I don’t have much to say today. I sat down yesterday and plotted a few short stories to write over the next few weeks, as well as work on a next novel. My work life has been all-consuming lately. Three straight seventy-hour weeks, but that will abate now.
My writing dream began when I was seven. I would write a lot, for no reason that I can remember. My family thought it was weird, so I hid it from them. Still do. But one thing turns into another, and I keep going. It’s the passion for it. The idea that ideas are important, that’s what keeps me going.
I think eventually you do have to wake up a bit, though. My writing is its own thing. It either has an audience or it doesn’t. I know I can write well – that’s been validated in many ways, at many times. But that doesn’t mean I’m someone that people want to read. I try never to expect that they will. On this blog, I get readers for sure, and love every single one of them. But it’s hard to broaden out, for the most part. And I wonder if my audience is really just myself. That’s a hard realization. There are many writers who want to be read, even deserve to be. I don’t know if I deserve to be read. But even if I were, that doesn’t mean I will be read.
It’s the rain outside that’s likely talking me to an edge today. I don’t ever give up, and certainly won’t on a passion. Yes, I cross genres. Yes, I put magic into grounded worlds; and I put grounding into magical worlds. I don’t know that many people who write like me – I struggle to find stories and novels that are similar. That means I may have no natural audience. It also means, at the same time, that it’s mean doing me. Just me. And that’s okay. Who else could I be, but me? I didn’t set out to write things that naturally generate comparables to other authors. I don’t want to be the same. Why would I want that? It’s not in me, it’s just not.
In the next while, I’ll try to expand audience. Get my name out in journals. My friend Lisa Alletson, one of the best poets I’ve read online, has been encouraging me to do this. So far, I’ve only ever really entered writing contests. I do really well when entering those contests, it always humbles me to see the results. It’s validation, and I need to built on that. I need to write more for the writing community, less for me just hearing my voice on this blog. I know that. And I had best get about doing that. If I’m trying to blaze new ground – and trust me, that is my intent – then I had better get that message across. Literary cross-genre multi-genre writing told at times from a pure genre standpoint with literary roots, and at others, told from a pure literary standpoint with genres mashed together. I write in the grey space between genres. That’s me. And I need to do me. If there is no audience for that, then I’m another writer who never became a read author. There are hundreds of thousands of those out there.
That’s where my head’s at, on a rainy Sunday morning. None of this really matters, I know. I’m one voice out of thousands going on the same journey. I can just urge us to dream hard, and rage hard. That’s all I’ve got.
On another note, music. Over the last year, I’ve listened to a lot of music, but there are four artists that stand out for me over that time. Here they are, along with an example of a song that makes them quintessentially great in my mind:
- Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End (she’s blowing up now, with grammy nods all over the place, great to see)
- Jess Williamson – Pictures of Flowers (it’s kind of a COVID song but it’s way more than that, and it’s achingly grand)
- Arlo Parks – Caroline (this person is a wonderful poet and an intense storyteller – the lyrics in this song are arresting)
- Allie Crow Buckley (I think the newest artist on this list of newer artists – this song is so skilled and confident and epic)
I’m sure these artists have their dreams. I have mine. I’m glad to see that their message has reached me. I hope my message can reach people, too. That’s the dream.
Be well, everyone. Be great, even. Do good in the world, and for each other. If we do that, everything is going to be okay.
34 thoughts on “How Writing Dreams Begin, and End”
Your line “I don’t know that many people who write like me” stood out to me. That’s something to hold tightly. I believe the book “Steal Like an Artist” gave the advice: when you’re starting, go ahead and copy the heroes who caused you to fall in love with painting, writing, etc. You will fail, because you are not those heroes. But in that failing, you will start to realize what you sound/look like in your works. Our uniqueness is our strength.
Dave, you have the most thoughtful comments… Our uniqueness is our strength. Absolutely. It has to be. I think there are people who are great at rejigging what’s already out there, and I give them credit for that. Heck, I read their stuff too. I’m not sure there are new stories, in reality, but there are places between genres, or outside of genres, that we can rightly explore. I think there should be a place for that, too. I suppose the argument is that readers don’t want that. Maybe. Maybe not.
As an aside, I’m jealous of your rain. It’s boiling hot here today and I could use for a cooling storm.
I’ll trade you for the heat. I want to ride my bike and lose my bathing suit under a sprinkler… it’s surprising how often that happens! Sending you hopes for cooler weather, Matticus.
As I mentioned on Twitter, these kinds of uncertainties and doubts — will I ever find the reading audience I desire (which isn’t much, just more than friends and family, you know?)? How do I do that? And if I don’t, is it worth the effort? These questions are one of the reasons I got into my big, huge writer’s block. And I have yet to figure out how to get out of it. So, don’t let these questions stop you from writing. Just keep writing for you and for those who do read you. Other things will come — but only if you keep writing.
The thing about your post that just jumped out and slapped me in the face was your comments about “comparables.” This is one of the things that drives me absolutely crazy. My first novel, One Night in Bridgeport, is about a guy wrongfully accused of rape. When I finished it, I remember sharing a synopsis of the story with a couple of writers and one said something about how it’s a story that has been told over and over again. What made my version different?
Fast forward to today and The Dime is a YA novel with a complete absence of the typical tropes you see in the vast majority of YA fiction. No vampires or werewolves or zombies. No hunky boy-cheerleader-class nerd love triangle. Just three youngsters trying to get through some challenging circumstances that throws them together before they really should be out there on their own. And when agents say they want comparables in my query? I move on to other agents who don’t ask that. Because I’ve never seen something comparable in YA fiction, which I believe is part of the appeal of the story and why it could be something. Why must you be able to compare your story to somebody else’s to get attention from the agent and publishing world? It just seems ass backwards — instead they should be asking writers what makes their story unique and fresh.
Keep writing, Trent, keep writing.
This thing on comparables is amazing. I don’t think agents mean whose writing is comparable to yours, though. I think they mean books that might have comparable audiences. As I’ve come realize (in chatting with a couple of agents on Twitter), they’re paid on commission. If the authors they represent don’t sell, they don’t get paid. So they have to thinking about marketability.
You know what’s funny about that? I work in the corporate world (as I’ve alluded to). I work in science and engineering, and it’s a cold corporate world. But I have this feeling that the publishing world is colder still – it’s hell-bent on what’s marketable and sellable. I’m not sure the art matters anymore. If it does, I think you really have to dig to find the people who are good at representing what’s different. There must be agents out there like that. But everyone has the same essential description. No one is out there saying: I’m the risk-taker. The one who will push different voices, unique ones. Okay, maybe they do, but I don’t know if it’s real. Agents have to make a living too, they’re human beings. I think the overall construct of the publishing industry is the problem, pushing for product that stays in the lanes, that’s recognizable. Maybe this is why self-publishing is such a thing.
Is self-publishing the only way to get unique voices out there? This is a question worth thinking about.
I’m really curious about The Dime, by the way. YA from you sounds like an interesting proposition. Girl Island is YA, in my mind, with cross-over appeal to adult audience. I’m not sure I can imagine YA from you, but I’m dying to read. If you have it up in the future for sale, I will buy it. Thank you for omitting the zombies, werewolves and vampires. And the dystopia. Oh, the dystopia! My kids read YA all the time. I know what those books are. I get it. But I feel like people are not treating YA readers with the respect they deserve. I think they can handle more mature content, things that make them think. Girl Island is about immigrants, and the environment. I think that’s okay, right? Maybe if I make them vampire immigrants and environmental conditions that promote that rise of lycans… I don’t know.
I’m going to keep writing. I have to. I’m still hell bent on the traditional publishing route, until it tells me that I don’t belong, and that I’m not worthy. I have to test that route.
Yes … I forgot about dystopia. There is definitely no dystopia in this story. I do have a couple of dystopian stories in my WIP stack. I’ve thought of trying to finish them and publishing as a set since it’s possible that none of them will be full novel length. A series of three dystopian novellas that each offer a different take on the whole genre.
As for publishers … I think you’re right. Whether agents or publishers, none of them make any money unless they sell books. I kind of get that, particularly for the agents and maybe that’s what I need to do. Submit directly to some publishers who take unagented submissions as a last gasp for The Dime.
I never meant for The Dime to be YA, but like with Girl Island, it is YA because of the ages of the characters and some of the themes. But I think The Dime has a literary bent to. Maybe a little bit more so than the average YA story? We’ll see what you think when you read it. It may be a few months as I work on some different ideas for promotional efforts.
If I can help with The Dime, beta-reader or just help promoting, you let me know. Cause I got your back. Would love to see more of your writing in the world.
A note on comparables … The Irrepairable Past actually does have a comparable. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. I read the book and enjoyed it, but felt like there was something missing. When I came up for the idea for that story, I wanted it to be poetic and not have the same problem I saw in Barnes’ book. Who knows if I succeeded.
I haven’t read Mr. Barnes, but I know you succeeded with The Irrepairable Past. You just did. It was a monumental success, in my mind.
Thank you. I need to hire you as my publicist.
Here to help, any way I can.
Thank you, good sir.
I don’t know how to get people to read your stuff – I think you deserve it, I just have no idea how to make it happen. But I’m pretty sure that it’s better to be a writer whose writing is unlike anyone else’s than to be a writer whose writing is just like writing of a thousand other writers.
Could be the way this works, it’s the writers who find a way to emulate what’s already been done, and to categorize their writing in Amazon genres and to list many comparable authors, that are going to do it. I wonder if I could do that. Overtly write for a genre and just stick to the rules. Start with the comparables in mind, the marketing strategy coming first, the writing second. I bet I could. And I bet I would hate myself.
I agree with you, X. Better to be unique. Better to be unique and unread than to be the same and read by many? Is there no in-between out there, people??? I jest. It’s the scotch speaking. And thanks for the comment, X. It’s always great to hear from you.
There has to be an in-between. I never thought this way about writing but I thought this about music, and it might be just as applicable to writing – for a song to be a hit, it has to be different from the other songs to separate itself from them yet must sound sufficiently familiar to them to not alienate the listener. The balance is a tricky part and even then it’s far from a certainty, but I see it as a necessary condition.
I think you have at least some of that balance in your writing.
Thank you, X. Maybe it is about balance, though my natural tendency is to try and be utterly different. That could be a problem.
How in the world can you do anything at all after working 70 hour weeks, much less plot a story or write one? I would be absolutely wrecked. I’m envious. As for doing you, definitely keep that up. You do have a unique voice, it’s truly all your own. At least, I have never seen one like it. What writers have most influenced you, by the way? Surely someone(s) have, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you mention that. I’d be curious to know. Whoever they are, they blended nicely with you, made you very you. Or is it just Genuine Inspiration, filtered through your corporeal being? Like clear water pouring through the Trent Lewin filter, coming out all Trent Lewiny?
Walt, it give me nothing but joy to hear from you, and to imagine that you’re working on some incredible writing wonder. I hope that’s true.
I don’t know why any of this happens to me. Why am I pulling those hours? I don’t have to. I have kids, a wonderful wife, I need time with them. I have to write, too. So I keep threads alive when I’m buried under work, as best I can. It really sucks, to be honest. But the other thing I’ve observed is that my best writing comes when I have my hands utterly full with other things. Isn’t that weird? If I wrote full-time, I think I’d crash. I would need to do other things to keep my perspective and to clear my mind, as it were.
When I was a kid, Lloyd Alexander was my favourite author. He’s just so great. When I grew up, it was Alexandre Dumas. I mean, who dreams up some wrongly-imprisoned sailor that busts out and becomes mega-rich, only to go on a revenge spree for the rest of his life? Amazing. These days, it’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie. They do the unreal, and far better than I could do. Margaret Atwood too. The last great book I read was All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It absolutely floored me. Took a while to get into it, but what a journey.
Lots just comes from the ether, though. I don’t even try to figure out from where exactly.
Can you let me know how you’ve been doing? How you are? When we might see some writing from you? I’m dying to know. No pressure, of course.
I guessed correctly on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn’t know the name Lloyd Alexander but I feel like I should have. I only read a few chapters of All the Light but I thought it was gorgeous writing. I heard it took him ten years to write it.
I am actually writing a ton, but none of it is anything most people would want to read. I’m cranking out academic papers on a regular basis: trauma therapy, intersex, social anxiety, sensory processing disorder, multicultural psychology, these are some of the topics I’ve been researching and writing about. In December I will graduate with a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, and if I can gear up for five additional classes, I’ll finish a masters in psychology as well, hopefully sometime next year. This is all part of a mid-life career change that was probably long overdue, actually, but better late than never. Anyhoo, it’s all kept me very busy, and unlike you it, I find being very busy a tad exhausting. I did manage to post a dinky little thing recently, but it’s a bit disposable, I’m afraid. Thank you for asking and for your interest, much appreciated, and very kind of you. Carry on dreaming and raging and such. That too is much appreciated.
That is fascinating, Walt! It sounds like you’re doing important work just now! Having written academic papers and documents myself, I know it’s not very easy. And so different than fiction, but also complementary in some weird way. Masters in Psychology! That’s is really exciting, wish you all the best finishing it up. Selfishly, would love to see you post fiction again. I’m going to go have a look at the piece you mention just now.
As for raging and dreaming… of course. That stuff never ends.
I just read Up the Beach… amazing. Really amazing story.
That’s quite kind of you, Trent. Maybe a tad too kind, methinks. But many thanks, and I appreciate the support and encouragement you offer to me and others.
No way, man. I only say it like I see it. Great to have read you again. And congratulations on your degree!
You have to keep doing what you are doing. You are an interesting writer. No same old, same old from you! It’s fresh, it’s out there, it’s raw. So far, I’ve not been disappointed by a single thing I’ve read of yours!
Really appreciate that, Dale. I think the publishing world is looking for writers that fit a lane, though. I don’t understand that. But agents, as I’ve come to realize, work on commission, so why would they jump on with someone for whom they don’t have a clear vision for marketability? I get that. It seems like traditional publishing is very corporate, to me. But I could just be being cynical.
I can only do me. I’m so open to working my craft and editing my stuff, but to sacrifice completely the parts of my writing that make me the most happy? I don’t think I can do that.
I just beta read (2nd of her books I’ve been given the honour to) a wonderful author. Her books done fit anywhere either. She ended up self-publishing her first two (both so good). W
She keeps hoping to connect with an agent and publisher but so far, nyet.
There is a publishing house that is into quirky (different) books. I am drawing a blank right now. But I’ll search.
No. Don’t ever edit to the point that your essence is lost.
If you ever find that publishing house, let me know. I wonder if there’s a case to go straight to smaller publishing houses.
It’s driving me crazy but I will search for it for you! It might be a good idea…
I just love how honest you are here. You are never afraid to let us see all of you, not just the pretty parts.
It’s incredibly refreshing. It makes me feel a connection to you and I find that the most challenging and rewarding aspect of
I wonder what we’d be like if we didn’t compare ourselves to others and just used their brilliance to inspire us.
I feel as if it’s the comparison that crushes us.
Thought you’d be interested in knowing that your interview led me to a bookstore to check out ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’. They didn’t have it but I leafed through some of his other stuff. I loved it but it seemed too ‘smart’ for me. Or maybe I just don’t have the concentration to immerse myself in such depth. Thank you for that.
If nothing else, it felt amazing to be in a bookstore again.
The comparison is the problem, because it means we’re not happy with ourselves. I am happy with myself. But the publishing world wants comparables.
Rushdie’s stuff is hard to start. It really is. But once you get into this weird world he’s created, it’s incredible.
How do you write and write so right?
I run fast and rage hard.
I rage fast and run hard.