Monday, January 03, 2005

NJ: Writing

Well, I didn't finish NaNoWriMo, but I came close (well, at least past the halfway point), but it was pretty bad. Although, now I can't stop thinking about writing. Whatever I'm doing at school when I have free time (like reading, or studying Japanese, or working on the blog, or catching up on my e-mail, etc), I always think: I could be writing right now. I could be in Japan for up to three years, and I have a couple of free hours each day at school. How many books could I write in that time?

Sigh. Where are my priorities? Originally, I was coming to Japan to become fluent in Japanese. I think I've learned more about English than Japanese since I've been here. And now I'm thinking about writing a novel (or series), in English. When will I study? When will I practice? It all comes down to choices. I've basically stopped browsing my favorite sites (because there will always be more Internet, and it will still be waiting for me three years from now), and I can't remember the last time I watched TV. My biggest time-consumer now (besides work) is reading. I unfortunately started reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which is very long (and getting longer), so it will take a while to finish it. On the other hand, as I'm reading it (and bear in mind this is a very successful series), I keep thinking: "I could write better than this." I had the same thought when I read Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, which is another very successful series. It seems to me that publishers will print just about anything no matter how crappy, given it is long enough and follows the standard formula (at least for the first book).

On the other hand, I'm always thinking "I could do it better than that," not just for writing. Sigh. Hubris; what a cross.

Both Jordan and Goodkind waited until they were older than I am now before they started. Jordon reasoned that he hadn't had enough life experiences yet. This is a philosophy I agree with, so I have no problem waiting another ten years or so, and just work on the back story in the meantime.

It's not even that I like writing (which I do, I love it), and it's not that I need someone to read it, it's more that I HAVE TO do it. I'm constantly composing prose in my head, I just need to start writing it down. :-) I don't think I would ever take a year off to write a book. Ideally, that's what professional writers do: make their living by writing, and nothing else. I just couldn't imagine living that unstructured a life. Sure, I would start off planning to write from 8am to 5pm every day, but more likely I would surf the Internet and write e-mails more than I would research and write stories.

I think it is far more likely that I would write for maybe an hour a day, either in the morning or after work, while maintaining a full-time career. It's that kind of pressure that I thrive in. It's like I'm a river: if I'm constantly rushing, I'm a force of nature, but if I slow down, I grow stagnant.

I remember when I was very young, I really wanted to grow up to become a writer. It's all coming back to haunt me now. :-)


  1. This is Fukui City ALT Ben (aka Ono-Ben)...

    Jordan's WoT is great!!! It slows down after book 6 or 7 (imho) but I loved 9. Only a few more years to go before he might actually get around to publishing the last of the 12 books (sigh). I've coerced Rich Golden, ALT up in Mikuni, and his twin brother to give the series a chance. So for the last 6 months he's been creeping through, having just completed the Shadow Rising.

    Goodkind's SoT series is quality, I tell ya, but the stories are a bit more... formulaic.

    I also feel this compulsion to write, and I'm with TG and RJ- I feel I just havent lived enough, experienced enough, to write it my big one yet.

    Lately I've fallen into the habit of writing for a couple hours after midnight before I slump off to bed, and I find it a true blessing that I dont have internet in my apartment. I've been sticking to short stories lately, just trying to find my writing style. Who knows? Maybe I'll find that one of the stories has a book behind it, like Stephen King and his Dark Tower series.

    Sorry to ramble on your website- I've been a lurker for awhile, but I had to speak up and say that I feel you on the writing.

    Give me a call sometime when you come up to the city we can chill (bad winter pun).


  2. Ben! I love getting first-comments from people. If I had known that people are still reading this, I would update more often. ;-)

    Of course, that's not true. I don't update because I'm busy. The problem with having a life (and thus, having material worth blogging about) that you have a LIFE. Also, blogging is now under 'Learn Japanese' on my priority list, so those times at work when I have a free period that I used to spend blogging, I'm not more likely to spend studying. Sigh.

    Is there a library in the area that has the WoT books after the first three? The FIA only had them (actually, has them again because I took them back finally, unless someone else already grabbed them from the book exchange box), and I had once again grown accustomed to reading (and now I miss it).

    Anyway, I didn't mean to say that Goodkind's books were bad per se....(well, maybe I did)...but I still bought them all and read them voraciously. I recently read Scott Adams' "God's Debris" and "The Religion War" and had the same experience: I like the story, but not the writing. Even though the story is predictable, I keep reading (if only so I can say to myself "See? I knew that was going to happen.").

    I'm jealous of your discipline to write every day. Every time I think about doing some writing, I think "Well, I could be studying Japanese right now instead." :-( So maybe that's a sign that my priorities will prevent me from becoming a writer.

    Count your blessings on lack of internet. If I want to make it to work on time, I have to turn my computer off before I go to sleep. Otherwise, when I wake up, I'll get online "just for a moment" to check my e-mail and end up being 20 minutes late (even though I woke up three hours early; this actually happened).

    re: "chill": Ouch. Ow. Pain. We'll get along fine. :-)

  3. (Too lazy to create a account at the moment...)

    Maybe it's the caffeine talking, but I suddenly formed a terrific idea while reading this entry.

    Remember that book you've been telling me you ought to write? The one to help out the socially-challenged? I had always imagined it as sort of a "how-to" guide, with enumerated rules (or guidelines, if you prefer) for behavior, then an explanation of the rules, then examples of how to put those rules to use in the real world.

    Perhaps you should write it in the form of a fantasy novel instead? After all, the kind of people who read fantasy novels are generally the very sort who need your advice. Since it's a fantasy novel (and assuming you follow the "standard formula"), it'll get published. Do it right, and every reader will start picking apart the story to get at the nuggets of information (and will probably start alt.some.lame.hierarchy.for.geeks on Usenet to do so)! You won't have to spoonfeed them the information, they'll happily dig it out of the story on their own like they do with every other fantasy story! I can think of a few other benefits to this format as well, but I'm too tired (read: lazy) to form them into coherent sentences for this message.

    Am I a genius or what? (Go ahead, say "or what"...I'll laugh politely like I've never heard that joke before).

    /nerd mode = off


  4. That idea had occurred to me, too (great minds...etc). TG does something remotely similar in the SoT novels (with the Wizard's Rules), and Scott Adams does something more similar with his Avatar in the "God's Debris" books.

    I had already pictured the omniscient mystery character explaining things to our inept protagonist, a la Zed in SoT:

    1) Rule
    2) Meaning of Rule
    3) Reason for Rule
    4) Example of Rule in action

    All very conversational, all very easy to follow. Very nearly spelled out, except not blatantly saying "I'm talking to YOU, yes, YOU WHO ARE READING THIS RIGHT NOW!"

    The difference for me was that I was picturing this as a more general social commentary (How to be a good person) rather than along the lines of the How-To book we discussed, but it could easily go both ways. I hadn't planned on writing the sf/fa novel for another 9 years, 9 months, while the How-To book was more along the lines of 6 months away.

    Not that I try to plan my future that exactly or anything. :)