Saturday, October 15, 2011

And Now For My Next Trick...

If you've spent any time on my blog you'll know that I'm rarely content.  I'm addicted to challenges.  The Rubik's Cube was the gateway drug to other unique twisty puzzles.

I can't get enough.

With every new puzzle I eventually have an epiphany.  It's a rush.  I realize I can use knowledge I have already discovered about previous puzzles and apply these lessons to the new puzzle.

So what can I do as a writer to continue to challenge myself in this manner?

It's the same thing.

I have a decent foundation in place for crafting sharp, high quality stories.  To date, my focus has been writing short stories.  And I am happy with this.  I can turn around edits faster and produce more work.  Plus, I love short stories.

But November is almost here and you know what that means.  NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

Well, I'm ready for something new.  And I can't have my wife tripping over any more boxes of puzzles shipped from mysterious origins.

So, I'm writing a novel.
I always have the same level of doubt with any new challenge.  With these new puzzles, it's always, "I just can't do it!  Seriously, I don't know how I'm ever going to figure this one out."  This one has way more pieces, or different angles, or circles cut into it.  It's totally unique.  It's too different.

Guess what?

I eventually figured it out.  Every single time.  So that's why it's time for me to write my novel.  I know how to tell a gripping and evocative story.  The foundation is in place even though the challenge will be unique.
But I'm willing to step outside of my comfort zone.  I have to.  I bore too easily.

What about you?  What are you doing differently?  Are you writing something new to challenge yourself? Writing in a different POV?  A different genre?  Or like me, in a different format?

Thanks to S. Trugliai on Flickr for the wonderful image.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ending the Secrets

And the answers are:
  • "I've got some cream for that."
  • -17.3
  • Underwear
Life is full of mysteries:  the punch line to jokes, the answers to math problems, and that puzzling smushy birthday present.

We have to find out how things end up.  It's critical.  Some of us anticipate a little better than others.

Think about how you read a really gripping story.  Do you nervously enjoy the ride to the very end?  Do you crack and skip to the ending because you just have to find out what happens?  Or do you unabashedly read the ending first?

What if there were no secret endings?  Would it really even matter to you?  Could the story still be enjoyable?

I'm sure you've all writhed in agony at some point listening to someone butcher a great joke you already knew the punch line to.  Although you knew the ending, it was the delivery that ruined it this time.  Hear that same joke told by a good comedian and you're laughing again.

If all we cared about were the endings to stories, then we would get our novels from fortune cookies instead of from libraries.  But it's the journey, not the destination (more about that here in a previous post).  Maybe it was all a dream, maybe the butler did it, or maybe the protagonist dies at the end.  Who cares?  How does it develop?  What must the characters overcome?  What inevitability leads to the ending?  This is what makes reading the story enjoyable.  This is why we have tattered copies of our favorite books.

Life is not simply about having the answers.  Sometimes we never even get them.  My wife, for example, will not let me teach her how to solve the Rubik's Cube.  Apparently she likes a mysterious geek.  But I already know a solution.  Does that stop me from solving it again and again?  Heck no!  It is still fun.

As a reader, do you need your endings to remain a secret?
As a writer, do you need to know the ending before you start writing?