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How To Write Books


It’s easy to believe in creativity. To believe in that instant when something occurs to you. And you chase after it relentlessly.

Somewhere in the chase you experience more instances of creativity.

You bleed inspiration. You surprise yourself. You burn with light.

When you’re creative, you’re doing something important, something so great it could quite possibly be The Answer.

You walk around feeling inwardly proud. Like nothing could knock you down. Say what you want, you’re invincible.

Before you know it you’re off to the races, building art on a regular basis.

But that’s just it, art is something you can build. It must be something you can build.

These people who consistently put out art rely on a method of creativity.

Through countless attempts to follow sundry inspirations, these people eventually dial into an algorithm.

This algorithm takes that instant of creativity and makes it into something other people consider art.

And everything these people make fits into this algorithm.

It doesn’t have to be mathematical

You don’t have to understand computer science to find your algorithm.

All it takes is time and desire.

Time and desire are what make everything possible.

In my case, I haven’t found my algorithm.

Sometimes I sense it vibrating in the other room, but it always gets away.

I really do rely on inspiration. I really do follow an idea until it leads to another, bigger idea.

That’s why art doesn’t come easy for me, at least not of the longer form.

And what about those great big books full of characters and anecdotes and an overarching premise?

How is that kind of art made?

I feel like it’s not about the writing in some of these books.

The author knows how to write for effective communication.

There’s no style.

Or maybe the style is so refined, so sharpened, it’s invisible.

You sense it in some sentences, or in the way a paragraph flows, or in dialogue notation, i.e. no quotation marks.

There’s always style.

I think the great authors are completely at one with their style. You cannot separate the author from their style.

The style is the author and the author is the style.

When something is this much in harmony with who you are, it becomes the most natural thing in the world.

I don’t even know what I came here for.

It seems like the only style I have is digression.

I can run so long with a thread. At some point it’s going to end. And I’m going to want to write in my own voice. Drop the story and write in my own voice. That’s the only style I have for now. It’s a style that comes with a lack of discipline. Rather than focus more on the point I was trying to make, which was more than a valid point but a major point, the point to end all points, rather than keep developing this point, and emphasizing this point, and hammering this point home, my own voice has to have its turn. I mean, does it even seem fair to write a whole story and not speak once from your heart, using your own name? But who am I to say I’m speaking from my heart, and who am I to think someone like Santiago Gamboa, who I am reading now, his tome, NECROPOLIS, who am I to say Gamboa never once speaks from his heart in this book, which is well over 400 pages?

The thing is, he does speak from his heart. Or at least I think he does. Like in this excerpt. But first allow me to supply context: an international conference [ICBM] is held in Jerusalem in which people tell either their own story or someone else’s. Jerusalem is at war as the conference happens, so at times the hotel shakes and has power outages from the bombings.

In this excerpt Sabina, porn actress and founder of Eve Studios, talks with EH as the city is under attack:

… we are made of blood and bones and flesh and the juice that moistens our vaginas, not only of prayers and empty words and polite phrases; our heads are in our crotches, setting off a ruddy geyser of sperm; there is no art or doctrine unconnected with those liquids, because much of art, basically, is an immersion in those liquids, a series of blind discoveries in primitive waters, like the harmonious wandering of nomadic fish, for example, everything that an artist can extract from that dark cave and bring out into the light, making others see it, that is great art, my friend, but there are fewer and fewer of us, hence the importance of going as deep as possible, into the essence, rejecting the light and frivolous, fleeing anything that lacks that patina of brilliance that the parthenogenesis of the Earth gives certain metals, anyway, it is urgent to act, this civilization is mortally wounded and the duty of Eve [Studios], our duty, is to be the guardians of that ancient nobility of ideas and feelings that once allowed great art to exist, that is the only thing we possess, and I’m sure you will already have noted at the conference, it is we who are really under siege, a small group of men and women telling stories in the midst of disaster, convinced that in doing so we are protecting something essential, something we can’t lose and for which it’s worth risking all, with all our strength and talent, we are knights of something that’s about to die, an order or lodge in the greatest poetic sense.

I feel like in this passage Santiago Gamboa is speaking from his heart. Even though he communicates this idea using a woman who is fictional, I think this is one of those times in NECROPOLIS when SG at least presents the reader with one of his opinions on art. Especially the idea that storytellers, or builders of art, are really the ones under siege, not so much Jerusalem. This passage gave a new dimension to the book. The whole of NECROPOLIS came into focus because of it.

It doesn’t happen on every page. He only has so much blood left to give. But it does happen. And the way it happens is professional: Gamboa speaks from his heart using other character’s voices, managing not to interrupt the development of the story but add to it. Gamboa, the author, is completely disappeared in this book, at least he doesn’t use his own name. He does use the initials EH 398 pages into the book to refer to the first-person narrator who kicks things off, a Colombian novelist like himself. Is SG hiding behind EH?

Reading this big book makes me want to test my chops on an equivalently scaled project. Am I crazy, 466 pages of narrative, is it in me? A lot of it has to do with pacing. With giving yourself enough characters to work with, and a location that is, in itself, a story. I don’t know if it will happen. All I know is that everyone I saw while on my vacation to Miami Beach who was reading a book had a big book, 400+ pages. It seems like readers prefer to immerse themselves into worlds they can inhabit for a long time.


August 21, 2012 11:07 am

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