Posted tagged ‘poetry’

5 Books New Writers Want to Write, but Shouldn’t

December 12, 2012

First Tango would like to thank everyone for happy wishes on his excuse for indulging in drunken debauchery birthday.  Here is the recap:

Lots of women.

lesbian women

 

Lots of alcohol.

lesbian drinking

 

Lots of lesbian groping.

lesbian groping

 

And unfortunately for some, lots of regret my friend.

lesbian regret
“My horoscope said this would happen.”

 

So what did Tango learn?

Josette Weiss knows her way around a gun (and a grand jury).

-Asking Kylie “Kicking Wing” Walker to explain the meaning of the word “Enharmonic” may lead to you getting cracked over your head with the business end of a wine bottle.

RB Clague’s incredibly inspirational book “Daisy” is based on a real cow that he insists on bringing with him everywhere he goes.

-Daisy can not hold her liquor.

Brandie Buckwine will apparently ‘cut a bitch’ for unzipping Tango’s pants.

Annie Walls believes zombies are real and admitted to ‘taking one of the fuckers out’ as recently as Friday.

-And right before cutting himself a more than generous slice of Tango’s birthday cake, Michael Marshall confessed to a string of crimes that would tie up the FBI’s resources for decades.

For the unimportant losers unfortunate ones who were not invited able to attend this year’s party, do not worry.  For Tammy Parks filmed everything.   She is deciding whether to release it as an unedited documentary or a grainy sex tape.

Now for the business of the day.

Tango knows.  You’ve taken a writing course, attended a writers workshop, read a writing blog or joined a discussion in a facebook writing group (leading to you refreshing the page every 20 seconds to see how many ‘likes’ you received for your insightful replies).

In all cases, Tango is sure someone at some point has made the magical, reaffirming, confidence-boosting statement that ‘everyone has a book inside them waiting to get out’.

While Tango does not disagree with this, it is important to remember that this does not mean it’s a book that should get out.  For your pleasure, Tango has compiled a list of these books he feels you should never, ever write:

 

1.  The book about that weird dream you had.

weird dream

“Wow.  Cosmic.”

Tango knows.  You had too much Tequila or too many room temperature tacos.  You fell asleep on the couch.  Before you knew it, you were in a forest, holding a mystical glowing sword and battling a dragon.  The dragon was shooting lasers out of its eyes and lightning bolts out of its mouth.   An alien in a tuxedo was riding on the dragon’s back and making arrogant threats.  There was a wizard in a smoking jacket, crouching next to you with an AK-47, trying his best to convince you to not be afraid because apparently you are the chosen one and the alliance’s last hope.  There’s a princess you have to save, so she can have sex with you.  Unfortunately, she’s a vampire/werewolf hybrid and the only way to save her is to find the mystical orb of…

Stop.

First of all, contrary to what we like to believe, dreams are not secret decoded messages from our inner writer trying to lead us down the right path.  They are sadistic ‘fuck yous’ from our subconscious and unfortunately for people who like to use them for inspiration, unreliable.  In other words, it’s your brain fucking with you because it has nothing better to do while you’re passed out and slobbering on your pillow.

homer sofa

Of course there is a chance that something from your dream can spark the imagination.  A very good chance.  Many great stories were inspired by the simple act of dozing off.  But it’s one thing to take one aspect of a dream and build a story around it and another to try to retell that entire shitty R.E.M. stageplay and pass it off as a great book idea.  Chances of your brain hand-delivering you a best seller in your sleep are about the same as you NOT waking up just before the princess gives you that well-deserved blowjob you earned for rescuing her.  It’s more likely that the great story you remember, with the kick-ass characters and super-original plot line, is just bits and pieces of an elaborate, hallucinogenic puzzle that was never meant to be put together.

Remember:  There are dreams (goals, hopes, aspirations) and there are dreams (the shit we see when we sleep).  Don’t confuse the two.  You dream of being a writer.  Your dreams are the imaginary place where wizards carry assault weapons and insanely attractive people can’t help but find you interesting.

dream girl

“You do know this is a dream right?”

 

2.  The ‘Fuck-you-for-shitting-on-my-great-idea’ novel.

fu3

You’re sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and someone (in the interest of making conversation) asks you what the hell you’ve been up to lately.  Wanting to appear as if you’ve really got some interesting shit going on in your life, you admit that you’re thinking about writing a fiction novel.  On cue, everyone leans in, like a group of doctors examining the mental state of a person that just woke up from a six-year coma.

Of course they want to know what you plan to write about.  And of course you tell them.  It’s a story about a girl, with special powers, that falls in love with a boy but he’s from a a different group of people with special powers and those two groups have been at war with each other for centuries, only this time the fate of the universe is at stake forcing them to choose between their love and the fate of the universe.

Then you sit back and wait for them to tell you how great and wonderful you are and how much money you’re gonna make.

But what you get is an awkward beat of silence.

Before you know it, everyone is nodding and scribbling notes on a pad.  At least that’s what it feels like.  After a round of tepid responses like,  ‘Hmmm.  That’s interesting.’, or the insanely aggravating “Hey, Twilight worked.  You never knowwwww.’, you’re about to blow a fucking gasket.

Intent on proving all of those assholes wrong, you sit down and pound out this shit storm of a boring abomination of a story, ignoring every sign that tells you the entire premise went off the rails in the conception stage.  No matter how many times someone points out to you that the same levitation spell the heroine used to kill the villain and save the world in the last chapter of the book, could have been used when she first confronted the villain in chapter one, like a mad scientist on Red Bull, you press on.

mad scientist

“Fools!  I’ll show them.  I’ll show them all.  Bwahahahahahaha!”

What usually happens is 120,000 words, a stack of rejection letters and several ‘unfriended’ facebook friends later you find some shitty cover art and end up self-publishing your steamy pile of random thoughts.  Six months later you’ve got two sales, and you’re scouring the ‘Amazon FAQ’ section searching for a way to delete their mean-spirited ‘1 star’ reviews.

Never write out of spite. 

Coming up with story ideas is sort of like deciding on the right way to approach a hot chick in a bar.  For every good idea, you’re gonna have about twenty clunkers.  And that’s okay.  Novels can take years to write.  Before you invest that kind of time, it’s in your best interest to find out if your great idea is worth pursuing.  That chick at the bar isn’t going anywhere.  She or someone just like her will be there next week.  We all feel compelled to defend our work.  Take your time and write a story that defends itself.

 

3.  The Vampire novel with a ‘twist’.

twilightfat

They’re vampires, but instead of sucking blood, they suck your energy, or your aura, or your oxygen or your balls.  They have powers, but these are different powers.  Think ‘Spiderman with fangs’.  Instead of coming out at night, they come out during the day and sleep at night.  Instead of being allergic to garlic, they’re allergic to cilantro.

Trust Tango, every shit idea with vampires has been done or is about to be done.

vampire2

Not saying you can’t write a good, original vampire novel that is worth reading, but focus on the story, not the gimmick.  If it is a well written story, with good characters, good plot and doesn’t bore the shit out of me, Tango will read your vampire novel.

On second, thought, Tango will probably not.  Tango is sick of Vampire novels.

 

4.   The genre novel you were too lazy to research.

medusa

One day you wake up and realize that it’s about time someone did a wonderful novel about ancient Aztec/Asian/Greek/Egyptian/Mayan/Norse/Persian/Native American/Aboriginal mythology.  So off to Wikipedia you go.  You skim the article, jot down some notes, create a super cool protagonist, decide which god of what element will be your villain and away you go.  This shit practically writes itself.

Slow down my friend.

There is a reason Wikipedia entries are not considered valid sources by university professors, publishers, the general public and just about every reputable news outlet that ever existed.

The shit may not be accurate.

Some of it is.  A lot of it is.  But doing one-stop fact checking at wiki is like acquitting a defendant at a murder trial because his mom said “In my heart, I know my son couldn’t have tortured and dismembered all those women.”

lecter

“You tell ’em Ma’!”

When you write a certain genre you have to be aware that you’re targeting people who like to read that genre.   And a lot of them know their shit.  When you start ad-libbing or demonstrate that you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, you’re going to piss people off.

Nothing screams ‘fraud’ like reading historical fiction where 16th century royals are walking around saying shit like:

-“So after court, Lord Frumpelroy is like all in my face, like ‘we should hook up’ or something, and I’m like whateverrrrrrrrr.”

-“Ewww.  Doesn’t he have like the plague or something?”

-“I know right?  Like that is soooooo 1495 A.D.”

-“Looooooooser.”

No matter how obscure the subject, you can pretty much rest assured there’s a legion of rabid followers, historical geeks and fan-boys primed to call you out on your shit.

Don’t believe me?  Okay.  Set your story in a major city and claim that Snotfart’s Diner in midtown is known for serving the best pancakes in the city.   Chances are, you’ll get an angry email from some loser saying that obviously you’ve never been to Snotfart’s because anyone that’s ever eaten at Snotfart’s would know that at Snotfart’s they’re called ‘flapcakes’!

So unless you’re doing a spoof or some alternate reality mash-up, be as mindful as possible of the mannerisms, style of dress, language, settings, customs and beliefs associated with the setting and/or genre.  Believe it or not, people in the 19th Century didn’t speak like people in the 21st Century.

salem witch

“Widow Gladstone, this court hereby finds you guilty of the crime of witchcraft!  Any last words?”

“Eat a dick.”

Do your homework.  Know what the fuck you (and your characters) are talking about.

 

5.  The book that your ‘characters’ wrote for you.

happy writer

We have all heard this before.

“I write what my characters tell me to.”

“I wanted to kill my secondary character, but she won’t let me!”

“I want her to be with Ryan, but my protagonist keeps telling me she’s gay!”

“My antagonist wants to do a stand-up routine in the middle of chapter 6!”

Just kill me.

I know what you are saying—Tango needs to understand that everyone has a writing process and sometimes writers will say things like this in order to describe how connected with the process they are.  They don’t mean that characters are really talking to them.  Except…

A lot of them will tell you, they do mean it.

Not in an abstract, metaphysical, hypothetical sense.  No.  These people actually spend parts of their waking lives telling anyone in earshot that they have no control over the direction of the very shit they are obligated, by definition, to have absolute and unquestioned control over.

It’s cute.  It’s romantic.  It makes you sound like you live a bohemian lifestyle in a bustling artistic community where people on the sidewalk spontaneously burst into song, and where you spend your nights sucking hukkahs with spoken word poets and that mousy vegetarian girl named Willow that won’t eat anything that isn’t organic.

Willow

“Does that have meat in it?  I’m serious.  Because I won’t eat it if it has meat in it.”

But you don’t live a Bohemian lifestyle in a bustling artistic community.  You live in Kat-piss Pike, Indiana.  You have a mortgage, a shitty job and kids that won’t stop bickering long enough for you to collect your fucking thoughts.  So you free write.  You spill the words on the page and 400 or so pages later, you triumphantly type, ‘THE END’.  At this point, you know you really should slow down, look things over, do your edits and make sure your story didn’t go off the deep end halfway through.  But you don’t.  And when readers question why your main character suddenly goes into Shakespearean monologue, or checks her text messages during a gun fight or decides to abandon her life long goal of becoming a doctor to join a troupe of traveling mimes, you just fall back on your built-in defense.  You smile and say, “It’s what she told me she wanted to do.”

Are you a writer or a fucking courtroom stenographer?

Your story.  Your characters.  Your rules.

Your characters eat, sleep, shit, fuck, live, die or spontaneously combust because YOU told them to; not because they all gathered around and took a vote.

Tango does not know what goes on in your head.  It is possible that in order to get past a part of your book that has you stuck, you have an imaginary dialogue with a character and the answer comes to you in the form of a reply from this fictional persona.  Just keep in mind, this is a technique.  It is not magical.

It is okay to connect with the ‘idea’ of your characters.  But just because the voices in your head told you to do something, doesn’t mean you should.  Repeat this ten times:  My characters don’t tell me what to do.  I tell them.

crazy2

“My protagonist told me to tell you to go fuck yourself.”

ALWAYS be the one in control.

Your story.  Your characters.  Your rules.

 

***BONUS***

6.  Your collection of shit poetry (otherwise known as the ‘FREE PASS-labor-of-love’ project).

bad poetry book

Please do not hate Tango for this.  I love poets.  They are necessary and the best ones are very, very, very fucking good at it.  The reason they are good at it is probably because they don’t just slap words on a page and call it poetry.  They study the craft just like anyone else who wants to be good at something.  They probably read a lot of other poets, or study other forms of literary expression.

I’m pretty sure they don’t just wake up one day and say, “Yep.  I think I wanna write poetry today and sell it for a profit.”

You can’t half-ass something just because to you, it seems easy.  You can’t just throw words together and assume that they are compelling to other people.  Poetry, more than any other type of writing is an instrument of ‘right now’, in-the-moment, free, unrestrained expression.  It’s personal.  Therefore people take it personal when you don’t like it.  Even if they did a lousy job.

The tricky part is, that on the surface, there appears to be no rules.  And if there are rules, a lot of poets seem to have no problem breaking them.  Poetry can rhyme or not rhyme.  It can be lengthy or short.  Exuberant or melancholy.  One thing it should not be is shitty.

bad poetry

You do a disservice to every true poet that respects their craft when you don’t respect the reader enough to put out good writing.  Yes.  Tango said it.  No matter how personal.  No matter how passionate.  No matter how controversial, timely, or precious… your poetry needs to be good.  Otherwise it is shit.

You don’t get a free pass because your best friend died of a drug overdose which led you to write a poem about drug overdose. If you believe your shit poetry should be praised even though it reads like you were on drugs when you wrote it, you’re a misguided, conceited prick hack.  Sorry about your friend.  I’m sure that was a tough time for all involved.  God rest his soul.  Your poetry sucks.

There’s no rule that says bad work is immune to being slammed because it came from a spiritual, pure, or well-intended place.

Now I’m no poetry expert but I know what I like.  I like writing that either entertains me or makes me think.  If your poem does neither of those, then it’s not very good.  If you’re gonna write a poem and take the time to put it on display, basically saying, ‘Hey.  Look at what I just wrote.  Whaddaya think?’  The least you could do is make sure it’s worth reading.  Make sure it entertains or at least provokes thought—other than thoughts of me killing you.

willow2

“I swear to God, if you post one more of your fucking sonnets in my writers group, I will END you!”

Simple test.  Read it to yourself.  Would you honestly spend your hard earned money on that shit if the author was some random person on facebook instead of you?  If not, start over.

For example, Tango will now share with you a poem he wrote today:

Lost Season

you expect more from the ones that you love

not going to ever have trouble

won’t have trouble

they’re faster, quicker

You know what we’re doing

I love

and I die

I’m frustrated because I love them so much

And I don’t like where we are.

understand this

Now they’re coming

We’ve got to rise up

no question

But that’s not going to help us

Did you like that?  I sincerely hope not.  Because all I did was go to FoxSports.com and take bits and pieces from a feature article where Magic Johnson is bitching about the current state of the L.A. Lakers basketball team.  Took all of five minutes.

Boom.  Instant ‘Shit Poetry’ classic.  50 or 60 more of these turds and I’ve got a ‘Shit Poetry’ Collection ready for print.

Hurray Me!

thumbs up

“Poetry is my life!”

Bottom line:  If I can copy and paste some shit from a random website and come up with something that’s just as good as some shit you actually took time to write, you’re probably doing it wrong.  A lot of people take that form of writing very seriously and I’m sure it doesn’t help when you come along with your half-assed ramblings and piss on everything they stand for.

No free fucking pass.  Poetry is just like any other art form.  It needs to be good.

Otherwise… it’s shit.

And I have every right to call you out on it.

crappy poetry

So listen to Tango.  Do not burden us with your efforts to write these books, even if your muse tells you to.

Write good books.

Fuck your muse.

Muse

“Uh, sorry.  All of my shitty ideas involve vampires.”