The More Things Change

I’m a few hundred words away from completing the last chapter of Gift of the Ancien. And I haven’t added a single word today. But I did write the first 1,000 words of a short story, and I blame it on Dean Wesley Smith. He’s set himself the challenge of writing more than 100 stories over the next year (in between novels, I presume), which I think is a ridiculous goal for any writer who isn’t turning out product. I made notes for a future post on product, so I won’t beat on it right now. What DWS did was remind me of my own intention to get serious about writing short stories. I have a long list of titles and slightly developed ideas, so there’s really no excuse not to get into it.

But I have a novel to finish. And then a novella. And then another novel. Yes, but this story started acting like a magnet, at least for the moment, and I just couldn’t help it. The good part, or maybe not so good, depending on how you look at it, is that starting the story gave me another idea. It’s about a wealthy but foolish guy who insists on living in a beach house that, in his mind, needs an English country garden. And climate change, which he doesn’t believe in, is shifting things around behind his back. No sooner did I get that 1,000 words down, than the mental gears started grinding away. Why not a collection of shorts about climate change? And what about the possibly next story, about a family fleeing the coast, and landing in the town where the first half of Gift of the Ancien takes place? They arrive just as the hurricane is about to strike (yes, there’s a hurricane in Gift), and take refuge in an abandoned house.

So right now I’m not liking DWS very much because I already had enough writing lined up to keep me busy until about 2022.

And then there’s Gift, itself. Ages of Blood is a collection of shorts that were originally interludes in Gift. For some reason, I decided the novel would be better off without them. But Ages of Blood is a misfit as an adjunct to the novel. It works as a prequel, but it also gives away a little too much of the plot. I’ve been unhappy about it ever since I published it, so it’s now unpublished and I’m thinking about adding it back to the novel, possibly with some revisions.

And then there’s . . .

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12 thoughts on “The More Things Change

    1. Lack of responsibilities makes all the difference, Richard. I read about so many people who manage to keep cranking out the words even under the burden of big responsibilities, and I admire the heck out of them. I couldn’t have done it when i was married. Just too many things to grab at my attention all the time.

  1. “He’s set himself the challenge of writing more than 100 stories over the next year (in between novels, I presume), which I think is a ridiculous goal for any writer who isn’t turning out product.”

    I just looked at his average wordage-per-story, multiplied it by 100, and *cough* that’s my wordage goal for 2013. We’ll see if I can still turn out product. 🙂 (I say “still” because I’ve managed that yearly wordage before.)

    But yeah, in addition to his usual novels? I’ll be curious to see whether he manages it.

    1. It isn’t the wordage that’s ridiculous, but the idea that you can write over 100 *good* stories a year (plus novels). I used “product” because that’s the kind of writer he is. He’s strictly commercial, and that’s a legitimate choice if you want to make a good living from writing, but it’s doubtful whether anything he writes will be remembered much past his lifetime.

  2. “It isn’t the wordage that’s ridiculous, but the idea that you can write over 100 *good* stories a year”

    Gosh, I’m hoping that I’m not understanding you to mean that, on the years when I did that much wordage, my writing was junk.

    “Rebirth” was written in the year that I wrote 337,000 words (i.e. the wordage equivalent of 100 of Mr. Smith’s stories). In fact, in the month of March alone, I wrote large chunks of seven stories – “The True Master,” “The Breaking,” “Love and Betrayal,” “In Training,” “Tops and Sops,” “A Prisoner Has Need,” and “The Consultation” – as well as writing two complete stories: “A Sexual Minority Speaks Out” and “First Time.” In all, I wrote 90,000 words in March 2002, which is the wordage equivalent of me writing one short story each day. And all of those stories were published online by the time March 2003 rolled around.

    Different authors work at different paces. I don’t assume that, just because some authors write more slowly than me, that means they’re poor at their work. I’m hoping you can see writing fast isn’t necessarily an indicator of poor quality either.

    “I used ‘product’ because that’s the kind of writer he is. He’s strictly commercial, and that’s a legitimate choice if you want to make a good living from writing, but it’s doubtful whether anything he writes will be remembered much past his lifetime.”

    What little I’ve seen of his work didn’t strike me as exciting, but are you seriously suggesting that his writing won’t be remembered *because* he’s a commercial fiction writer?

    If so . . .

    Shakespeare and most other Renaissance playwrights. Dickens and many other serialists of his time. Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, and virtually every science fiction author before 1960, because the main place SF was being published in those days was in pulp magazines.

    These are all authors who churned out wordage for money. Don’t you think that you’re making too strong a distinction between commercial and literary?

    I’ve never tried to classify my work as either literary or commercial, and I like to think that my writing appeals to readers of both sorts, but if I had to make a choice . . . yes, I consider myself a commercial writer. I’ve always written as fast as I can, and I’ve always published stories in the hope that they’ll be read as widely as possible. I don’t consider that there’s any contradiction between that and making sure my finished product is good.

    1. I guess I’m afraid of being repetitious, so I didn’t restate the idea that DWS writes formula fiction. You’re right that “commercial” doesn’t necessarily have any relationship to what’s valuable or ephemeral. (I chose those rather than “good” or “bad.”) There’s a sameness about formula fiction, and that’s actually one of the reasons it sells well. Most people like the familiarity, but also want some variations, and that’s what formula writers provide. It’s just like TV — comfortingly familiar, but with enough variety to avoid boredom. More as a sidenote than anything else, that kind of fiction doesn’t take chances (not usually, anyway). It doesn’t push boundaries or take risks. One of the things about your writing that’s attractive to your fans is that you *do* take risks. And it’s seldom predictable.

  3. “Lovers of slave fic generally enjoy a certain ‘formula’ to their plot, characters, etc.; while the best and most creative writers take that formula and mess around with it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good formula-based Rescue Fic, told straight. It’s only a cliché if you do it badly.”

    Slavefic Tropes Wiki.

    I remember once saying to Maculategiraffe that I thought at first “The Slave Breakers” would just be your average slavefic – and I rattled off to her a bunch of slavefic tropes . . .

    . . . whereupon she replied, “Yes! That’s what I wanted to write!”

    I love her candidness. 🙂 I do understand what you’re saying, but I think my storylines are formula.

    I think Rose Red’s comparison in that thread between Shakespeare and the guys he ripped off his plots from is an apt one, because Shakespeare is the supreme example of a good trope writer. He borrowed every formula in the world, and put his special touch to it. I don’t think that what he wrote wasn’t formula as a result. It was simply formula done well.

    Shakespeare was immensely popular in his time, and so are some formula writers today who write well. So I’m really not convinced that quality is determined by originality. (God, I hope that’s not the case, because I’ve written fanfic.)

    But I’m going to assume for a moment that, by “formula fiction,” you meant “formula fiction badly written.” You said, “That kind of fiction doesn’t take chances (not usually, anyway). It doesn’t push boundaries or take risks. One of the things about your writing that’s attractive to your fans is that you *do* take risks.” I can’t help but notice that you switched in that paragraph between talking about *stories* taking risks and talking about *authors* taking risks. I’m convinced that most poorly written literature isn’t *deliberately* poorly written – that is, the writer didn’t say, “Aw, what the heck – I’ll toss off a badly written story and throw it up on Amazon. I don’t want to take risks.” Instead, the author just didn’t have the skills to produce anything better.

    Chances are, though, he’ll still be able to find an audience – not only for the reason you mention, but because what one reader considers poorly written may be meat-and-potatoes for another reader. I’ve encountered very few stories that were so incredibly bad that nobody except their author could love them. Usually, the badly written story has some redeeming feature that could catch the imagination of the right reader.

    1. Granted, most slavefic works with familiar tropes, and I’ve realized that my own work uses them soo, but that isn’t quite what I meant by forumula. Talking about writers like DWS, they just ring variations of a few, limited formulas. What I find when I try to read that type of fiction is that I get bored very quickly, because it’s so predictable. Not in its details, of course, but in how it develops and plays out. For me, variation in the details isn’t enough. It may actually be well-written. I’m not saying that formula fiction is necessarily badly written. Maybe using “template” would be more precise than “formula.” Another point, though this may only be relevant to my own tastes, is that most formula fiction is concerned primarily with plot. It doesn’t go into depth in exploring or developing its characters.

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