When Life Gets In The Way

When I first started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t let it go away due to lack of effort. I had a good job with enough built in free time that I could dutifully dedicate time to promoting my writing. Sadly, as life often does, fate determined a radical course correction.

I lost my day job which threw everything into flux. Suddenly I had to spend every waking moment trying to find other employment. Seeing as I’m not yet a famous author with millions of adoring fans (I think I’m currently at 1, and she’s married to me) I didn’t have the resources to write fulltime.

Any writer struggling trying to ‘make it’ must feel my pain. We must survive before we can succeed in the craft we yearn to excel in as a career. I love hearing stories about writers before they were big. Earnest Hemingway well documented his struggles with borderline poverty in Paris. Kurt Vonnegut was a used car salesman. Stephen King was a janitor. The list goes on and on. The amount of people who try and fail far outweighs those deemed successful.

As it is now, I’ve secured new employment. I’m happy to report it puts me and my family in a much better situation. Furthermore, I’m ready to resume my quest to become a successful published author. I’ve carved out a time later this month where I’m going to attempt to finish my novel. I estimate I’ve got around 30,000-40,000 words left to write before edits. I’m excited to see how it turns out.

I’ll happily update you on the progess.

No, I have not disappeared

Forgiveness, please. I know I’ve been absent for quite sometime. My real life has been a whirlwind the past few months. I’m working hard to get some things in my professional life setup, and it’s taking quite a bit of time. Of course, if you want something done right – you have to make sure it’s done with care.

Needless to say, I’m still writing and my plans to take over the literary world have not been aborted – just delayed a bit.

Book Review: The Dark Tower (Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King

The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, #7)The Dark Tower by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I set out to read the Dark Tower series with an open mind. In the history of fantasy epics, it ranks near the top. However, the subject matter tends to be far-fetched at times while brilliant in others. Applause is deserved for this quality piece of work. While far from perfect, I felt satisfied and admit the ending made me think even now after over a week since I finished.

As I’ve said in previous reviews on the Dark Tower series, Stephen King’s insertion into the story as a key character came across as forced and in his own words ‘pretentious.’ I understand he wanted to illustrate the romance between art and reality, but this was too much. He could have just used another author’s name instead of his own and his point would have been made. Instead he looked like an egomaniac.

As a writer myself I understood, but did not condone his argument between art and reality. As a fan I can see why this tactic comes across as arrogant. The story should be about the story and the characters involved, not the author. There are other ways he could have made his point.

The use of language was downright annoying. It reached its height of frustration in ‘Wolves of Calla’ and mellowed from there. Side note: play a drinking game where you take a sip every time “say thankya” or “sai” is uttered and the story will take on a whole new meaning. This nonsensical phrasing was induced almost as an OCD tick more than meaningful dialogue.

So with all these black marks, why the 5 star rating? Well, despite its weaknesses, the strengths of this book more than makes up for its shortcomings. The pace and action is intense, a number of story lines finish up unpredictably and satisfactorily, and you feel every emotion and sensation with Roland as he experiences it firsthand.

Overall, if you’ve finished the Dark Tower series then you should feel a certain level of accomplishment. You can see why ‘epic’ is a term that doesn’t do it justice. It’s easy to read and you have to admire King’s story within stories.

Read more for the spoiler:

This theme is particularly noticeable throughout the series. I believe King was trying to play on the concept of literary heroism. Heroes become legends and thus live forever while villains are mostly remembered by their ends and those who vanquished them.

Since book one I felt that Roland lived in a purgatory of sorts. The ending only reinforced this belief. However, I really didn’t see the wheel of ka turn back to the beginning of his quest. I felt that King setup the finale for a happy ending where Roland would be reunited with all of those he lost along the way. If Mid-World was purgatory then Heaven must be attainable. Perhaps it is, but not so in this book. That I suppose is the true frustration of purgatory.

As Roland’s memory is erased he is left with the horn of Eld, an important artifact that was not present in his first journey. If he has done this trek hundreds of times then does he gain something or someone after every stage of his travels? Will the next quest feature another chance at redemption or an important character willing to enter the Dark Tower and stop his madness? I wonder if King will go back and write this quest again. He certainly left it over for that.

I for one hope there is more to the story of Roland.

 

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Book Review: Song of Susannah (Dark Tower Series) By Stephen King

The Dark Tower VI (Song of Susannah)The Dark Tower VI by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve made it this far in the series then congratulations! The light is at the end of the tunnel and hopefully some closure on this epic series. The action really picks up in this book and overall it’s a good page turner.

You can see the books (for the most part) get stronger as the series continues. Written over a 30 year period, the style changes with the growing skills of the author. At this point you’ll see much more confident writing from the mishmash that was “The Gunslinger,” the first book in the series.

I was also relieved to see a resolution to the Mia pregnancy storyline. I was rather tired of the constant back and forth between the characters on the mysteriousness of the “chap” and its birth.

Most people have a strong opinion on Stephen King inserting himself into the book. For this it is a failure on the part of the author. He made the crux of the book about himself, which an author not writing an autobiography really should not do. For me, I felt the writing concerning himself was forced and awkward at times. He loves to play on the this theme of writers creating life through their craft (See The Dark Half) and while it is fascinating at times, it’s just not that intriguing to throw it into the Dark Tower series.

My advice is to not let this ruin the book or the series for you. Take it as it is and move on. It’s still a well written book with exciting and emotional action scenes.

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On Contradictory Writing Advice

You never really understand how the literary world is saturated with advice until you immerse yourself in it. The new writer, eager to learn and committed to the art, will soak up as much information from as many sources as possible. There is no shortage of books on how to write, nor organizations and bloggers eager to lend their wisdom (no, the irony of this post is NOT lost on me). However, the longer a writer spends in this world the amount of contradictory advice becomes clear.

As a prime example, read as many articles as you can on constructing the much feared query letter. Some tell you to sum up your book in the first paragraph. Others tell you to detail the plot and characters of your manuscript in a very precise but succinct format. Some tell you to include biographical details that show who you are as a writer. Others tell you it doesn’t matter at all. Some ask you to describe your career goals as an author and future writing plans. Others tell you to remain focused on the manuscript you’re pitching. The list goes on and on.

The truth of the matter is that as humans we’re always looking for explanations. Whether to problems, the unknown, or to why your favorite baseball team can’t seem to pull together a couple of hits. We want to know, nay NEED to know. This results in desperately trying to find a magic formula for our passions. The problem is as mortals our ideas and perceptions are completely subjective.

With the literary world this principle could not be illustrated better. How many times have you read a so-called “concrete” rule on writing only to then read a book that breaks said rule in glorious splendor? It happens all the time. See how much Stephen King ‘tells’ rather than ‘shows’ in many of his books for example. Or read some reviews of universally loved classics. Yes, there are many one star reviews of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

While such contradictory advice is interesting enough if you can identify it, there are also problems for new writers. Many in an attempt to be successful will try to incorporate as much advice as they can and thereby unwittingly write a mishmash of contradictions. I humbly include myself as an example. The better idea is to just freaking write what works for you. From there, seek to improve.

Zachary Petit at Writers Digest takes up this point rather well:

Don’t assume there is any single path or playbook writers need to follow. (Or, for that matter, a definitive superlative list of Dos and Don’ts …) Simply put: You have to do what works best for you. Listen to the voices in your head, and learn to train and trust them. More often than not, they’ll let you know if you’re on the right path. People often bemoan the surplus of contradictory advice in the writing world—but it’s there because there really is no yellow-brick road, and a diversity of perspectives allows you to cherry-pick what uniquely suits you and your abilities.

There is one truth I will say is universal: first drafts suck. I wish someone told me that before I first started writing. I spent a lot of frustrated hours reading over my material bemoaning how terrible of a writer I really was. Needless to say, such heartbreaking pity parties are counterproductive to becoming a good author. If there are writers out there who produce gold as words spill out of their head onto paper for the first time then accolades to you. But if you’re like the 99.9999999% of other writers out there – don’t fret that you used the same word 64 times on one page. Editing is as amazing as it is tedious. And no need to to call me out for not spending much time editing this post. It’s a blog, not a novel – lighten up.

On that tangent, I’ll close. Write on, friends.