Saturday, January 8, 2011

Writing in the future

A few weeks past, The Pseudonymous Jeff (yes, Jeff, I herein nickname you) suggested he'd like to know my writing goals; and, it being an appropriately New-Yearly thing to do, I've decided I may as well share my hopes, dreams, and aspirations with you all today.

Two years ago, I decided I was going to become a professional writer - by hook or by crook. From what I've heard, I assumed the thing that everyone assumes: no problem, eh? It was going to be a literal crap-shoot for me to become a writer and get paid for it; obviously, I was so fly.

Not so. Over the past two years I've written some 500,000 words of fiction, and perhaps half as many in other ways: I did two reporting internships, I've blogged, and I've attempted to develop correspondence relationships with several long-distance friends. (The majority of whom lip-farted and told me that e-mail, not to mention regular mail, was dead, and why didn't I just Facebook message them once them in a while? Well, the jerks can rot.) And, after all that time, I finally managed to sell about 500 of those words - less than a thousandth part of my efforts - for money.

That is not at all to demean my recent accomplishment, which yet sends thrills through my body. I learned incredibly quickly - from my very first Weird Tales rejection - that writing professionally was no easy gambit. My initial resolution, to become a money-making pen-diddler, quickly fizzled in the face of my 2010 resolution - viz., to diddle the pen a lot, because I'd realized by then that it wasn't some inherent artiness, some magical philosophiness, some aloof-status of mega-mindedness, that would make me a writer, but rather the same thing that makes and breaks every venture in the free world: practice.

After another year of practice, I'm quite confident in my writing abilities, even though I know I have further to go. Practice will come, irrespective of writing goals or resolutions; writing has become a part of me, and will continue to relieve stress, expand my mind, demand creativty, and make me feel morally, intellectually, and aesthetically superior to Unwriters (that last one might be a joke). Thus, my main goal for 2011 is not to hone, advance, or amass any particular aspect of my writing or writerliness; it is rather to accomplish one specific task.

Write a novel I don't hate.

Yes, that's right! Not write a novel, but one I don't hate. In the past year alone I wrote, effectively, three novels. I wrote another the year before. Although they were all more or less consistent and relatively palatable, they all suffered, ultimately, from enormous defects that would have required a certain stamina or dedication to revise, edit, and complete - a staminacation that I ultimately failed to summon. Thus, four novels remain, leaching gigajoules from my computer processor like parasites, unsubmitted, unrevised, truly incomplete in any sort of accomplishment-sense.

Therefore, this year, I intend to complete a novel, edit it, and submit it for consideration with publishing houses and literary agents.

Part of the fundamental struggle I've had with this objective is that I find novels fundamentally divorced from short stories. It is so much easier to accept the cracks and fissures that inevitably develop in all writing when that writing is short. But inconsistenies, inadequate foreshadowing, poor character development, weak prose, repetition, adverbs... all these things are magnified when the length of the story is magnified by ten, twenty, thirty times. Brokenness, from my experience, is inherent to the novel project.

In other words, novels need to be (*shiver*) edited (*vomits*).

Some people, of course, vie for exceptions: Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method does this; it purports the novel that is unbreakable from the outset. But when I tried it recently, I got bored, because by extensively outlining and considering the story I was trying to write, I had "already written" all its possibilities inside my head - removing the very funness that writing ought to be about in its allness, the fact of discovering something doesn't even exist.

So this year, betwixt short stories, blog posts, and jeremiads, I intend to write a dang book. Then I'm going to buff and polish it. Then I'm going to mail it. And if I'm really lucky, it'll get published.

More likely, professional, novel-length publication is a goal for another year. But to lay the groundwork for that goal, I have to do the same thing I did with short stories: learn to finish them, and learn to submit them.



  1. A fine goal indeed. Books are supposed to be fun.

  2. True, that. Although I had fun writing most of the books I've stabbed at, those fun books ended up being no fun to read. Therefore, it is my objective to mingle different kinds of fun into a single project: both the reading, and the writing kind of fun.

  3. I like the nickname. :)

    I think it's a great goal. Sometimes I find that focusing too much on word count can be a bad thing. Words have to come together into SOMETHING. 100,000 words of false starts is no good.

    Don't know about your financial situation, but if you can afford it, you might wanna to try Holly Lisle's HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS, her online novel-writing course.

    She doesn't teach you characterization, setting, or anything like that. Rather, she teachers you how so find ideas that get you energized, how to develop those ideas into a story you're gonna love, and then she gives you real, practical advice on how to write a novel.

    It's a six-month course @ $50 a month. Well worth the money.

  4. I'll have to check that out.

    And, yes, I think that's the idea: to put together the words that make the thing. I don't really count the words that end up spiralling into the abyss, though there've been quite a few.

  5. I second Holly Lisle.

    Your goal is good. :) Best of luck making it happen.

  6. Hey Ben, good work on the HM over at WOTF! Saw your name on the list, wanted to pop in and give you a thumbs-up. Keep plugging away, man, you will make it.