Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Compulsions & Conformity

WARNING: Writery Wanking Dead Ahead. Wrong Way, Go Back

I feel compelled to completely rewrite my novel. Just ditch the whole thing and start again.

Word around town is that every novel for every writer creates the same kind of soul sucking doubt. In my case, while I do have doubts about the novel itself, my doubts lie more in the direction I'm heading.

What's changing that direction?

There's a subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle undercurrent that runs through most of the blogs I read. Hardboiled, hardass noir is good; cozies are bad. And I can completely see the reason for this. Crime affects people, and it doesn't do this in cute and funny ways. It's a wrenching. To have your property stolen, to lose someone close to you, to lose one of your own limbs is not a fluff-filled experience.

It hurts.

As my novel stands, I have the feeling that it comes across as something slightly more than fluff.

Danny Hawaii is the type of guy you'd want to get together with at a pub, shoot some pool, tell some jokes. He's finding his way through the world of the PI by trial and error, and his general viewpoint is decidedly not serious. There are moments of tension, but there's plenty of fart-arsing around in between.

My vision for the novel, and probably one of the running themes in all of my writing, is to find a healthy balance between comedy and tension. Start off silly, and as things fall apart, get serious.

But the more crime fiction and non-fiction I read, the more I feel like what I'm doing is pissing up the wrong tree. I feel a pressure to write more about the alcohol and drug-fuelled, introspective hard ass, than a young and stupid PI with an off-centre view of the world.

When it comes down to it though, I'm not a hardened, jaded kind of guy. I'm a rampant optimist that finds the quirky side of human nature the most interesting. Crime fiction for me is probably more of a vehicle to explore these kinds of characters.

Now I come to the end of this self-directed rant and find myself back where I started. I'll just finish what I'm doing and see where I go next. In the end, I don't think I could sustain an output of dark, soul crushing art.

I'm just here for the fun of it. Beats programming poker machines, that's for sure.


Jeroen said...

You know, lots of wannabe game makers want to make "a game like quake" or "an rts like age of empires, yeah!". I like to think the world would like a bit of originality not yacose (yet another clone of something else). We've ended up with a horde of rts and fps games that are just bad. "I vould like you to sink of Darwinia, and then tell me about your issues wis your moder"... Follow your gut, Gumshoe.

jamieford said...

Oy. Sounds like you and I are in the same bind. I have identical thoughts about my first draft. It’s not a crime book, but the same rampant insecurities apply.

I keep feeling like it’s not harsh enough. Not gritty enough. Or intense enough. And that it’s filled with things that hit home for me personally, but maybe the reader wouldn’t connect with in the same way.

In the end, I’m just accepting that most authors’ first books have their flaws. So I’m digging in on the rewrite, just to get it finished. I’ll send it out, and keep working on the next book, which I can already tell, is stronger.

John R. said...

To be honest with you, I wouldn't worry about it. Don't write for the market (well, within reason - Geoffrey The Blancmange Detective would be a high-concept hard sell which crime may not be ready for) because there's something in the overall crime umbrella for everyone.

And comical knockabout fun fluff is just so, and no less the cool for it. Case in point - Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy in which someone tries to solve the murder of Humpty Dumpty in true hardboiled fashion. Not read it myself, but it's a cracking (ahaha) idea. Certainly not serious, though.

I certainly wouldn't pay any attention to worries based on the content of blogs - most of the people you've got down that right-hand side are, noir books or not, daft buggers there for the fun of it.

And the money. And the hookers.

But also for the fun of it.

They have preferences for reading matter same as anyone else, but don't sweat that. :-)

Stephen Blackmoore said...

You too, huh? You're definitely not alone in this.

I think part of the problem with saying, "I'm writing noir" or "I'm writing sci-fi", or whatever, is that there are conventions we only think we need to fill. In some cases, yes. If you're going cozy it's not going to be particularly violent, for example.

Otherwise, I think that any genre has a lot of room. Rickards' example of The Big Over Easy is perfect. It's a send up of the genre, sure, but it's a pretty good detective story in its own right. It's got some problems, but over all, not a bad read. Very little actual violence and it's not particularly dark. Science fiction goes beyond Star Trek, fantasy isn't all wood elves prancing in the hollow. Detective stories can be more than just gritty violence.

If you're really concerned that the character's farting around means that he's not feeling the impact of things, maybe ask yourself why? Is that just who he is, and how he handles the shit that falls his way? Or does suppress stuff? Or is it just not that gritty of a story you're telling?

There's a lot of room there to work with.

Mary said...

You've got a lot of talent babe so just run with it and see where it takes you. One thing that we should all stop doing with our lives and the way we think, talk and act, is to compare it with others. Especially when it comes to creativitity. Personally, I like art that is refreshingly different and does make me chuckle because of wit or just pure stupidity. Gone are my days of wanting everything to be so god damn intense and serious.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Shucks, I feel all embarrassed now. I wrote this post partially as a way of working through the doubt with the hope of some feedback.

I didn't expect such a collection of well-considered, quality input.

Thanks guys, it really does help.

Jamie: I've heard over and over again that the difference between a pro and an amateur is the ability to finish what they're doing. If I'm honest, I don't think my novel is bad enough to ditch. I think with further work it's only going to get better. Same goes for you too, by the looks of it.

John: I haven't read Jasper Fforde's stuff either, but I've been meaning to. And keep quiet about the hookers: Mary's watching. Oh, hi Mary!

Stephen: I new I wasn't alone, but it's great to get it confirmed. I do have some reasons for the way my character is, and I did say fart-arsing around but that doesn't mean nothing's happening. It's funny, though. Second draft 3/4 of the way through and I'm still getting to know my characters.

Mary: I suppose I started comparing because I wanted to learn as much as I could, and to make sure that what I was doing was my own--not the same as everyone else. Gotta be careful not to get caught up in other people's work. And yes, pure stupidity CAN be fun!

Tribe said...

Shit, not a lot to add from what everyone else has said. An additional thought is to take a look at the stuff that you like to read, the stuff that inspired you to write. See how they do it. It's not a bd idea to try to imitate those styles and the way they handle their stories. Your voice will come through as you do it...little things that you like, that make it distinctive, that make it your own.

Just cause a lot of these bloggers you read are cynical mother-fuckers doesn't mean you have to be.

Bryon Quertermous said...

My short fiction tends to be darker noir stuff but my novels have always tended toward the lighter side. I can work myself into a fucked up rage for a few days to write a short story, but like you, I tend to be more optimistic than gritty. And that's not a bad thing.

Most of the guys I truly admire have a humerous streak running through their work. Harlan Coben and Robert Crais come immediately to mind. While they tackle serious themes and get into some dirty business, the heroes keep their fairly optimistic views in tact.

I'm a big beliver in natural voice and concentrating on what comes out easily on the first draft. If you find yourself tending toward the lighter side run with that and figure out how to make it work. If you try to write in a voice that isn't natural for you or that you don't have any passion for, readers will know.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Tribe: more good advice. Noted.

Bryon: after I started the novel and fleshed out the basic idea, I looked around to find out who was doing something similar. The only author I feel is closest to what I'm doing is Crais. Must check out some Coben.

white ibis said...

What?? That other stuff is not who you are, never was and hopefully never will be. Stay true to who you are or you risk losing the unique voice that will be your guaranteed success. Oh yeah, and I'm attempting a that's a test of my own sanity...Fiona.