I really don’t know what kind of writer I would like to be. I honestly don’t think about it too often.
If you read reviews online (and, really, there’s no reason you should), I’m usually classified as a funny writer, a humor writer, wacky, zany, kooky. It used to bother me, but I’m getting over that. Still, the thing that comes up a lot is that I am not a terribly poetic writer.
I don’t know how to respond to that. I’m certainly not the kind of writer to pour over ever sentence and milk it for maximum writerly effect. I think I have my poetic moments. I think I can write some truly crackerjack passages here and there, have terrific moments of subtle characterization, and the occasional clever turn of phrase. But I also don’t mind a sentence that just gets the job done or a paragraph that bridges the action without impressing.
It feels weird admitting that. I know writers are supposed to obsess over ever word, every detail. And I do obsess over those moments in the story that really matter. I care about the characters. I care about the action. I don’t even mind a little fantasy world-building as long as it doesn’t become an exercise in itself. But I’m not like a lot of writers. I don’t usually bother building a cosmology. I don’t generally bother creating deeply detailed profiles of my characters’ childhoods. And I am not devoted to impressing the reader with my ability to describe every leaf on every tree with literary beauty.
I feel guilty when I admit this. There are so many people who are writers. So many people who take this so much more seriously than I do. So many who treat it as a calling. And maybe they’re lying about it. Maybe they’re just towing the line to help create the illusion that what we writers do is magical and inspired and a gift from the Mighty Robot King himself. Something that elevates us beyond mere mortals. And maybe they believe it themselves because, when you get right down to it, making up stories is a strange way to make a living.
I’m not saying it doesn’t take talent. It does. I tell a story better than most people, and I do take my job seriously. I know that people are paying good money to have me tell them those stories, and I want those stories to be satisfying, fun, and, with a little luck, something they can take away with them that stays with them a long, long time.
And it’s not as if I’m in this entirely for the money. If I was, I’m sure I’d be on my sixth sequel to Gil’s All Fright Diner by now, and doubtlessly have a much stronger publishing career than I do. (Not that I’m complaining about my career, which has so far been more rewarding and fruitful than I had any right to expect.) While I think there are some definite rewards from breaking The Series Rule of modern publishing, there have also been some wonderful rewards from breaking that rule. So it’s not as if I’m taking a stand even to the detriment of my career.
So how do I define myself? I guess I don’t. Definitions only serve to box things in, and if you ask me, we’re already too boxed in as it is. Maybe that’s the real trap. Perhaps we don’t have to define ourselves. Perhaps it’s a waste of time and energy to try to. People will slap labels on us just fine without us helping them. I’m only really comfortable with the Fantasy Novelist label at this point, and even that I approach in the broadest of strokes.
That’s what annoys me about the Comic Fantasy label. It comes with too many expectations and eliminates too many others. If I wasn’t a comic fantasy writer, I’d be allowed to have somber moments in my stories. It might not be assumed that I can’t have deeper thoughts or that I’m a merely another competitor to the thrones of Adams, Pratchett, or Moore. As if there is only room in this world for so many Comic Fantasy Writers. As if we are all writing in the same mold rather than I our own distinctive styles.
So forget the labels. We’d all be a lot better off without them, I think. What do boxes like Republican and Democrat, Comedy and Tragedy, Trekkies and Brown Coats do but help keep us apart, put walls between us? They’re tools, but only tools. We should feel free to throw them aside when they get in the way.
So what kind of writer am I? A good one.
What kind of writer do I want to be? A better one. Always.
And that’s just fine by me.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,