Mentally Biting My Nails


One of the things I miss most about fanfic [sidebar: I wrote fanfic for ten years, most actively between 2006-2011, racking up 40 short stories and over 130 thousand words] is the ability to pick up characters, plunk down an idea and get to the meat of a story without much fanfare.

I love lingering in small intimate moments, examining the mundane and vulnerable parts of everyday life. I used to do it all the time in fanfic – the moment a marriage broke, the memory of a divorced father caring for his chicken-pox infected daughter, the knowledge that you can love someone to the core of your being even though you know you’re better off apart – more than anything, I miss getting to explore those moments of humanity with my characters.

Since officially closing up shop on writing fanfic – April 2016 will be two years – I’ve felt starved of the ability to write pieces like that. I have characters bouncing about my cranium encased in scenes yearning to be told, but I feel like I can’t because most of them start directly in the middle with very little backstory. I worry that becauseI know so much about the characters, I’ll forget to bring the reader along for the ride.

This was the main problem, I believe, with Pick Up Lines and Peanut Butter. I’d had the characters in my head for so long, that I didn’t think about what it would be like for the reader to approach them. Which meant both Ian and Nora sort of came off as one note, because it was supposed to be the beginning chapter of a novel. Only much later, after that draft has been dismantled and rolled into what is now Open Season did I go back and retrofit it as a short story stand-alone. Hopefully it’s still enjoyable, but I can see where this technique could cause gaps in the narrative.

Which leaves me feeling somewhat stuck. Do I write a bunch of stories that other people might have absolutely no interest in, just because that’s firing me up at the moment? Or do I spend time crafting a more approachable narrative, which would be more comfortable for readers, but less interesting for me as a writer?

Any thoughts or words of wisdom? I’d appreciate some advice one way or the other.

Categories: Anxiety, Open Season, Writing
Tags: ,

3 Responses so far.

  1. Owen O'Neill says:

    I remember when life nibbled, now it gulps. How it is possible a month just went by?

    It does make sense. People obviously work differently, but we write all the “gems” first (the scenes we are passionate about). That gives a “pretty” (to us) but unconnected “mess”. Later (sometimes much later), we sit down and say: “If we want anyone else to *read* this, how do we fill this in?” That’s the “connective tissue” or the framework (or the wires) and give the “gems” some context to other people.

    But to us those are two separate processes, that we deal with at different times. We work on whichever one as our mood suits. Eventually a completed novel takes shape.

    It’s that latter step where collaboration really helps (for me at least), because that’s where the external or reader POV comes in. I could, as an individual, couldn’t do a very good job of making a story “make sense” on my own. Working as team really helps there, but we do reach out on that point. However, it’s in the sense of help us arrange our “gems” — the “gems’ themselves are are pretty much “off limits”.

    I’m trying to figure out how join the “modern age” here. So I hope to “Skype” enabled at some point in the not to distant. And then I would be interested in chatting, infrastructure permitting.

  2. Owen! Firstly, delighted to hear from you. I hope that you and Jordan are doing well with your current book. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and comment. Also, please feel free to rant away, I enjoy hearing your perspective on writing, both creatively and as a business.

    I think – and I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed this at some point – I worry that by focusing only on the season I’m most passionate about, that I’ll fail to write the connective tissue and end up with a bunch of great, but disconnected scenes, and not a finished novel. Does that make sense?

    Would you ever be interested in meeting up on Skype for a text or audio chat? I’d love to pick your brain about writing and project management and other such things. I hope you’re doing well and I look forward to hearing from you!

  3. Owen O'Neill says:

    I can’t say if these words are wise, but I’ll say: don’t consider factors like approachability. Write what moves you, the way it moves you. It’s true others may have no interest in it, but we authors have little control over that anyway. I won’t go off on a rant about “manufactured fiction” vs other types of writing, but I believe readers respond to passion and if a piece is less interesting to you, that diminished interest will be communicated to the reader.

    So being “approachable” (IMHO) really means “being interesting”. Yes, I also think Twinkies outsell what it what I might call “real food” and the same can be said of some types of writing. But I’ll set the “Twinkies” issue aside for now. I tend to think of it like this: if I write something that deeply interests me and fires me up, then there is at least one person who feels that way about it. If I compromise those feelings for the sake of other factors (like a more “approachable” narrative), there’s a good chance that no one will.

    That isn’t the be all and end all of the author-reader relationship. But I think it’s the foundation of it.