Friday, June 15, 2012

Things Writing Can Teach Us

The following is an excerpt from my current adventure/horror novel tentatively named Within.


Wade focused his eyes. He swayed on weak knees. The rock wall morphed into a face. Hollow eyes opened, looking at Wade, but not seeing him.

“A soul has found me,” the rock formation said. Stone cracked and crumbled, falling before Wade’s feet. “I have dreamed of a day when I would meet the soul that dared to go where others have dreamed but failed to reach.”

“And what is that?” Wade asked.


The creatures in the sky sang like whales.

“If you wish to continue, you must prove your worth.”


“The castle has lured many souls. Some have survived the dangers, outran their demons, but their minds, in the end, consumed themselves. Why?”

Wade considered the question. The face in the wall stared at him, seeing through him as if he wasn’t there. He turned away from the wall and kicked absently at loose gravel. The wind howled, bringing with it heavier snow. Wade looked up to the gray sheet sky. Sunlight broke through in brilliant beams. He closed his eyes. The image of him holding his parents’ cold hands came to him. Yes, there was something there. It glowed yellow and brought warmth. He could see his hand reach out. It was just within reach, but every time he closed his hand, it was never there.

Wade opened his eyes. His hand was held out before him. He looked at the ripped fabric of his blood soaked gloves, removed them, and eyed the raw, jagged slashes in his left hand, then turned his attention to his right hand. What little remained of burnt skin flaked away from his swollen palm in the wind. Redness outlined the deep scorching. Deep red tentacles traveled up his arm. Throbbing pain charged his heart like electricity, and Wade realized the dullness of the pain. It had never left him. But he had been unaware of it. He raised his hands to his nose and smelled. Iron. He turned to the rock countenance and held out his hands. The hollow eyes considered them.

“The answer is in the question,” Wade said. “They ran from their demons, they survived the dangers, but they never conquered their demons; they never faced the dangers so they could live. They were never willing to bleed.” He lowered his hands.

“You’re nothing; you’re just a mountain, another weakness that stands before me. Something else for me to conquer.”

The face crumbled and turned to dust. A blast of ice wind blew it away and revealed an entrance into the mountain. Wade entered.

© Jacob G. Adams


Working on my novel has been an eye opening experience. My friend (Kevin) and I have had several debates on what is important for a writer to do when starting out. He says it is important to write what sells, to write something formulaic because that is what publishers are looking for. I argue that honesty is key, that writing what's original is going to make a story stand out to a publisher, not something that has been done before.

Either way, we fit into two categories.

One is the serious writer, the other is the popular writer. According to definitions of these labels, the serious writer is looking for the keys to the self. The popular writer is looking for an audience.

I hate labels, it's a bullshit way of saying "I don't really want to spend the time to know you." Starting out, I viewed myself as someone who would write something that was easy to read and would gain a wide audience. My view on that has changed radically since. I have my beliefs on what my writing can do, but I won't share them here because they're my beliefs and I don't need to spout them off here.

Everything I write has to have some kind of meaning, something that resonates. Yes, every writer usually does this. But what I'm trying to say is that when I brainstorm a potential idea, I don't think, "Let's have the world threatened to be destroyed and have a rag-tag team of characters try to stop it." No thanks, I'll pass, that plate of food has been growing mold for years now, I'll look at the fresher meals instead. When I come up with an idea, I think, "Okay, how can this be symbolic for something?" 

This is simply my approach. I'm sure how you attack your writing is different, and that's good, that's what makes a writer special. There are lessons to be learned from writing stories. Because whether or not we know it, we're writing stories that come from the subconscious that has some kind of resonance to us on a personal level, regardless of the subject matter.

Our writing can teach us many things. I've learned some from writing short stories, others from novellas, others from novels. And they're all equally important.

First was patience. Funny right? You can laugh for a little bit if you like, I won't mind, I did too. I mean, haven't we all heard about the importance of patience? Looking at my novel in its first draft form, I only thought of how much I didn't want to do this and how much work it was going to be. I wanted to see it in its complete and polished form. Most people want to rush to the end point. When reading a published novel, the best part isn't when you close the book, it's the journey taken while reading. In life, don't people rush through the day to reach the evening? Don't we rush through the week to reach the weekend? This is the patience I'm talking about. Patience to enjoy the journey, to stop to look at the trees, to listen to the birds sing, or maybe just enjoy life. Because no matter how hard you think you may have it, someone has it so much worse.

Another was my critical thinking skills. With constant thinking of how this applies to that and that applies to this, such thinking allows other stories to flow better when writing the first draft. It also allows details to come much easier (basically the initial creative process). And when a controversial subject is introduced, it's much easier to listen, dissect what you know and decide if you can make a decision.

Then there was the lesson of confidence. It never hurts to realize how shy you can be about your work. And it's obvious in other writers too. It's why so many participate in support groups. They need to be collegial with others of their kind, and I don't blame them. But I realized that if I wanted to get anywhere with my writing, I needed to buck up, get some confidence about what I'm doing and just write. I don't need anyone's approval or permission. I don't need to be cheered on. A confidence boost in receiving positive feedback doesn't hurt, however, a writer doesn't need to be reinforced about what they're doing anymore than a writer needs to take classes on how to improve their craft. Want to get better? Write. Realizing this made me not only more confident as a writer, but as a person. So what if something scares you? Do it anyway.

Finally, be happy. I realized a couple weeks back after working on my novel, having guest bloggers, writing episodes for Astral Tide and thinking about details for short stories and a novella that this is really fun. And who doesn't want to have a good time? Isn't this why we write in the first place? Writing allows you to escape to the playground and leave reality behind. You write because you've grown too old to go outside and pretend, so you sit before a blank page and write it out instead.

Writing is hard work. And there are days when we don't feel like writing or revising. But even on the days we don't want to, we should, because those are the days when we improve our craft the most. Besides, a bad day in the playground is always better than a good day at the day job.

Keep writing.


1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, Jacob. All I have to say to you is: Keep writing from the heart. The stories that stick with us the longest are the honest ones where we fell in love with the characters, learned something about ourselves, and desperately wished a genie would appear to whisk us away to that world. Writing to fit a trend or genre or audience works for some people. But think about your favorite authors of all time. What kind of stories did they write? Did they fit the trend, or break the mold? That should answer your question about who you want to be.