I is For...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I'm trying to get back into the habit. So, now we pick up our alphabetical trip through writing, publishing, and anything else I can convincingly tie to the process of being professionally delusional (read: writing fiction) where we left off -- the letter "I".

I is for Idea -- that thing which is simultaneously priceless and worthless. Writers have ideas; it's what starts the process. Something appears in your brain, nearly as (or even more) real than the world in which you live, and it begs to be put down on paper (or on screen) before it disappears back to the aether never to be experienced again. Sometimes ideas are stubborn and hide behind blocks; other times, there will be so many available and vying for your attention that you'll feel like the sheer number is crushing you.

It's a hard truth for new writers (and consequently one that crushes many) that there are no "new" ideas. There are variations and spins and slants, but all ideas have come from the ideas of those before us. Our ideas are the product of environment, exposure and belief, and it's not impossible for someone with a similar background to have a similar idea independent of the one they created. Or to say it simply, no, that guy didn't steal from you just because you both have a book about goats in space.

I is for Ingenuity -- where the mundane becomes magic. There are only 26 letters in the English language, and yet those 26 letters can be used in an infinite number of combinations. It's up to the writer to determine how to take those plain old letters and turn them into something never seen or heard before. (Yes, I'm aware that I just said there were no new ideas - deal with the dichotomy or pick a new career, dude.) Your ingenuity is what makes your worthless ideas priceless.

I is for Ick-factors -- the lines a writer refuses to cross. We all (or at least most) have them. Maybe you can't write out graphic violence or intimate love scenes. Maybe you refuse to detail the rotting stench of a zombie's presence. Maybe you just... can't... make... your... character... do... er... that... (whatever it happens to be). If you're uncomfortable, it will read in your writing - that can either help or hurt you. If it's going to give a scene weight and legitimate awkwardness, then consider the "cowboy up" method of doing what needs done. But if you find yourself sneaking in euphemisms for things you can't seem to stomach saying in earnest, then maybe you should fade to black lest your emotional turmoil turn to snicker-worthy spork bait on the page.

I is for Inspiration -- it has to come from somewhere. Ideas don't spring independently from a primordial soup in your head; people you know or things you've seen will creep into your creative process. They may be unrecognizable once they hit the page (and unless you're being very, very kind, this is probably for the best), but you should always keep your eyes open for the striking moments in every day life.

One day, I will find a way to work the trio of Catholic nuns and trio of Buddhist monks who were both in line for rides at Disney World into a story. I will.

I is for Irritating, Insulted, Irate, Insomnia, Incomplete, Insanity and Integrity.

You will find it irritating when people equate your time on the computer with "playing" or utter the words "since you aren't doing anything, could you....", you may even be insulted or become irate, but remember... they don't get it. They live in the "real" world and are therefore to be pitied. To use the term Chuck Wendig coined, they are Pen-Muggles, and therefore do not understand your word-magic. Leave them to believe your pen is a pen and not the wand that transfigures blank pages into a new world they can't even imagine.

Get used to Insomnia, as it will find new and insidious means of making itself known. (Usually, these will be sneak attacks disguised as ideas telling you to get up and write before they disappear on you.

Do not fear the Incomplete story. For all you know, it's not the beginning you think it is, but the middle of another story you haven't thought of yet.

You make things up for a living, and then pretend they're real. You can either call this lying or Insanity - one makes people hate you and the other gets you labeled the loveable eccentric. Also, eccentrics get to wear capes and no one can say a word. When liars wear capes, they get called villains. (Yes, I own a cape and no, you can't borrow it. Cut up your own drapes.)

And then we come to Integrity, which is what you have and what you can lose. The Internet can be a friendly place or shark infested waters (sadly not the kind who munch on queries for their daily snack). What you say and how you conduct yourself on-line can lead to people knowing your name, just try and make sure it's for your work and not your melt-downs. (sheesh, I feel like such a high school guidance counselor with that one.)

Next time, J is for Justice, Jealousy and Just write the *(^%& thing already.

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