Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Write?

I find that creative acts, over the long term, give more lasting satisfaction than non-creative acts. For this I have no explanation; I simply take it as a given of my psychology. Two exceptions to this rule exist. The first is reading. I love to read and do it close to compulsively. Literal years can go by without a single day in which I haven't read for at least a half hour. The second exception is finding things out. I'm insatiably curious about a wide range of stuff. Add these three things together, and one can immediately understand why writing is an excellent thing for me to do. It is a creative endeavor that allows me to make constructive use of my constant reading and curiosity.

So, why haven't I written more? Why in the past did I always give up? Depression, anxiety, fear, weariness, self doubt--all have knocked me off course. However, a few things have changed over the last few years. One, the Web now makes it possible for anyone to share his or her work without gatekeepers. Two, I've been on antidepressants long enough that many of my negative emotions are under control. Three, Alexandra Erin has pointed the way. (If Ms. Erin happens to read this, thank you.)

Alexandra Erin, by her example, has demonstrated that fiction writers on the Web can both find an audience and get paid for their work. Some people disparage pecuniary considerations, but I don't. For one, getting paid for an endeavor allows one to spend more time doing it. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a life. For another, as a first approximation, people are willing to pay for what they value. (Yes, there are exceptions. That's why I called it a "first approximation" and not an absolute truth.) Money is a sincere compliment and indisputable evidence of value received.

Therefore, there are a few things I want to accomplish with my writing. One, I want to improve my craft, because skill in itself creates satisfaction. Two, I want to find an audience of reasonable size. Three, I want to make some income from writing. Ultimately, I suppose the dream is to make enough income from writing to support myself. Can I do these things? I have no idea, but managing to complete the first volume of Magician's Merger was a significant step.

Volume one was highly educational. I learned that discouragement and lack of inspiration pass with rest. I believe my skill grew as I wrote, and I learned what it takes to complete a novel-length work. It also felt good and continues to feel good. I suggest that anyone who dreams about writing just grab a free website and start writing and posting. Nothing else will teach you more, and it helps you get over the fear of rejection. If it's your first work, don't worry about giving it away for free. It's unlikely to be a masterpiece. Just think of it as an educational expense.

I purposefully didn't put up a donation button for the first volume of Magician's Merger. I wasn't about to ask people for payment for something I might not even finish, and I figured that reading and constructive comments were plenty of payment for the efforts of a beginner. (The advertising on my site brought in only a small amount of money, which I simply rolled into advertising for my site.) For volume two, I'm going to put up a couple of donation buttons and see what happens.

If I see my audience growing and a stream of money proportional to audience size starts coming in, it will be evidence that my work is of value to others. That would encourage me to continue. If the audience doesn't grow and people don't find my fiction of value, that will tell me something, too. (If you like my work, don't worry. I just want to see some growth and some income for my second effort. I think my expectations are realistic.)

Anyway, at this point in my skill development, it seems that volume two is going to have to continue in a highly serialized manner, with maybe one or two major story arcs along the way. I've been doing a lot of thinking and research while trying to develop a tighter plot, and I haven't been able to do it. I hope to develop that skill as I continue writing, but thus far, I don't have it.

I've also decided to post all of volume two as a serial on BlogSpot before I post it all at once on Storiesonline. That, I hope, will bring more eyes to my donation buttons and advertisements. It will also help me find and eliminate mistakes before I subject my work to the Storiesonline rating system.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Secret Commonwealth

Hardcore fantasy readers might find The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang to be interesting reading. Lang, a nineteenth-century folklorist, had printed and wrote a long introduction to a seventeenth-century manuscript by Kirk.

Both parts are worth reading if you like the topic. The language is old, and by our standards the spelling is eccentric, but you will see where this little book has had an influence on contemporary fantasy. Definitely read the footnotes and make free use of Google.