The Writing Life: Aiming High Part 3 – Striving for More

So in this series I’ve described what aiming high means for me, and why I believe that missing the target I set myself (or yourself) isn’t failure. In aiming high, I’m also setting myself challenges in order to improve as a writer. This seems insane, because writing is tough enough on its own, and it took me a long time to get this far, so why choose to make an already difficult task worse? Part of me has no answer to that question and wonders what my problem is! The other part says this: writing my first published book was tough, and was the result of many lessons learned from previous efforts that did not see the light of day, but it is not the end of the road, just another step on it. I have a destination I want to reach, and it cannot be gained by standing still or retreading a familiar path. I must continue to strive for more.

Roger Zelazny, in his foreword to Jack of Shadows, said something which I have felt driven to emulate, foolishly or not. He said: “This was not one of my more experimental books … wherein I worked out lots of techniques I used in many of the others.” That was a revelation to me. I don’t know why – I’ve studied enough writers and their evolution to know that artists learn, expand their horizons, try new things as they progress through their careers, but coming from him, in such a matter-of-fact way made me realize I had to do something similar. Last week I compared myself to Shakespeare, this week to Zelazny, maybe someday soon I shall come fully down to earth!

The point is, I feel I could write my next book in a similar style to The Thief and The Demon, to refine my technique in that format, improve my execution of that storytelling form. This would be a good thing, as I have plenty more to learn, and I intend to do that. But not with my next book. I feel the need to stretch myself now, sooner rather than later, so that I can work out techniques and be able to employ them with ever more assurance going forward. Also, to be honest, I think it will be fun to do something new, and I want to have fun when I’m writing! Every sentence, paragraph, and chapter of my new story will be worked on with an eye improved by my experiences in writing The Thief and The Demon, but the structure, the point of view needs to be different this time out.

I’m not doing anything wild and crazy, just a first person narrative, probably also down to Mr. Zelazny’s influence – maybe I am still trying to get him out of my system so I can move on! But for me, that is enough of a challenge to be going on with. Within the first person narrative I’m finding all sorts of issues with tense, and with the narrator’s reliability, and with what is directly shown versus what is left to be inferred. I’m discovering all this, and how to write the unwritten story that hides between the lines but is still there for the reader to see, and it’s exhilarating. It is also no small task.

So there you have it, I want to aim high, but also walk before I run; to challenge myself, but not overwhelm; have fun, but still take the task seriously. That’s not too much to expect from myself, right? There are many things to balance in this writing life, and striving to do more makes it harder, but I hope more rewarding in the end. Good luck to all writers out there at the end of this NaNoWriMo – the month may be almost done, but the work goes on, and you can do it! Cheers!

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