A smoke-filled room, with a single, uncovered light bulb hangs down a line over a simple, worn table with a typewriter in the center. Fresh paper sits to one side, an unruly stack of scorched and heavily marked sheets to another. A random fall of crumpled paper balls have been thrust away with extreme prejudice and frustration. The writer might be swilling cheap Scotch from a bottle that is perpetually three-quarters empty (for you optimists: a quarter full), or chain smoking an obscure, likely foreign brand of cigarette that creates a miasma of yellow haze hovering just inside the cone of light that is both physical and mental.
Writing is brutal, solitary work.
The writer dwells alone in darkness.
But not really. This was emphasized to me when a fellow writer mentioned me in his recent podcast. Omar Khafagy and I had a brief exchange about a previous podcast. It was actually a bit exciting to be named. The podcast is pretty good too!
The ability for a writer to reach out beyond the cocoon of their own self-imposed exile is not only simple, but at times necessary, even mandatory, and definitely beneficial.
|You guy's hear Joe Abercrombie has a new book?|
Veteran writers are so helpful:
They sit around a virtual campfire after a long bout of writing, mostly keeping to themselves, warmed by the glow of a couple CRT monitors stacked for warmth. A few are sharpening a recent passage, working out the plot burrs, and filing out any wording nicks. There’s always one harmonica player, keeping the tone both light and slightly depressing. A newb, dressed in fresh-issued, still-creased khakis and a denim shirt, doe-eyed and eager will wander up, and ask a question of the collective group, eager to learn and join their ranks. “Hey guys,” the newb says with a quick hesitant wave. “How long should an average chapter be?” The responses will fly, fast and furious. “How long should a piece of string be?” “How tall should a tree be?” “Go away, newb, I’m writing!”
Very helpful and upbeat!
I’ve gotten a few questions from other writers about various elements, like crossbows, general archery, and castles vs. fortresses vs. palaces. I’m not a historian, but I do love to research, and I attempt to make my writing generally realistic (as much as a fantasy writer can). My brother is a historian, the poor sap, and I’ve reached out to him and a few other folk for assistance, especially in finding a real expert on something I’m pretending to know.
Observational humor aside, it really is great to have access to so many talented and specialized writers. Toiling in the dark does have that romantic flair, but after the first fifteen minutes, it starts to hurt your eyes.