We are pleased to introduce WU guest blogger, Dave Duggins. We love Dave’s voice, and we love his approach to writing fiction. Dave has been writing and publishing genre short fiction for twenty years. Recently retired from a career in the Air Force, he’s now a full-time creativity coach, offering helpful tips, inspiration and instruction to writers through http://www.voidgunner.homestead.com.
He also edits Spacesuits and Sixguns, an online magazine of contemporary pulp fiction. The second issue is currently available at http://www.spacesuitsandsixguns.com.
We’re excited to have Dave join our community. Enjoy!
All of my writing for the web so far has been formal, researched, thought-out and thought-in and rewritten until it shines in the light like Sweeney Todd’s razors. So this is going to be a whole new thing for me: an exercise in stream-of-consciousness. Don’t think too much when you read it. I didn’t think too much while I was writing it.
So what are we all doing here, anyway? Spitting in the wind? Splashing around in mud puddles? Raising our small voices? Trying to tap into the Big Voice?
I consider myself a “craft” writer. I know what I want and that’s what I want on paper, consciously manipulating my work to achieve certain aims and effects. This idea makes a lot of writers mad. “I don’t think about how I work. I just do it.” It’s mysterious. Romantic. We sit down and open a vein. We channel. We don’t know what happens. It’s … talent.
Stephen King says has he never outlines. Harlan Ellison wrote one draft. Boom, finished, ready for publication. Anthony Trollope – the closest thing to a book factory the human race has ever produced – finished the draft of one novel, put it in a drawer, and began the next. No pause, no break. No scratching the chin, thinking about what to write next. The guy wrote about a million novels, so he didn’t have time to think about it much. He just wrote.
Or so the stories would have you believe.
Here’s a newsflash: these guys lie. Like rugs. They all lie. Of course they lie! They get paid for lying. Do you think they’re going to tell you the truth about how they work?
They don’t lie to be mean. They lie to have something to tell interviewers – something that makes a good sidebar. Maybe Stephen King didn’t outline in the conventional sense, but he took four-hour walks every morning before sitting down to write. Ellison may have only written one draft of each story, but he was very well-rehearsed as a mental typist.
I write constantly. I’m always writing. I do my best writing in the shower. When I get out of the shower and try to physically “write” what I was writing in the shower, it’s so often pale and wan. Sickly. Hey, Dell design guys: waterproof laptop. Make it happen.
No word leaves the tips of the fingers without cruising around in the mind first. The mind is a practiced coordinator, organizer and file-sharer. And it’s never offline. There’s always stuff going on back there, even when the happy-face screensaver is asking your four thousandth customer if she wants fries with that.
It’s all those goings-on that are so hard to explain. Last year, while working night security at a hotel, I had an idea for a novel about a guy who’s working night security at a hotel (go figure) when the end of the world kicks off. No kidding. Meteors raining down, plagues, seas boiling, earthquakes, the whole nine yards. All that setup stuff was marvelous fun to write – like The Day After Tomorrow meets Godzilla.
The security guy is trying to get home and help his family – who might be in danger – while stuck at the hotel helping hundreds of people who are definitely in danger. It was great, dynamic, pulpy adventure stuff.
I wrote a draft. It was too much like The Mist. A second draft was too much like Armageddon. The third draft turned the whole thing into a road-trip-through-hell using Heart of Darkness as a model.
It was hopeless. Canceled due to lack of focus.
How the heck do you tell an interviewer that?
It’s not neat, this thing we do. It’s not tidy. It doesn’t start on a particular day and end one year later, to a fanfare of trumpets. So we have the stories. Those wonderful quotes. I even use them at my website. Here’s my favorite. See if you can guess who said this:
Writers write for fame, wealth, power and the love of women.
Did you guess Freud? You bet. Profound, isn’t it? Great thinker, that guy.
I’m still waiting for the fame, wealth and power. My wife loves me. I guess. Sometimes. When I’m not acting like a writer. That doesn’t happen too often, because I really like splashing around in mud puddles.
I lied, too. I said this was going to be pure stream-of-consciousness, but I edited.