Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Some Thoughts About Writing

I haven't been writing much fiction lately, but in the last couple of weeks I've started thinking about it a lot. Now obviously, thinking about writing isn't the same as writing, but it shows interest and thus is somewhat better than not thinking about writing. I think.
Anyway, what I've been thinking about mostly is motivation. Why I write, and why I haven't been writing much recently. What I've come up with is, I'm just not interested in re-treading the same old ground. Basically, if I can't bring something new to a genre or subject, I can't see much point in writing. Yes, yes, I'm aware of the old saws that everything has been done and there are no new ideas. But there are new twists and new approaches and new voices. Looking back on the writing that I have done in the last few years, the only stuff that got past the fragment stage was the stuff that had some new and interesting element to it.
Though lately I've been obsessed with trying to write a straight forward Conan pastiche, I find that I just can't seem to get it done. I have plenty of ideas. I ALWAYS have ideas. And I've written several very serviceable fragments, but ultimately my mind seems to rebel because deep down I don't really want to produce ersatz Robert E. Howard. Barbarians yes. Conan clone, no. My two most successful forays into sword and sorcery recently have been my Alexander Gordon short 'The Dead Remember' and my stalled novel,'Some Dark God'. SDG stalled because of story issues, not character issues. The barbarian character in that one worked just fine because I was coming at it from a completely new and different angle. I have recently come back to the manuscript, and while I don't know that the book is salvageable, the main characters definitely are.
To some degree I think I am straining at genre conventions. I want the conventions because I want the stories to fit into the sub genre of sword & sorcery, but at the same time, I want something different. Problem is, as Michael Moorcock has pointed out, you can only stretch the somewhat limited sub genre so far before you are no longer writing in that sub genre, which kind of defeats your original purpose. He ran into this with some of his later Elric novels.
So now what? I dunno. I'm just thinking out loud here, trying to identify some of the issues. I do know, that as always, the answer probably involves being true and writing like me and not trying to do what anyone else has done. Sounds absurdly simple, but it's amazing how hard it can be to trust in your own instincts. As I'm fond of saying, writers don't write what they know, they write what they can.

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