Monday, May 17, 2010

What I Want to Write

I haven't been writing much about writing lately. And that's because . . . I haven't been writing much lately. I've been freelancing more lately. Like, for money. That's important, and it takes up a lot of the time I used to spend writing creatively. (And blogging.)

It's really really hard to keep up with: raising kids, running a household, menu planning (and shopping and preparing healthy food), keeping active, freelancing during "free" time, AND creative writing.

It can be done, of course. In fact, I've done it! (Although when I'm writing busily I often let exercise and eating-in slide a little bit.) So the real reason I haven't been writing as much lately must be something else.

I believe it's because I'm still trying to figure out what to write. Write what you read! goes the standard advice. Well, I like to read lots of stuff. I've tried to write what I read, and even some stuff I don't read as much of for variety.


And after much effort I've determined that it's a real struggle for me to write
children's lit
humor
romance
sci fi and fantasy
and . . . mysteries. I've worked the longest at writing mysteries! I've studied really hard! I've practiced! I've loved reading these all my life! I'm an active member of Sisters in Crime! And maybe one day I'll write a mystery that I think is good enough to share with others.

But in the meantime, where the writing feels most real and most natural and most fun and most exiting is when I'm writing something a lot like . . .

Literary fiction or maybe book club fiction ("commercial fiction," I suppose, though I don't really tend to see the two as such distinctly different genres as some do). So: commercial literary fiction. I think I have drool on my chin. Upmarket fiction.

But the derision!
The pretension!
What unpublished writer could claim to be writing a book like that?!

Those books, the ones that might have stamps from prestigious awards on their covers, the ones with thought-provoking readers' guides, the ones that "use too many words" (as determined by a writer friend of mine who's all about pace and urgency and cutting out all "unnecessary" description) those are the books that really touch me, that really get me excited, that make me think:

I want to do that!

And so. I live. I experience. I feel. I read. I think. I practice. I write.

And someday, hopefully, I'll have a novel I'm proud to show others.

(Image from AllPosters.com.)

8 comments:

elissa said...

hahaha! there is something so HOITY TOITY about that word "literary", isn't there?*

*sekrit time: I got my revision notes back from my agent, and they said something along the lines of, Let's face it. This book is very literary. And we're just going to have to deal with that and make that a selling point, hahaha!

I can't really write any other way, when it comes to fiction.

Sarahlynn said...

Hey. Congratulations!!!

bingol said...

I'm having the problem, myself. I make a (meager) living as a novelist, and I focus v. intensely on selling. Because I have to. So my advice isn't worth much.

But I'd caution you against raising the bar too high for your first novel. I mean, by all means, write literary/commercial/upmarket! But be willing, your first time, to write a deeply crappy literary/upmarket/Oprah novel. Trying to write literary and _good_ sounds like a recipe for paralysis to me.

I have a hard enough time trying to write beach trash and good!

bingol said...

I'm having the problem, myself. I make a (meager) living as a novelist, and I focus v. intensely on selling. Because I have to. So my advice isn't worth much.

But I'd caution you against raising the bar too high for your first novel. I mean, by all means, write literary/commercial/upmarket! But be willing, your first time, to write a deeply crappy literary/upmarket/Oprah novel. Trying to write literary and _good_ sounds like a recipe for paralysis to me.

I have a hard enough time trying to write beach trash and good!

bingol said...

So wise I had to post it twice.

Sarahlynn said...

First, I'm v. impressed that you make a living as a novelist. Second, you offer good advice. The only reason I was able to write my first (terrible) novel ms was because NaNoWriMo forced me to stick to a daily word count and repeatedly gave me permission to write badly. No editing! No second guessing! No stopping! Just charge ahead and write crap.

Now I can edit a bit as I go, and my first drafts are slightly less rough, but still . . . if I tried to sit down and create art I'd stare at a blank screen all day. (Lie. I'd stare at a blank screen for about ten minutes then go take a nap.)

I recently read A SUDDEN COUNTRY and while I was impressed by a lot of the historical detail in the novel, I think the author tried a little too hard to create art. The writing called attention to itself and pulled me out of the story, especially early on.

(Sidenote. I don't think it's easy to write good "beach trash." I think it's very very difficult to write something good that people not related to the author want to read.)

bingol said...

Making a living as a novelist isn't so hard when you've got no other job skills. Nothing motivates like desperation.

And I didn't know you already finished one! I retract everything. If you can finish one, you're set. The only other real hurdle is revising until you hate every work with a violent passion, and then revising again, and again, and again, until you've washed every trace of life from the manuscript.

Well, works for me.

Sarahlynn said...

I've written four complete first drafts - of extremely different novels. (They're getting a bit better, if I do say so myself.) It's the "revising" part that gets me. A high hurdle indeed!