I’m currently watching this:
(That’s here, if you’re on a text reader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voFDz4o6H9g)
Early in this clip, Neil Gaiman talks about dry rock walls. And how the folks who build them start with a pile of fucking rocks and just keep putting one rock down, then another beside it, then another, fitting them all together, and when they’re done they have this incredibly strong, stable wall.
I’m so loving this for a metaphor right now for books.
I have written a lot of books. Someone held me up as a writer they wanted to emulate a few weeks ago, and I was like, “Get moving. Go write thirteen books and trunk them without anyone seeing them but you, and THEN write a book to publish.” (That’s only partially accurate; other people saw two of those books. Before I trunked them.)
I don’t actually think everyone has to trunk that many revised novels before hitting one they think is publishable. Some of my close friends write brilliant, fabulous novels right out of the gate, first try.
Those first novels that are great? Were built strong. My first many novels were the kinds of rock walls you see crumbling back into the earth, only they didn’t start out strong and get that way after a hundred years: they weren’t strong to begin with.
I like to think I’m improving as I write. Every book isn’t the greatest book I’ve ever written, but I do think the general progression of my skills is upward. That’s all I want.
Let’s go back to that rock wall again. My rock walls could all be stronger. Hands down.
I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on craft, and “reading about craft” is the kind of delicious productivity hole I can get lost in for days, but right now I’m actually applying what I’m reading, trying to more firmly plant those rocks in place, choose better fitting rocks to stack on top and beside the first ones.
I get better at writing fiction just by putting in the hours, writing the words, finishing projects, revising them. But I’ve been somewhat relying on “I’ll improve as I go” as a development plan, and it’s sort of…uh…kind of a silly way to go about it.
So in the last few weeks I’ve been actually studying the things that make stories work. I have a certain ability to ape story structure, but I’ve never really studied it before, and I definitely never imagined finding it interesting as opposed to feeling like some professor was standing over me with a wooden pointer, forcing me to conform.
Thirteen years after escaping the classroom, I have apparently gotten over a very small part of my classroom related trauma. Don’t come near me with Steinbeck, though. Keep that shit to yourself.
Anyway, all that to say: I think I already build okay walls with my words. But they could always be stronger, higher, more elaborate, more interesting. And that’s what my goal is, ultimately: I want to write shit I find more and more interesting. And I want to do that better and better.
I know I’ve said this before, but it continues being true: I fucking love my job.