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Okay, now that that is off my chest, we can get into the meat of this post. Although I’ll admit that my entries have been a little lean lately. Nearing the end of a project seems to slow my momentum rather than increase it. But I did want to create a companion entry to “Page Counts, Words, Rosemary, and Time.” “Page Counts” dealt with my own schedule and how I use daily word counts or time spent to move forward. While writing that entry, I wondered if any other fantasy authors, or authors in general, did something similar. Did any of them measure their progress by counting pages? Or did they set aside specific blocks of time to work? Or did they just write all day long? I know each author has their own way of doing things, but I also like finding trends.
It’s ironic that the three writers I look up to the most are also some of the most prolific. Mercedes Lackey has dozens upon dozens of novels. Many are collaborations, but many are not, and even collaborating takes a great deal of time and effort. Oddly enough, she started off as a writer of fanfiction and was a protegée of Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of the mistresses of sci-fi and fantasy. J. Michael Straczynski writes for 10 hours a day, every day, except on his birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. He says, “If I don’t have an assignment, I’ll write a short story, I’ll write a spec script, I’ll write a novel. I just enjoy the hell out of it.” Out of the 110 episodes comprising Babylon 5, he wrote the scripts for 92 of them, plus all of the movies. Joss Whedon has created several cult classic television shows with some of the most unique and memorable mythologies and characters. He worked on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly as writer and director during the 2002-2003 television season, and said that he only feels his best when he’s writing:
“You know, I always get cranky when I’m not writing,” Joss admits. “I’ll be mad and I don’t know why. I just feel like I’m angry with everybody and I hate everything and life is a sham. Then I’ll realize I haven’t written anything. And rewriting doesn’t count. It has to be an original script” (Havens, 158).
These are the reasons I love to read and still love the older, archaic pulp fiction stories…and my primary motivations for reading at all. After watching Marvel’s The Avengers this weekend, and seeing all of the comic book characters coming to life on the silver screen recently, I thought this passage from the end of Richard A. Lupoff’s interesting book was rather apt:
One of the greatest and most basic rules of thumb in the world of writing is: “Write a story you would want to read.”
The next question is, “What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading?”
Once you’ve answered these two questions, your journey into the realm of writing has begun. And yet, so many writers seem to forget these basic questions. Too many get caught up what they think other people want them to write, or what other people want to read, or what kind of story formula will guarantee sales that will make them a multi-million-dollar success. If you start coming at stories from that angle these days, you are only sabotaging your own efforts. Your readers can tell when a story has heart and when it was written with calculation designed to draw them in. To an extent, every writer is trying to pull readers in, but the difference is this: are you trying to hook them because you think you have a good story to tell? Or are you trying to hook them for the money and popularity?
What is your favorite genre? What kind of story inspires you, intrigues you, appeals to you? Do you seek the spine-tingling screams of Horror? The alien worlds and high stakes of Science Fiction? The head-scratching maze of Mystery? The depth and realism of Historical Fiction? The pounding pulses and happy endings of Romance? (If you would like a full list of the main genres and sub-genres of fiction, I highly recommend reading “Writer’s Digest Sub-Genre Descriptions.”)
I think everyone has a favorite genre or kind of book or story that they seek out over the others. Some people like a wide variety of books while others are very particular about what they read and specialize in only a few types of books. Some even focus on only one kind. I don’t think one way is better than the other, although it is good to be at least exposed to other works and genres even if you don’t read them on a regular basis. My personal area of expertise is the wide-eyed wonder of Fantasy.