Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
For a beginning Indie writer, this is often the hardest lesson to learn and yet the most crucial. I have been that person, holding my glass or plate at a party when someone asks me, “Oh, so you’re writing a book. What is it about?” You know what I did, right? What so many others do. I began with the traditional, “Well, there’s this…” and proceeded to nervously/cheerfully vomit a long, incredibly convoluted chain of scenes, describing chapter after chapter after chapter.
Before we go any further, please consider this post my personal apology to every poor bastard I have tossed my literary cookies on over the past ten years or so. I have learned my lesson, after butt-loads of denial and trying to do everything in my power to cling to my tattered, vainglorious robes of rebellion and chaos.
Here’s the truth: You are not Mad Max. I am not Mad Max. We are not in the desert. If you want to succeed as a writer, Indie or otherwise, you cannot look at self-publishing and the Indie world as some lawless dystopian free-for-all. Please do not burn your narrative bra, give everyone the finger, and jump up and down shrieking, “I do what I want when I want! I am an artist! I don’t need the man and his stinking literary rules! Eff you all! Effing eff you, I say!” No matter how much fun it is.
Now. Lesson number one, for those that need it as badly as I did:
Regurgitating content is not discussing plot; it is the act of throwing up technicolor chunks of your imagination all over some unsuspecting stranger. Throwing up on them like a nauseous kid with a gut full of milk and cotton candy does on that poor bastard sitting beside them on the tilt-a-whirl.
The hardest thing for my rebellious little heart to learn has been that writing, to some degree, is formulaic. No, wait. Let me clarify. Good writing is formulaic. Whether it’s the hero/heroine’s journey or a three-act screenplay model (Google them for a looky-loo) or some other template you’re using, a story needs structure to be a legitimate story. And you and I need to understand what we are writing and what message we are trying to convey. We must write with a sense of purpose to succeed. Face it, if you cannot summarize what you’re writing about, how in the hell is anyone else going to get it? Osmosis? Auto-neurotic (pun intended) asphyxiation? Perhaps a random act of kindness from God or the Universe? Yeah, good luck with that and, if it works, run to the closest convenience store and buy a lottery ticket. Seriously, do it.
—Einstein was right, you know. Eff all that frustration and rebellion! Eff the effing of everything! It is time to retract that middle finger and put on your thinking cap. Use all that energy to prepare for your montage training scene, after which you shall kick some serious literary ass.
“Dun dun dun dun. Dun dun dun. Dun dun duuuuuuuunnnnnn!”
(Yep. That’s me singing the intro to Eye of the Tiger just for you, Sunshine.)
Go. Get out there and start learning so you can make Mama proud.