Today is episode 4 of season 2 and the continuation of my journey towards writing my first novel.
At the bottom of this blog post are the next 4 or 5 chapters for you all to read. Just so you’re aware, the writing I release is mostly unedited. When I write, I like to write it all down and then go back later to fix and edit. So, just keep that in mind and don’t judge any grammar errors too harshly. If you want the first few chapters of the novel, check out the previous episode/post.
Now, this whole thing started for a few reasons, and one of them, which you might remember from episode 1, is the timing of me having the idea for the novel and this Writers Conference that was coming up in a month. I wasn’t signed up for the conference, but I read about it and had the site bookmarked. Since I began this conference has been a sort of guiding light for me to arrive there prepared.
Well, this past weekend I had that conference and it was really amazing. I learned a ton, met some really great people, and I spent the day surrounded by other writers all with the dream of getting published.
So, today, I want to tell you a little about the experience while sharing TWO major lessons I learned that I think apply to every single one of us. Whatever your dream or goal is, these two ideas could really change the way you approach things going forward. They are for me already.
I also just want to take a quick moment here to thank everyone for listening and for cheering me on as I take steps on this amazing path I’m on. It’s truly, and extremely appreciated, so Thank you.
Ok, let’s get to it!
I AM A WRITER
That’s right, I said it. I am a writer.
“Oh yea, what did you publish? Would I know your work? Is it on the shelves at B&N?”
Ok, so I may not have certain credentials that one might think of having when you call yourself a writer, but none the less, I feel I am a writer.
This weekend, being at this conference, made me feel more like a writer than anything else so far. More than writing the 6 short stories for Season 1 of this Podcast. More than deciding to write this novel in the first place, and more than all the writing I’ve done for it so far.
“it’s just a conference, Derek…”
Yes, it was just a conference, but it was a conference for writers. Maybe you could say for aspiring writers, but to me, and maybe not to everyone in that room, it made me feel like a writer.
The key is that I was there in pursuit, and not in search of something. I was not seeking confirmation of my path or seeking whether or not this path is right for me, I was there in pursuit of something I know I want. It was a different experience. Not looking for validation, just being where I felt I needed to be to learn and grow and improve as a writer.
I’ve only ever been to one other conference in my life and that was in college. And, having that perspective, I can tell you there is a big difference from seeking answers, to pursuing your truth.
“Take it down a notch there Derek, getting a bit deep…”
Ok, I think you get the point. We had a great presenter for the day, an author named Brian Klem who, I think, truly made the day what it was. He discussed the ins and outs of publishing, self-publishing, having an agent, not having an agent, writing tips, query tips, and so on. We went through what the numbers look like, and we even had Agents critique our writing in front of everyone. That was pretty wild and I received some excellent feedback. Some positive and let’s just say some ways to improve.
There was one lesson though that seemed to weave its way in and out throughout the day. From our presenter, Brian, and from the Agents, there was one message that has come to radiate and reverberate inside my brain since. I also feel it applies not just to writing, but to life itself.
SHOW, DON’T TELL
The concept is simple. Show who your character is, don’t just tell the reader who they are. An easy example is this:
Here’s one way to describe Jewel:
“Jewel is an accomplished martial artist.”
Ok, ok… now here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 1.
“Moving with incredible speed, Jewel grabbed hold of one of his arms, threw her hip into his groan, her other arm around his waist, and spun around 180 degrees. As she spun, the man flipped straight over her landing hard on his back right where Thomas had been just moments before.”
Wow, now that is some amazing, outstanding, writing.
Ok, everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but by describing Jewel throwing this guy with a hip toss shows the reader everything I want to Tell them.
This also happens to be something I can see in my writing pretty clearly now. There were parts that I wrote in those first few chapters where I’m clearly telling you, the reader, who these characters are, rather than showing you who they are. Definitely something I’ll go back, edit, and clean up later. It’s a great and simple lesson and I think the life lesson in here is probably pretty obvious too, right? Show it, don’t just tell it. Show the World who you are, and what you’re doing. Don’t just tell us the goals, go forward and accomplish them. Pretty simple right?
Well, maybe and maybe not. You know I’m going to take this somewhere else because I’m just a sucker for a new perspective, right?
What if a part of the showing, was the telling? We may not think about it too often, but how we speak, what phrases we use, is a tell-tale sign of how we are going to act. Let me give you an example.
I AM THE GREATEST
When you think of the Greatest of all time, or as they say, the GOAT for short, who do you think of? Who do you imagine saying the phrase?
“I am the greatest!”
Muhammed Ali, right? I’ve never seen a boxing match with him, just a clip or two, but I still know him as this extremely confident, borderline arrogant man who told the world that he was the Greatest ever, before he won a title. And even after he lost his title, he still told the world he was the greatest. He was the champ!
So, why can’t we be like that?
At the conference, I made an observation as I listened to people asking questions, and from my conversations with people about their novels, and this is also an observation that can be made everywhere, from just about everyone, including from myself.
We all tend to be just a little too humble. Everyone I meet who has a dream, from this conference, and just around, for the most part, tends to talk about that dream like it’s this delicate breakable thing. Like, if they commit too much to it, they might find themselves hanging over a cliff with no way back. I can hear myself saying things like this:
“Oh, wow, Derek, you’re writing a novel, how cool!”
“Yea, thank you, we’ll see how it goes.”
“We’ll see how it goes,” is a phrase I heard at least 2 or 3 times at this conference from others I spoke to, and I know I’ve said it too. Many times. Do you see it, what the problem with that is? We’re just too damn humble, maybe too afraid or too accustomed to leaving ourselves a path out of the pain of possible failure. Instead of talking about how amazing we are for doing something like writing a novel, or creating a business, making artwork, singing in front of an audience, we say, “we’ll see how it goes.” Whatever it is, I think we need to start being a little more like Muhammed Ali; a little more over the top belief… well, not even belief… knowing and telling how it’s going to be.
Instead of dipping our feet in the water, gauging that temperature. Let’s just jump the… fff … in and before we do it, tell the World to watch as we amaze them.
SHOW AND TELL
I used to look at Muhammed Ali and people like him, who brag, who are boisterous and loud about their greatness, and about what they’re going to do with a certain level of disdain. It always bugged me. I would look at them with a little bit of annoyance.
“Alright pal, take it down a notch…”
I’m sure we’ve all had similar thoughts at times. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to change my personality and start chanting wherever I go,
“the champ is here, the champ is here!”
Yet, if someone asks me about my story, about what I’m doing, I need to change my talk a bit. I want to say that I’m writing a novel that’s going to blow people away. I am writing the greatest mystery series of all time. My stories are going to reach the level of notoriety that surpasses even Harry Potter.
Believe me, this is hard for me to say right now, it’s hard to brag. It’s often even been hard to accept praise given to me. So, this is a whole step up. Time for myself, and for all of us to change how we talk about ourselves and about our dreams.
Here’s a different way to look at it. If we look at someone like Elon Musk. Founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, basically if you haven’t heard of him you have to immediately get on that. Anyway, he’s not exactly the most articulate, or the greatest of speakers. He doesn’t have the charisma that Muhammed Ali had. He’s not loud and rambunctious. He’s quiet, seems introverted, and maybe even a little socially awkward at times. Yet, he’s no less impressive as Muhammed Ali.
He didn’t pour $180 million into his dream of SpaceX because he thought they MIGHT shoot a rocket into space, or that they MIGHT one day reach Mars. He never speaks about going to Mars as, “we’ll see how it goes.” He’s going. There’s no question, and you know what, I believe him. Watch an interview with him and there might not be the loud presence, but his presence is the same. There is no doubt. There is no fear. Not when he talks about what he’s doing and what he’s going to do. It’s happening. Period.
What about your dream? Is there a fallback? Throw it out the window. The fallback is just you not fully believing where you’re going.
Do you have hope? Will you try your best? Screw hope, it’s either happening or it’s not. And Screw trying, Right, Yoda?
“Do or do not, there is no try.”
Ok, who saw the new Star Wars Trailer? So excited!
In the end, maybe for writing it’s, “show, don’t tell,” but when it comes to our dreams I guess it’s a little bit of both, Showing and Telling. We’ve got to show people and show ourselves we’re serious through action. And when we talk about our dreams, we have to tell people not what we hope, and not what we think might become, but what will happen. We have to be ready to tell a perfect stranger, that they are currently in the presence of a legend. They are currently talking to the greatest of all time.
No more humble.
“The champ is here! The champ is here!”
Here are Ch5 – Ch10 for my novel,
“The Adventures of Jewel: an experiment in expression.”