If you've ever so much as pondered writing a book -- maybe in the shower while your deep conditioner is doing its two-minute soak, or on the middle of a road trip at 3 a.m. when everyone in the car is drooling and the road becomes a magical licorice highway and you start to consider the overwhelming insignificance of your life and everything in it -- do your self a solid and read this.
How to become an Author, in 5 Incredibly Difficult Steps, by Robert Brockway
My wiseacre brother, Jeremy, sent it to me today. Incidentally, Jeremy also gave me a book called THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO JOURNALISM for my birthday. I think these are his ways of saying he loves me, but the jury is perpetually out.
Brockway is exactly right about a trillion and a half times. Perhaps most searingly, it's when he talks about the amount of research books take, even if what you're writing is total malarkey fiction. And yes, I just said malarkey, and no, I'm not 87. I just roll elderly, aight?
If you give a damn about the quality of the work at all, every other sentence means a pause for research. You write the word "steel" and then you have to stop, and wonder: "Is steel strong enough to do this? Wouldn't they have something better than steel in the future? Where is the future of the steel industry heading?" Six hours later, you're Googling "hardened mesh weaves" and "nano-tubes" just to finish the sentence: "Biff Largeblaster's sculpted cyborg abs glistened in the afterglow of the imploding time-vortex like a gargantuan bunch of manly ____ grapes."
Supreme Robert Brockway then goes on to explain how, after you've done all that research, you begin to "edit," which basically means "strategically loathe yourself more than you already do." Then you delete everything you researched.
For OBITCHUARY, I spent about a week looking up breeds of exotic snakes and bugs, their values based on pigmentation, the various ways in which people smuggle them into the country, the consistency of baby snake eggs. I consulted experts and read price charts. If you need to know the street hustle for a Labyrinth Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus), I'm your chick!
AND THEN I CUT IT ALL OUT. No snakes. Whatsoever.
Oh, just read the essay.