Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.
And that might work for some people. But if you have integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints or to wipe your ass.
Inhale the words fermenting on the pages.
Or cover them with shit and piss.
Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.
Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling.
I’m talking about structure.
I’m talking about form.
I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well.
I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head.
The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid.
How else are we going to invent new ways of telling stories—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?
Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?
Which leads to Step #1:
Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up—to use a cliché—try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. Continue reading