Fine, I’ll write the damn thing
I love to read, though for many years I did not read much for pleasure, simply because 1) I was very busy, 2) I was reading a lot for work related stuff and 3) if I find a book, or even worse an author, I really enjoy I tend to go on reading binges, which can interfere with that thing we call life. Still, I’ve started reading for pleasure again and I’m really enjoying it. I’m also trying to pace myself when I run across things I like. So far it seems to be working.
One of the hazards I’ve found with reading the stuff I like is that it gets my “imagination monkey” working overtime. The result is that I wind up with a bunch of ideas in my head for stories. I’ve thought for a long time this wasn’t good for a guy whose writing skill, such as it is, has always seemed best suited for non-fiction. Thus, I can write academic papers on things as fascinating to me as tetralogy of Fallot, or a white paper for the command suite of Naval Hospital xxxxx. But fiction? Fiction requires characters and that stuff they call dialogue. Still, I tried. The results were less than impressive. But the ideas wouldn’t stop and it wasn’t made better by the fact I played a lot of D&D (for those of you of a “certain age” I can still remember Chainmail) or that I was for a time a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. To be a successful fantasy RPG player, your imagination has to spend a fair amount of time in overdrive. Mine certainly did.
Eventually, I tried again. See, there was this idea I had for a book. It had been initially inspired by a movie from the 1960s entitled The Fearless Vampire Killers. The movie wasn’t very good, but the idea of people hunting vampires really appealed to me. My idea was vague and incomplete, but there was a story I wanted to tell so I started writing it again. Once again, it was not only not very good, it was actively bad. I threw it away, as I had all the efforts that came before it. In 1998, John Carpenter scored and directed a movie about vampire hunters, entitled simply Vampires. That same year saw the release of the first of the Blade franchise, somewhat based on the Marvel comic book hero of the same name (yeah, I’d read those). The problem was that every single time I’d write, the results would suck and I’d destroy the evidence. I walked away from it for several years.
In 2006 I stumbled across a book by an author who shall remain nameless and whose work I really enjoy (I’ll tell you who it is, soon enough). As I began reading I found myself saying “but…but…but…” He had written the book I had wanted to write. Not only that, he had written it better and gotten it published. Life, I decided, was grossly unfair. Please note, I am most emphatically NOT saying he stole my idea. We had neither met nor corresponded and besides, I’d destroyed all the evidence, remember? Rather, I’m saying I’d waited and while I was spending my time waiting rather than writing, someone with a similar idea and the willingness to practice and hone his craft had done what I’d wanted to do. I was truly bummed and I had only myself to blame. Now, does that mean that if I’d written and practiced and honed I’d have had the same results? We’ll never know, because that’s not what I did. It’s what Larry Correia did. The books are the Monster Hunter International series and I recommend them highly. So there, I’m not jealous. At all.
There’s an advantage to having real friends and family who will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. In this case, when I complained, even as I bought more of Larry Correia’s books (I really enjoy them), they told me things like “stop whining” and “get over yourself.” So, for the most part I did. Then, one day, I made the mistake of mentioning all the above to yet another wannabe author. He told me to just write the story, if only so I could move on to writing other stories. If I were to combine his comments and those of all the people who preceded him, the conversation might look like this.
“You should just write the story.”
“I really don’t think I should do that.”
“Why not? Don’t you want to tell your story?” He had me there. It simply wouldn’t leave me alone. There was a reason I’d held back from trying again, though.
“People will read it and think I’m just copying another person’s work.” I knew I didn’t want to hear that.
“Why does that matter?” He asked me if I’d ever read The Epic of Gilgamesh. “Sure,” I replied.
“And what, other than technology, do you find in modern literature that isn’t in the Epic?
I knew there was a trap, I just wasn’t sure of where it was. “Nothing, really.”
“That’s right. All fiction is just a takeoff on The Epic of Gilgamesh, including those books you don’t want to be accused of imitating. So, please, just write the damn thing and be done with it.”
That’s what I’ve decided to do. I really like to write. I also really need to get better at it. The only way that’s going to happen is if I just keep writing. Another part of that getting better process is soliciting feedback from readers. So, I’ll be occasionally posting snippets of my fiction here. Feel free to comment on those snippets, in fact I’m asking you to do so. I have only two requests in this regard.
- Please be honest. If you don’t like something, feel free to tell me. You can do that via comments or by using the “contact me” button toward the top of the page.
- Whether you like something or not, tell me as much as you can about why you do or don’t like it. Please do me the favor of being concrete. Terms that aren’t defined make me crazy.