Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What do Dragons and Mice have to do with Writing?

Turns out dragons and mice are very relevant. Lancelot Schaubert's piece (November 29, 2022 on Writer Unboxed) is well worth a read. He begins by relaying stories of dragons and mice who -- when ignored -- only become bigger problems. Wonderful metaphors as to how ignoring or avoiding issues with writing or submitting can become major hindrances.

Here are some good points and quotes from his writing. Make sure to read the comments and his responses, too.

"In every medieval occidental story about dragons — actually, even in some of the medieval luck dragon stories — a dragon unattended grows. When it’s an occidental dragon, your own and the dragon’s greed and anxiety and unattended consequences worsen...How do you think Smaug got so powerful? No homely lakelander wanted to deal with a dragon. No dwarf would harm his hoard."

You really need to read the piece about the mice infestation. (Ugh, but a few wry laughs.) After waterproofing the basement of a Brooklyn apartment, the super found that small rodents had nowhere to go but up -- to closets and even stovetops in the units above. If you'll pardon the pun, the best laid plans of mice and men can go dreadfully awry. 

What followed were, " Traps. Seals. Cleaning. Disinfecting. Throwing away a British stone weight in flour and another in rice and crackers...But we faced the closet and started, simply, by throwing away a small bag of sugar. One half-empty bag. And the dragon got smaller."

And now, to writing. We've all avoided notes, manuscripts that need work, the submission process. And my favorite -- outlines.

As Schaubert says, "You’re avoiding [an outline] because it’s easier to figure out the first draft as you go along and because outlines are freaking hard, annoying, generally unrewarding work. And yet having one will make our first drafts all the cleaner and requiring of so much less revision." Don't you hate it when people know what's going on in your head?

That manuscript dragon? "Turn and face the foe — do the hardest thing in the direction of the highest good, highest beauty, highest calling...Which way? they [the seekers of the ring] once asked Frodo, who said: Towards danger, but neither too rashly nor too straight."

Easy to write, much harder to do. A child's play is also work. It's how they learn -- not just to do, but to interact with their own mind and with others.

Schaubert asks, "How can you make and fail and make and fail and make and fail and make?"

I would say start with a very short list. If it's too long, it'll be too overwhelming. That which overwhelms gets ignored.

I've been trying to talk myself into submitting to agents or small publishers rather than "only" self-publishing. Self-publishing and marketing (especially for 30 books) are hard. But submitting to others is the big unknown, with its own frustrations. And fears.

I used to edit others' work more than I do now. When nonfiction writers would say they didn't know how to start putting together what they had researched, I would say something I learned from another editor. "You can edit crap, but you can't edit a blank page."

So, I won't get rejection letters (much less acceptance) until I submit. As I tell fiction writers who say they have no time, one page a day is a 365-page book each year. I just have to do it.

Reference: Face the Dragon. Face the Mice. A Sonnet in WU Form
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