Thursday, August 18, 2011

I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn

I've been battling my way through a manuscript lately, and I've decided to put it aside, and start something else. It's been years since I've done that with something I've gotten more than a few thousand words into. My approach to a novel is usually to write a bit, get to know the characters, and then to outline the rest of the book.

Somewhere in there I got lost. What I'd created was superficially a romance, but poke at it a little more and it was a book about me, about my experiences, my fears. The sex, and even the romance, becamse secondary to pouring out frustration and anger at the world onto the page. There's nothing wrong with putting myself into a book; in fact, I couldn't write worth a damn if there wasn't a lot of me in every book, and every character. There is something wrong with letting it get out of control, however, and spending thousands of words talking about something no one but the writer cares about. Like most things, there's a balance. Somewhere in what I have written is a good story, maybe two. If I cut out a whole bunch, I'd probably have the core of something I could move forward with and write a good, commercially successful romance. But I can't bear to make those cuts right now after putting so much of myself on the page, and I need some distance in order to make the right decisions. Maybe it's the romance I should take out, because I'd be able to explore the issues that drove me forward better in a thriller. I don't know yet.

I do know that there's a gap between what's good to write and what's good to read sometimes. It's very tempting to do the former, but it's not disciplined, and it doesn't make for a readable book. This happens occasionally with research, too -- once I've done some for a book, I want to share all that information, whether it's relevant or not. I once heard an SF writer call this, "I suffered for my art, and now it's your turn." That little phrase stuck in my head and gets exactly at what I'm talking about. I suspect, if you think about it, you'll realize you've read a book like that. I think they tend to come from established authors rather than novices, actually. I've published or contracted nearly a dozen books now, and I do not want to become that kind of author.

Better to be self-indulgent in a blog than a story. And while I'm at self-indulgence, Secretary for Two is now available at Fictionwise and Amazon. Woohoo!

Back to the subject. The moment I made the decision to put my manuscript aside, ideas started flowing for other books, and I have one of them I'm excited about, a little ménage plot. Something I'll enjoy writing, and that readers will enjoy reading. Something with something of myself in it, and my own fantasies, without being on a soapbox. Off to write!

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