Don’t Write So Close To Me

Courtesy whomever made Dune.
Feyd-Rautha will cut a bitch.

This was an image I originally hunted down for use in the potential video project of turning the IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! review of Emperor’s New Groove into an entry in the Escapist’s contest. However, it’s feeling more and more like I won’t have time to even think about seriously working on such a project. More to the point, to work on that project would take time away from the frustratingly gradual process of refining a novel to its publishable form. It’s been bothering me for days, sometime to the point that I can’t even stand to look in that folder’s general direction.

The query for Citizen in the Wilds has been the major struggling point for me. A lot of the sentiments and experiences I’m about to convey are going to feel like a pale echo of stuff that’s been said before and in a much better and more useful way here. And, at the expense of tooting my own writer’s war-horn, I’m making progress. I’m confident enough in my skills to say that what I’ve written (in the novel, mind, not the query, that’s still kind of meandering around) is good. I just worry that it isn’t good enough.

Why?

I feel I may be too close to it.

Hence the Police-flavored title. See what I did there?

Anyway, my big fear along with the usual little ones of not being good enough, smart enough, charismatic enough or prompt enough to grab and hold the attention of an agent is that I’m too close to the work. I’ll be looking for grammatical errors, hunting down darlings and re-examining passages with such myopic focus that I’ll miss some big glaring issue that will keep this from getting published. I think it’s part and parcel of being the sort of person who fixates on games along with being a general media sink: I’ll zone in on something of a particular interest to me, at times to the exclusion of all else. In other words, expect my blog posts to be a bit less substantial in content when Cataclysm actually releases, in other words, provided I haven’t decided to play through the Mass Effect games for the seventeenbazillionth time instead.

I’m wandering off my point again, but this is less of a coherent advice-focused blog post and more of a stream-of-consciousness infodump. I’m sure you’ve picked up on that already, and if you didn’t you’re either on some other, better-written site or looking up an old ICFN to hear me rant about how badly something sucks because we just don’t have enough Internet critics yet.

You do know you should avoid the fuck out of writers, right? Okay. Moving on.

My point is that I am aware of the fact that this myopia is a problem inherent with geeks in general, gamers in particular and me most of all. Compounding the problem is the fact that I don’t know what the Achilles heel of my own work is, because in the act of creating it I have inextricably put myself in very close proximity to it. I’m not about to run to the mountaintop declaring that the salvation of fans of high fantasy is at hand with this tome, fuck no, but I’m also not operating under the impression that it’s absolute shit. What I will say is that my goal is mostly to have it not be mediocre, the sort of easy-to-crank-out guaranteed-to-sell-to-morons schlock I’ve decried on many an occasion here. But my dilemma is while I strive to avoid those things that piss me off about said schlock, I may be writing a different kind of schlock entirely and not even really know it.

I can say “this doesn’t work and needs a rewrite” or “this is unnecessary and I need to bypass it before I take it out back and put a bullet in its brainpan.” What I’m struggling with is saying “Overall, this book is really about X in the context of Y but element Z undermines or detracts from that central theme or narrative throughline.” This is probably why the query is such a tremendous hurdle for me to clear. Ultimately I am unsure if the proper course of action is to hand it to someone I trust to read critically from start to finish or to put myself through the editorial process as many times as it takes, but the fact I can’t shake is that I might just be too close to it.

It’s a “forest for the trees thing.” I can tell this tree is an oak and that over there’s a pine, but I have no idea how big the forest actually is, how close the nearest river or roadkill-strewn freeway might be or how much (if any) of it is on fire because I forgot to stamp out my stogy properly and now HOLY SHIT IT’S SMOKEY THE BEAR AND HE’S PISSED OFF AT ME RUN JUST GODDAMN RUN. I wouldn’t see it coming. I’m nose-deep in bark and needles trying to get the sticky sap out of my beard and the sharp plantlife out of my eyeballs. I’m too obsessed with details to realize that the kind and gentle guardian reminding me that only I can prevent forest fires is only wearing that park ranger hat because he ate the last park ranger that trashed his woods.

I really don’t know how else to express this impasse I seem to have reached. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m writing this properly. I’m uncertain if I should be pestering those brave souls who’ve volunteered to test-read the thing to give me more feedback, or if I need to keep to the writer tradition of the bitter isolationist hermitage into the editorial chambers. And I remind myself that no matter what I do I’m likely to still receive a shitload of rejections long before I even remotely grab the attention of someone in a position to help me turn a hundred thousand words of fantasy fiction arranged in a particular order into something that actually pays my fucking bills.

I do this because I’m crazy. I do this because I hate myself. I do this because I’m sick of working dayjobs.

And, deep down, I do this because, frustration and depression and bad metaphors and all, I love it.

I just need to not be so close to it. Otherwise, I may lose sight of how good it actually is.

1 Comment

  1. I probably really ought to chip in and just let you know how much I’m starting to enjoy reading your blog. Okay, I still skip most of it (anything related to D&D for instance), but that’s just how I roll. I’m very skeptic about the quality of, well, anything, even if all signs point towards greatness (as they do in this case).

    I especially dig your perspective on writing. Some of it hit’s (un)comfortably close to home, some of it provides me with the food for thought necessary to hopefully, eventually improve my own (writing, not food) and some of it is just outright brilliant. Just is. Period. Like Does That Banner Yet Wave? or Break On Through. I marvel at how you manage to put this blag together even though you have a job, but I’m glad you do. I find it inspiring. Actually, I find you inspiring.

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