“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 3/3)

Well, I’ve been trying to shovel out a lot of what our current president might call malarkey, so I figure that I might want to try and bring it to a close.

I started my writing life harboring a small little hope that someday, my talent and great stories might end up making me rich and famous.

As I approach a half century of life, I now realize that my writing goes beyond notions of fame and fortune. I realize that I would be writing and creating even if nobody was reading it. I realize that I would be flinging my work into the electronic beyond even if I didn’t know that someone would be reading it and be interested in it.

It is nice, however, to have someone praise your work and tell you that you are a great writer. That’s the truth even if you don’t know exactly who those people are and couldn’t be relied on to pick out those people in front of you even if they were wearing name tags that bore the usernames that they went by in the electronic Wild West. None of that matters.

As a responsible writing instructor at the secondary educational level (and previously at the post-secondary educational level), this is where I would start insisting, quite annoyingly, that the author of whatever nonfiction writing piece that they are trying to create (and this is, by clear definition, a nonfiction writing piece) needs to lay out, in a single sentence, if possible, what the thesis of their writing is. If they are not able to recite this sentence for me, I often insist, then they will be lost regarding what the intent and purpose of their writing is, and more importantly, their readers will have no idea what in the bloody frozen hells of the lower levels of Hades what the purpose is of what they are writing.

So, I’m going to see if I can manage some sort of thesis statement not just for this piece of writing, but also for the previous two ones in this series. In addition, I think that by definition, it is going to end up being a working thesis statement regarding who I am as a writer.

When I was a kid, I self-identified as a writer. This was what I wanted to be when I grew up, this was how I was going to Make My Living. I also had a small little ambition to become a Famous Novelist, but like all sorts of fame and success, I didn’t know how much talent, desire, and luck1 you needed to get to that point. I had at least just enough of the first one and plenty of the second one, but the third I had no more than most typical people and I hadn’t learned yet how critical that can be when it comes to fame and success. You can almost certainly succeed if you have sufficient levels of all three qualities, but if you only have even just two or one of them, you’d have as much as a chance as most people have on the lottery.

When I was a younger man, there were many times where I did describe myself as a writer but I almost felt like a fraud doing it. Yes, I was making money off my writing skills, first as a journalist, and then as a teacher. In the former case, I certainly could say I was a published author, but it wasn’t like I was a novelist or anything. I had set aside my writing for a while, and there were years that went by where I hadn’t written a single word of fiction. Those novelist dreams of mine kept getting further and further away.

Now, I have actually gotten to be a published writer, even though I am far from A Success yet. I have been concentrating on improving my writing skills, both from a productivity and a quality standpoint. I am starting to see results. The fact that I am not supporting myself as a writer, or that I am producing some work that has no economic or marketing potential whatsoever, is totally irrelevant.

I am a writer because I want to write, I am writing, and I want to grow and improve my craft. No other definition is needed.

How’s that for a thesis statement?

So now, I don’t have any existential debates anymore about whether I’m a writer or not. Whether I’m as good or as productive of a writer as I should be, however… that is a different story.

I’ve managed to set some goals for myself this year. Maybe you heard about them. I know I will have to continue to set new goals and challenges for myself in the years to come. I’m in the process of considering what those goals should be, and I think self-publishing is going to be at the top of that list.

Keep going upward and forward, for as long as my health and faculties hold up. There’s still a ways to go, and any lifetime is never enough time to learn everything that there is to know about writing.

Footnotes:

  1. Luck I define as any other outside forces or circumstances that fall in your favor when you are trying to accomplish something.

“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 2/?)

It all started with a television show.

The time was spring 2019. I had just become a published author for the first time ever, but I was having difficulty getting things off the ground. 

There were the usual difficulties with being a first-time author, of course, but I had many other things going against me other than the typical stuff. First, in a business where you want to be well-known in the region that you live in, I was less than a year away from moving to a totally different section of the state, far away from my home base of 40 years. In the middle of me doing that, trying to hustle for a side gig was the last thing on my mind. 

Looming in the distance, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, was COVID, which would keep me away from doing anything in-person for a long time to come. That would eventually halt most of the momentum that I had, and the fact that the publisher I worked with on my book was not accepting any new fiction work stopped my progress on that front, as well.

I was in a weird middle place, which I haven’t totally escaped from yet, where I was in-between projects. I have (still do have) some fiction that I had been working on, and the idea of trying to get back into the grind of trying to find a new publisher or agent was something that I was dreading. I was anticipating a years-long process behind that, because that was how it had gone previously for me. And there was no guarantee that I would have what I wanted in the end.

It was then that I got… a bit distracted by a shiny object – that television show.

Back in 2019, Game of Thrones was king. While I am not an HBO subscriber, I had been following the progress of the television show by other means. I am a big fan of fantasy fiction, and this interest had only grown since I was in my pre-teens.

The show was in its final season and I know there were plenty of people online anticipating the ending of the show. Many were anticipating it so much, even, that they were starting to come up with their own endings for the show. Even more, I was beginning to read them and watch them online.

I’d never had a totally favorable opinion of fan fiction by this time of my life. I had heard the old stories about how Star Trek had gotten that and “slash” romance fiction (such as Kirk/Spock). It seemed like people just trying to write their weirdest fantasies and throw it out into the ether of the Internet.

I started, in an ever so gradual manner, to read some of this work. Some of it I found on Reddit; some I discovered lurking around on other sites. I even saw a table read of a Game of Thrones play covering the final season on YouTube. There was a lot of speculation on YouTube regarding how this was going to shake out.

So, as I began to read and watch that material, in waiting for that final season to drop, I came upon something of a revelation for myself. I started to realize, some of these authors are good.

When I say that, I’m not talking about writers who were basically literate. I’m talking guys (and ladies) who were really good storytellers. I was getting as much enjoyment out those stories online as I had ever gotten out of anything I’d bought from a bookstore or Amazon’s Kindle store. They had everything – compelling, real-to-life characters with compelling relationships, great descriptions, plots that drove the story and that made sense based on a clear understanding of human nature and logical thought.

Because there wasn’t a lot of that – especially good plots – on TV screens right around spring 2019. Specifically, on any screens showing Game of Thrones.

If you haven’t heard, there were a whole bunch of people not happy with the ending of Game of Thrones. In fact, it was a debacle that eventually ended up killing a lot of the rewatch potential for the series. Somehow, it has managed to not destroy interest in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe (as the George RR Martin series is called), based on the reaction to the new House of the Dragon series (essentially a prequel to Game of Thrones).

I had been through bad endings of television series before, many many times. Anyone who grew up with any memory of 1970’s television (and reruns of 1950’s-1960’s television) would be able to recall bad series endings. Especially in those early days, there was no sense among television executives that series could come to a clear ending. They’d usually run those series until the wheels came off, when the ratings kept dropping even when cute kids were introduced in a desperate effort to keep eyeballs on cathode ray tubes. 

Eventually, those producers and show-runners got more sophisticated and realized that series needed a decent ending so that you could have satisfying series-long story arcs. Of course, show runners still got things wrong when it came to final seasons and endings. I had already suffered through Rosanne, Dexter, Lost, and, most horrifically, Battlestar Galactica (1-2).

But this ending – the ending to Game of Thrones – that threw me more than nearly any other ending of a show or a movie ever had. And as I was stewing over the many flaws of not only the ending but the entire final season of the show, one thought kept nagging at me: I could do this better than the 2Ds (3).

So, I started writing, pouring all of that frustration and a desire for a great story out onto the computer screen. Within a few weeks, I had a 40,000-word story set after the events of the series. It was a wild little tale that was never going to earn me a single dime. I wound up posting it in full on FanFiction.Net. 

People started posting comments on it and saying it was good. It… was a bit of a rush, to be honest. I mean, I’ve had people compliment my work before (more than a few of them family), but this was some random strangers giving them out. 

Then I decided to post it on a site called Archive Of Our Own (AO3), a virtual warehouse of fanfiction content. I met several cool authors there who put out some really ambitious work. There was one younger writer out there who essentially did an entire rewrite and reimagining of the entire ASOIAF series (4). There was plenty of great writing out there… and the craziest idea popped into my head.

“I should do a rewrite of Season 8.”

Part of me thought it would be too much work to do for a “fun” project, something that had no commercial potential whatsoever. But the other part was drawn to the challenge. I’d seen too much cringe moments in that season that I knew I could have done a better job of it than they could. I’d had that feeling reading plenty of paperbacks over the years, but I hadn’t gotten the idea to actually redo a book. Until now. 

I ended up with about half a million words. 

It’s now a series. 

I’ve had more than 1,000 people give “kudos” (AO3-speak for likes). 

I’m not sure how much more of it I’m going to write. If I wanted to be a “serious” writer, I should just try and come up with an idea about a new OC dark fantasy series. 

But, it turns out it’s one of the most fun things that I’ve ever experienced as a writer. 

And because of it, I think I fell back in love with just writing for writing’s sake. And I’m so thankful for it.

And yes, there will be more to this in a later post. Maybe you’ll see it next weekend? And maybe you’ll see it with some other stuff.

Footnotes:

1. The one that started in 2003, not the one in 1978. You’d never expect a science fiction series to last long in the 1970’s.

2. The four best ever endings in TV history so far are, of course, The Shield, The Wire, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos.

3. The Showrunners Who Will Not Be Named.

4. He’s since started at least three other series reimagining that universe. He’s a very ambitious and creative young man.