I think this is my favorite line.  Non-writers look at me in confusion when I say my character hasn't told me yet.  My characters go to places I had not planned, but it fits them and their situation when I get there.

So my advice to new writers.  Work, Relax and Observe, Don't Think.   Your characters if they are fully developed will do the rest.  May your muse always be present.