Chuck Wendig, Wanderers, and Process

I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s new book, Wanderers, and it’s a great read. I’m really enjoying it. His writing is good but it also reads easy. The ideas are interesting. And it feels strangely of the moment for a work of speculative fiction (maybe because it came out last week).

The tension in culture. The problems with our media environment. Government in paralysis. Cynical political actors. Gender identity. Right wing lunatics with swastika tattoos.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another author capture internet culture as well as Chuck does in this book. The snips he includes, from Reddit to Twitter to Instagram, are so dead on that they could only come from someone who actively spends time in online social spaces. The way the characters refer to social media is dead on. He’s in the culture, and can speak the culture.

One character I’m unsure of so far is the rock star. Writers seem to always struggle to write musicians that aren’t wafer-thin caricatures doing drugs, spouting rock & roll platitudes, and more or less living the Nihilist Way. Not sure if Chuck will be able to pull it off. It might be necessary for the character arc…so we’ll see.

But, as I mentioned, I follow him online, and his blog is a great read. He wrote an excellent post on what it was like for him to write this book. In it, he talks about the process of writing the book, and how the book dictated what the process needed to be, defying his expectations about how it would come together:

This book just didn’t conform to the way I thought I did things.

I don’t mean to suggest we’re not, in a way, experts at what we do. And I think we do need to sometimes trust the process. But sometimes we need to go beyond that, outside that, and trust ourselves more than the process. The process is not the book, and the book is not the process.

Books are gonna be what they’re gonna be. They’re gonna be as big as they gotta be and take the time that they need to take.

We all have process. But when you’re working with ideas and creative things, process usually has to take a backseat to the work itself. Because the work itself needs to be what it needs to be. Sticking to process can prevent that from happening. Like keeping a goldfish in too small a bowl will restrict it from growing to its full potential.