How To Write. Or Not.

Kage Baker was a dynamo.

At least, where writing was concerned. She wrote nearly every day; she wrote 8 hours and more every day she wrote. When she wasn’t writing, she did research, worked on notes and outlines, edited her manuscripts and galleys. Her discipline and focus were inhuman, particularly as they were consistent day after week after month after year …

That’s unusual. Most writers will confess they want to do that; they aspire to it, and will share all their tricks to try to accomplish it, along with the myriad road blocks that prevent it. Some writers say they write everything on the verge of writer’s block, grasping desperately for a decent day’s output every damned day. Not Kage.

She wrote like a river springing from the edge of a melting glacier. She wrote like a flow of lava down a canyon in the dark, rushing to meet the sea in a climax of steam and rainbows.  She wrote in an endless and irresistible flood, from the time she learned to write at age 8 to the day she died a mere 50 years later. She wrote in notebooks, on legal pads, on candy wrappers turned inside out, in margins, on endpapers, on all 4 of our hands.

I can’t write like that. I will, of course, keep trying – I’ve done lots of things I thought impossible in the last 4 1/2 years – but I haven’t gotten the trick of it.  Yet. These last several days I have been stuck in writer’s block of the most pernicious type. I know what comes next in the scene I need to write, but the actual words – won’t – come.  When that happens, I start to grieve for Kage all over again, which is agonizing. But eventually, the pain breaks something down in me and the words start to flow again. They don’t flow the way they did for Kage, but they do come. So I’ll be patient.

What I’ve done instead is work at getting a couple of stories actually ready for submission, to real live frightening editors. One, to whom I sent my  published CV  (1 novel, 1 short story, both from Kage’s notes) has already responded: and if the story I want to submit is by Kage Baker, they’d be ever so happy to see it!

But it’s not. It’s by me, from some of her notes. So now I am come to the crux of this whole writing matter: can I sell a story to a stranger, someone who didn’t know Kage or me from The Time Before? Someone who will trust my ability to tell a tale that may have no more of Kage’s mind in it than what she could fit on the inside of a Junior Mint box?

Oh, this is a scary place to be. And I miss her so much, it feels like broken glass in my chest. I never argued with her about it, but now I finally really know – and understand! – why she made me read the answers from editors …

Well, screw it. Screw it to the sticking point, I hope. Time to be strong, time to be determined and resourceful.

Time to bleed words.




About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to How To Write. Or Not.

  1. mizkizzle says:

    Why not self-publish an e-book? They’re the wave of the future, after all. Then editors be damned, or at least editors who’re going to be snippy because you’re not Stephen King, or that person who wrote that awful Fifty Shades of Grey thing. Just write and power through the writer’s block until your characters start talking all on their own. They always do, sooner or later.


    • Kate says:

      To be honest, I don’t quite trust self-publishing yet. Until relatively recently, it was largely scam artists, and authors suffered badly. That IS improving, though. I know writers who are doing very well via self-publishing. But I also see how very much hard work it is, in terms of promotion and management – and I’m both busy and bone-lazy. I am not at all sure I could put into the effort what it needs and deserves to succeed.


  2. Tom says:

    Or write the story, and let the editors decide whether they like it or not. Attribute it correctly at the end. You’ve been honest, then, and they’ve had a chance to read without their prejudices in the way.


  3. ~ Becky says:

    I think you getting published, on your own merit, is just as exciting as when Kage did. I’d read your publishers’ letters for you if I were closer!


    • Kate says:

      I’d be in sorry shape without all you lovely people – you really do help with this most peculiar process. Kimberly has even let me make my grumpy fort in her house, where I can hole up and argue with my computer all day … and I have the best bunch of beta testers in the Known Universe.


  4. johnbrownson says:

    Amazing, how the grief keeps finding new ways to express itself. One does not expect it to be “over”, by any particular time, but the endless resourcefulness of grief is the surprising thing. Be of good heart, love. -Buff


    • Kate says:

      I am so very tired of resourcefulness. Especially of resourceful enemies, but my own, too. Inventing solutions and escaping by the skin of my teeth loses its lustre somewhere in one’s 5th decade.

      At least, until I have to figure out how to handle gerbil races in the Parlour, or how to transport fragile foodstuffs 400 miles, or calculate how to sneak an extra keg into the Cow Palace … then, for some reason, ingenuity becomes fun once more.

      This undoubtedly speaks of some moral weakness in my character.


      • johnbrownson says:

        Doubtless, however flawless characters are (as Will Shakespeare knew) interesting to no one. It’s the slightly antisocial (in the clinical sense) flavor that makes your character sparkle so. Never reform, love. -Buff


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