Monday, August 30, 2010

Re-setting the scene

During my vacation I took a break from writing and spent time reading instead. I blasted through Tobias Buckell's Sly Mongoose, a zombie-slaughter space-fest of trans-wormholic proportions, and Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake (which is one of the few books I've ever read that I must command thee to consume).

Both books rely heavily on setting to develop their story, its atmosphere, and its characters. Encountering these sly settings made me realize how little I actually employ setting and imagery in most of my work. In the last few months I've all but obliterated the literary instrument of place in favour of focusing on dialogue and action; but after my reading break, I've realized that setting is just as important as every other component of the literary puzzle.

I've also arrived home in a somewhat-roughly baffled state. I have no urge to write short fiction presently, although I've been blasting my way through stories for weeks now. I have six or seven novels I'd really like to write, but the amount of learning I've done through my short writing utterly dwarfs the improvements I made when I worked on a few novels sometime last year. This suggests that moving on to a novel now--before my self-imposed short story term limit of "until 2011" is up--could be premature.

But the last thing I want to do is force myself to write without having fun. I really have a desire to get to know my characters better than short fiction allows, to get to know setting in all its depth and richness, and to pursue a longer piece to a good, solid end (my other novels lacked good or solid ends). For now, I'll run with it; if it disintegrates before the finish line, at least it will be words on the page.



  1. Such goals are meant to be changed. I had decided that it was time to take the plunge into the novel form, had decided that November was the time I would do it (with NaNoWriMo) but instead I'm writing one now. I've always felt that I do my best work when an idea is fresh and I'm enthused about it--so if you're enthused, go for it!

    We can commiserate with each other along the way.

  2. That's as good a strategy as any. I set out to write a hundred short stories, and it turns out that some of them are "book ideas".

    It seems good to have a book in the background as a continuing project, just in case I finish a short story without another idea handy.

  3. I am glad to know that you others are equally affected by the ebb and flow of the tide of whimsy and inspirado... should our boat be pulled under the waves I will stand upon your shoulders.

    Just kidding! Narf!



  4. Benjamin Godby,

    You are my inspiration- I will now start a blog- a fashion blog none the less but a blog. I will follow yours if you follow mine ;) No, but seriously, you are extremely gifted with words and I know that one day every mysteriously thrilling pseudo-scientific weird western adventure fantasy tale lover will know your name!

    xo Em

  5. I've been planning all year to work on a novel. I have two in mind - one that is half written and the other requires revision. My brain is refusing to drop out of short story mode. I've tried for two months and I'm not interested in the novels. However... that's where my career as a bestseller lies. :D So I compromised. I'm going to use morning sessions for anything novel related, and work on my short stories later in the day. I can't give up the short. I just figured out voice, and I've finally learned how to do endings. So... do what you need to do. As long as you are writing, it isn't wasted. If youre not writing because you can't decide, that's worse.