Last night, I sat in an airplane and wondered how I could be a better writer.
The golden glow of the reading lights filled the plane’s interior, and every few seats, someone had left their window open. California moved beneath me in a half-seen, half-suggested pattern of black earth and ribbons of sparkling light. Everything was glazed with that peculiar sheen that comes from too little sleep and too many emotions. World Fantasy had filled my head with dozens of books I wanted to read, hours of good advice, and the feeling, nagging and unkind, that I could and should and must be and do more. There was no way to keep reading the book of essays that lay on my lap. How the hell could I be a better writer?
And more importantly, what did that even mean? For me, what could that mean? Or for the editors who buy our stories? Or the groups that give out industry awards? What makes fiction good and how we do we find the tools to create it?
What does better writing mean to you?
Neil Gaiman says that fictions are the lies we tell that are true. Perhaps the best and only thing I can try is to seek the truth. It is out there, hidden beneath the pattern of dark and light, silent and invisible. There is no way to see or speak it except obliquely. You come by the truth by sailing around the world from the opposite direction, and this is why a book about zombies can hint at the truth, or a book about a girl who will not replace her eyes with buttons.
The truth is out there, and it is our job, our obligation, our only hope to make its portrait using just letters, punctuation and snippets of our own souls.
My punctuation is fine. It’s my soul I’m worried will never be good enough.