Normally I would dive into some topic that takes me a while to think about and write up, but honestly folks, I am not in the mood this week. Too much stuff going on right now.
Thoughts On Writing
I started reading a fantasy novel that’s been talked about for a while now, though I’m not going to mention the name, for various reasons–not the least being because I’m still reading it. What I will say is that I was enjoying it immensely at first, and then the scales of awesomeness started to fall away from my eyes and the critical writer-reader kicked in.
Hard to entirely enjoy novels sometimes when you’re trying to write one.
Anyway, the concept is original enough, but it feels…light. Perhaps too light for epic fantasy, for my tastes. I was surprised by how easy it was to read at first, but then I started to miss some of the dense detail that comes with other fantasy novels. Yes, you don’t want your prose to be so dense that people can’t get through the first few pages, let alone the first chapters, but then if it’s too light…if there isn’t enough detail, then it starts to feel kind of superficial, you know? (And this can be reflected in the writing style, as well, in the way descriptions and character thoughts are handled.) Also, most of the characters in this novel have this same superficial feel about them, like the author didn’t explore deep enough.
So while I am enjoying the book for the most part, I can’t help but think all the while: I can write settings much richer, characters much deeper than this.
Call it arrogance, call it confidence, call it whatever you want…but isn’t this one of the reasons a lot of people start writing their own novels? Because we actually believe we can write something that’s just as good as, if not better than lots of the stuff we come across on the shelves? (Or on the online stores, in some cases.)
Ha! And then you start writing!
In a way, it’s crazy to think this, isn’t it? When you sit down in your first attempt to write a novel, you don’t actually realize what, exactly, you’re getting yourself into. It’s way harder than it looks, and unbeknownst to the beginner it’s going to take you years before you even get to the point where you can actually produce something that’s presentable on the market. When you take up novel-writing you take on a self-taught variety of education which you come to with the bare minimum basics already ingrained into your personal skill set (how to read, how to write, what a story looks like…), but then you have to learn so much more. And that cannot be accomplished overnight.
It’s like going to college, in a way, and may take just as long. (Does it depend on what “degree” you’re going for, and also your ability to learn quickly?) It’s pretty intense and your teachers–in this case, authors who give writing advice in books, blogs, workshops, etc.–aren’t going to be looking over your shoulder all the time reminding you to do this and that. Your progress is completely dependent on how much effort you put into learning the craft and how well you take and implement the lessons and advice you’re given. (Though, not all advice is necessarily good advice, something you must discern for yourself.)
So anyway, I’m reading this fantasy novel now and thinking about all the things I could possibly do better…and then you come back to your story and assess where you are, how far you’ve come and how far you’ve still left to go. I’ve got this ideal of writing in my head that I constantly shoot for, sitting in the back of my mind calling the shots. It tells me when I fall short of “the grand vision” and when I’ve hit the mark, or when I’m close but still need to do some tweaking. It feels like that sense grows sharper the more I write and that my ability to come closer to that vision increases with time.
Lots and lots of time.
Writing fiction is as much an art as it is a craft, and that’s why it’s so darned difficult to learn.
So yeah, I guess that’s why I keep writing. I have a vision to create something different, something that I haven’t read yet, and I’m constantly shooting for it. It’s grand, it’s epic (in my mind, anyway) and sometimes I think maybe it’s just a little beyond my reach. (Go big or go home, right?) Still, I keep on at it. Sometimes I miss wildly, sometimes I at least hit the target board, and sometimes, every now and then, I actually hit the dang mark.
Now, when I get to the point where there are considerably more hits than misses (hey, I’m getting there)…yeah, then I can say I have a fighting chance. Until then, I keep practicing.
And hey, when you’re learning the craft, there really is no rush. I’m gonna get as much out of this phase as I can before I decide to start throwing my stuff out there. No one’s gonna pay me to write crap. (Okay, maybe that one is debatable; the point is, I think I know crap writing when I see it by now and how to root it out. For the most part. The rest is up to critics and editors. I’m just trying to make sure I give them an easier time of it.)
So tell me, fellow writers: why do you write?
Also, what drives you to keep writing?