On Threads Podcast: Life Unfiltered, I was recently asked, “Why science fiction?”
It’s a pretty straight forward question. Right? There are lots of good answers. Right?
My answer was: “I don’t know.”
And I don’t. I didn’t sit down one day and say, OK, I’m going to write a science fiction novel. If anything, I thought I’d write a supernatural horror novel or something. I alluded to as much after my “IDK” answer, stating that horror is probably my favorite genre as a reader, followed closely by sci-fi.
But since then I’ve replayed that question in my head and thought about why I wrote a science fiction novel. So here ya go.
The real answer: I had to. I’m not a fan of plotting out a story, as I mentioned in Behind the Process: Handwriting vs. Typing. Some writers are, and that’s fine. But for me, a good story usually comes when I’m not thinking about what I should be writing. It comes when I have a pen in hand and I’m in kind of a neutral zone in my mind. So there’s no good answer to why I–or any other writer–writes in their preferred genre. That’s just what comes out when you dip into the creative well in your imagination.
Now this is a genuinely interesting question for me. I’ve heard writers say things like, “I’m not good at anything else.” I’d like to believe that’s not necessarily true of me, but…maybe. I dunno.
No, the reason I write is because it’s therapeutic. It calms me when I’m anxious. It relieves stress. It makes time disappear. The big one: It’s more fun than just about anything you can do. (By yourself, anyway.) JK Rowling was once asked why she wanted to be a writer. She responded brilliantly. More or less she said that she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do anything else.
And there you have it. I write science fiction because it just comes out. But I write because, ha, I have to. I get weird(er) when I don’t. Stuff bubbles up inside that I’m not even aware of until I put pen to paper. Then, when I finally sit down with my yellow legal pad and G2 pen, my mind explodes. It doesn’t always happen all at once, but when it does, I’m gone for hours. Or until my wife tells me to change the laundry out.
Welp, I s’pose that’s it for today. See ya later, crocodile. Wait, that’s not…ah, never mind.
When you write by hand, according to Joe Hill, “The only thing you have to entertain you is your own imagination.” Couldn’t agree more. No stimulus beyond what’s firing between your ears.
I’ve also heard (but not confirmed) that James Patterson writes everything by hand, then an assistant types it up for him.
And Ernest Hemmingway–although he was speaking about typewriters, not computers–thought it important to write first, then type. But he advocates for using a pencil. I like my G2 pen.
Anyway. . .
When it comes to the writing process, I don’t write out a storyline, I don’t use sticky notes, I don’t write character bios, or any of that kind of stuff. If you need to jumpstart your imagination, or if you’re still kind of new to writing fictional stories, those can be helpful. But I prefer to just start writing. I get an idea for an interesting character, then let it start flying.
Granted, that first free-write doesn’t usually make it through, it gives me a starting point. The book I just got back from my editor started with the core characters. I wrote about people, not a plot. Once I really got to know them through little doodle-stories, a bigger idea of what happens started to break through.
So if you’ve ever wondered, Should I write by hand or on the computer?, I recommend going at it by hand. Don’t have a plan. Just connect your brain to the page and let it fly. It won’t all be great, but it’ll point you in the right direction.
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!
I’m not a big fan of knick-knacks per se, but I make exceptions. Or rather an exception. When it comes to writing, I like keep a little wooden duck named Curly nearby.
When I was maybe 12, I went on a fishing trip with family near Oscoda, MI, on Lake Huron. At the bait shop, I saw a little duck on the checkout counter, in front of the cash register. It was carved and painted by hand. Something about it caught my attention. My uncle saw me checking it out and bought it for me as a gift.
Two decades have passed and I still have Curly. I call him my writing partner. Whenever I have my laptop setup to transfer what I hand wrote (yes, I write all my stories by hand first), to edit, or whatever, he’s usually right there, just off to the side. Chillin.
How about you guys? Do you have a “writing partner” too?
Happy Friday to anyone reading this today (or any other Friday, I s’pose)! I like to share things I find awesome when I have the chance. So, in no particular order:
I don’t know about any of you writers out there, but I like to listen to music when I write. While writing my book Switchers I was introduced to the music of a local (Grand Rapids, MI) band, The Crane Wives. I can’t say enough about how much I like this band. My favorite song of theirs (currently) is High Horse. These guys are on tour right now, mostly in Michigan. If you get the chance to see them, do it. If not, just enjoy them from your home, car, or earbuds.
Now, on the subject of beta readers. If you’re thinking, The f–k is a beta reader?, then I’ll tell you. It’s a term for a person who reads your book and makes suggestions before you send the book off to the professionals. I have a few really good ones. I also had a few that didn’t really jump at the opportunity. I think that’s probably because I didn’t give everyone a great set of Dos and Don’ts. There are more articles about how to work with beta readers than you can imagine. If you want to get good feedback, Google “how to work with beta readers” and read a few of the many many articles that pop up. But most importantly, find someone who LOVES to read AND isn’t worried about hurting your feelings. My friend Mike is the perfect example of a beta reader. He reads constantly anyway, and he wasn’t worried about saying things like, I didn’t understand the significance of ________, or, I thought this part was too long and this part was too short. So find a person who can’t stop reading and is pretty straight forward with you on most things. If you look, you’ll find them. Some might be friends. Others might be coworkers. One of my beta readers is my wife’s coworker. She overheard my wife talking about how her husband is writing a book and she offered her services out of the blue. They are out there.
Since I’m in a good mood but need to make breakfast for my 2 youngest, I’ll make a short list of other things that are awesome for your enjoyment.
That’s it for now. Hope everyone has a good weekend!
If you like podcasts, check out one of my favorites: Threads Podcast: Life Unfiltered. It’s two guys, Ben and Jason, and they just talk about everyday stuff–the good, the bad, and, most refreshingly, the stuff people usually don’t openly talk about. It’s a real look at life. They’ve had some really cool guests (radio personality/podcaster Eric Zane; Sam, a transgender high school student who recently made the news; child abuse prevention advocate, and the force behind Wyatt’s Law, Erica Hammel; Mike Hamp, a recovering addict who founded Values Not Feelings; and more!) and, for whatever reason, have invited me to come on the show. I’m scheduled for mid-July!
So, if you’re looking for something new to listen to, try Threads Podcast.