Therese here. If it’s a terrible thing to love the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig (of the blog Terrible Minds, for those of you who don’t know him) then Kath and I are terrible. Chuck’s blog is full of great advice, delivered with shrewd wit and an edge Chuck himself calls
“unmercifully profane. It is not for children. Frankly, it’s probably not even for adults. If it’s for anybody, it’s for berserker Vikings, the dangerously insane, and… I dunno, grizzly bears or something.”
Maybe I’m part grizzly bear. (They like chocolate, right?) Whatever I am, when I became aware of the imminent release of Chuck’s latest novel, an urban fantasy called Blackbirds, I wanted to invite my fellow blogger and author over for a guest post.
Blackbirds, out tomorrow, is a book Publishers Weekly called, “Visceral and often brutal…with emotional rawness that helps to paint a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.” What’s it about?
Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
I hope you’ll enjoy Chuck’s post as much as I did. Because everyone needs a little berserker Viking in their lives, now and then.
Own the Crazy
If you’re a writer, you’re probably a little crazy.
I mean, you might be a lot crazy—dressing up like a giant koala, chasing people around at the bus station with various sexual implements duct-taped to your “paws”—but that’s on you.
At the bare minimum, you’re probably a little moony. Quirky. Eccentric. Odd. Slightly skewed worldview.
This is a good thing.
Listen, this thing that we do? It’s already pretty nuts. We sit. By ourselves. Inside on a nice day. We stick our nose in a notebook or glue our half-ruined eyes to the computer monitor. And there we conjure worlds out of nothing, worlds were everything is going wrong starring characters who we love but who are also damaged goods. And we take those characters and we kick the king hell out of them. We run them through wretched gauntlet after wretched gauntlet, tormenting them, visiting upon them a thousand miseries that in proxy are visited upon our eventual readers.
And then we try to get it published, which is a league of unparalleled insanity no matter which path you choose.
What I’m telling you is: let the crazy be your guide. Let it be the jaguar-headed shaman that drags you into the heart of the penmonkey jungle. Fight crazy with crazy.
Bleed Like Crazy On The Page
All the things that make you a little crazy are also many of the things that make you who you are. All your fears and foibles, all your idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes? Spill them onto the page.
Daddy issues? Fear of snakes? Mild paranoia? Whatever it is, find the hook and hang your story’s hat upon it. Be real. Write from an honest place. Drill down through the flaky pastry crust that is your head and let the creamy filling of your brain’s most intimate weirdnesses rise through the channel. My book, Blackbirds, releases tomorrow (April 24th), and the book only became what it really needed to become when I embraced many of my, ahem, unique moonbat traits and put them into the story. Fear of death? Control freak issues? Hypochondria? Deep existential dread? Boom! It’s all there! I don’t want to say the book was therapy for me—but I do know that what’s on the page is a part of me.
That’s not paint on the page. It’s not Red Dye #5. That’s my blood, baby.
Let your freak flag fly high.
Jump Off The Cliff
Also important: being crazy enough to defy convention. To thumb your nose at the mores and norms of the existing industry and dig your own damn tunnel out of the asylum.
Both in terms of plotting your narrative and plotting the course of your story’s publication, it helps to think crazy. It helps to do what nobody else has done before. That’s not to say you want to void your bowels on the core tenets of professionalism—I’m not telling you to staple-gun your manuscript to a pelican and throw him through the window of a desired agent or publisher. But it pays to look at what’s on the shelves and say: I can do better. I can do differently. It needs my own special brand of crazy sauce. Defy genre conventions. Buck trends. What someone said could not be done: do it.
This is true too in terms of how you hope to put your work out there. Maybe that means finding an agent who is as crazy as you. Or maybe it means you dig your own publishing path (via self-publishing or direct sales or Kickstarter or psychomemetic nanites).
For me, Blackbirds was a book I suspected shouldn’t exist. It was grim, strange, brutal, and featured a character that I loved but who constantly flirted with being wholly unlikable. It’s also a mash-up of damn near every genre but science-fiction. By the time I got an agent for it, the rejections came pouring in. They were the nicest rejections you ever did see, and a great many began with the saying, “We love this book but…” And then promptly went on to say how it was great but it wouldn’t sell.
Except, one day, it did sell. A publisher possibly as crazy as I am—Angry Robot—decided they wanted the book. And in only one more day, it’ll be on shelves.
Crazy, isn’t it?
Yeah. Yeah, it is.
But that’s the thing. The whole process is crazy. The whole journey—and that’s what writing and publishing a book is, a journey—is crazy. In fact, if you ask me, it demands a moment of profanity, for it is not merely crazy but holy fuckballs crazy. Whether we’re talking putting your madness on the page or figuring out ways to publish and market your book, from start to finish it’s one big trip to the cracker factory.
Everyone will tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to be a writer.
That’s okay. Tell them: “I know. It’s part of the job description.”
Photo courtesy Flickr’s the brownhorse