Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Am I Writing Fantasy?

Lately I have begun to question whether I really should write fantasy at all. I dislike the apparent necessity for fight scenes and I’m not good at describing magic. My readers seem to dislike meditative passages, and where subtlety would serve in a  non-genre book I am forced to lay down a heavy-handed sentence here and there.  This is not meant as a criticism but simply as a description of where I’m standing right now, attempting to finish a second book that’s more interesting and exciting than the first – and viewing it through the lens of that person who gave me one or two stars, who complained that it dragged, who got confused.

So I find myself searching back to the reason I turned to fantasy in the first place, back when I was tired of what I describe as “baby-boomer literature,” a term unfair to both baby boomers and literature. But you know what I mean – those books that describe how a man wants to leave his wife or a woman wants to leave her husband, and by the end becomes self-actualized enough to do it. That navel-gazing, individual-focused writing that drives me crazy.

I began to read fantasy not for elves and airy-fairy stuff, but because it deals with war and loss and difficult choices. Granted, mainstream literature does also. I have recently had recommended to me some excellent mainstream literature, and this blog post is not in any way an indictment of it – especially since I haven’t read any of late. But at the time I turned to fantasy I was searching for exploration of those difficult issues, and I found it there.

And so that’s why I write fantasy. Sure there are creepy magical horrors and some knives and stuff, but that is never my focus. I apologize in advance for a possibly slow, actionless, too-subtle, second book. I’ve been working on it, it seems, forever, and while it’s engaging I am not sure it will sell. And that’s the worst thing to think about, going into your second book. The second book sells the first book, after all. The series sells as a unit, eventually. What happens when it does not hit the expectations of the readers? 

Everyone tells you to write what you want to write, and that’s what I have done. But there’s another voice, out there in the aether, that is telling you to make it exciting, make it fast, dumb it down, add sex, add blood, and so on. It’s hard not to just build a lego-set out of those items that seem popular. What makes it worse is that unlike the first book, you can’t share the second on a writing group or toss out chapters via email for uninvolved persons to read. It’s all copyrighted and secret, and you’re working alone. Nobody can tell you if what you’re writing is any good at all.

That’s my little rant. I have to get back to editing now. I’m pretty sure I have to strip out at least one Serious Issue from the story. And perhaps I will slip in a little sex or a little knife fight or . . .