Odds are, if you visit any writers blog, at least half their posts are going to be about the craft of writing. Then you come here, and I talk about anime, Dungeons & Dragons, and whatever the hell else it is I talk about. Usually cats. Because cats.
So, what gives? Am I just not invested in being a writer? Do I not take it seriously? Why don’t I spend more time talking about writing?
To be brutally honest, it’s because talking about writing is incredibly boring, even for me, and writing is kinda what I do. If I devoted half my blog posts to taking about writing, I’d be so bored with my own blog, I’d probably stop updating it. That’s just how dull talking about writing is.
Mainly, this is because there’s only so much you can really say on the subject. The actual craft of writing is more like pounding on a keyboard feverishly than an actual process one can explain. It’s something you do, not just talk about.
That, and mentioning dangling participles pretty much ends any conversation with giggle fits.
Look, here’s how it is, folks. People who spend all their time talking about writing, aren’t actually writing. They are too busy being pretentious asshats. You know the people I mean. They sip absurdly expensive coffee out of stupid looking teacups, wear berets, and interrupt everything you say with the word, “Actually”. Those people aren’t writers. They are twatwaffles.
Writers are too busy writing to be doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of reasons for that, too. Some of which I’ve explained before, and you can catch up on right here.
Point being, writing isn’t a thing you can talk about endlessly. Even Stephen King limited it to a single book on the subject, Danse Macabre. Which, by the way, is the only thing you really ever need to read if you want any real tips on becoming a writer.
Trust me on this, I’ve got over a dozen books on the subject of writing, and not a one of them ever helped me actually become a better writer. They were all just expensive refresher courses on high school grammar. King’s book was better, in that it made me think of what I write, not how.
Because how is easy. High school grammar pretty much tells you everything you need to know about how to actually use the English language. Provided you speak English, of course. The appropriate course for the appropriate language probably has the same effect, I would imagine. Beyond being able to say yes in about six different languages, I’ve never mastered anything but English, and that is only tentative at best.
What I’m trying to say is that writing is easy, and insanely hard. The easy part is easy to explain. The hard part, well, that really can’t be explained at all. How to craft an epic fantasy battle scene is one of those things that is really hard to teach someone to do, because it’s not just about how you write, it’s about what you write, and why.
Yeah, that didn’t make sense. Told you it was hard to explain.
Think of it this way. Air is one of the most common things in the world. Now try explaining it to someone who has no concept of what it is. Like an alien. Pretend you are trying to explain air to an alien. Not any alien, either. But a redneck alien that never did had no hankerin for that learnin stuff. Just imagine trying to explain something as simple as air, to a being who doesn’t speak your language, has no concept of what you are talking about, and you are trying to do it over a ham radio from a hundred light years away.
That’s what trying to explain writing is like.
A good grasp of grammar will take you a long ways. Understanding the basics of characterization, plot mechanics, and dialogue will take you farther. Even then, there’s a limit to what you can do if you are missing the most important ingredient. The one thing no writer can do without, that can’t be taught, and sure as hell can’t be explained.
Yes, I mean passion.
A good grasp on the basic is necessary, and don’t get me wrong about that. You must have a good grasp on the basics. But if you don’t love what you write, then it’s pretty pointless. When I say love, I mean love. You have to be in love with the plot, the characters, the setting, everything. It has to consume your thoughts. You have to dream about it, and spend every waking moment sorting out all the plot threads and character arcs. It has to be the single most important thing in your head, not because you made it that, but because it just is that. It’s there, all on it’s own, and you are the one who can’t escape it until you put it all into words.
That’s it. That’s being a writer. That is really all there is to say on the subject. If you have that, then go and be fruitful.
If you don’t have that, then odds are, you’re writing the wrong thing. No matter how good your grasp of the basics is, it’ll be dry, dull, and lifeless. With that passion, it all comes together. You keep looking for better ways to use words to convey sights, sounds, smells, and events. You keep daring to write character dialogue as actual people speaking instead of grammatically correct text. You keep learning how to make others feel what you do at the events you are relating. You are never completely happy with it, because you always feel it could be just a bit better.
That is really all there is to say on the subject of writing. It can’t be taught, either. It has to be learned, by doing. That’s the only way. I wish there was a better one, but there really isn’t. You have to keep writing in order to get better at writing.
There is one other reason I don’t talk a lot about the craft of writing. It’s a reason that’s got more to do with me than with the actual process, though. Honestly, it’s probably a thing that is unique to me, though I honestly hope it isn’t.
It goes back to the first, best piece of advice I was ever given as a writer. The only piece of advice any writer really needs. Like passion, it’s easy to grasp, and hard to understand. It is, simply, show, don’t tell.
In the world of writers, show don’t tell means have things happen, rather than have characters explain things to the reader. Well, it’s a lot more complex than that, but that’s the gist of it. Basically, have an elaborate scene of a starship sailing towards a star, instead of having a character relate that it is happening. Show the reader, don’t tell them.
For me, it’s become the single greatest focus of my writing. I always seek to find ways to show, rather than tell. It isn’t always easy, especially with abstract or complex ideas, much less with subjects that are taboo or easily offensive. Sometimes, I struggle a lot with how to show without telling. It’s always better in the end, but it can be really frustrating at times. Everything in life worth doing is pretty frustrating, though, because they are always the hardest things, and never the easiest.
That said, there’s a chance I tend to take it too far. The last few months, I’ve been sharing original work on my blog here, every Wednesday. Three different series of stories, actually, if you missed them. The anime influenced Warsong, the frequently comical Adventures of Bill & Kris, and the more complex Chronicles of Petalwynd. Not to mention the odd short story here and there, just because I have them, and I’m not really doing anything else with them.
I’m showing my writing, not telling about it.
Yes, that likely makes me bizarre, as writers go, but ah well. It’s just me, being me, and I’ve never fit in well with the crowd. I’ve always been an odd duck, as it were. It only seems fitting that even on a blog by writer, I’d chose to show writing rather than tell about it.
Of course, in the end, that’s what we writers are really suppose to do isn’t it? Show our work, rather than just tell everyone about it. If it were other wise, we’d be sipping coffee out of teacups as we adjusted our berets and looked down on everyone around us.
Just me, but I’d as soon not be a twatwaffle. I’m already an asshole. No need to take it to the next level.