The Importance of Failure

At some point you’re going to fail. It’s inevitable, especially if you’re a writer.  It’s what you do with failure that really counts. If you accept that’s an opportunity, (or ‘crisortunity’ as I’ve learned from Homer Simpson), then you can use it as a platform to succeed upon while learning something about yourself in the process.

I recommend that everyone watch JK Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech on the importance of failure. It’s a lesson we all need a reminder of every once in a while.

Why We Love Superheroes

I have always loved superheroes and their stories. The kick-ass powers! The gadgets! The spandex costumes?

When I started writing The Dark Matter Chronicles, I couldn’t help but be influenced by the comic book heroes I grew up with it. When I imagined the abilities of the Arcana—the curators of knowledge in the known universe—I was aiming to write about something I love.

So what is it about superheroes that draws us to them?

They defy limits.

Nothing is impossible. Superheroes can defy everything from gravity to death, and that helps us believe that perhaps our limits can be conquered too.

Good triumphs over evil.

Life isn’t fair and sometimes the bad guys win, but not in a world that has a superhero. In that world justice is served. And I think all of us want to believe that evil won’t prevail, even if it’s not always true.

They give us something to aspire to.

Superheroes sacrifice themselves, their wants, and their needs for others. They are the pinnacle of morality and often remind us that good is a choice—a choice that we too can make.

There will be someone to help us.

Just when you think the victim is done for, the superhero swoops in saves the day. There is a little part in all of us that wants to believe that if we’re in trouble, someone will be there to break our fall. While we don’t have

The possibility of acquiring superpowers.

I would love to wake up tomorrow and discover that I have awesome faster than a speeding bullet, gravity-defying ninja powers. But until I figure out how to harness dark matter/get a bit by radioactive animal/find out I’m from Mars, I’m going to have to stick to writing. And knowing my luck, I’ll get bit by something lame.

Watch out! Here comes The Procrastinator! ADD Powers Activate!

OMG, squirrel!

What I’ve Learned from ‘A Game of Thrones’/George R.R. Martin

I wasn’t planning on writing another ‘What I’ve Learned’ post so soon after the one I wrote for The Hunger Games, but since ‘A Game of Thrones’ is one of my favorite books, I couldn’t resist.  It’s been a good couple of weeks for literature and book adaptations.

Because I started reading the works of George R.R. Martin after I started writing my own books, (The Dark Matter Chronicles and another fantasy series I’ve got planned), I can’t say I’ve been directly influenced by his work. Having said that, I’ve found that Martin does two things that all writers should do but often don’t.

Kill Your Darlings.

If you’re a writer, this is a key piece of advice that you’ll hear again and again. No one does this better than Martin because no one in his books is beyond the reach of death. A single stroke of a red pen, and they’re cut. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Sure, it’s nice when the good guys prevail and get out a difficult situation unharmed, but it’s not realistic. Good and evil aren’t divided by clear-cut lines, and in a high-stakes situation like war, (I’m going to quote Arya here), ‘anyone can be killed’. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: when you write, you have to tell the truth. And the truth is that anyone can suffer.

But the concept of ‘kill your darlings’ goes beyond that. It doesn’t just apply to the fate of your characters, it applies to your favorite sentences, chapters, that plot twist you thought would be interesting but has no real place in your book. You have to be willing to let go of it all. Why? Because like Martin, you should write in service of your story.

The Story Comes First.

Not you as a writer. Not your wants or your agenda or your plans. The story always comes first and it’s your responsibility to write in service of it. This is why you kill your darlings, go in directions you’re not entirely comfortable with, and spend hours and hours rewriting a few sentences to get them right. It might be easier to write whatever you want and not be concerned with what the story demands, but it’s certainly not better. Writing is a difficult art. It’s not about who you are and your ego; it’s about creating something of value, something that enriches the lives of others.

It isn’t an easy to thing to do. The outline for the second book of The Dark Matter Chronicles is complete…with one exception. There’s an event that I’ve been debating about including for a while now because it has significant repercussions in the third book and will really hurt some of my main characters. It will likely be one of the most difficult scenes I have to write. Even as I write this post, I’m trying to think of ways around it. But I know it must be done because the story will be better for it. I might be unpopular as a result, but the story will be better. That’s what’s required if I want to write in service of my craft rather than myself.

So, with that in mind, I hope you all enjoy the season premiere of A Game of Thrones tonight. If the brilliant plot lines, constant twists, and fantasy world don’t get you, then remember this: it has dragons. Dragons!