Sunday, January 13, 2013

Experimentation and Productivity

After a talk with my husband Rob this evening, I came to two conclusions:

1. I need to experiment more with my writing.
2. I need to start writing a lot more.

The first one might seem strange if you've read a cross-section of my writing. I prefer present tense. I enjoy strange POVs. Almost all of my narrators are unreliable, and my favorite of my own stories (most of which have yet to see publication) have ambiguous endings. It's obviously not on the level of a truly avant-garde writer, but for SF/F, my writing is clearly on the experimental side.

And yet... I've never written anything like a physical fight scene. I've never written a story with magic or myth as a plot device. I've never written a narrator that wasn't on some level paranoid or neurotic, I've written exactly one functional romantic relationship. My stories are formulaic; it's not a formula that might be used very often (at least by published writers), but it's a formula nonetheless. As Rob put it, if I were given a prompt to write a story involving a gun, it would probably be a story about how the gun turned out to be a hallucination and the narrator would spend the rest of the story trying to uncover the machinations behind it. This is what I read, this is what I love. But couldn't I be doing something else?

I'm not going to start writing high fantasy or lovey-dovey heterosexual relationships or anything like that. My heart couldn't be in it. But that doesn't mean I couldn't maybe try to break out of the "paranoid near-future psychological soft-SF story in present tense POV" niche/rut I've got going. I think at this point I'm pretty good at cranking out what Rob lovingly refers to as an "Erica story." It's time to see if my "talents" for lack of a better term can reach beyond that.

As for the second conclusion, I had a goal to write one short story a month, which is more productive than I have been at any other point in my writing life. 2012 was my most productive year of writing ever, with five stories in the can. Five! Sorry if that doesn't sound amazing, but I don't think I've written more than three stories a year at any other time in my life, not even the big writing year of 2006, although I was also working on a novel at that time. So in those terms, twelve stories makes me a friggin' speed demon (no actual speed involved). But Rob says, why not shoot for two a month, i.e. 24 stories?

And that's kind of hilarious to me, because I don't think I've even written 24 stories I'm happy with in my entire life. So that goal is not going to happen. But still... maybe? Will shooting for quantity help me maybe get more stories of higher quality? Is it okay to write a story that's only 80% as "good" as something I've spent over a month on, if it means I can write two of those quality-level stories in the same amount of time? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do think I can maybe write two short stories a month for at least part of 2013 if I make more of an effort to write during the week, and also let go of the idea that my writing has to be perfect on the first go-around. Since that is something that's a major stumbling block when it comes to writing more (although it obviates much of the need for intense revision, and revising is my absolute least favorite thing to do).

Basically: 2013, you were shaping up to be a pretty good year for writing, but maybe now, you'll be a little more amazing. Not by much, though.

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