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Write Your Novel From The Gut

Updated on November 13, 2009

Ari Sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration On You!

"Ari on my knee" oil pastel 8" x 10" by Robert A. Sloan. My furry muse sheds virtual cat hairs of inspiration in your direction!
"Ari on my knee" oil pastel 8" x 10" by Robert A. Sloan. My furry muse sheds virtual cat hairs of inspiration in your direction!

Use your Dirty Laundry!

People go into therapy to "get rid of their dirty laundry." 

Novelists wash out their dirty laundry, dry it, sort it, fold it and stack it neatly in the cabinets to use in writing novels.

Everything in life that ever hurt you in any way is going to come washing back up on its own in your novel. This happens to novels and their authors. It's not always on purpose. It's an intuitive process. 

When you write from the gut, your story has realism. The events in the story need not actually resemble yours externally. You can shake out the first grade bully whose face in dreams still makes you cringe, grow him up, put him in charge of an interstellar invasion force and have him snatching whole planets away from your sympathetic characters. Or give him a gun and let him go stalking their loved ones rather than just beating up their friends in the playground. 

The little girl who lied about you behind your back and got you in trouble so many times can be grown up into a terrifying betrayer... and the gender on either of those characters can change. Should change. Gender, age, religion, culture, everything about the real people in life who had their day when they seemed to have ruined it personally (and often on purpose) can be changed. 

Among other things, this will keep your third grade teacher from suing you for defamation of character or slander or libel or whatever the term is that means "It happened but you did them some substantial harm by making it public."

Every disaster you ever feared or worried about that didn't happen can get blown out of proportion and thrown on your character's heads. That's good writing. That's major conflict. What if there was a three-car pileup in the highway and on top of it you had the baby in the car and then this eighteen-wheeler jackknifed? 

Your road rage can turn into something like a feud involving swords depending on genre.

Where it gets deep is in characters' internal conflicts.

What do you do when you know someone who's in an abusive relationship? Where you can't help and that person you care about keeps going back to someone who rips their hearts and minds to pieces, may garnish this with physical violence or carry that to the scale where you think they might not survive to get to the hospital... and can't pull themselves out. Won't listen if you tell them that partner is bad news.

Or you remember a relationship that was like that and ruefully remember all the friends who cared but didn't say anything till it broke up because, well, you wouldn't listen anyway and they wanted to keep the friendship.

Or maybe it was an abusive boss and you could not afford to leave that job, which got worse every single day it seemed. More and more unreasonable demands, more work for less pay, more irrational blaming and penalties for things other people did and all that unfair overling's own mistakes dumped on your lap while you watch the scapegoat of the day get chosen for being flung out in the latest downsizing.

Those feelings, those rotten events in life, which the ones I'm mentioning are so common they are nearly generic, hang in memory and come back in nightmares. Things that mattered passionately when you were fifteen, or twenty, or whatever thirtyish age it happened. Dumb things you did for stupid but all too human reasons. 

The times you were completely wrong about a person count too. Either kicked someone who didn't deserve it and was actually a good friend in the teeth or found out that former ever so bestest friend was a betrayer setting you up for a major ripoff both tangible and emotional, then laughing at you for going along with it.

The times you were sick and thought you'd die.

The times someone you loved did die either suddenly or with long miserable sickness. The time your pet died -- if you're adult and had pets there was once a being in your life who didn't have a human lifespan and went into the ground long before you did, leaving you forever. Or got run over by a truck on the one time he got out of the dog pen, the way the collie I loved named Rex did when I was five.

Death and betrayal and bullying and loss and heartbreak are in every life. They leave their shadows and their scars. Many lives, far too many lives, already have heartbreaks and traumas far out of scale for ordinary life, events that went beyond what anyone deserves or ought to expect from parents, spouses, life, the world in the happy-happy nice-world that society pretends to sometimes, where bad things only happen to people who deserve it.

In fairy tales, wow, someone could have a bad hair day and wind up destroying an entire kingdom because it made some fairy mad. Ow. 

Yeah, that's the overreaction of a drunk turned larger than life and magical in a story. That's an anxiety most people have had to deal with in some situation or another. Don't make him mad. Walk on eggshells. Don't put one word wrong. You get through a day and a day and another day of it and the tension keeps rising and you know the shoe is going to drop huge when it does. 

Then when it does it comes out that all the worrying was pointless because it was nastier than anything you could have thought of when you were just fearing and dodging it. 

Most people who aren't writers deal with their scars and get past it and leave them behind. Dropping it for some years and not going back there is sometimes a pretty healthy response. Time can heal. Trust can be rebuilt by finding better people to associate with and living in ways that aren't crazyland long enough.

But a novelist has to go back to the bad stuff in order to shine a light on it in the work. 

Novels get that drumbeat visceral power if you draw upon everything tragic and rough that you've ever seen. If you stand back and look at it with some compassion and face the pain, write through it, look at it both inside and outside.

That can be healing for the writer. Just as it is when an abused child is questioned by having them tell what happened to Mr. Puppet, what you do to the character can help you resolve old internal conflicts of your own. What looked so unsolvable, so colossal from within it becomes someone else's problem -- the character -- and you're sitting there with the reader going "Well, leave the relationship" or some such obvious simple solution that is so hard for anyone to do when it's real and demands every grain of courage a human being has.

At that point sometimes a bubble pops inside and an old, old fear blows into dust. 

Reality intrudes. Some terribly simple thing that a good friend could have said to you to remind you the nameless dread is the scar of a fear, not a real risk in the present, makes sense. 

Your third grade teacher can't do one thing to you for publishing a science fiction novel. If she's still alive at all and found out about it, she could... make a nasty comment or two and sound like the pretentious literary snob she was. Or forget she discouraged you and claim "I knew out of all my kids that one was going to be a great writer someday" and go namedropping to the rest of the retirement home that she was your third grade teacher. Or shake her head and go "Naw, couldn't be, just the same name, a coincidence."

Or you meet that nemesis of your first-grade year and find out they don't remember you at all. They were too busy terrorizing anyone to single you out. 

Alternately, whatever your present situation, writing the novel works a lot like Mr. Puppet and the change is entirely internal. You look at the risks, scale them down to size, look at the character standing up to their greater fears and maybe getting the courage to start sending your resume sounds pretty minor compared to facing that fleet or escaping literal slavery. 

I'm writing this essay from life. My childhood was something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy for various reasons I could not control. Most of the troubles stemmed from undiagnosed physical defects and the rest were from social-philosophical-political conflicts. I was intelligent and a bit precocious. The  big conflict -- the one that to me was the biggest -- was whether I ought to be a writer at all.

Literally everyone in my experience was dead set against my becoming a writer, most of all a science fiction writer. Sorting it out in later years, every one of those people had their own reasons for that opinion and at least half were well meant within their own views of life. Blue collar grandparents thought reading books was a waste of time, writing them was wasting an entire life, shutting yourself away from all the important things like socializing and real work that involved standing on your feet and living a normal life like anyone else. 

Teachers in the public school after I got out of the Catholic school didn't hate the content of my writing, they encouraged it. Nuns who passionately defended Catholic dogma were facing Protestant ideas in every essay and story, tearing it apart on theme right along with marking down the punctuation -- and finding any excuse to discourage me from becoming a writer. The last thing they wanted was me to succeed at it and further spread those vile ideas that went against everything they believed.

I've spent years taking apart those conflicts and facing them separately to understand what the argument was about, only to find out that in most of the cases, the people who had discouraged my writing had good reasons in their terms for it and the conflicts were unresolvable by anything but "agree to disagree."  In a lot of those conflicts I found out that yes, I was right. 

I was absolutely right that becoming a writer would be a good occupation for me since it does not involve standing for long periods of time or walking around a lot, or showing up on time to work five or six days a week, or staying awake without getting sick through every workday. Wow. Being a novelist is one of the few occupations that I'm very well suited for physically. It's in reach in a way that most other occupations aren't. Most jobs do involve showing up on time every day, functioning at least to normal every day, not getting sick half the time and then speeding along to get ahead to catch up before the sick days hit.

The grief of realizing I'd never have my parents' approval sabotaged a lot of things in my life. Threw me into real depression at several points when I broke my heart doing things that were ultimately just to try to impress them and make up with them. I haven't been in touch with them for seven years now. The conflicts are irreconcilable, they run too deep and the mind games get too vicious. A distant-adult "cards and annual phone call" relationship wasn't even possible. That blew up in my face one too many times in 2002 and was no longer worth spending three or four months disentangling all the mind games and emotional sabotage-stuff that shut me down after every call.

So I had to deal with that grief. Every year as it nears my  birthday I run into that grief, grit my teeth, don't call and get enmeshed again, feel better once the day that I habitually did it for fourteen foolish years of "Try to build a relationship where there wasn't one, get past the generation gap and have a family at least at that nominal level" was. I did that because I had an emotional need for it. I did that because I put every effort into getting along with them.

Given who they are and what they believe in life even now, which isn't as extreme as when I was a child but is extreme enough, it did not work and I gave it enough fair tries to prove that to myself. And to prove that going back every year was just shooting myself in the foot, losing half the year to the mind games.

I changed everything. I wrote a character who's very different from me in a situation I've met so many times -- woman who'd been sexually abused as a little girl coming to terms with it and redefining herself -- and paired her up with a type of gentle romantic partner that a good many women who'd been abused as kids wound up finding in life, the sort of quiet courage that gives a man the patience to marry a woman who has issues around sex and always lets her lead that dance, is sensitive and patient enough to be there when she wants him and not feel rejected when she feels her terrors.

She walked in out of nowhere. I thought she was a bit character. Suddenly she pushed the planned heroine (a fun character who may get into a different book) out before she even got onstage and riveted me with her internal conflicts and her quirky way of handling them. 

I thought it went too far. I thought it was off theme. I thought it was too melodramatic. I thought she underreacted in some scenes (sometimes people do). I thought she wasn't realistic. I recognized how realistic she was and remembered friends whose stories chilled my blood. 

I watched her fight her way through her scars a week after her eighteenth birthday when the big dramatic change of status freed her -- when an external passage, the legal status of no longer being in custody of her abuser and able to just shut the door on him and live. Then like a writer, kicked it all up one step beyond that and put her conflict beyond reach of courts and protection orders. The abuser died and haunted her. 

She stood that down and all of a sudden the magical plot where the magecats were fighting evil spirits and the personal struggles of that one character turned into one conflict, the final conflict hinged on her being able to stand down that ghost and reject him.

Getting stalked is bad enough. Getting stalked by a ghost that you can't exorcise stages it up to where if it happened anyone would go crazy.

I went reeling after writing that one. 

Then two nights later I started writing again about a character I first created when I was ten years old and getting flashbacks about my own childhood. Leonora stood down her abuser's ghost and was heroic in an utterly real way that's a song of health for anyone who's let go of any kind of abusive relationship.

I spent one long night talking to a friend and dealing with my past, choking on the book... and on the fear of sending my novels out for publication. What terrible and nightmare dread could happen if I became a successful novelist who earned a good living writing several books a year like all those sensible "Crafter" lifestyle science fiction writers who mentored me in my twenties?

Where did I get all those goofy self-defeating ideas about writing and publishing? Well, gee. Some of it came out of therapists who were paid by people who disapproved and were trying to mold a child's character into someone who'd be compatible with their family. The ideas they had about childhood at that time were that kids didn't even have personality, they were shaped by parents, parents pretty much decided who they were and had a right to mold them. A duty to mold them.  Fifties and early sixties, remember?

When did I get depressed, feel defeated and stop following up on it anytime I got a story accepted by a nonpaying publication or sold one to a low paying magazine or self published my novel and saw it pay out without publicity or sold a pro-paid short story or went back and sold another one two years later?

Well, it was after those birthday calls. Every time. That's what came in between actually getting the acceptance letter or royalty check or copy of the free publication -- every success milestone of my life got followed by a birthday. Every birthday contact I got depressed and felt defeated and had to fight through every stupid idea in the history of discouraging writers. 

No. They are not going to be impressed and apologize for discouraging me when I prove that yes, I am good at it, by having a tangible paycheck. Deceased blue-collar grandparents might have respected the paycheck somewhat and come to respect it over time provided I earned enough to make a decent living in their standards. They'd always regard it as uncertain compared to a real job and a check from an employer though. And tthey'd still have thought that I was ruining the lives of my readers by distracting them into hiding from other people and just living in books. (They didn't feel this way about movies and acting though. It was weird.)

That hurt. It hurt deep. It took seven years after the last one to come to face it -- no, my getting published or even famous is not going to change their opinion of me by a hair. Or stop the sabotage -- the real first thing they'd say if I got successful might amount to "How can you stand it knowing you might never be able to do anything that well again in your ilfe?"

The attitude of my mentors, science fiction writers with long prolific backlists and proven craft, was all "It's nice when it happens but don't count on getting another bestseller if you do." Comments like "That wasn't the one I thought was the best of my books, it was the one the readers liked" abounded along with a general view among all the successes that their early books ranged from tolerable to embarrassing and their later books substantially better. The craftsmen-attitude mentors were all striving to improve their skills with every book.

The job of Being A Writer isn't something that can go on automatic, be mastered and turn into routine you don't pay attention to. Some skills within it do, like say, typing. Or checking punctuation once you get it. Whole chunks of it can become reflexive to the point that a practiced novelist isn't stumbling over what to do when that turns up any more. The creative part is a lifelong adventure. It's growing like a tree or a crocodile, every year a little, long after you reach adult size.

Not growth > peak > decline.

I'll still be facing internal conflicts at seventy or eighty. I'll still be facing them down and refining them. I'll look at some tragedy in the world whether it was mine or not and it will hurt, and then I'll face it in my novel and tell a story that might help someone get their mind off the day's aggravations and get a good night's sleep. 

I have to feel. I don't have the luxury of numbness. I have to grieve what I grieve and some griefs go on for many years, some go for life. Seven years since the last conflict isn't even that long for grieving a family conflict, not one that I invested twice that into trying to mend and broke my heart on the closed door that often. 

But that's the Well of Stories.

Because I'm not the only one in the world whose parents rejected him. I'm not the only one who feels a pang of terror at a certain popular holiday and a sting of grief instead of a bit of sentimentality. I'm not the only one who had a friend kill himself in high school. I'm not the only one for any of the things that were troubles in my life, some of them run so common they're almost universal in my times -- to the point that everyone knows one if it wasn't themselves.

Life gets hard. 

In my particular rotten childhood, books were a lifeline and authors who by theme and example wouldn't have picked on me or hated me were distant friends. Ray Bradbury sang a song of hope over the years between us and the miles and my never having met him -- that the boy from a broken bitter messed up family could turn to good, that the weirdo wasn't evil, that the bullies were the bad guys and even they could stop doing it and come around. (Some do. I've known some.)

My stories have a little of that warmth to pass on and it's Bradbury that made sure I had a heart, Ellison that gave me a hope of a future far better than my past -- one that keeps coming true decade after decade. Life's better for me now than it ever could have been in those years right after McCarthy and the President whom I voted for is a Martian. (The Martian Chronicles,by Ray Bradbury is a collection of immensely moving stories against racism.)

I have also known people with hearts that deep and sensitive who never suffered in those ways, just knew someone and cared. Opened their eyes to the things that go wrong in life and the world and didn't just say "This can't be happening" or blame the people it happens to when it goes that rough.

So I bleed on the page like many a good writer before me and I'll go on doing it. That's part of the process and it is healing -- each time I write a better, richer, truer novel with something in the story that I needed in order to heal. Each time the scars are a little less limiting. It's a long slog like physical therapy after an accident to get over some kinds of traumas, but wow, doing it that stubbornly can get some great results gradually over time. 

So take care of yourself when your novel kicks you in the teeth and rips open something that hurts like blazes when it was comfortably numb. Keep writing and push on through to the end, don't give up on it. That is the sign your novel's going to be a good one. It'll be good for you and it'll make it a lot better to the readers too. Run with it.

That's why this nice safe sit in a squashy armchair job is an adventure as satisfying as being a field paleontologist would've been -- why I wouldn't trade this for that other timeline. I've got innerspace to explore and stories to write. This is tonight's warmup and a weird pep talk for all my fellow Nanowrimos and any novelist who's scared him or herself out of their wits or cried over what just hit the page.

That means it's a good one and you're a good writer doing it for real. Do your own novel. You may need to water it down or let Mary Sue have her head during the rough draft, that gets down something to edit. Like.I haven't done that at least twenty times -- remember 200 words of love scene and 1200 words of costume description afterward? Just writing down any version of it is enough to get to the edits and everyone's process is personal. 

When you write from the gut then it does come out good, it has depths to it that aren't there when it's just noodling around. But it'll get ya, some of the time I'm just dancing around on the surface goofing around having fun and some creepy memory-byte will swim up out of the depths and wham, the book takes a left turn into the Twilight Zone. What I thought was the main theme was an opening conflict or subtheme and the book's got layers, the book's rich and good. 

Don't delete. Maybe it's all the sabotage-discouragement programming, but the parts I think "OMG that is horrible, it's so over the top, no one's going to believe that/like it/read it" are more often than not the memorable passages where I didn't pull punches. The "Oooo it came out so perfect" passages are as often a quick slide over 1200 words of pretty costume descriptions that weren't needed and drop to the cutting room floor. 

I came to see them both as moods, equally likely to be wrong in judgment. So I face it when it hurts and enjoy it when I soar, and the more I do that the more soaring-time I get. This does get to be fun and even the valleys are always followed by incredible highs. It's not a routine. It's a rollercoaster -- and you are the only one in the world who could do it. The one man or woman who could save that world and those characters from nonexistence. The only one who could tell your story. Don't give up on that at the hard parts. 


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    • evvy_09 profile image


      8 years ago from Athens, AL

      Wow...I feel inspired and terrified to write something now, I've always wanted to be a writer and have this one story thats been playing for years in my head, and I guess know why i've been so scared to write it down. Thanks!! I don't think I can vote it up enough

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      You have inspired me! I really enjoyed reading this and now see clearly why I have been carefully avoiding working on my novel. I had planned on getting to work last week...but have managed to keep myself otherwise occupied. I've been avoiding the emotions that need to come up - and out. Thanks for this. :)

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      9 years ago

      Thanks robertsloan2. This is enlightening and I'll have to review it from time to time. Thanks

    • Earthscribe profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Inspiring. Thank you.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thanks, Duchess OBlunt! I'm glad it helped. I had to go up and reread it to remember what it was I put in here -- one true and bitter thing about my birth family, most of the rest a compilation of all the dumb things in my life with all the dumb things I witnessed. Friends making mistakes I had. Being on the other side of the line when it was someone else's bad relationship was freaky.

      Some parental relationships can be mended. Some can't. It takes two to heal one, it takes both sides to actually work at it. When the abusive side continues without changing, there came a point I had to look at the damage every year and just let go.

      My birthday's in a week and that one's still on my mind. After six more years of it, I think I can resist again this year, the pull of the impossible dream that they somehow changed. They won't.

      But I made a new resolution this year. On the day, on December 10th, I'm sending out a submission. It might be a short story, or I might manage to get caught up on preparing my most edited novel for its first submission and send a query. Either way though, I'm going to do something real toward my writing career and share my love with my new family -- my daughter and grandchildren.

      We don't live in crazyland. None of us do. Life's good here. My little granddaughter gets so many Green Days at school that we're coming up with special rewards if she pulls off an entire month of them. I'm getting a chance to see what healthy children are like when all the grownups in their lives love them, discipline with fairness and judicial calm, yet go overboard with affection and appreciation.

      It's fun spoiling the grandkids. She loves dinosaurs. So does my grandson. Both of them are getting dino-books from Grandpa this year, so a lot of the personal things I thought were cool are getting passed on.

      There is a really great life beyond all this that I couldn't put into a novel because it'd get wayyyy too boring! For that I'm very grateful.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      robertsloan2 - I'm so glad I found this hub this morning in my morning ritual to read at least one hub from 5 fans! What a great way to start my day, and I thank you. You have given me much to think about because this piece was certainly written from the gut! And thank you for the link in one of your comments about the November Novel writing. I will certainly be looking at that one.

      Your frank and open discussion about some of your relationships have actually given me pause as I consider some of my own. And that's a good thing.

      Thank you for sharing this excellent hub!

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you, Peg, I go through this every year as my birthday approaches. It's been seven years since I gave up -- and it took that long to really dig out everything that came out of that bad relationship when I was stupid enough to try to continue it. At least you know, you understand what I mean about the aftermath and the stupid things that slip in not even between the lines. Just get said to test your patience during the attempted diplomacy and rubbed in deep, then remembered months or years later.

      Every bit of advice I got from them on anything else in life proved disastrously wrong, was leading me down that 'scapegoat' script to become an alcoholic (at least that didn't stick, I think alcoholism is something chemical that some people have that just makes them vulnerable) or keep destroying my life seeking the wrong specialists and thinking some therapist would eliminate symptoms from crooked bones and a skeletal disorder. Not. Never in a thousand years. I guess I learned something about how to manage it from a couple of good ones though. Most of them did more harm than good.

      Our friends are true gifts and the next generation, our younger family, we can become better relatives to them. I love my grandkids and love how they are, how loud they are, how they laugh, how they run around without fear. My granddaughter comes home from school with Green Days and gets ice cream or other treats if she gets a Green Day, if she gets no red days she gets to ride a pony on Sunday that her mom takes care of.

      I was so thrilled to see it's true -- bribery works wonders on kids' behavior and giving them little goals and prizes to work towards. There really is a better way to live and I'm grateful every day that we're living it.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Rejection comes in many forms. Sometimes our families are the worst offenders. We have the same issue with my in-laws, no ongoing contact for years now. It seems to be the best solution, however, as it's really hurtful when we do and lingers far longer than the phone call. Be of good cheer. You are loved and admired. We don't get to choose our families, but our friends are true gifts.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you! LOL -- it's funny you put it like that. You said 'rejection' and my first thought was, the problem is I haven't had enough rejections because I haven't sent in enough submissions to have a respectable stack of them. The personal rejection from my family though, that was crippling -- and I'm finally throwing it off. But as long as I was still in contact with them I'd get reinfected every holiday.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Robert, First of all, lovely painting. So realistic and beautiful. You are a man of many talents.

      Dirty laundry, yep. I love that. So often I worried that I wasn't progressing on my novel(s) because I hadn't followed a specific plan or outline. Or because I didn't know the end in advance of typing it. You've given me the courage to explore some of the darker experiences I've been through and put it onto paper, which I'm starting to do more often now. Truly therapeutic.

      It is encouraging to read and exchange views with other writers who've had their share of rejection and who persevered. You, are doing exactly what you were intended to do. Write.

    • Disturbia profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a fantastic hub and you are absolutely correct. One should write from the gut, but it's not always easy. I don't exorcise my demons with therapy, although I have had lots of therapy... I write poetry about it. I've written about ex-husbands, my mother, my life in foster care, my dysfunctional family, my adhd, and all the other garbage inside my head and my heart that has threatened to choke the life out of me if I didn't vent it.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Wow! Thank you all for these wonderful comments! A friend of mine posted on SFFmuse recently -- the only people who disapprove of escape are jailers.

      Raven Singer, thanks for mentioning 'consensus reality.' I've noticed that a great majority of people live in social reality, not real-reality, probably because the number of sabertooth cats and natural disasters that threaten humans is miniscule compared to the risks created by other human beings, including those that don't involve violence such as unemployment, underemployment, social ostracism. I wrote a novel setting once though, where the physical world was maintained and created by consensus reality including its laws of physics. Whech of course could change and did as societies changed.

      I haven't been hubbing as much or commenting back because I've been working on my noveling. Currently today I have written three novels averaging 80k each this year, beating my best year ever (two 80,000 word novels in November 2004) and I am at 48,338 words on the fourth for this year.

      It's "Double My Best" this year and I have no doubt I'll spend most of 2010 rewriting, but they're good stories and it's been a fantastic month! Thank you all so much!

      I'll write Hubs about the edits process too as soon as I finish the last book. Promise.

    • markminer profile image


      9 years ago from Albany, Oregon

      I am a writer, having four books coming out within the next four months, and I agree with what your saying. The basics of writing is the rule of writing about what you know. Part of being a writer, albeit great or not, is to be aware of who you are and what you're capable of. Then stretch that and go outside of the box. Great piece!!!

    • Rubee profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      Wow! Great article! Makes me want to go back and reread my journals.

    • Raven Singer profile image

      Raven Singer 

      9 years ago

      I'm writing my first novel and I always say that finding the story, finding what's next, finding out where the character goes is like feeling your way through a thick fog in the dark. You just have to feel your way, no "figuring it out", no shortcuts. If I slide my feet along the ground in the blankness, I'll find the path. And if I make myself laugh or cry or react strongly, I know I've found it. Thank you for presenting your take on "writing from the gut." People wait in line to tell us why we can't write books. My family members, although not essentially toxic and abusive, just look at me blankly and treat me like the village idiot (all proof to the contrary) when I talk about it. So, it's always nice to visit the club where people get that. I'm also one of the few women I know that has made a life's work of reading fantastic literature in all of its many forms, science fiction almost exclusively for many years, now a wider selection. So, when you say Bradbury or Ellison, I say "yeah, exactly." Writing fiction is, even at its most literal, metaphorical. We are always searching for a way to express a universal truth. I love that fantastic fiction frees us from the constraints of 'consensus reality' to create stories and metaphors that describe universal truths in an unlimited range of imagery. My only goal is that I reach the reader in their sense of truth. I am a journalist as well, and whether I'm writing about a fairy or a CEO (or both!), I just aim for the essence, aim for the heart. And, as you so eloquently illustrated, the only way to get there is from the gut. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Artica Burr 

      9 years ago

      Writing involves a deep penetrating "cat's eye" view of life to draw on. It's all in the eye of the beholder. It takes a writer with perception to put it to pen. Interesting that your color selections in the artwork reflected the mood of the written words. There is no freedom better than fictional fair due to those who have flaunted their worst into our personal lives, even if humor be the weapon of choice.

    • terrowhite profile image


      9 years ago

      Cool hub.. the picture is simply amamzing. thanks for sharing..

    • teinesith profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a wonderful article. Thank you for being so willing to share yourself.

    • Sue Gee profile image

      Sue Gee 

      9 years ago

      Good point maritimer. I did notice it but failed to mention it and remark on the artistic gifts this person has.

    • maritimer profile image


      9 years ago from canada

      Everyone overlooked your wonderful pastel painting - you're an artist of many talents. I enjoyed both your art and words.

    • Sue Gee profile image

      Sue Gee 

      9 years ago

      Aha, very interesting reading. I have been writing since I was about 7. Every time I wrote then I was punished in some way or put down for it. Like you, my teachers were so opinionated and discouraging- with their own purposes more immediate/wanting me to be focused or be a life participant rather than a future blogger. lol I remember being told that writers were rare-usually poor or drunk, and born with perfect abilities. English was my dreaded course every year. I loved writing stories but not learning all the mechanics. So look at what we have today. Wahooo! Nice to know I am not alone in this beautiful world.

    • J  Rosewater profile image

      J Rosewater 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Yes - I've always believed that writing that moves the author is reading that will move the reader. And I have a similar opinion with regard to species.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you! Paradise7 -- one of the weird effects of "all or nothing" expectations is that people who have an agenda, who are pushy about trying to enforce their opinion of you on you, will tend to say that blindly and it's a grandiose exaggeration. The world doesn't have an opinion of me.

      Billions of people don't know I'm alive or care. A good number of them wish I was dead for various generic reasons of race, gender, religion, nationality, political opinion or disabled status. Obviously those negative opinions are bad advice that should be rejected.

      But a human being getting in your face with a negative opinion of anything about you or me can have a disproportionate impact, and it's inevitable they claim to represent "the world" and "everybody." The "everybody" they represent is "everybody who agrees with me and doesn't like what you're doing."

      And that makes them completely irrelevant because that's not who I'm writing for or who I'm living for either.

      Choosing the company I keep at all levels, in all social zones, is essential to stay sane -- and not thinking "the world" has an opinion on anything or anyone. Consider that if all the other species had a vote the majority would probably prefer we didn't exist (we eat them or stamp them out blindly) and those that would like us would have their own grievances if they could be temporarily sentient enough to make the bargain consciously.

      IN order for me to live well and be happy I need to have social support and a good strong social network, an occupation I take pride in and enjoy doing, a way of life that fits who I am and what I want and what I believe is right. So filtering all the input for the people who agree on my goals does a lot to keep things sane.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      This is a terrific hub. I've bookmarked it and will come back to it. Kudos for doing your own thing, your way. All the rest of the people's opinions of you in the world don't count half as much as what you think of yourself, and what you can project into your future self.

      Keep writing, my friend, you're EXCELLENT at it!

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you all! Ethel -- why not try it for fun? Every November, hosts an enormous worldwide novelwriting event. It's catapulted many from "maybe someday" to completing their first novels, because it offers the social support that's been missing from this profession throughout most of history.

      I had jumbled images like that from the dreams that inspired Raven Dance, and they came together perfectly. Every one was necessary, every character important in the big story.

      Also, while I write "linear" and start with page one, then keep going to the end, many writers including a dear friend of mine begin their novels with whatever scene randomly catches their attention. They finish fast, some of them as fast or faster than I do, it's just a mosaic process rather than a linear one. Finishing the book becomes something like doing a jigsaw puzzle instead of hoeing a row.

      You might have a good chunk of a good novel ready to go without even taking it seriously if your natural method is "mosaic." So give it a try. The month is half over now, so it's comfortably a ways off -- but if you join next year you'll give yourself the best shot at actually doing your first novel.

      Writing a novel is like learning to paint with a big brush on a large canvas. It takes some work, it's a big project, but lots of others have done it and the results are grand. Once you've done it the first time, it's easier and gets easier all the time -- except for natural artistic and personal growth, which is lifelong.

      I think writing novels can enrich anyone's life and rejoice that there's finally a large number of leisure novelists out there and soft markets including self publishing to bring them to the public.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Fine Hub. Wish I had a novel in me. I have plenty of jumbled images but not the talent to put it together. Perhaps in time.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      9 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Superb, quality verbiage Mr. Sloan. This is probably the best article I've read on Hubpages so far, I wish I could nominate it for an award! I wrote one novel and it has languished in a closet for years, threatening to write another. I'm also sending this to my daughter, as she's attempting her first (30 pages in, not bad for a 13 year old!) Thanks Robert!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Exactly, sometimes when I'm writing, I feel close to tears. that's probably when I'm writing about things which affected me deeply.

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Purr thanks. It's writing from life and more than that -- it's writing from whatever really moves you that deep. So much that you cry and you feel and you rage and it becomes that important to you. That's when it'll also become that intense to readers too.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Ah Robert, excellent piece of work and I agree with you 110%. Writing from the gut basing it on real actual experiences you have had or people close to you have had, give your writing more depth.


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