Friday, 20 December 2013

Writing the Stories I Want to Read

One of the pieces of writing advice I ignore the most is roughly this: "Don't worry about how people will receive your work. That kills creativity." I am terrible for worrying about reception. The worst. And it's not just particular readers; I want to please all readers (who I know). This poses a serious problem, because I know people who could probably never agree on a single book they both thought was tolerable, let alone likable. I'm stuck trying write something that both does and does not have strong romantic elements, has no emotional issues superfluous to the main plot but also has well-developed characters with interesting lives outside of the plot (and, furthermore, there is no discernable linear plot anyway), and is both experimental and widely accessible. I very much need to stop worrying about reception if I want to write anything.

To help me follow the advice I should be following, I fall back on another piece of advice: "Write the story you want to read." A lot of people have said versions of this piece of advice; I'm most familiar with Stephen King, Diana Wynne Jones, and C. S. Lewis saying something of the sort, but according to Google it's Toni Morrison who said it most explicitly. At any rate, this seems like great writing advice. It also isn't going to work for me, I don't think, and with much the same results.

The trouble is that I like a lot of different kinds of stories. Often after I've read them I'll think, "Oh, I would like to write something like this." What I'm tempted to do is try to write something that is a bit like all of them bound up together. I sometimes say things like, "I might write something that's a cross between Madeleine L'Engle and C. S. Lewis," and that's not too unthinkable. But other times I'll say, "I plan to write something that's a cross between Diana Wynne Jones, Linda Medley, Don DeLillo, and Tom Stoppard," and that is unthinkable. I can't write something that is both immediate and detached; I can't write something that has an adventurous linear plot and has an unconventional narrative structure; I can't write something that has postmodernist deconstructed characters and has highly engaging and very recognizable characters. But I like--no, adore--both sides of those dichotomies. I do really enjoy reading books with unconventional structures and books with conventional structures. I like the first because it has an unconventional structure, and the second because it doesn't. But I cannot actually have both, even if I'd like to.

The obvious solution is for me to just pick one side of each pair and write a story like that, promising myself that the next thing I write will have the other. Another solution is to oscillate, within the same story, between each side of the pair. This last solution might not work for the characters, but it would possibly work for the other two elements, if well done. However, the first solution requires more deferral of pleasure than I'm good at, and the second solution may require more skill than I currently have.

This problem has more urgency now than it usually does, and on the same topic, I have an announcement to make. Starting some time in January (I'm not entirely sure when), an on-line serial publishing platform is having its beta-launch, and I'm slated to be one of its initial writers. So I am getting started on a novel that I will be publishing in instalments on-line. I'll provide links to the relevant websites as they become available/relevant, but in the meantime it might be fair to warn you that I might let this blog die a slow death after all. Between my regular life stuff, writing a novel, and working on promotional and auxilary material for my novel, I may no longer have time to post here. I recognize that I haven't been posting very much for a long time now anyway, but if I were you I wouldn't be surprised if I posted here even less...maybe not at all. We will have to see how much time I have, whether this novel pans out, and whether I have anything I want to say that I feel is most appropriately said here. There are some drafts of posts on my hard drive which I might be able to touch up some time. Be assured that the blog will stay up and that I will still be reading other people's blogs as before. Whatever happens, thanks for reading.

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