The Dark Forest

Where do you go when you cross the dark forest?

Look, I know it’s no one’s fault but mine — where has the time since November 2018 gone? — but sometimes my income from indie publishing gets so low it’s not actually worth it to bother and I wonder why I do.

So, when the yard work calls, when the cats need cuddling, why would I persist?

Or in other words, why do I write?

Every good story, Terry Pratchett said, is ultimately about the death and the blood. He’s not wrong.  Though it would perhaps be more accurate to say that every good story is about overcoming the death and the blood.

As Jordan Peterson says, every human life is a tragedy. No matter how successful you are, or how much you achieve, in the end you die.

And we know that. or at least those of us who are adults know that.  We know that of the eternity our minds can compass, you — and I — own only a very short period of time. A window in the eternity we can think of.

Now, being a person of religious belief, I believe that I’m in fact an eternal creature. One that will go on forever, well past the span of this mortal body. But not being actually a moron, I also believe that the eternal creature is not who I am, in the sense that I’m not the two year old I was once.  The person I am now, the adult I am and the preoccupations I have, are unlikely to matter very much to someone who lives forever.

So for all intents and purposes, who I am now is finite. (Arguably more finite than my life. I don’t know how I’d slice it, but I’d think 20 or 30 years are probably the extent of personality survival.)

And yet I have stories I have first imagined when I was 14, still waiting to be written.

So, yes, that’s why I write. Because I’m broken in a special way, I cope with the knowledge that I’m finite by creating people and worlds.

But it goes beyond that.  See my quote of Pratchett above.

We read because we seek for meaning, for feeling, for what humans are like outside our own skull, outside our time, outside our little window on reality.  We read because in stories we can play in other times, other places, in — in fact — eternity.

But am I that ah… materially unmotivated?

No. Of course I’m not. Right now, the house needs major work. And eh, I’m a creature of material needs. And I believe very strongly that one should work for one’s living, that that, by itself, gives meaning and shape to the lives we have.

Which means?

Which means — as many false starts as I’ve had the last two years (and there have been reasons — that I’m starting anew.

I’m going to try to put out a book a month. And if I manage it, I’ll post how that affects the bottom line. I’ll also post any publicity efforts I find work, any pathways I discover.

Because that’s what indie is. You find a path, and you share it.

Just like novels are sharing the thoughts in the isolation behind your eyes.

That is also why I write.

In the end all the stories are about death and blood. Or life and blood.  You put your life, the stuff of life, on line.  You work for what you want. And you show others the path.

So, here we go.  This way, please. Through the dark forest.  To where that light glimmers in the distance.  Sure, perhaps it is an incoming train.

Or perhaps the sun is rising.

You — and I — won’t know, until we try.



      1. Yes ma’am.

        Gotta get it written and coherent, first.

        That said… I’ve got a scifi bit that involves General Grendel of the Abattoir. Because I couldn’t figure out a name at the time, so I decided to go Full Cheese Ahead, and everybody’s name is going to fit at least part of their public image. (His heavy is named Baron, from the historic-ish “the barons are your war lords” idea.)

        It’s not gonna be awesome scifi, it’s somewhere between Star Wars and Star Trek on the realism scale, but I’m writing SOMETHING, dang it.

          1. Oh, I use name generators.

            They’re even worse than baby name books, because I start going all Tolkien on the things. -.-

            The shinies, aaaaaaaalllll the shinies!

  1. Because if I don’t, the stories leak out, will I or nil I, and that leads to bad mental things happening.

    Because stories want to be told.

  2. Yep. All righty then! Back to the one almost ready to go! Just freaking doooo iiiitttt! **charges off into the forest**

    P.S. Thank you!

  3. Go, Sarah, go!

    I’ll admit that a book a month seems like an almost impossibly fast pace to me–even a book every two months seems like a lot. Right now, one every three months seems about as fast as I could aspire to. However, I know that others do manage that one-a-month, and I will be curious to read about your experience and how it works.

    1. If not a book, a short story. If you’re writing a series, a short in the series will sell. It may not seem like it’s worth the effort, but _anything_ will keep your name out there and people aware of your existence.

  4. I’m hoping to get back to a normal writing schedule by the end of the week. The past fortnight has been a bit… disruptive. With any luck, I’ll be able to slip back into the WIPs that are waiting for me, and start getting some stuff out pretty regularly.

  5. “Twenty Books to 40K” is an online writing group dedicated to just that – making at least 40K a year, preferably by putting out a novel every month or two.

    You may remember them from their being inadvertently involved in Sad Puppies’ aftermath, because they “put out a slate” (ie, a naive fannish member made a list of what group members qualified for a Hugo nom) and “appropriated being a person of color” (ie, a Sri Lankan group member got nominated for a Hugo, and the Mean Girls didn’t know him personally, so he couldn’t possibly exist).

    The members are a mixed bag of personalities and amiability, but their realistic focus on money and productivity is beautiful.

    1. I’m sorry, but “20 books to 40K” caught my fancy… You mean, in 20 books, everyone in the group is going to be writing in the Warhammer 40K universe?

      Or is some arcane artifact subtly twisting their mind so that as they write, everything slowly changes to the grim dystopia of 40K?

      Would you even want to break free of that, if it sells well? And how would you fight that? Unicorns with wings and rainbows?


  6. Meant to put this over on today’s ATH, but it fits here too.

    I referenced Korzybski’s famous pronouncement – “The map is not the territory.” Well, truth there. But what he failed to add to that is that you miss an enormous amount of life if you eschew the map and insist upon only experiencing the territory as “real.”

    I might, unlikely as it seems right now, traverse the actual territory of Mount Fuji. But not I, nor any human now alive, can possibly traverse the “territory” of, say, the Tokugawa Period. All that we have is the map drawn by historians, or films made by very meticulous producers. Nor shall I, or any human yet to be born, ever experience the “territory” of, say, piloting a Darkship through the tangle of pods.

    We “creatives” are, above all, cartographers. Map makers of places, times, cultures, events – for others to get a glimpse, however dimly, of those things that they will never traverse.

  7. “Death and blood” don’t quite cover all the motivations for writing — or reading. Yes, there’s the awareness of death in virtually all worthwhile stories. Yes, suffering, sometimes with actual bloodletting, is involved. But there’s also the desire to be more than you are: to transcend your immediate self — the self that sweats and aches, and yells at the dog for chewing the furniture, and worries about meeting the bills — and enter the realm of the heroic.

    The hero is the least well understood entity in all of fiction. He’s not there because the reader wants or needs him there…even though the reader does want and need him, perhaps more passionately than we can imagine. He’s there because the writer wants and needs him there, to fulfill his own desire to be more than he is.

    Think about the tension involved between the demonstrable existence of real-life heroes and heroism, and the inevitability of death. If life is all you have yet you’re doomed to die, why be a hero? Why risk yourself for someone or something else? Yet heroes have existed and still do. Virtually everyone has his heroes: people he wishes he could be, or at least emulate. And damned few satisfying stories lack all trace of the heroic.

    To be a hero is to transcend the mortal realm, at least for a time. To write a hero is to operate him like a waldo. Yes, it’s from the safety of your word processor, but it’s still a perilous journey for the soul, for in writing a hero we learn about the yearnings that the heroic inspires in us…and about the shortcomings that retard us from heroisms of our own. Therein probably lies the explanation for why true hero-figures are an endangered species in fiction.

    Yes, “death and blood”…but transcendence and the heroic, too. Or at least, the field mouse flipping the bird to the hawk stooping upon him. Some like it better that way.

  8. I could write a short story in a month, maybe two. But a full-blown book? No, I don’t see that ever happening. If I can get to the point of putting two out a year, I’ll consider myself rocketing along at light speed.

    1. Not everyone can do it, and not everyone who can write fast can do it well. There’s nothing wrong with slow and steady.

  9. I am trying to revise a novel. It has a Bright Forest.

    That’s extremely annoying and gives people headaches.

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