Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writing fiction

On the southernmost fringe of the tanglewood forest, beyond the kingdoms of men, in the midst of a purgatorial wasteland blighted with perpetual winter and savaged by endless storms, there stands an inn where the battle-lines between sanity and madness meet. Here, where soul-consuming demons walk freely as men, where nightmares parade their garish hues like common whores of the street, where only the boldest or the most benighted seek to tread, our story is enacted.*

See, that's why I don't write fiction. It never comes out like that. I have written fiction (not going to tell you where to find any of it) but, trust me, I am not even halfway up the mountain.

Challenged to write a short story by my very best friend recently, I succumbed, but nothing has improved with time. Oh, I have no trouble writing - the words seem to just bubble out with the least bit of priming - indeed the trouble is shutting off the flow - but those words still don't emerge as good fiction. When I see things written by Ken Armstrong or Catherine Sharp (not to mention my best friend) I tend to get intimidated and stop trying to write fiction.

Also, I don't take criticism well, so there's that. As a result, my occasional forays into the world inhabited by actual talented writers are few and far between.

Someday, maybe I'll be brave enough to let some of it see the light of day.

*This fantastic piece of writing is on the blog called "Out of Ruins". The short story is Tanglewood. If you want an escape from Relax Max's amateur drivel, go read the story.


  1. To tell the truth, I'm very glad you don't come out with things like that, though I do think Ken and Catherine are fantastic writers. I suppose you saw Catherine's latest?

  2. Each of us define what is "good writing" and who knows, yours may be as good. There are some who may not think Ken Armstrong or your "best friend" are really all that, hard to believe as that is.

  3. Criticism gets easier with time. The more you learn from it, the more you realize it's there to make you better.

    It's also crucial you have readers who appreciate your style of writing and who are willing to be honest with you.

    Then again, if you aren't ready, you aren't ready.

  4. I think it also comes down to how much you enjoy writing fiction. The more you stick with it, you'll get better at it. If you don't really like doing it, you probably shouldn't.

    I keep at my mystery even though I think I am pretty awful at writing mystery novels - simply because I can't NOT keep at it. I don't even care (much!) at this point if it ever sees the light of day, I just have to do it.

    OK, done now :)

  5. I'm with Ettarose and I'm trying hard to limit my response because I could write indefinitely on this topic. It will, despite that, be too long.

    My sister has a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature and I'm just a rocket scientist, but we both love to read and write. What we read and write, however, are completely different, almost polar opposites from each other. We read some of the same authors but we often read them for different reasons. Authors I adore leave her cold and vice versa. We can appreciate each other's work, but neither would read each other's work for entertainment, I suspect.

    I should note that she also writes far more nonfiction than I do. Nonfiction is a perfectly respectable type of writing, neither lesser nor, in my mind, greater. Both require an excellent understand of language to be effective. Both fiction and nonfiction can elicit emotion, imagination and thought.

    I never thought I would enjoy blogging, but I do, but it will never mean as much to me as the fiction I write.

    It should also be noted that writing short fiction is, in many ways, entirely different from writing long fiction, and a skill with one is not an indication of a skill with the other. Poe was a great story writer (and poet) but his longer works were not so good. Heinlein did both very well until his later novels where every novel just sort of lost it's place and went to the default orgy.Sake and OHenry were great short story writers. Jennifer Roberson and my friend flit have written two of the best short stories I've ever read; here's flit's.

    Coincidently, the offer's still open for people to read and critique my short stories, if you've forgotten so I'll know which ones to try to market.

    Feel free to delete that comment, Max, or ask me to rewrite without the link.

  6. Ironic - my sister beat me to it this time 'cause I took so long to write it. I also agree with Lidian. I write because I have to.

    If I'm never published (again), the need will remain unchanged.

  7. @A - I'm glad too. The whole world is glad. :)

    Catherine's latest? She was talking to an unfinished book, I think. I said I thought she was good, not that she wasn't weird.

    @Ettarose - Yeah, who knows. I know. :) I think Relax Max would do well to leave the fiction to the Puppeteer. But thanks (I think?) for the encouragement.

    @Shakespeare - Well, thank you. But I have a very fragile ego. I only respond to compliments. If you can't give a sincere compliment, then flattery is fine.

    Not all criticize to be helpful. Take your sister. Her purpose is to make me bleed. To kick me in the literary ribs as I lie dying in the ditch of her caustic unrelated-to-the-point comments. :) But whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? (Abraham Lincoln. Or Frederick Nietzsche. I always get those two mixed up.)

    But you misunderstand: it isn't that I'm not ready, I'm just not any good. Heh. Thank you for stopping by.

  8. @Lidian - I think you are 100% right. Those who write fiction HAVE to write fiction. It is part of them. I don't have that drive, so I should stay away from it, probably.

    Still, the poet Laurie Lee tried his hand at prose with Cider With Rosie, and that was simply fantastic. Hmmm. But then that wasn't fiction. Never mind. :)

    You must let us read some of your writing, you know. It is a mystery why you haven't done so.

  9. @Stephanie - I appreciate your taking the time to explain. It is obvious you care, and also obvious that you love to write fiction. Some of us just swing the other way. I am a born interpretor and that sometimes doesn't lend itself to fiction. Happily, I have many personalities and one of them might be a good fiction writer. I will keep searching. :)

    Did you know that your sister is one of only 7 people on the planet who have a Ph.D in that discipline? (Wikipedia). Not counting India, of course.

    It had never occured to me (honestly, it didn't) that writing a long work of fiction was different than writing short stories. I mean, I knew you had to drag it out more, as Mark Twain probably once said, but I thought the general principles were the same. Interesting. If I were more knowledgeable, I might disagree with you. :)

    Thanks again for your input. Btw, I am happy to read your work, but would never presume to criticize fiction.

  10. @Stephanie B - Speaking of fiction, I think Darwin falls in that category and am appalled that you, of all people, would follow the herd and equate his "theories" with actual science. Come back when you have an example of an extra-species event. So far all you have is environmental mutations within the same species. Even Darwin admitted that little fact troubled him. (Origin of Species, Chapter 6, I think.)

    Since Darwin's is simply only another theory, it needs to be filed on the shelf next to Creationism under "intriguing thoughts." I personally like the Landsburgs' theory (since we are all only dealing in theories and not proven realities) that we are descended from long-ago visitors from outer space. Their old book, "The Outer Space Connection" is no more conclusive than (but less dry reading than) Origin of Species.

    I am for all three theories (and any more the teacher can think up) being taught in school. Just not in science classes.

    Sorry to comment off-topic, but it just now occurred to me that one of your earlier "factual" posts had gone unchallenged. That would never do. :)

  11. @Eternally distracted - Thank you for stopping by my blog. You will have to wait quite awhile, I'm afraid. :) On the other hand, I tend to lie quite a bit in my day-to-day posts, so that may count as fiction...

  12. The mechanisms described by Darwin, adaptation and natural selection, aren't theories. They've been observed directly and therefore count as facts that support the theory of evolution, as are the overwhelming wealth of available data.

    Preponderance of supporting data does not make a theory a fact, but, it can bring it very close. However, to put something, that has a wealth of supporting objective and observable data in the same category as creatinism, where there is NONE is doing the well established theory a disservice.

    I'm not personally convinced that random evolution from cell to humanity is the only explanation for what we have today. However, it is the one for which there is the most evidence. That does not make it fiction. It makes it the best explanation we have for reality given the available data.

    And, no, it has nothing to do with my fiction. Nor am I a biologist.



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