Blog No. 133
I was in Anchor Coffee House the other day, enjoying a coffee and talking to the staff. (That place is kind of like my Cheers). I had brought in some layout designs for an ad they are putting in the June Zine (to hit shelves soon) to get their opinions, but it had been a while since I had been there, so the talk quickly turned to “What’s new?” After the pleasantries were exchanged, the topic turned to my writing. I was excited to share what I’ve been doing (as I am with any interested parties) and talked a little about the novel. The good people who work at Anchor know a bit about the other things I have and am writing (the stuff at Adventure Worlds, the Zine, and the Collection) and the question came up, why a novel.
Why a novel? It’s a really good question that isn’t asked a lot. There are a few answers, but for the most part, I’m writing a novel because it’s next. Generally speaking, writers start writing, develop a style, break down the style with a better understanding of proper and powerful writing, then they write a novel. For some the first process is an early attempt of a novel (that they either abandon or restart) or, like me, it’s short stories. A specific number (that varies) of stories are written and critiqued, then the novel is attempted. It’s a well worn path taken by many successful writers that, for the most part, works. The shorts are used to portray a style and prove a worth, then the novel is used to sell and make money, which leads me to the next answer.
The market. In the current climate of writing, publishing, and selling, the novel is the king. Book stores are filled with aisles of novels and very few collections of short stories. There are a few writers with the clout to carry those collections to the cash register and off to a readers home, but there are not many. Alternatively, there is a market for short stories, but it’s small and is mostly within the few remaining magazines and periodicals that remain. There has been a resurgence online (see Adventure Worlds) but many of those don’t offer payment, or the payment is very small. Among those that exist and offer payment, there are very few who have the kind of editors that can really help a writer develop, improve, and thoroughly correct stories and writing in general. There was a day when there were hundreds of magazines and the editors were some of the best, easily on par with what was available at major publishers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those passionate people exist, but those magazines aren’t often considered literary. As someone who writes genera heavy stories (sci-fi for the most part) it’s not usually relevant to be concerned with litereary-ness, but when you are a starting writer who is looking to improve and make some money, that literary factor comes into play.
Literary Recognition. While I am very happy writing short stories (and plan to continue to do so) whenever I talk to people at writing events (or wherever) about being a writer, they always ask what your write. After talking about Adventure Worlds and what we’ve done, there is usually a pause, or a look, or a change in the atmosphere. Sometimes the person asks if I’ve written a novel, sometimes the conversation just ends. There are situations where what I have to offer is enthusiastically taken and the exchange continues gleefully, but most people don’t take you seriously unless you have a novel. It’s a sort of badge or jumped hurdle that proves you’re a real writer. I’m making it out to sound worse than it is, most people are welcoming, friendly, and encouraging, but that judgment does exist.
Personal Preference. With all those other factors in mind, the main reason I’m writing a novel is because I want to write a novel. I’ve written a number of shore stories and I want to see if I can write a novel. It’s a challenge and the story I have is meant to be in a novel format. I still have a long way to go, and I have no idea if what I’m writing is any good, but I’m writing it anyway. It’s what’s next.