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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Why I Don't Write Fiction for Pay

I have several perfectly decent rationalizations for why I don't write fiction for pay:
  • No time.
  • No ideas.
  • Too tired from the day-job writing.
In the end, though, a lot of why I stopped writing fiction for fun and/or profit is simply a lack of confidence. I have no problem writing articles of fact that are based on some living reality generated or observed by others--or articles of opinion, which are simply my critical or snarky thoughts as I examine a given topic. Writing fiction, though, is hard work. It's very much an art, not a science. Even if you follow Aristotle's Poetics, you can still end up with a story that's better off lining a birdcage than on the printed page.

Fiction writing is more of a risk than nonfiction writing because it's intensely personal and subjective. You're creating a world, more or less (if you're writing science fiction or fantasy, this really is the case), and it's a world drawn from your experiences and outlook. You're putting yourself out there and saying, "This is how I see things; like it or lump it!" Problem is, if enough people lump it, it's really d@mned difficult to collect any money. Plus, it can make you a bit skittish about offering up more.

Case in point: I horsewhipped myself through the National Novel Writing Month process back in November, kicking out 59,770 words in 29 days; however, I now have little interest in following through with editing it. Heck, I haven't even READ the whole thing since its completion. It was an experiment to see if I could write a novel. I have. And, in the opinion of its author, it needs to be thrown away with great force. I can write other stories, but this one is just not wowing me. Problem is, I still get people asking me, "So how's the novel going?" My standard answer is that I've finished the first draft and am having trouble editing, which is the truth.

The usual thing I hear from friends is, "You're being too hard on yourself." Yeah, okay, but I read enough bad writing elsewhere to know when I'm guilty of it. So then the question becomes: do I care enough to fix it, or do I just let it rot on my hard drive? Right now I'm partial to rot, but if anyone who's a writer has suggestions on how to get me to like a story that I don't think is particularly good, I'm willing to read them.

2 comments:

Doc Ezra said...

Forget learning to like it. Most writers' first novel is crap, and very few ever get published. It's a writing exercise to develop that skill set (fiction writing) that you don't use otherwise in your writing endeavors. If you follow up with another shot at NaNoWriMo this year, you may find you like the end product somewhat more. Eventually you might even find one you felt deserved the follow-up attention. :)

Bart Leahy said...

So I can "abandon in place" with a clear conscience? I like it!

Thx,

/b