Thoughts Near the End

I’m 5k from the finish line with the real drama of the story still in front of me. My impression of what I’ve written so far is of steady buildup with occasional small dramas along the way. That would be unacceptable if this was an action fic, but it’s as much about one man’s trip through his career doubts and moral dilemmas as it is about what goes on around him. When I titled the book The Warden, it was just intended as a place-keeper for something more eye catching that I’d figure out later on. For the first few chapters, I felt as if that title was completely inappropriate; there were so many interesting characters that the warden seemed no more or less important than any of them. But that changed as I moved further into the story and discovered that it wasn’t about the big picture: how and why this prison exists, as I’d intended. It was very much about the warden himself, in the context of this small corner of the big picture.

So all the discussions about politics and the changing world picture dropped away except as grace notes to the warden’s story. In the process I learned more about myself as a writer, something that might have taken me much longer to learn without the intense focus that NaNo provides. Some of it I already knew: I’m not a world-builder, for one thing, maybe the most important thing. I have no talent for complex plots, preferring to work with the slow development of my characters’ mental and emotional states. And I work best with characters who are in tightly controlled, even claustrophobic physical settings.

As I look back over the fiction I’ve created so far, I can see elements of science fiction, fantasy, and romance. But they’re only elements, not central, and not enough to place my work neatly in a genre. Where romantic relationships exist, they’re almost exclusively male/male, but the stories don’t work as gay literature. Slavery is a strong element, but as I use it, it doesn’t fit any of the standard slavefic themes. Just as in every other aspect of my life, my writing refuses to be categorized, which makes it anathema to the publishing world. So maybe it’s fortunate that it took me until old age to find my way as a writer. The new opportunities for self-publishing mean that my work can go out into the world without being vetted for commercial success, and find its own audience

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