Writing: Love and hate

I don’t know how other writers feel but I have a love hate relationship with the craft.

For instance, I hate the character from my last post. It’s nothing specific, she just feels too contrived, too forced. In fact, because of her I will be rethinking my story idea. I based the plot I had in mind on my 3-Day Novel, but as I was outlining it, I felt the defeating frustration that comes from trying too hard.

I know when my writing is good and I know when I should toss it into a steel barrel and watch it burn. Despite the ridiculous time constraints of the 3-Day Novel I still like what I wrote and feel it can become more than what 72 hours allowed. I have lofty ambitions for it to become the prologue to a larger series. I know it can work and I think the concept is pretty original, which comes with a certain elation considering the number of ideas already in circulation.

So, what is the difference between when I love what I have written and feeling I should bludgeon myself with the keyboard? The answer is pretty simple, fun. When I write for fun the words flow and the ideas are birthed with ease and fluidity. I have written a lot over the years – news, magazine articles, brochures, construction proposals, short stories, even some terrible poetry.  Obviously, the first few on the list have been in a professional capacity and I was paid for my work. I would like to make the jump to being paid for my creative works as well, but I need to find away to have fun while doing it.

When I worked as a journalist it was a job, but it was fun (for the most part, dead bodies and victims of crime were low on the enjoyment scale). I found the writing easy because, for one, I enjoyed it and I usually didn’t have a lot of time to agonize over it.

It seems time and fun are inversely proportional for me. If I have tons of time to work on a project the less fun and the more of a chore it becomes, whereas during projects such as the 3-Day Novel I have a blast. Under the pressure of a looming deadline I am at my best. When all that matters is getting something done, everything seems to fall into place and the work is usually more polished and complete than if I had days or months to work on it. Maybe that’s why I got such good marks on essays I wrote for school between 2 and 6 in the morning. 

Perhaps an example is in order. I am a fantasy play by email (PBEM) roleplayer; yes, sound the uber-geek alarm. I have never been into the whole table-top dungeons and dragons thing; I never earned that level of geekdom. I tried once, and can see how it might be fun, but it felt too weird (yep, there are different levels of geek). Anyway, PBEMs are a bit different. The type I play are open-form and therefore not necessarily based on a gamer manual and they don’t need dice or a dungeon master (at least not all the time). Essentially, to me, it is less a game and more of a way to work on character development and at the end the game becomes almost a novel penned by multiple people.

The point? I always love what I write for my PBEMs. I am going to conduct a little experiment. The following is a character outline and opening PBEM scene I wrote for a new PBEM I am playing. I want to see if you see the differences I see and feel. So the question is, how do I let loose and have fun with a long-term creative writing project?

PBEM Character

Name: Wolf Spirit

Type: Barbarian

When he was born the village elders say that whole of the wilds welcomed Wolf Spirit’s emergence into the world, but no creature greeted him with more enthusiasm than the noble wolf. For two days the wolves’ howl rang through the village. This was a great omen to the Shalenedeh People who thought wolves powerful keepers of wisdom and embodiments of the souls of their ancestors. Only once in every few generations is anyone honoured with the wolf’s name which bestows upon the child a great destiny within the Shalenedeh tribe. From a young age Spirit Wolf learned the ways of his people’s shamans, learning the healing arts and discovering the language of the elements and the tribe’s spirit animals – the wolf and the eagle.

At 21, the time has come for Wolf Spirit’s quest of discovery. Every future shaman embarks on the sacred quest, some are gone weeks, others months and there were those who never returned. The quest differs for each person but the goal is always the same – to discover the shaman’s guiding spirit. The journey is said to lead the seeker into the spirit world itself; where a great power is bestowed upon the person, granting powerful insight and the ability to pass on the knowledge and wisdom of the Shalenedeh shamans.

Spirit Wolf’s quest bears a greater burden than any before him. His mentor Soaring Eagle is old – even for a shaman whose power grants life well beyond any other of the Shalenedeh. Usually three or four shamans live in the village but Soaring Eagle is the last of the Shalenedeh shamans. It has been generations since a potential has returned from his discovery quest and If Spirit Wolf does not return Soaring Eagle will likely die before he is able to train another potential. Without a shaman the people will lose their connection to the ancestor spirits and the Shalenedeh will be powerless.

No one knows why the other potentials never returned to the village but Soaring Eagle suspects a malevolent force at work.

As other potentials before him, Spirit Wolf left the village armed only with his knowledge and clad in the simple animal-skin clothing of his people. He is a fierce man, standing nearly six-and-a-half-feet tall and broad. His long black hair hangs loosely at his back and his coal-black eyes, set deep in skin like brown leather, are made more fierce by a jagged scar that carves its way from his left ear to his throat – a gift from a cougar he killed after it had made off with three children from the village.

Spirit Wolf is as ferocious a warrior as he seems, but his heart is kind and his intentions honourable. His priority is completing his quest and saving his people, a quest that very little could distract him from.

Spirit Wolf’s opening post: Coming soon (post is already too long).

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