Why Do I Write What I Do
The simple answer is … because it’s what in my head. The hard answer …
I really don’t know. I write the stories that are in my head.
Okay this isn’t working. I don’t write non-fiction because, generally speaking, I simply don’t know how to write a true story. So, I write fiction. Sometimes, my ideas are novel-length. Sometimes they are worth 500 words, or 1,000, or 10,000. That’s one of the things I’ve yet to figure out — what defines the length of the story. But, why do I write what I write? As in the genre?
Well, one thing to say is that I don’t think I necessarily fit a genre. To the extent I do, it’s just something like mainstream or contemporary fiction. Or maybe every now and then literary fiction. I generally do everything I can to stay away from a genre though because I really don’t want to write the same type of thing. I don’t want to be a Dean Koontz or a Nicholas Sparks or a Danielle Steele. The idea of writing the same type of story over and over again bores me. Where’s the challenge in that?
To the extent I have ever tried to answer the question “what is your genre” my response has typically been that I write slice of life stories. They are, for the most part, about real people experiencing real dilemmas and finding something on the other side of those dilemmas.
That, however, doesn’t necessarily answer the question of why. For instance, why don’t I write science fiction or horror or crime novels? And, other than repeating that I really don’t want to be stuck in a genre, I can’t answer the question. These are the things that come to me when I crack open my head and the first shadows of a story begin to form. A person in love with somebody they don’t even know yet. A husband struggling with an unhappy marriage. An old man living alone, wallowing in his memories and the damage his life has caused. An arranged marriage. A boy who has grown into a man still struggling with his brother’s death in Vietnam.
I don’t know why. I just know these are the ideas that form in the recesses of my head.
How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre
This assumes I have a genre, an assumption I’m not willing to accept. I think, however, that the biggest difference between my stories and those that might be classified in the same “genre” is that I write about normal people. Far too many stories, even those that I might consider to be within the same slice of life concept, is that the characters tend to be offbeat. It seems that there always has to be characters who are just slightly odd. And for some reason I’m challenged by the idea of odd when I write. I desperately want to do odd, but it just doesn’t seem to be something that is in me, except in extremely rare circumstances. Maybe that’s my genre … normal life.
How Does Your Writing Process Work
I write slowly. I edit as I write so that my first draft is typically very close to my final draft. In fact, there is typically very little that changes between first and final drafts. I wish I could write the way many people do — churning out a couple of thousand words a day. But I simply can’t. First there is the time issue created by working and family and life. But, there also is the fact that a significant part of the writing process for me is mental. I think about my stories, I ponder them, I think about this and that, and gradually the words come out when I find the time to open my laptop. But it’s typically slow and deliberate.
My first novel took one year to write and another year to completely rewrite. Then it “sat” on the shelf for a couple of years before it went through two major edits that eliminated almost 25,000 words.
My second novel took two years to write and it was essentially final and complete at the end of that.
When I’ve written over the past 6-8 months, it has primarily been work on a 30,000 word novella that I finally completed a couple of weeks ago. I also, during that time, completed a 15,000 word short story and wrote a few other shorter pieces. These longer pieces are taking longer and longer these days as I work on refining what I produce.
One of the things I’m trying to do with my writing process now is to find different ways to tell a story. The 30,000 word novella is told in the first person from the perspective of three different characters. The 15,000 word short story is told entirely in dialogue.
What Am I Working On
That’s the $64,000 question at the moment. The Irrepairable Past is my half completed novel (at almost 30,000 words now) about that old man who lives alone, wallowing in the misery of his past. I’m toying with the idea of taking my 30,000 word novella, Northville Five & Dime, and writing two more and turning it into a trilogy targeted at the YA market. I believe I’m going back to Irrepairable, but every time I think about it — which is several times a day, I don’t get how I can get back into it. I know what I want and need to write on the couple of chapters that are started, but not yet completed. I know what the other two chapters are going to be about in general terms. But when it comes to how I actually start typing the words again on this story I haven’t touched since last summer and which I started something like two years ago, I just don’t know how to.
This post was prompted by a post at midlifebloggers.com that was itself prompted by another blogger (linked to on midlifebloggers.com) who started a “blog tour” on the topics contained herein. Check them out … add your own take on these. What’s your writing process?
Your personal reflections on the writing process ring true for me in many ways. I recently read all the reviews of Alan Furst. His first few novels, or so, of historical spy thriller during WWII were well received, but his latest have not been, and what I am hearing is that he has run out of story. Old fans are saying that it has become cookie cutter, unoriginal, bland, that it does not even seem to have been written by the same person who wrote the first. That’s what I fear most about genre fiction, becoming formulaic, loosing the creative edge, the passion. When I am finished with my current project, I think I am going to change it up and write a story about a psychic astronaut who communes with alien spirits in the future.
Dean Koontz writes the same story over and over again. So does Stephen King. They have a formula and they stick to it. It doesn’t really sound interesting to me. It works for them because millions of people find comfort in knowing that they can pick up one of their books and there won’t be any surprises.
Great blog Mark and genre is a tricky one. I hear what you are saying about not wanting to be known for only one type of story and that makes perfect sense but there can also be benefits to writing one particular style, at least to start with I suppose. I am in the same boat as you, I don’t write one genre, it is more cross genre and that presents issues when you are looking to market and sell your books. Good luck with it all as ever and thank you so much for sharing your process. 🙂
There are definitely advantages to sticking with a genre … a built-in audience to name one.
I like the “slice of life” idea. You should make that a genre! Thank you for sharing your writing process with us!
I’m not sure if it’s anymore specific than mainstream or contemporary fiction, but I think it is. Certainly seems a little more descriptive than those categories that seem so massively broad and non-specific.
I agree!! You could be starting a new trend!!
Yes! Wait until I tell my kids that I’m a trendsetter. They think I am so uncool. 🙂