Get back to writing, you!

This post is approximately 550 words. Most of them from more than a year ago.

Not a week passes where I don’t see a meme or social post chastising writers who aren’t writing. Sometimes I think, “Yes, thanks!” and others, “I can’t look at that damned manuscript for more minute.”

Misery writing

I found this unfinished post and thought I’d share. It captures my thoughts from a time when I’d been struggling with the work of writing, yet I felt like I was climbing out of the rut. Since those times are safely in the rear-view, I thought this post would be a nice reassurance for writers in ruts of their own.


I’ve discovered that longer and longer breaks are occurring between writing attempts. The fear is that eventually, there will be no more attempts. For someone who enjoys writing as much as I do, this is, of course, unacceptable.

We all have personal responsibilities or weights that drag us down or roadblocks in our way. I started identifying a few of mine. I’ve had a diminishing community of writing people around me. My friend and one-time collaborator has given up writing to focus on a different enterprise. I’m no longer engaging with writers on Twitter. My blog has remained dormant. I seem to know fewer people making serious attempts to write on a regular basis. When weighty things force your head toward the ground, it’s difficult to see the sunrise ahead.

But things are changing. Finally. Though I say this feeling surprised at the amount of time that’s passed since I was serious about writing. I’m discovering the hidden talents of coworkers. My wife and son have written intriguing stories this last year. I’m doing more writing at work, allowing me to flex the important parts of my brain whilst shaking off the rust that’s collected on my fingers.

Certainly, you need to write to write. It’s a stupidly obvious statement. But it is true. The more you write, the more you can write (he says, making another stupidly obvious and trite statement). And to accompany that, you need to surround yourself with discussions about writing, about creation, about art. You need read and read and read. And read some more. You need to create an environment for yourself where, even when you’re not writing, you’re writing. When done correctly, I’ve found the ideas flowed like exhaled breath to the page, effortless and natural.

So, all of that said (he says, using a terrible segue and allowing for another parenthetical aside), I come to the inspiration of this post. I love to hear writers talking about writing. I consume every word as a morsel of inspiration. Last summer, I read a blog post by one of the writers of Community, in which he tells an expletive-laced story about going to write for the show. I can boil it down to “writing is re-writing”, but that’s not as much fun to read, if you like vulgarity.


It usually gets better. It sometimes gets worse. But you guarantee the latter when you’re not sitting down to write. Which result do you prefer?

Apologies for the distraction. Get back to writing, you!

Doctor Who writing

 

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, September 2017

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A Stick and a Story

This post is approximately 450 words – my interpretation of a child’s imagination.

As we waited for the bus the other day, our son Benji picked up a stick and brandished it. He’s non-verbal, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was suddenly going on an adventure. Like millions of kids before him, this simple act transported him from our world to another, turning him into an explorer, a hunter, or a hero.

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Divine providence signified that Ben was to carry Excalibur. That is why he is your king.

The same was certainly true for me. Like many of my generation, I remember playing lightsabers as a kid. As soon as you picked up the perfect stick, you were transported to the hallway outside docking bay 327 on the Death Star: one of you was Obi-Wan; the other, Darth Vader. Good and evil didn’t matter because YOU WERE IN STAR WARS. (Sidebar: Once, I made the mistake of acting out Kenobi’s sacrifice, which resulted in a painful whack across the arm. I still enjoyed my time in a galaxy far, far away, even if I didn’t disappear amongst crumbling robes.)

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Like Lucy Pevensie passing through the wardrobe, Benji emerged from the bushes into a strange new world.

It’s times like these when you realize magic is real. Like a portkey, a simple catalyst was all it took to transport you to another place, introducing you to new people and new experiences. It could be wearing a cape like Superman, holding a flashlight like the Hardy Boys, or sliding into the open window of a car like one of the Dukes of Hazzard.

Writing a story is very much the same. You’re looking at the mundane or the unusual in your everyday life, trying to find ways to send readers to places strange and wonderful. Maybe it’s a twisted tree or a distant hill or a scent carried upon the breeze. The point of inspiration doesn’t matter in the end; it’s the resulting idea that counts. If you’ve done your job as a writer, it should be as effortless for the reader as picking up a stick.

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The school bus calls for an end to the adventure.

Being carried away by your imagination is an amazing power, and I think writers need to feel the magic contained within sticks more often. At the very least, we’re transported back to our fondest childhood memories; but at best, we’re inspired to get back to the writing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside to pick up a lightsaber.

–Michael


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© Michael Wallevand, September 2017

Writing Your Goodbyes To A Colleague

This post is approximately 600 words.

In most of the jobs I’ve had, when someone leaves, we pass around a card to sign. Sometimes we chip in for a gift. Writing the perfect goodbye without getting sappy isn’t easy. At least, not for me.

DragonbardWhen I learned my manager was leaving, the wheels in my head started turning. We share a love of gaming, and it occurred to me that a custom mini from Hero Forge would be the perfect gift (I love their website and have designed figures based on my characters: Tildy and the Witch – and no, I’m not a spokesperson). My colleagues agreed and we all chipped in.

Unfortunately, he would be leaving before the figure arrived, and I didn’t want to give him an empty card. But as I stared at the rendering I’d created, my character began to breathe. With a little effort, I could bring him fully to life, borrowing some characteristics of my manager along the way. Being a fantasy writer, I easily whipped up 350 words in 30 minutes. Now I had something – and something special – to place into the envelope.


The Short Tale of Grashlor

Nine hundred ninety-nine years ago, a greyblight soulcaster stormed Dragonback’s shores, seeking vengeance on the firedrake wizard, Grashlor. During the previous Wintersfall, the dragon had killed the man’s thieving sister whilst defending his enchanted hoard. By the governance of Man and Dragon, the death was just, though laws matter little when viewed through the eyes of grief.

Knowing he could not slay the dragon, the soulcaster sought a greater revenge, imprisoning Grashlor within the shape of a man. If the great beast could not suffer death’s touch, then he would feel the torment of human sorrow, lamenting the loss of his true form for a thousand years.

Long has Grashlor walked these lands of Men, talking with their face and toiling with their hands, ever-fearing the discovery that he is not one of their own. Despite this, a fondness of their culture has flourished within him, as he discovered a love for the bard’s songs, dice games of chance, and thrilling tales of dungeon crawls by adventurers (in which they would all be mercilessly destroyed after considerable agony).

While his powers diminished within that human shell, still could Grashlor weave wondrous tales by lute or written word, crafting illusory life before the simple eyes of Men. As such, they named him the ‘magical minstrel’, though as usual, human words were too on-the-nose and too inadequate. He sought a better name, but since the Dragonroar language had faded in his mind, he condescended to use their words, naming himself the ‘dragonbard wizard’.

For nine hundred ninety-nine years, he has traveled the lands of Men, seeking to regain his true form, becoming despondent in his failure. But a Dragon’s essence, oh my friends, that cannot be forever confined within mortal bonds. The noble beast within strains against the human flesh of its prison, yearning once again to fly amongst the sentinel pines of his home. More beast he appears than human now, and his Dragon mind has reawakened. The appointed time of his return is not today, but it is soon.


Aside from being a fun bit of writing, this meets one of my writing rules, namely, work writing into everything you can. I find it helps keep me sharp, as well as being entertaining.

In this case, it also made a unique and memorable parting gift.

–Michael

PS: if The Lost Royals is ever published, this little tale is canon. It borrows aspects from my greater story.


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© Michael Wallevand, August 2017

And Yet It Moves

This post is approximately 250 words, and today’s topic considers personal beliefs and human compassion.

galileo2Nearly 400 years ago, Galileo was forced to recant his statement that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Sometime later, as he stared into sky, and then looked at the ground, he said, “E pur si muove.”

And yet it moves.

He knew he had proven that a long-held belief, going back millennia, was incorrect. He challenged something every person in the world believed. When 350 million people believe something, it is an undeniable fact.

And yet it moves.

I recalled this story today, specifically those four words, when the debate on gender erupted again this morning. I read the words of people parroting science they didn’t understand to defend a belief they had never taken the time to question. I read hateful declarations by the small- and closed-minded. I read selfish protestations from people living comfortably within the embrace of societal acceptance.

Is human gender black and white? Have we already discovered all there is to know about gender and human physiology? I believe the answer to both is no, though it’s a surprisingly more complicated problem to solve than the movement of heavenly bodies, no offense to Galileo.

Perhaps it’s not so difficult a thing to understand, considering people from the Middle Ages were asked to believe that they lived on a planetary orb floating through space around a gigantic fiery ball of gas.

And yet it moves.

Just imagine what we’ll know 400 years from now.

–Michael


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© Michael Wallevand, July 2017

Because You’re Still Asking Me

This post is approximately 450 words. Some of them are Joss Whedon’s.

When people hear I’m writing a book, they’re usually curious about the story. Of those who survive the tempest of enthusiasm that results from a writer describing his work, many are surprised that I’ve chosen a thirteen-year-old girl as my hero. A quick glance confirms that, yes, that answer came from a forty-something man.

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And while people are intrigued, I can tell that some are searching for a way to politely comment on the oddity of a forty-something man writing about a teenage girl. Yep, I get it. Looking at many movies, video games, and comic books of the last few decades, they can be forgiven for expecting that a fantasy story will feature manly men and scantily clad women in impractical armor. And while I admit I’ve enjoyed some of those things, the world doesn’t need more of them.

Quite the opposite: we need more tales about strong girls and women to counter the unnatural misogyny that pervades our culture. I believe so strongly in this, I’ve spent the last 18 months hunched over a keyboard, trying to bring these types of characters to life.

It reminds me of a meme featuring writer/director Joss Whedon. I’ve seen variations over the years, but they all say this:

Because you're still asking me that question

I love this quote. It speaks to the ridiculousness of the question and the mentality behind it. It’s not that idiots are asking, rather it’s people who aren’t thinking critically. To Joss, it’s like someone asking him how he walks across the room: he simply walks across the room. And people marvel at the novelty.

They marvel at the novelty of a strong female character. In the 21st century. Sigh.

The quote is probably nearing ubiquity, so I doubt people are still asking him. But the mentality hasn’t gone away. I see it online daily, and sometimes it seems like we’re going backwards as a society. It feels like people are desperate to hold onto an unfair gender advantage.

To combat this, we need more strong female characters in every kind of storytelling. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by devoting my book series to this. I want to contribute because it’s the right thing to do. I want to hand my nieces the first book and tell them I wrote this with them in mind. And I want to say the same thing to my sons and nephew.

I want my readers to understand, as Joss so eloquently put it, that “recognizing somebody else’s power does not diminish your own.”

Take 8 minutes to watch his wonderful speech:

 

–Mike

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© Michael Wallevand, June 2017

Writing Is Pre-writing

This post is approximately 400 words.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “writing is rewriting”. This is absolutely accurate. I’ll probably write a future post on this, but for now, I wanted to establish that I am talking about something different here.

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When the hours of the day are comprised of varying combinations of family, friends, work, and other activities, writing time can be limited. Precious, really. The last thing you want to do is take that jewel and toss it down the drain.

Many writing efforts are like that. If you’re a writer like me, you’ve logged hundreds of hours staring a blank screen, jaw and fingers slack. It’s frustrating to think you’re squandering that rare opportunity to conjure some magic from a keyboard.

But what if you could take that wasted time and expend it elsewhere? Continue reading

Who’s writing the great American novel? Not me.

This post is approximately 500 words. I wrote it 8 and a half years ago when I was between jobs and somewhere between hopeful and hopeless. I share it here to illustrate the thoughts a writer has before THE INSPIRATION hits.


December 1, 2009: I sometimes wish I were writing that kind of novel, but mostly I’m glad I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fine thing to write an important work that stands the test of time. I hear from other writing friends who think they’ve got some…thing, that they’ve got that great novel inside their brains. But they’re slaving and grinding at the keyboard and apparently not enjoying themselves along the way.

I just don’t have that idea in me, driving me along like a merciless taskmaster. Continue reading