Thursday, March 08, 2007

Me Write Pretty One Day*

(*with apologies to David Sedaris)

Well, just got word from Jeff Vandermeer. Alas, Jeff said that he liked my submission for the pirate anthology but unfortunately, another story had come in that had all the same elements. So, no go. Goes to show that there's an advantage about being early to the ball, eh?

But it's not so bad: Vandermeer liked my story. Woot.

Still, there was a point when I thought of giving up on the unfinished story, what with the pressure and the already-past deadline. After all, look at the established names already accepted in the antho:Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, and Howard Waldrop. Who wouldn't be scared off?

Coupled with this is I'm reading the latest Year's Best anthology edited by Link, Grant and Datlow and I'm constantly despairing over my feeling that I'll never write a story good enough for the annual. Oh, I know I'm a decent story-teller: I know my own strength and I'd like to think that I'd never bore anyone reading my stories. But writing 'pretty' stories (as I like to call 'em) like Graham Joyce, Kelly Link or Lucius Shepard? In terms of learning the literary language, I've got a long way to go, baby.

To compensate for this, [identity-protected] suggested not limiting my reading to genre stuff and that I should expand my reading horizon. However, I can proudly say that I don't read just spec fic (read: fantasy, SF, horror) but also non-fic and literary material. I do admit that I'm sorely lacking in the classics front but the funny thing is that I'm easily influenced by the prose of whatever I'm reading so it's not much of a big jump.

My question is, where do I start? I've got some Hemingway here, some Shakespeare there. Maybe Dante? Boccacio? Poetry is also supposed to be good so I've a compilation of Romantic poets on hand. But after a while, I'm overwhelmed on the hows and wheres and whats of my quest for self-improvement. After all, the right word at the right time must be combined with the beauty of the language. How does one balance these in writing? Maybe I'm being too ambitious, the way a carpenter wishes to be an architect.

skinny once asked, "What can I offer to the readers that others haven't read before?" I told him that it doesn't matter what others think, that it is what one writes that matters. Moreover, I thought, there's nothing new under the sun and that it's all just a matter of spin. He of course brought up Dan Brown's old faithful. Blasphemy, of course, and I vaporized him immediately. Still, he has a point.*

I'm not a writer (in the literary sense), I'm a storyteller, dammit. I don't write because that's what I am, I write because I like making stories, the way we made stories in our head when we were kids. The way we like listening or reading good stories that we never wanted to end.

In the end, in the face of all of these discouragements, the only thing I can do is just keep plugging away at the laptop or computer and keep submitting my stories. There are still so many stories to be told.

One last word: "Honest is easy. Fiction is where genius lies." (Guster, Demon)

*Just to clarify, my chat with skinny was pretty long and convoluted as he gave some pretty incisive insights on the craft of writing. (Gotta say, I do think it's more of a craft rather than art. But that's my opinion.)

As he says:

i think, there are so many writers in the world: what am i adding to that? what's the point of me making it just that tiny bit more difficult for other writers by crowding into the scene? i think the problem is with the literary scene is there's no longer much room for that sort of self-centeredness; there are too many writers in the world these days, so, why does this writer deserve to be published but not this one? more importantly, why should i read this writer and not that one? so the question i have to ask myself: why do i think other people 'should' (note the quotes) read my work?what's the purpose of getting it out there? if my only answer is because i want my stories to get out there, is that i need to make a buck out of something i like doing, i feel like i'm doing readers like myself a kind of disservice cluttering the scene

Something to think about when writing your stories and submitting it. As if us writers don't have enough dark thoughts to worry at. *wry grin*


Der Fuhrer said...

Woots to ye Banzai!

Hmn..classics? Er.. in poetry, maybe Neruda. Heheh. I'm not much of a classics reader too. Shakespeare is good. Have you tired Joyce and Fitzgerald? Dante? Hmn..I prefer Boccacio but The Divine Comedy is good too.

Were actually in the same situation right now, I'm trying to embrace a wider view when it comes to me reading list so right now, I'm trying to open those unfinished contempo books I have on my shelf :D heheh

skinnyblackcladdink said...

sorry, but i feel misrepresented here.

it isn't a matter of 'what others think' of what i write i was asking about, but the inherent value of what i have to offer the voluminous and these days crowded landscape of modern literature.

one of my imagined worlds is a city where everyone is a writer, and everyone gets published; in such a world, how does one go about standing not necessarily above but apart from the rest?

it's a question of creating quality and variety in the landscape, rather than simply adding to the increasingly redundant multitude of material out there.

and thereby hopefully satisfying my own personal needs as a writer, my personal requirements and desires as a reader.

banzai cat said...

fuhrer: Yeah I know what you mean. The funny thing is that the reason I concentrate on spec fic is because there's so much stuff (both good and bad) to read out there. To add the much-larger classification of classics to read without having a focus or direction in mind would be outright crazy. ;-)

skinny: Hah, sorry about that. It was more of a soundbite or a pastice of our conversation. Should never post when I'm too tired. Yeah, I got your point during our chat. I just thought to add in my post how your insights have been added to the stuff I have to chew upon during the quiet times. :-)