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Gimme Fuel Gimme Fire

Posted on Jan 17, 2015 by in The Scrawl |

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So I began querying for my book/trilogy on Friday. And I will say  I am hopeful but I am also trying to maintain a staunch realism. It might all end up queuing the sad trombones. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about writer fuel. And yes, this is going to be a rather subjective post but I think there will be enough universal info for everybody to be able to contextualize it for their own writing situations. Writers are lenses through which the world is seen. I think it was Emerson who said that or maybe Oscar Wilde. Whomever, I think the statement is true. We see the world and then, with consistency, help others see it. Even when it has dragons. Because to be honest, the world is just full of dragons these days. Sometimes they kill children and wave black flags but dragons are dragons. But this post isn’t about ISIS or Boko Haram either.

When I’m writing or gearing up to write, I tend to fuel my work by spending intense amounts of time observing. So what do I mean by observing? I consciously watch, listen to, read, and discuss with people things directly related to the work that’s bouncing around in my head. Now, if you’re a writer reading this, you do the same thing but maybe not consciously. Writers are lenses through which the world is seen, even accidentally.

For instance, you might spend a weekend watching through hours and hours and hours of gritty cop dramas. You spend time reading through Elmore Leonard books in between the shows and movies. You have the soundtrack to The Sopranos playing in the background. You seem to notice banks, police cars, and guys wearing bulky jackets way more than you did before. It is highly unlikely that you’re going to have much fuel to write your Sophie Kinsella knock-off novel. I mean, maybe you will, but I don’t imagine it would work terribly well. Not that I have anything against Sophie Kinsella. I have actually read some of her stuff. But if you sat down to write gritty crime? Yeah, you would have images, thoughts, and feelings that all complimented your work.

When I write, I make a concerted effort to fill my mind with my genre, style, and tone of what I’m writing. I fuel my fire with the fuel that works. Can you write Sophie Kinsella and still watch The Wire? Sure. But it might not be quite so easy. So here’s an easy practice exercise for you to see if I’m full of crap or not.

Figure out what you’re “eating.” Then write your own story with it.

This should be easy. Name the last two movies, and the last two hours worth of TV you watched. For some of you this will be harder because you’re so spread out with your tastes that it might be The Notebook, American Horror Story, and a documentary about food. So if that’s you, figure out what the last two movies and last two hours worth of TV you watched that you really got into. What media did you get lost in? So with that in mind,  imagine something you are deeply familiar with. Say you’re a bank teller and you spent the last week watching John Wayne movies, Deadwood and reading Louis L’amour. Then how about you sit down and write the story of an old west bank teller thrust into a crazy situation. See if you can get a thousand words out of it.

Serious writers stoke and coddle and feed their craft. They pay attention to what they’re “eating” as much as a marathon runners do. And for me? I need to go watch The Wire some. You could take a guess at what I’m going to write next, but you’d probably be pretty far off.