Own the Crazy

PhotobucketTherese 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.

Here’s how.

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).

PhotobucketFor 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.

Too risky.

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.”

Readers, you can find Blackbirds at brick-and-mortar stores, and at the usual online haunts. Find him on his website, Terrible Minds, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo courtesy Flickr’s  the brownhorse



  1. says

    Love Chuck Wendig. Will have to pick this up.

    I’m not sure any author that doesn’t at least THINK profanity from time to time would be worth reading. Chuck’s always has a point and a purpose and almost always makes me laugh. Thanks for this.

  2. says

    Great post (and nice helmet)!

    Funny, I’ve never minded being called crazy. In fact, I find being called normal or average far more offensive.

    Good luck with your book, and stay crazy!

  3. says

    Awesome cover!

    “It was grim, strange, brutal, and featured a character that I loved but who constantly flirted with being wholly unlikable.”

    So happy to read this, and to see you were able to tunnel your way out of the assylum with this in tow and get it pubbed. It aptly describes my most recent ms . Hope springs eternal, even for moonbats!

    Congrats on the sale, Chuck! Great post.

  4. says

    Chuck, what a wonderful post for a Monday and a good reminder to all of us to let that wild, creative side run free. Thanks for such an engaging and provocative post.

  5. says

    When I found out you were going to do this spot, I was a). absolutely thrilled, because I think you have a unique and authentic voice b). curious to see how much you’d muzzle yourself for this audience. I’m thrilled it wasn’t too much. ;)

    Love it, Chuck. Hope BLACKBIRDS takes off.

  6. says

    Wow. I am not an urban fantasy reader and I am hooked on this book’s premise. Off to buy it — and to subscribe to Terrible Minds! (Thanks for the intro!)

  7. says

    Love Chuck’s blog. So happy to find him here, pushing his unique brand of crazy. BLACKBIRDS will be fabulous. I have not a trace of doubt.

  8. Sarah E.A. Fusaro says

    :) This is very true. My poor husband found that out early on in our marriage… Writing means I stay up late, hunched over the computer, spinning tales of places readers won’t see till I’m done. And he doesn’t know that sometimes I’m sad because of what is happening in my novel, not my real life! Love the little bit of crazy. ;)

  9. Marianne Vest says

    I’m preordering it from Amazon because I like you picture and what you said here. It sounds like you’d be fun at a party.

  10. Lisa Pedersen says

    Dear Chuck – You made me cry. Thanks.

    Lisa Pedersen @Urbanmilkmaid (WRITER).

  11. says

    I was curious to see how you would play nice on Writer Unboxed. After all, we, your fans, love your wonderfully profane-motivating-nutball posts. Loved this one, as always. *raises freak flag*

    Congrats on Blackbirds! Can’t wait to read it.

  12. Lynne Favreau says

    I embraced my crazy once then she bitch slapped me and sent me to my room till I made word count.

  13. Bernadette Phipps Lincke says

    Love your story line. Love the title. It called to mind that Beatles’s song “Blackbird”, and gave me the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that the summary on the back of A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE by Peter S. Beagle did. That book rocked, and if my stomach meter is to be trusted-your book rocks too. I can’t wait to read it.

  14. says

    Awesome post! Being crazy never felt so good :-D

    Congratulations on your successful flight of the “Blackbird.” Really looking forward to reading this one. Chuck.

  15. says

    Perfect. As I start a new project, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Even though I’ve been writing for 11 years, I have not exactly embraced the crazy in me – and now I will. So, thanks for the permission.

    Love the cover – will buy the book.

  16. says

    Congrats on the book! Love the cover. . . . and . . . well . . .

    I’m not crazy. Am not. Stop saying that. Stop it. I.Am.Not.Crazy. Not. Stop. Crazy. AM. not. saying stop no. crazy saying it no not. I know you are but what am I?–not crazy.

  17. says

    “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.”

    I like that! Thank you for this post totally crazy!!

  18. says

    I have to agree with your way of doing things, Mistah Wendig– it’s useless to try and poke my story ideas into someone’s idea of a perfect genre hole.