It’s been just over a year since I started my new book Red Star Sheriff. By no means was it my first, of course. I’ve written several books. There was: Left Of Midnight, Mass Effect 3 ReImagined, and several failed projects that I have yet to finish; Cosmic Soup 4 The Superheroic Soul and Destiny: Testament of Ages. Right now, I’m focusing on Red Star Sheriff (I’m already a few chapters in with Volume II).
I’ve read a lot of books and advice pieces about how to write a book or even a short story. Most seem to think you need to plot out your storyline before you even begin. And I did that. For years. Yet, I never got anywhere until I reread Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and his thought that his characters drive the story. Myself, I never thought that made sense. However, that day over a year ago, after having spent a year and a half on chapter one, made me think. So, instead of going back and rewriting continually as I had been wont to do, I decided to listen to my characters. And over the course of six months, my rough draft was done. It was nearly four hundred pages long with a ton of work left to do.
Everybody approaches writing differently. Some find success in making those bubbled in plot points and then building off of that. Others, they listen to their characters and let them tell the tale. There is NO correct way of writing. No magic bullet that will make your tale somehow better than anyone else’s. No, the truth is, your reader doesn’t care about that. That care about your narrative ability to spin a good yarn. They want your voice. Grammatical usage, eh, it’s irrelevant to most of your readers (it should be good, don’t get me wrong. After over a year of developing this story I want to get published, there is still a whole helluva lot of work left to do!), but, in the end, they just want you to entertain them. And finding your own particular rhythm is what’s going to be most important. Don’t get caught up in any number of those online sites you’re looking at that tell you how to be a better writer. They don’t know. They can only offer advice. They can’t write the book for you.
So, how did I get started on Red Star Sheriff? It began with a video game. A series of video games, in fact. It was called ‘Wild Arms’ and I loved the series to death. But like all good series, they came to an end and never gave anything more to enjoy. I think there was a fifth one, but I definitely remember the first four. I had a blast with them and it got my imagination stirring about a gunslinging woman riding from one side of the solar system to the next perform heroic deeds ala my other source of inspiration: Bravestarr. A Native American hero in space with his trusted sidekick horse machine man putting down the forces of evil! Yee-haw! It was going to be over the top humorous action with a sort of Outlaw Star mannerism (an anime’ if’n ya din’t know). And then, I read through the entire Dark Tower series by Stephen King and the tone of my story altered, evolved, became more than the sum of its parts. It was still action packed, but had a dark underlying tale to its spine.
I found the flesh of my story.
I also found that many people weren’t real keen on it. I joined one of those writing sites (the sort of site I went into with a previous posting: Scribophile, Fantstory, etc, etc) and the feedback was atrocious. It was all about how poor my writing skills were and very little focus on my story as a whole (because, for me, story is King. Grammar, the palace colors still to be chosen). It was disheartening to a point I almost quit writing. However, my hand would not be stilled. The tales continued to flow through my fingers. Even the negative feedback couldn’t dissuade my need, my addiction, to continuing my story. I found a few Beta Readers here and there who were able to provide the feedback I was looking for, but increasingly it was becoming apparent, I needed to critique my own work with a critical eye and worry only about how the balance of the tale was coming. I’ve yet to find an agent, but I keep going through my work not because I’m worried that it will come across as bad, but because I (as the artist that I am) keep seeing ways to improve, to enhance, to develop. The editing process itself a hypnotizing brush across a canvass, painting the vision in my head as clearly as a bright day in the middle of summer.
Maybe Red Star Sheriff will sell, maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll wait until the trilogy is finished and every oversight cleaned up and made cohesive before trying to sell it. Maybe my thirteen or so short stories in development will find a home and help bring my name to the fore. Maybe I’ll continue to write in obscurity to the obsession of a Jack Torrance and go mad thrusting a mallet through my own skull. So long as the manuscript has found its way onto the page, the tale having been told. That is my final satisfaction. I’ve found it in Red Star Sheriff. It just needs to be beautified and given the life it deserves.
What was my process? For me, I finally listened to my characters. And they brought me through the whole sordid tale. They didn’t mince words either. They were horrible and vicious. They didn’t care who got hurt or who was left behind. They left me to pick up their dirty underwear and socks, to clean up the kitchen, and to make them look even remotely sympathetic. Because, in the end, it’s the author’s responsibility to ensure that their creation is as well received as possible. Even if they don’t give a damn in the writing.
You have any questions about my method and madness, just drop a line down below. I had a stern line of thought going, but then my computer started trying to crash again. And I think that’s a thing you really have to keep in mind. Maybe get an offline laptop that isn’t susceptible to online corruption. Because computer’s these days have a mind of their own. They don’t let you finish your thoughts. You’re going good and then they decide enough’s enough and go out. Write by hand. Put it in a notebook. And your thoughts will always be there. Here’s the thing, there is no one right or wrong way to write. There’s only what comes to your mind. Trust that instinct, follow through. Let your voice drive you forward. Don’t get caught up in what other people around you might think. They’ll call you a hack, they’ll nitpick your every thought, they’ll do this because they’re not a Creative. They’re not a Creative because they struggle to come up with ideas. You, you just write. Let it flow through you like a demon seeking salvation.
When you get to the end, you won’t believe that came out of you. Believe you me.
In the end, I trusted my characters and was rewarded. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it all public someday. In the interim, I keep writing. I’m writing a new short story right now with the intent of putting it out to magazines across the board. And then, when I’m done with that, I’m going to write another short story. Because, that’s what a writer does: write.
Thanks for reading and I’ll have more for you later.