Editor’s Note: Nate Southard’s new novel, Red Sky, goes up for pre-order next week via Thunderstorm Books. To promote the event, Nate is on a Blog tour this week. Monday saw him at Lee Thomas’s place. Tuesday took him to Paul G. Tremblay’s cyber-home. Today finds him slumming here. Tomorrow finds him haunting Tim Lebbon’s site. Take it away, Nate!
A few weeks back I went to Day of the Drags. This event, organized by a local car club, is a day for pre-1964 American-made cars to race each other. Sitting in the stands, I had the time of my life. I may not be the biggest car guy, and I will neither confirm nor deny that I can change the oil in my ’99 Ford Escort (awesome ride, I know), but there’s something incredible about seeing a 1930’s Ford do 120 miles per down a quarter-mile.
Walking around the grounds, I took some time to just check out the cars. I love me a ’32 Coupe or a ’49 Merc. Even a ’50 Styleline gets my juices flowing. These are beautiful cars, nice and smooth and full of character, a reminder of the days before the muscle cars came and tried to shove everything to the side. I like my classics a certain way, though. Keep your chrome and your shiny paint, your hubcaps that shine so bright I can see my reflection. I like my old cars ratty, a layer of flat black with some pinstriping over top. If it’s a deuce, I like it rusted. Throw those stripes down right on the rust, baby! Gimme a louvered hood on a ’50 Lincoln, and I’ll tell you it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. What matters most to me are the sound, the feel, and the ride. If the fucking car can WORK, then it’s a good one.
And getting that car to work takes effort. A deuce isn’t going to blow 120 on a drag strip right out of the box, especially not 78 years after it rolled off an assembly line. These beautiful rat rods are monsters Doc Frankenstein would have loved and feared. Grab an engine here, a transmission there. Engines are built and rebuilt. Unnecessary parts are stripped away and tossed. Don’t need it? Get rid of it. Anything to make it go faster.
And the cats who build and drive these metal monsters take pride in their work. Ask ‘em a question, and I promise you they’ll be able to answer it in detail. These folks didn’t pay a shop 60k to build them something out of fiberglass. They rescued their ride from a barn and turned it into a workhorse, and they deserve every ounce of pride they feel, because they’re the ones who logged the hours.
Can you see where all of this ties in to writing?
There’s this old saying, “Writing is rewriting.” That saying is old because there’s enough truth in it to stand the test of time. It’s not enough to toss off a few thousand words and proclaim it a story. If you want to do that, go ahead. There are plenty of places that pay in exposure or one cent-per-word. Maybe somebody on a message board will proclaim you a writer worth watching. Of course, no one will watch you, because you’re landing in penny markets that nobody reads anyway.
Hey, sorry if that hurts your feelings. I figured you’d rather hear the truth.
If any writer wants to make something of both themselves and their writing, it takes work. It takes draft after draft and hour after hour. One of my favorite novels, a debut that came out from a major press a few years back and landed on Mr. Keene’s top ten list for that year, took ten years to write and dozens of drafts, I’m told. When the publisher asked for a second novel one year later, the author put nose to grindstone and did the same thing in a compressed time period. It’s like a mechanic working hours and hours to get an engine thrumming just right. It takes time, and it takes effort.
Because less face it, most of us are neither genius nor savant. We’re craftsmen, taking bits and pieces and putting them together, testing to see how they work. It takes time, and it takes effort. And every last second is worth it.
Here’s an example that might not suck… This past spring, I signed on to write a novella for an upcoming, unannounced anthology. I busted out my 20,000 words in about two weeks. Then I chunked the 17,000 words that didn’t work and started over. Before my June 1st deadline, I wrote six drafts of that novella, sometimes making drastic changes and sometimes minor ones. The first draft could have worked with a polish, but it wouldn’t have been the best thing I could write. I wouldn’t have been proud of it.
Currently, I’m writing a novel for the fifth time. This isn’t the fifth draft, mind you. This is the fifth time I’ve started over from page one, with each attempt being better than the last, keeping just a little more from the previous attempt as it gets closer to being the novel I want it to be. Why bother doing this? Simple. Because I care about what I do. I want to have a certain amount of pride in everything I release. More importantly, I want to give what fans I have the best stories I can give them. Nothing less will do.
So that’s the deal, folks. Nose to the grindstone and work, work, work. Yeah, at a certain point it’s going to come down to things like marketing and who you know, but none of that is going to matter if you’re churning out mediocre words. Now get to that keyboard and WORK! Pedal to the metal, baby.
Next Monday, November 1st, my debut novel Red Sky will be available for pre-order. It’s a gritty, grisly tale of a bank heist gone wrong and the terrible things the perpetrators find while trying to flee through the deserts of New Mexico. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I hope you’ll head over to Thunderstorm Books and reserve a copy. It’s a limited edition, so there may not be copies available when the book is released early next year.
Thanks for your time. If you’d like to follow my blog tour, you can find me tomorrow at Tim Lebbon’s place. I promise that story will be a good chance to laugh at me. It’s about my encounter with an imaginary intruder.