Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ah, Self-Righteousness, the Spice of Life

This blog's mostly about fiction and various forms of it, such as writing. Y'all knew that already, so I'll move on.

Writers always get stuck with a version of typecasting. We're always the quiet ones who don't want others to read our stuff and fiercely guard it with our lives and hide journals under stuff. Sometimes, we're also in pain and we write to make life better or something, usually with the use of beautiful and tortured (i.e. horrible) poetry. And ultimately, we write for the sake of writing. It is an art form, and to make our art into anything but would be selling out.


Maybe I'm especially unique, but I'd personally like to write a bestseller and make money from either book sales or subsidiary stuff, such as books and related merchandising. Does this make me a sellout? Not really. As a skill, writing is very marketable. Your options range from writing website copy to penning the next Harry Potter, and it is hard work. As a writer, it's easy to fool yourself into thinking that your unedited work is just gold in ink form, but that's the farthest thing from being true.

My degree comes from a very conservative university. I minored in creative writing, and I took some great classes that didn't only focus on the skill of writing, but also on the marketability of a finished product. In fact, not one but two professors pushed a focus on making your work publishable. If you want to use your gifts, you shouldn't limit yourself to writing stories and poems for friends or your own personal pleasure, and you really shouldn't scoff at those who are published, because they've been willing to do the work that you will need to do to get published.

I think one of my favorite reactions is the "I've seen and write better than that" that tends to come up. A good example that I once read on the internet was the laughable statement that Twilight is unoriginal because...wait for it...Buffy did it better the first time. Reasons being? Buffy had a vamp boyfriend too. This is true, but that doesn't grant Joss Whedon's hit series any more originality than Twilight. In all honesty, Buffy kinda sucked. (Whedon hit the mark better with Firefly, a great show that regretfully lasted only one season.) The title character's ability to sort of use something that resembled a sappy stage version of fake martial arts was, I think, the reason so many were fans of the show, or something like that. (Granted, this was the 90s, the era of empowered women in leather bikinis, and fanboys went nuts for stuff like that. Throw in the romance with a tortured vamp-guy, and you have a hit series.)

All this to say, don't get too much on your high horse. Take criticism. I once knew someone who had a near breakdown at her on-campus job because some guys in her creative writing class had given an honest critique on her story's characters. It deeply bothered this person that someone had noticed that her characters went through very unsubtle, sudden changes. Look at examples around you, and please stop comparing apples to oranges. For example, comparing the Chronicles of Narnia to the Harry Potter series is probably something you should avoid, just because the styles are very different. True, they're both fantasy, and neither are allegorical. They do have a couple of things in common. For example, England. And words.

One more thing: give yourself credit. You may be a fan of Harry Potter, a loyal Narnian, a Twi-hard, or a respectable citizen of Hobbiton, but you are not any of those authors. You don't have to be them in order to write good books of your own. I'm reading through the Harry Potter series right now and it was tempting for a bit to knock a few years of the ages of my main characters and give them adventures at the age of 13 or 15. I admire Rowling's work and I think she's a good writer. She's certainly a strong writer, and that could easily become a problem for myself if I let her series overcome my work. I can't let that happen. All I can do is work out discrepancies and issues in my book and let it be what it already is. What sets me apart from the writers of any books I own? They're already published. Instead of concentrating on my intellect, I'm going to sit down, shut up, and work, because they're all way ahead of me already.

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