mechanics of writing

control is a strange thing. control is something that you don't know you want or even know you had until you lose it. as a writer, control is the ultimate thing i strive for. it's funny, i was never into writing very much as a kid; i was more into drawing. i would draw these intensely dark and vivid pictures that blended comic book styles with real world sensibilities in terms of proportion, angles, sizes and shades. i loved to draw. as a kid, and particularly as a highschool kid, i think i spent 90% of my spare time doing this. the other 10% was thinking about sex. usually it's the other way around for a highschool kid. at any rate, i loved to draw, because i always did the art for myself; there was never any intent to impress anyone else.

in grade 11, my teacher saw the art i was doing and suggested that since that was what i was interested in, that was what i should do. it was interesting, because i came back to the classroom one day after going to the washroom, and found her showing the whole class my drawings. it felt horrible at first, because my art book was like a diary to me. but i realized quickly that she was calling me out; getting me to start showing people my art, to stop being so insular. she was smart enough to realize that by grade 11, after years of art classes, i was talented enough to have made my own decisions on what art i wanted to do, or could do. not everyone is cut out for silk screening or pottery. and besides, i'd done that for years and i was over it. so she let me draw all year long, never once telling me i should follow the ciriculum. i was having a blast. then grade 12 came along and i had a different art teacher. she told me i had to follow the ciriculum. no choice about it. when i told her i hated pottery, she asked me what i liked to do, and i said i liked to draw. she then said i could draw pottery. i balked. i mean, i was in my last year of highschool and that's what she wanted me to do? i thought by now they would have given me more credit than that. and i realized that i had lost control. i never knew i had any until then. someone was telling me what i could and could not do with my art. so i quit on the very first day. as soon as she told me that, i nodded and smiled and walked right out of her classroom and deregistered and took a spare block.

in many ways, that was the best and worst decision i'd ever made. in that spare block, i would hang out in the library with my friends and we'd just goof off for the first couple of weeks. then for some inexplicable reason, i started writing. a friend of mine and i jokingly started collaborating on a fantasy book. you know the deal: swords and sorcery and dragons with hot chicks who could kick ass. (you know what's funny? the fact that some of the mot powerful female figures in art, like buffy, like xena, like ripley; women that kick ass, are created by geeky men. it's interesting.) we wrote like madmen; whipping out two hundred pages of medieval blood and guts with a splash of teenage hormonal indulgence. then we got to a point where we disagreed, and this is the problem with colaborating. you have to take into account what the other person is thinking or wants. needless to say, the book ended then and there. but my writing didn't.

the next thing i knew, i was whipping out short story after short story; some of them long and detailed, others short and sweet. they were all immitations, of course. i copied the styles of every single writer i had read. but it was fun. i was hooked. i would take my stories to the spare block and share them with my friends, who got a kick out of them. ever since then, i have been writing, and i have not drawn one single picture.

in a way, that's a shame, because i had loved to draw, but my writing has now taken place of that desire. i don't regret anything, because now i have more control than ever. i realized, after seeing the expression on my friends' faces after reading my stuff, that i don't ever want to be in a position where i can't do what i want to do. i now had control, not much compared to the grand scheme of things, but this one part of my life i could control. and i wasn't about to let go. and control is so important to a writer. being able to control what you write, how you present your writing, is ultimate. so many writers give up that control, like other types of artists, in order to be accepted into the mainstream. some writers don't compromise, and they still "make it," which is very admirable. but most don't.

control and compromise are very closely linked. for me, i have always refused to compromise my writing (except this one time, which i will explain in a bit). it may not be the best writing, it is definitely not the worst, but at least it is pure and honest and what i want to write. as a writer, or any other type of artist for that matter, you have to understand that in order to keep control, to not compromise, you will have to come to terms with the realization that you may live in artistic obscurity for your whole career. but that's a choice i'm willing to make. i am so sick and tired of "safe" books. i would read something, and think, wow, you know this might be good. but then i get bored, and i get bored because what i'm reading is utterly safe, despite the grand ideas behind it.

in the end, your writing is truly the only thing you can control. you can't control other people's tastes, you can't control a publisher's decisions, you can't control the markets; all you can control is what you put on the page. and if you refuse to compromise, you will ultimately succeed or fail on your own merits. and that's the gutsiest thing any artist can do. i have so much more respect for failures who have refused to compromise, than the successful who have. there is a line from a song the band refused did years ago, that says, "...rather be forgotten, then remembered for giving in."

just to switch gears now, here is an update on how my novels are progressing. i just got another review from a friend of mine on this is hardcore. he read the book in one sitting, took him about four hours which is what i wanted; it's a lean book. anyway, he said he expected something more at the end. and he's right; the problem is, i sort of changed the ending because i got cold feet with how i was going to end it. his reaction has made me change the ending back to the original one, which has more guts and expresses the ideas of the book more. that being said, this is hardcore is my attempt at a genre thriller, but even so, i tried to inject some ideas that are bigger than the book and the characters. by changing the ending, i copped out, which i'm ashamed of. it's sort of why i wrote this whole blog entry about not compromising.

why did i change the ending? i think part of the reason was i was sort of letting the annoyance of still being an obscure writer get to me. i thought, maybe i should write something tamer... something more appealing to the masses... these are things every writer will go through, but that's just your idiot side talking. don't listen to it. i single-handedly ruined the ending to this is hardcore because i compromised, and the worst part of it was, i did it to myself. no one made me. but don't worry, i'm changing it back. this is the one time i compromised that i spoke about earlier. i like to think of it as another lesson learned.

as for my untitled book, i have been thinking long and hard these past couple of weeks before putting the second half of the book to paper. what i've come to the conclusion is that i want to make the second half of the book as different as it can be, without totally losing the reader and the plot. the first half of the book is noisy; lots of dialogue, lots of action. the second half, will basically be like a calm, peaceful... music video. that's the best way i can describe it. there will be little to no dialogue for large portions of it. it should be exciting. we'll see if i can make it work.

the following is just a rough sample piece i wrote a while back from the as yet, untitled book (please forgive the format. for some reason it won't align properly, but i'm too lazy to try to fix it):

Under the overpass, under the snakes of concrete and rush of vehicles, the two of them stay. Hidden. Thick as thieves. Between concrete towers, trampling upon gravel, John catches up to Sean, grabbing her by the arm and spinning her around. He pins her against the cement column. Her giggles turn into full-bodied laughter. He looks at her as if he’s looking upon her for the first time. Never ceasing to amaze, she squirrels away from him and stumbles out into the sunshine. She treads through the ray of light as the hustle and bustle of life above moves at a frenetic pace. She’s a direct contrast against the stained and darkened graffiti that is set against the cold, solid wall. Like water and oil. Like Prada with a splash of Banksy. And he calls:
- Be my valentine.
- Ew, I hate you. You’re such a wannabe. She looks at him. You don’t even know me.
- I’m trying -
- You don’t know me. She watches the expression change on his face. Do you think I ignore you?
She turns her face into the sun and steps into light. From beneath the shadow of the overpass he too steps out into the sunshine. He has to shield his eyes from the piercing rays. It’s as if he can’t see. It’s a brighter day. Blazing. She comes into view, first in harsh light and then into soft focus. She’s a blurred pinkish twig, morphed into fully formed blossom before him. As if coming in from Babylon. He leans in so close to her, but she pulls back.
- Don’t be a stranger, Sean.
- I won’t.
She smiles at him from the corner of her mouth and turns away. And it’s then he ponders how sweet it is as she walks away in that accented walk of hers. Her dress, so light, flutters about her legs as she goes. It’s like she’s wearing nothing at all but she carries it well. Like she’s used to wearing less. But she’s not. She’s covered and full-bodied. Shielded. Invisible armour. Like gravity; you can’t see it but you know it’s there. So back through the harsh light she goes. And she doesn’t look back. All good things… before they even begin. He never really felt Thursdays like he did today.