No Writer is an Island
Anyone who’s spent even five minutes on my blog probably knows that I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s On Writing. He gives tons of invaluable advice, but probably my favorite is when he talks about the importance of reading. Every writer must read, he says. If you don’t, you have neither the tools nor the skills to be a good writer.
I know people who scoff at that idea. I’m writing! Why would I want to waste my time with what’s already written? The same reason every artist throughout history has studied the great Masters who came before. The same reason every film student dissects Citizen Kane to within an inch of its life. If you don’t read, you don’t know what you enjoy reading—and then how can you know what to write?
I admit sometimes I fall into that trap when I’m in a writing trance. I forget the outside world exists. I don’t want to distract myself with someone else’s book or story. But then I take a breath, pick up a book…and learn something new. I realize I was stuck in a certain rhythm or sentence structure, and reading breaks me out of my voice and helps me hear someone else’s. Sometimes it’s all I need to get past writer’s block.
Reading is important, and every writer should do it, but there’s more to life than just books. Shocking, I know! Today I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, and as I was watching it I kept coming up with ideas for the sequel to The Dark Man’s Son. I thought about what Bruce Wayne was going through in the movie and across the trilogy—the classic Hero’s Journey—and it inspired me with ideas for Jason’s journey.
What I mean is you can’t write in a bubble. Inspiration can come from anywhere. I watched a lot of Supernatural when I was writing Dark Man, and every once in a while I hear Dean Winchester’s voice in something Jason says. It makes me laugh, but it also makes me think. I reread The Watchmen while I was editing Dark Man, and Rorschach’s voice inspired some of the changes I made in chapter 1 to the point that I directly quote him.
Here’s my point: no writer is an island. I guess the title was kind of a spoiler, huh? As a writer, absorb the world around you like a sponge. All knowledge is worth having, to quote Jacqueline Carey. Books are obvious. We should all be reading. Don’t pick up a pen or sit down in front of a keyboard if you aren’t a reader, but remember that it goes beyond just reading.
Everything you learn makes you a better writer. I don’t mean you have to turn yourself into a human encyclopedia that can recite random facts about, say, anything that starts with the letter V (Friends reference, sorry), but the more you know, the stronger your voice. The easier it is to turn your characters in to real people. Your set pieces are better. Your world (even if it’s just our world) is more fully realized.
I probably spend more time researching than writing, or at least it feels that way. I’ll start on one page learning about the exact subject I want to learn about for the book, and then I’ll click this link to go here…and this link to go there…and that link to go over there…and before I know it I’ve spent two hours learning about the climate of Iran, and all I wanted to know is what kind of tree my character would realistically have in her garden outside of Tehran in 1000 BCE.
I’m not saying be a crazy person like me. Writing is a solitary endeavor most of the time, and it’s easy to forget that anything exists beyond the page. Try to remember, even while you’re in that writing frenzy, that there’s a big wide world out there, and
sometimes lifting your head from the keyboard can make the whole agonizing process that much easier.
When a mysterious woman appears in a dirty alley to rescue Jason Latimer from a pair of muggers, he tries to write her off as a garden variety lunatic. But he can’t shake the memory of her intense green eyes that seemed to flash gold, or the glowing sword she’d worn on her hip.
She calls herself Alex (no last name) like she’d made it up on the spot, and she offers Jason her protection. From what, she can’t or won’t say. He refuses, and that night he dreams of a dark man with the same offer. His black eyes flash blood and garnet, and he smells of burning things. Jason refuses him, too.
A chance meeting brings Alex and Jason together again, and she tells him of the Guardians: two immortal beings created near the beginning of time with the express purpose of fighting for mortal-kind’s soul. She is Light, and the man from Jason’s dream is Dark. Jason must choose, because Lucifer, for reasons purely his own, has unleashed the armies of Hell to hunt Jason down.
But there are things about Jason that not even he knows, and he’ll face hard truths and bitter choices as he struggles to find his place in a world redefined. Will he rise to the challenge, or, when the time comes, will he falter?
From Renaissance Florence to the French Revolution, from World War II to the modern streets of New Orleans, The Dark Man’s Son is a riveting journey filled with unforgettable characters, wry humor, dark twists, and a touch of romance.
GIVEAWAY: Meg is giving away one e-copy of The Dark Man’s Son to a lucky commentor here! This is open to everyone and will go until Aug 7th 2012 @ 11:59pm EST with the winner announced soon after.