Monday, June 30, 2008

A writing quandry

I actually prefer writing fiction to nonfiction, not that you'd ever know it by my writing output. Aside from a brief productive period during my junior year in high school in which I managed 125 pages (not coincidentally, in the mostly pre-Internet, pre-insanely addictive guitar-based video games era), I don't get very far in my fiction writing.

Part of it is guilt, I suppose; feeling guilty that I'm taking time from my family by being hunched over the computer. Another part is the feeling that I'm wasting my time--I have nothing "important" to say.

This usually manifests itself in wondering "how the hell would I market this to someone?" The stuff I find myself writing isn't all that easy to explain succinctly. I guess you could say it's funny. I mean, I try for it to be, anyway.

But I don't see many books marketed as comedies; do you? And the humor section is generally essays and other nonfiction.

I started a story for National Novel Writing Month last year, and much like every other story I've started, I haven't finished it yet. At least with this one, I'm still interested in seeing where the story ends up.

But I find myself balancing the notion of justifying spending time and effort on something that will likely only be seen by me and a few friends with the simple fact that when it comes down to it, I have to write. I can't go long without it, lest I get headaches.

Writing: My brain's way of taking a dump.

This is not a thinly veiled plea for compliments, though I admit I have no shame and will take them. It's mostly me just wondering out loud if the stuff I want to write has an audience that makes it worth writing.

Here are a few stories I've worked on in the past few years, boiled down:

Fraternal twins celebrate the end of their 20s by going on a road trip.

Dracula's son and the Frankenstein Monster team up with other monsters to halt a zombie invasion.

A coming-of-age story about a smartass high school student.

I stop once I get to the point that I ask myself why I'm writing it. I mean, those are all interesting to me, but I'm not sure that I'm the average book buyer.

My ultimate goal is to sell a book, but first, I have to finish one, right?

When I was in junior college, the teacher offered a chance for extra credit if we a) made a list of 10 potential markets for our writing and b) submitted a piece to one of those markets.

I'd never submitted anything before, and if I didn't want the extra credit, I probably wouldn't have bothered, because damn near every book on writing tells you not to be discouraged because no one gets accepted on their first submission.

When August rolled around and I got a manila envelope in the mail with a check for $10 and a copy of the magazine my article appeared in, I was ecstatic. Yeah, it was only 10 bucks in a tiny magazine, but I got published on my first try.

A normal person would be inspired by such an event and start churning out reams of stuff, submitting it to every market that seemed to fit.

But since I'd met my goal of being published by the time I turned 21 (I actually beat it by a little over a year), the pressure was off. I set a new goal to publish a book by the time I turned 25.

This turned into 29, 30, and is now resting perilously at 35, which gives me a shade less than two years to get off my ass.

If I were smart, I'd write a story about some wiseass who keeps procrastinating when it comes to a life goal he set when he was in elementary school.

I'll write that when I get around to it. I've still got until November 2009.