Thanks to Vincent Chong for another amazing cover. Somehow these book releases never feel real to me until he sends me the art. And then, oh boy, does it sink in.
We’re still on track for a summer release, surprisingly enough, but I won’t have a date until the final edit is done. Until then, it’s just toil and panic in equal measures.
For now, let’s just say SOON(tm).
Somewhere in the dark heart of Brooklyn, the Mast Brothers are making chocolate.
Not just any chocolate, but the intense, vivid chocolate of my most fevered cacao-inspired dreams. Using the powers bestowed upon them by their mighty beards, they personally handle every step of production from beans to sublime final product.
The experience comes in waves once you put a piece in your mouth. The snap and temper is perfect when you pluck a square from the slightly glossy bar, and the melt when it hits your tongue is gradual and smooth. The first taste is that of any excellent dark chocolate, but as the melt progresses, the flavor simply unfolds in your mouth, unpacking itself into something that could not possibly have been contained in that one square. Most bars are blended with aromatics and spices that perfectly complement the sophisticated chocolate choice for the bar, and the finish of the cacao itself is so deep that it actually becomes a berry note at the end.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it will change the way you experience chocolate. Seriously.
I’m down to five bars from the original ten, which is sad. But at the same time, I only eat these with friends, so that’s five amazing shared experiences down, and five to go. And when I run out, well, I know where they come from.
And now, so do you.
There are three things that you need to write a book, but only one of them really matters.
You need the what, which is the format and the story idea.
You need the how, which is your craft and the sweat it takes to wield it.
And you need the why.
This is the big one. Why are you writing this story? This book? At all?
The why is your guide and your muse all rolled into one, and the reason you started putting words to paper in the first place. It’s the thing that keeps your ass in the chair and what gives you a rush when you see it on the page. Without answering the why, everything else ends up haphazard or mechanical.
The best way to talk about the why is through example. Let me tell you about mine.
Like most of you, I grew up reading every book I could get my hands on. I wasn’t looking for anything more than entertainment and escapism, so to me, they were just books and nothing more. But somewhere along the line, I started running into Books with a capital B. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. The Belgariad by David Eddings. The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart.
They started in the same way as every other book, but after a few chapters, something happened that I had never experienced before. There was a synergy between the story and the characters and ME that generated pure electricity. Moments of stunning clarity and emotional highs that were completely new to me.
It changed my relationship with stories, but more than that, it changed the way I felt about myself. It allowed me to believe that it really was possible to change the world and do important things that mattered to you. When Bad Things happened, they weren’t beating you down, they were simply the challenges that were always there in a good story, and that they were in need of a good ass-kicking. And that I was capable of delivering it.
Those feelings and realizations changed my outlook on life. I like to think they made me a better person. Those moments are what what I look for as a reader, and represent the gold standard against which I measure what I write. Attempting to give that experience to other people is my Why, and ultimatly what drives me to do what I do.
You have a Why. Maybe you’ve never thought about it in those terms, but it’s there. Get clarity around the why and your writing will move to a new level of effectiveness, your plotting will have new purpose, and hammering out that prose will be that much easier.
Never forget that the how and the what are always in service to the why.
I’m going to leave you with some homework. Spend the next 18 minutes watching this TED Talk with Simon Sinek. When you hear product, think story. When you hear leader, think author. Think about your why.
Cher just grabbed her blanket from across the room, pulled it to her bed, and then proceeded to create what I can only describe as a boogeyman shelter. It’s broad daylight.
It comforts me to know that this is what I can look forward to in the event of a zombie apocalypse.