Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Manifesto of Sorts

I attended the Whitney Awards last night. It was a fantastic event, and a good time was had by all involved.

During the course of the evening, Dan Wells introduced David Farland, an author who received a lifetime achievement awards from the Whitney Committee.

Dan explained that when he was younger, he wanted to be an author. He described that by the time he reached college the public school system had all but beaten that dream out of him. But Dan was lucky enough to take a class from David Farland, and the first thing Dave told his class was, "You can make a living at this."

Dan's experience mirrors mine--almost.

I too wanted to be a writer ever since I was young. I dreamed of the stories I would create; I used to pull out my parents' typewriter and plink out stories on scrap pieces of paper. In fact, the first chapter of Chickens in the Headlights was based on a short story I wrote in high school.

The public school system didn't encourage me either, but when I got to college I still wanted to be an author. Like Dan, I took a writing class in college. But that is where our stories separate.

You see, I too had an old and wise (or so I thought at the time) professor who dropped a little nugget of wisdom on his class. But where David Farland's nugget was pure gold, the nugget I received was more along the lines of a turd. He told our class, "You can't make a living by becoming an author. It just doesn't happen. However, we have a wonderful technical writing program, and you all should enroll."

And so I dropped out. I floundered for years trying to pick another major, trying to find something I was interested about. I finally graduated simply because I had the credit, not because I had passion for any one topic. I stayed in school and got a masters degree because I didn't know what to do.

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had somehow met David Farland instead of that professor at USU. Would I be making a living at writing? Would I have had a book nominated for a Whitney Award last night?

But this post isn't meant to make an excuse, or sound like sour grapes. I don't mean to whine 'if only'. Because you see, yesterday I met Dave. Over the past few years I've come to realize good writing isn't a gift, it's something you earn. It's something you practice, not for weeks or month, but for a decade at least. I'm not there...yet.

But now I know the secret. I can't help the fact that I've started two decades late, but I have started. It may be another 10 years while I master the craft, but that doesn't matter. I'm going to keep at it. I'm going to keep writing. And by golly, someday I'm going to get another book published.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Not meant to be a spoonerism

I love it when a character's voice takes over and he says something that surprises you. The scene I was working on has a superhero confronting a citizen in a supermarket. The exchange made me smile. From Chapter 19:

“Can I help you?” Benny’s dad asked. Benny had noticed that whenever his dad wore his super suit, his voice changed just a little. He spoke in a booming, authoritative way. “Up to no good, are we?”

“Uh…” said the man. “No sir. I’m just buying some fruit—a kiwi.” He held up the small brown and green fruit in an effort to prove his point.

“That’s a pomegranate,” said his father. “And everybody knows pomegranates are vegetables.”

Benny couldn’t help but chime in on the conversation. “Actually Dad,” he said, “I think it is a kiwi.” Benny had learned long ago that since his family only ate a few types of food, they weren’t too well versed on fruits and vegetables.

His father ignored Benny. “It might be a kiwi,” he said to the man. "Or it might not be. That little fact is up in the air at the moment. But either way, you don't fool me. I think you’re up to something. You look a little shady to me.”

“I’m not shady,” said the man nervously. “Really. I’m very…unshady.”

Rafter’s father walked around the man, looking him up and down. “Look at those clothes—a bit on the dingy side. And that beard? Very scruffy. And what about that hat? That’s a shifty hat if I ever saw one.”

“My mother knitted me this hat,” the man said defensively. “For my birthday.”

Benny’s father squinted his eyes and glared at the man. “Your mother is a shifty knitter.”