My skills as a fiction writer are still developing (I thought I was in the 'learn to walk' stage, but I think it's more like the 'learn to hold your head up by yourself' stage.) I'm currently paralyzed by performance anxiety, so I'm playing Guitar Hero II instead of staring into the terrifying black abyss of "make it up, smart guy."
Though I'm intimidated by the process, and feel like I really suck right now (not a big deal, feeling like I suck is a very important part of my writing process, fiction or not) I still love the craft of writing, and I have massive piles of respect for guys like John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis, who make the whole thing seem so goddamn easy.
Over the last few days, each of those guys has written something about the process of writing that I I loved, that affected me, that mattered to me, so I thought I'd share them.
Warren Ellis is writing this new comic book called DOKTOR SLEEPLESS for Avatar Press, and he's shared a few drawings here and there, but last week, he posted a page of his script in his Live Journal:
We're looking at a tall mirror in a dark room. And we see a man's reflection in the mirror, not the man himself. The DOKTOR is looking at himself. Stripped to the waist. He is very thin. He has his goggles in his hand. Looks at himself. Dark circles around his eyes, like he hasn't slept in years. SIX-GRID – THREE ROWS OF TWO.
TODAY I STOP BEING REAL.
He looks down at the goggles in his hand, smiling sadly.
NO-ONE'S GOING TO LISTEN TO A BOY GENIUS. NO-ONE'S
GOING TO LISTEN TO A PHILOSOPHER OR A TRAVELLER.
NO-ONE CARES ABOUT AN ORPHAN, OR A RICH MAN, OR
SOME GROWN-UP GRINDER KID FROM HEAVENSIDE.
ALL THE THINGS I'VE BEEN: NO-ONE'S EVER BEEN INTERESTED.
I suggest reading the entire thing. I did and I'm sold.
(Unrelated bonus: this really awesome picture Warren linked in his blog, which is different from his Live Journal. If you're not reading them both, you should. Warren catches a lot of really awesome ephemera that's floating around the Intartubes, in addition to all the other stuff he blogs about. He warns us that it may be NSFW in a post that could be ripped straight out of Spider Jerusalem's I Hate it Here. If you're easily disturbed, I don't recommend clicking that link, by the way.)
Neil Gaiman apparently locks himself up in a mysterious undisclosed location and writes by hand in a notebook. This is incredibly beautiful and romantic to me all on its own, but today he shared a little bit about how he numbers his pages, which is just as awesome:
I got the blank book in Venice and it is almost too beautiful to write in, but it's really solidly built and takes the amount of punishment that being hauled around the world by me tends to give . . . I go off and number the pages about 50 pages ahead of where I am, because otherwise I will absentmindedly misnumber them while I'm writing. And as I start a new page I circle the number. Putting the circle on the number makes me remarkably happy. Also drawing a small gravestone with a number on it at the end of each chapter.Did I mention that there's pictures? Oh, there's pictures. Go look.
In John Scalzi's book The Android's Dream, there's a character called Sam who is in a passionate relationship with this guy called Archie. I noticed that Sam was never referred to by a personal pronoun, so Sam's gender is never explicitly revealed, and sort of left up to the reader to apply to him/her/it. I loved that, and thought it was a unique and interesting creative choice. Today, John wrote about that, and described a bit of the things he needs to know -- and what he doesn't need to know -- about his various characters, including what Sam's gender is:
From time to time, I see a movie or watch an actor perform, and I think to myself, "Man, that's really neat-o, I want to do that!"
I'll tell you the truth: I don't know.
[. . .]
Now you might think this is foolish, that an author doesn't know the gender of one of his creations, but, come now. Fact is, there are lots of things I don't know about my characters, because those things are relevant to my understanding of the character or to the story at hand. What is John Perry's favorite flavor of ice cream? Got me. What does Jane Sagan think about Ancient Sparta? I can guess, but I don't know. Is Harry Creek generally conservative or generally liberal, as we understand those terms today? I haven't the first clue. Does Archie know First Aid? Possibly, but we never find out. What sex is Sam? Don't know; it never really came up. It wasn't actually important in the context of the story; what was important was that Sam and Archie loved each other. As it happens, this tells you about me -- namely, that I think the fact two people love each other is more important than whether they are of the same or opposing sexes -- but it doesn't tell you about Sam. You don't know, because I don't know.
I find myself feeling like that more and more with various authors. I read something and think, "Man, I wish I could put words and images together like that!"
I love it that these guys, who have a ginormous pile of well-deserved awards and successes among them, are so willing to peel back the curtain and show us how they do it.