Thursday, June 17, 2010

Taking Chances is What Fiction Writing is All About

There’s the old saying that you need to learn to walk before you can run. This is definitely true in fiction writing. Before breaking the conventional rules of fiction plotting, characterization, even grammar and spelling, the beginning writer needs to learn the basics.

But once those basics are down, it’s time to experiment, to have a little fun. If not, the writer can grow stale in their writing. Experimentation helps to stretch the mind and can help a fiction writer to grow as a writer.

When this experimentation phase should begin is really up to the writer, but as mentioned, the writer should really know their basics before trying anything too drastic. Some might even suggest a writer never get too experimental, but really, the writer can do what he or she wants.

Of course they might not ever sell any writings that seem too off the wall. Or the opposite could happen. Their experimental writings might take off like lightening, could possibly even start a new trend. Or not. Either way, taking chances with one’s fiction writing can be fun and educational.

Writers who don’t write for money, who write for their own personal reasons, can obviously do as they please. Those of us who write for a living sometimes try to follow trends or to write for a particular audience in hopes of making a sale. Some might consider that selling out. Fine. Whatever. But a writer has to eat and feed his or her family. Besides, Shakespeare wrote for money, as did Mark Twain, Poe and even Tolstoy (though in this last example, Tolstoy was at times emotionally in turmoil about writing for money).

Regardless of one’s reasons for writing, sooner or later the writer is probably going to enter an experimental phase, or possibly several experimental phases coming at different times during their writing career. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If one cannot experiment with one’s writing, if one can not stretch their own personal and literary boundaries, what’s the point of writing? Yes, some of us write for money, but there are plenty of other ways to make money.

All fiction writers, or nearly all fiction writers, write for exploration. Sometimes a writer is exploring his or her own mental and spiritual depths. Other times a writer explores possibilities within society, how certain changes could affect a society. There are all kinds of possibilities, all types of avenues to explore, and that’s what fiction writers do. They explore the impossible and sometimes the possible. They ask, “what if?”

And if, as fiction writers, we cannot ask that one simple question, “what if?,” then we might as well close up our laptops, put away our pens and get a day job. Right?

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