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I am circling something large.

I am only permitted small glances of what it will be, the form it will take. I cannot make any definitive decisions about it (first or third person, start at the beginning, middle, or end), and that lets me know that I am not yet ready to start. When I am ready, I won't need to make decsions, it will just gush.

I'm reading things that will irritate it, enrage it, trying to induce labor. If I wait too long, the feeling will pass, my courage will fail, and I will be left with another idea for a novel, sans actual novel. Timing is everything. Hard work is important.

The current bend of literary teaching seems to be away from any idea of inspiration, and toward a consistent idea of industry. Writing a novel is Hard Work, it isn't anything to do with complex mental states that produce something finite and discrete, unique as the length of your bowel or the alignment of your teeth. Creativity has nothing to do with emotional instability, it is everything to do with punching the clock, getting down to business, tjuzing up your sleeves, and writing all the time. Every single day.

Part of this trend is good, egalitarian, fair. If you put enough effort into your work, you will produce something quality. No need to wait around for something magic to happen, no need to be born with natural talent. By this logic, Anthony Trollope should be standing on top of the corpses of all that oppose him, bloodstained and triumphant.

Half of you are opening a new tab to find out who the hell Trollope was. Obviously, he isn't the undisputed champion of the English Novel. Hard work is undervalued, mostly by people who like getting drunk at book signings, enjoy attention, and love the idea of having written a novel, but who don't actually enjoy writing. They are reason that the mantra of most fledgling authors is Writing is HARD. Writing isn't hard; it is hard work. For instance, there are things I would rather do than describe a scene of two people fighting. I have been in a few fights in my life; I have never won one. But sometimes you write yourself into a corner, and you find yourself trying to describe something completely foreign to you. If you decide to puss out and not describe the scene, then the reader will hate you for it, just like I hate Clive Barker.

Clive Barker wrote Everville more than a decade ago, the second part of what was supposed to be a trilogy, The Books of the Art. He has set and broken too many deadlines at this point for the publication of that book; I doubt he will ever finish it. I don't hate him for letting me down or anything childish like that; I don't even read Clive Barker anymore. I hate him for telling the reader, in two separate novels, how AWESOMELY FANTASTICALLY MIND-BLOWING the third book would be, and then not delivering.

Natural talent and inspiration are necessary, but until you get the fuck over yourself, you will never amount to anything. This is a good general rule for life. Natural Talent can go nowhere without hard work, but Hard work can fake talent some of the time. William S. Burroughs, in an essay entitled "The Maugham Curse", puts forth the theory that Somerset Maugham made a deal with the Devil for his writing abilities, a la Robert Johnson.

"The Devil's Bargain is always a fool's bargain and especially for the artist. Because the Devil does not, in fact cannot, dispense quality merchandise. He can make you the most famous, the most widely read, the richest writer in the world, but he cannot make you the best writer. Or even a good writer."

So, if you have Natural Talent, work hard. If you don't, work hard. And don't talk about theory to much, that is a stall tactic. Having said that, below are a few rules for my own writing. You may think I am a complete fuckwit and disagree completely; this is what works for me. If you have any rules I forgot, let me know.

Dichotomyboi's Rules of Writing

1. The first draft is all about scaffolding.

That is all it is. You are building scaffolding for the story, pasting popsicle sticks together, working with caulk, and glue and hope. The first draft is all about structure; the preceding drafts will be fine tuning, painting, making things look presentable.

2. If the first draft is the last draft, we are not friends.

There shouldn't be only one draft. You should edit.

3. Do not talk about works in progress.

Talking about the plot of a work in progress will kill it. You will resent the ideas of others, but will be forced to consider them out of kindness. You will begin to doubt things; your "somehow, she escapes"s and "for some reason, he comes home early that day"s will sound like big, pungent, gaping plot holes. You will feel stupid.

4. Realize that you cannot recreate real life.

Not alone, anyway. That will require the reader to fill in details, and you must spend all of your efforts aiding them with this. Try to create vague outlines that people will reconstitute in with their own impressions. If you try to recreate real life with no help from your reader, you will fail and be boring.

5. Control what you can.

You can't avoid the tensions of real life. But you can aid yourself in your own success. Don't watch television. Television is passive, it requires nothing of your mind to enjoy, and it makes you a duller writer. You begin to forget your own life experiences. When you describe a fight between a married couple or the conversation between two teenage girls, you begin to follow the well-worn path set in front of you, out of a fear of not appearing realistic. The television tries to walk us through every stage of our lives; sticks it's nose in love and death, the two subjects it has the least business talking about. What do you do with your time? Talk to people and read. If you don't like to do either, why are you writing?

6. Attempt to best your weaknesses.

You know what you are weak at. I have to struggle at description, because my life has always been so auditory. I marvel at writers who can carve a scene out of gristle, out of soap, out of a pile of feathers; forcing me to mistrust the original. That is why I spend the most time working on my set design. If I was lazy, I could write all dialogue, or all narrative, and the whole work would suffer. When you find yourself skipping over something or going around the long way to avoid your weakness, hunker down and try your best.

7. Do not fuck up dialogue attribution.

When I read dialogue, there is nothing that takes me out of it more than not knowing who is speaking. If I have to count back several lines of dialogue to figure out who said what, I would just as soon set the book down and read something else.

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