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Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So what sort of writer are you?

Deborah Walker asks an interesting question over on her blog about short form writing vs long form. Am I a short story writer or a novelist? Is one predisposed to be one or the other? If you just consider the numbers, I have a lot more completed short works than long ones. I don't really consider myself a short story writer, though. I never really thought about my writing that way, to be honest.

I dunno. Besides the fact that a novel is a much greater commitment, time-wise, I don't really think of writing projects in terms of length. There is a story. May be it's short, maybe it's long. Maybe it revolves more around a character, maybe plot or setting. Maybe I know how it will end before I sit down to write (rare) and maybe It starts with a single scene, or even a single image, and I write to find out how-what-who-where-why.

Sometimes the *ideas* are too ambitious for me, and sometimes they simply aren't ambitious enough, and the story dies (or at least slips into a coma; I've got stories a decade old that I still think of as works in progress). Sometimes what I think will be fairly short turns out to be quite long.

When I first started writing, I thought I was a plot guy. As a reader, exciting, intricate plots were what drew me in. I'll skip through some boring-@$$ pages of description in a heartbeat to get to the next interesting bit. And I *do* write like that. A friend joked that I am the anti-David Foster Wallace. Then I wrote my first novel, and was sort of stunned to discover I was a character guy. Yes, Thagoth is a plot roller-coaster; too much so at times. But what drives the story and keeps people reading isn't the plot, really; it's the main character's voice. Amra owes as much to Travis McGee as she does to Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.

But as I get older, I like to think I get subtler as a writer. While the short story 'All the World a Grave' is also character driven, and I am proud of the structure and pacing of the story, it's about as subtle as an M-16. That's fine; that's the way it was meant to be. The latest one up at Smashwords (free!), 'Waste Land' is a very recent story. Besides being my first ever sci-fi tale, I'm also proud of the light touch I was able to give to the love story sub-plot. It's there, but I'm sure many readers will miss it. If they do, they don't really miss out on the meat of the story, but if they catch it, it's one more satisfying element that serves to deepen the story.

If I am a short story writer in some genetic sense, rather than a novelist, it has less to do with some innate attraction to short stories, and more to do with an inability to focus on long-term projects. In essence, I'm a short story writer by default, not in a determinist sense.

1 comment:

Deborah Walker said...

Thanks for riffing off my post, Michael. I'm sure that there are writers who flit between the longer and shorter forms quite effortlessly.

I find them very different.

I've also heard writers say that they tell the story at the length it's supposed to be. Now that is fascinating to me, because it always seems that my stories can be substantially contracted or expanded.

All very interesting stuff.