I have been listening to a lot of the Writing Excuses podcasts which seem to have really inspired me into really looking at everything I did in different ways. There was a time when I looked at anyone trying to give advice about writing or the craft and I thought it was stupid to listen to them. There seems to be this phase a lot of writers, myself included, go through where they’re certain that none of the other real writers have ever needed help and we only feel like we do because we’re not as good or we’re weak.
Most of my connection with other writers has been through an online medium. It’s rare that I meet someone in person whom I share my writing with or can even talk to about what it is I do. The internet was the first place that I felt I could be artistic in the open in a way I wanted to. True, before I did this I was drawing a lot and people saw that. But they never saw the comic books for the most part and the other things I made. Before I even got to high school I had single handedly drawn and inked over 70 comic books in a series.
Almost all of them are long gone by now, but the point is that back then if anyone had found out they would have questioned me as to why. Maybe not to my face, but behind my back. On the internet people were writing and drawing and doing whatever all of the time. I honed my art skills there and later my writing ones.
Years later when I would talk to other aspiring writers about my research methods, about how much I read about the craft itself or how much I studied the methodology behind writing they would joke that I was not a real writer. I didn’t write from the heart and totally make things up, I researched them and I spent time developing how I could incorporate different methods into myself.
Part of the time I felt bad, like I was less than what I wanted to be. But when my results grew better with time and my characters had a solid footing to rest upon, not just feeble ones built upon someone trying to do everything in solidarity and ignoring all of those that came before, I realized I had been right.
Fiction has existed as long as language, but written fiction is much newer and even newer is the idea of a novel.In the scope of human history, the novel is only about one thousand years old. Over the years things have been added to it and taken away. Writing has grown into different genres with characteristics and some recognizable patterns. The way characters have been constructed has changed dramatically and we’ve seen the rise of different viewpoints, different voices, challenges to the idea of what a novel could be and what it should be—entire books written in the form of e-mails, text messages as a literary device and even a book written in chat speak.
There’s no requirement a writer study the work of those before, but completely writing off the study od it is dumb and I have come to see the overwhelming truth in this. Since starting Writing Excuses I have been challenged to analyze my own writing: plot, character, setting; and really decide what I wanted to do with these things. I have been forced to look for themes and remember that the amazing things that writers do in books are often not deliberate at first and when found in post writing revisal can be made to look more deliberate and sharpened for effect.
In general I’ve been made to discover my own excuses for writing. I’m not out because because I want to make a quick buck (because it’s not like that) and I don’t want to try to write some super original story that shakes up the literary world (because I think those kinds of people a generally not in it for the right thing either); I write because I love it, even when I hate it. I love to write.