The Integrity of the Pen

It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword.  In the same way as the sword, or the gun, it is reliant solely on what is in the heart of its wielder as to what use it is given.  Similar to a sword or a gun, the pen can be used to cause much damage to the reader.  It can discourage the spirit of the reader, and therefore incite him/her to the point of using a sword or a gun to cause harm to himself or others.    Contrary to a weapon, the pen can also be used to encourage, bringing life and hope, or at the very least distraction, into the heart of one who feels otherwise.  Finally, the pen can be used to commit author suicide.

Since I am rather new to the whole idea of writing for public reading, I realize that I have made a few mistakes.  I am not referring to spelling or grammatical errors, although I am sure I have made some of those too.  I am referring to the decisions that I have made as an author.  I think my main error was spending so much time seeing how everyone else did this whole marketing thing.  Spending hour after hour on facebook reading what other authors have posted on their timelines, or watching podcast after podcast of marketing advice, etc.

“Author, know thyself first.”

If I had been smart, I would have shut myself away in a remote cave or gone to a deserted island without internet and concentrated solely on writing, developing my own voice, discovering who I am, so to speak.  I guess the reason I didn’t do this is because I already knew who I was as a person.   However, I didn’t yet know who I was as a writer.  I still don’t.  I haven’t fully developed my own voice, yet.  What kind of stories do I want to tell?   How much of myself do I want to put out there and how much do I want to keep private.   My novel, Dear Tiz, has a degree of me (or someone related to me by blood) in almost every character.  The stories I have written since then don’t have very much of me in them at all.

I have decided that the best use of my time is not to be spent scouring the internet, instead it is reading, reading, reading.  I made the decision a few months ago to re-read all of my most favorite books with a critical eye to determine what is was about those books that made them my favorites.  In this way, I hoped to achieve a better idea of what kind of literature I personally enjoy, in hopes of improving my own writing.  I have to say that it has been a mixed blessing.  Although these books became my favorite when I was a teenager, I have to admit that my tastes have not changed that much and most of my favorite books are still my favorite.  However, I now see more of what I don’t like in them.

For example, there are just so many references to the correct tying of cravats that a person can take without wishing the darned things had never been invented at all.  I find that most of my favorite authors are too wordy for my taste.  Frankly, I don’t care what color the kitchen sink was; unless, of course, it is of some use to know this fact.  Like one of my mother’s friends who had decorated her whole house in Victorian furniture and all in a particular shade of pink.  That is interesting to include for the purpose of showing how eccentric the lady was, but not just for the sake of describing a room.  I suppose such wordiness might have been necessary to meet their publisher’s required word count.  There is nothing wrong with that; I just skip over all the uninteresting description anyway.  Last night, I skipped over almost a whole chapter when the author was describing a boxing match.  I found out who won and then moved on to more interesting parts of the story.  So, you guess it.  I am not going to be a very good author of describing a boxing match.  Hopefully, my readers won’t be boxing aficionados, if I ever have cause to include such a scene.

I have found out several things about me as a writer, though.

I have found out that I don’t write well under pressure or a deadline.  I knew this already when I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, but that didn’t stop me.  Instead I decided to not take the whole month long thing too seriously.  I think I can safely say that it had only the most minor affect on me one way or other.   I did begin a brand new novel for the occasion and staying true to my no-pressure mindset, I can report that I wrote about one quarter of said novel during the month of November.

Another interesting thing I have discovered about myself is that I can be very excited about a new novel, up until I begin to tell other people about it, and then it is like I get deflated and I am no longer full of eagerness to write it.  There is something about the act of telling people, basically anyone, about my idea for the story that makes me lose interest in it.  That doesn’t mean that I abandon it, but it does make it much more difficult for me to finish writing it.  So, I am learning to keep my mouth shut.

I now know that most of the time I spend on a story will be in the thinking-it-over phase.  I wish I could write story-bits, but somehow my mind just doesn’t work that way.  For those who have never heard of story-bits (I never had) it is like writing a summary for each separate scene on an either a virtual or literal index card.  With story-bits, the planning is behind you and you just have to concentrate on telling the story.  It is like an outline, but with a little more meat on the bones.  The times I have forced myself to plan ahead on paper (or computer), I have found that by the time I get to that place in the story, it no longer makes sense to have that happen or in that way, which defeats the whole purpose of story-bits.  I guess I am just a panzer at heart and can’t think that far ahead.   When I sit down to write, I have a general idea of the beginning, the middle and the end, but apart from that I have no clue what is going to happen.

So far, I have been true to my decision and have not gone to sleep without reading at least one chapter in my current favorite book.  I had to laugh at myself during the month of November; however, when I was so caught up in the writing for NaNoWriMo, that as I would get comfortable in my bed and turn on my Kindle; I would have this flash of eager anticipation to find out what was going to happen next in my story and then the realization would hit me that that hadn’t even been written yet.  Instead I was reading a different book.

I know many authors like to tease their readers with portions of a chapter or scene, or they like to give updates as to their progress on their next novel, etc.  I am afraid that I cannot do that.  It messes me up and freezes my brain to the point that I would never get any further writing done on that particular story.  I am developing a mailing list, though, for the purpose of alerting readers when I publish a new story.  If you would like to be alerted to this, you may add your email to my list by going to my Mailing List page.  As I have said, it is not likely that you will be receiving many emails from me, as I don’t really like to give progress updates.

In 2012 – I wrote my first novel.

In 2013 – I tried to educate myself regarding marketing (not very successfully) and wrote three short stories and began writing three full-length novels.

In 2014 – I plan to edit my three short stories and finish my novels and publish them.

May I take this opportunity to wish each of you a Happy New Year.

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