My first attempts at writing fiction were back in early 2005 at the same time that I transferred out of my first university, switched from a technical degree to one in liberal arts, and moved back to Texas. Though it sounds like a moment of huge upheaval for me, in truth it was more of a return to things I’d always done after realizing (for the first time) that a career in the sciences isn’t for me. As much as I love to nerd out on science, I’m afraid my interest will remain in the hobbiest/amateur arena. The closest I plan to come to being a chemist will be in brewing and baking, and that is already pretty close.
(Just to nip any anxious curiosity in the bud, the second time was when I started a second undergrad in pre-med, then switched gears after one semester—again—and got an MA in literature.)
Starting in 2006, I was part of a student organization which took the form of a writing workshop. Unfortunately, the group there wasn’t very helpful and several people never read anyone else’s work but rather tried to use the group for criticism of their own writing without giving back. It wasn’t a total loss, as I made a good friend from the class, but it was a net gain of zero for my writing.
As I got further along in my undergraduate career, my writing split about half and half between fiction and non as my classes finally became challenging. This marked the first time that I was proud of my non-fiction writing and it really planted the seed that grew into my interest in a graduate degree. After I completed my BA, i moved out of state, took a job, and kept writing daily, for a time. In late 2008, shortly after taking my first full-time, post-degree job, I gave up writing fiction. I still blogged from time to time, but mostly I read and worked a gig I hated. Though I didn’t give up writing because of the job, I know it didn’t help. Mostly, I was sick of hating everything I wrote and never having the stomach to edit the piece into anything better. I closed my notebook halfway through a story about an illiterate custodian’s battle for child custody and decided that I might one day return to writing with a bit more cultural currency in my pocket and a lot more books on my shelf. Then again, perhaps never at all.
For almost four and a half years, I wrote no fiction at all. By virtue of graduate school and a new blog (this ‘un right here), I got better at writing short form non-fiction and scholarly papers. I also became comfortable with outlining and editing. I didn’t even think of fiction writing. Increasingly, I’ve read more and more sf to the point that now it is something between 33 and 50% of what I read, and that is a rather conservative number. It probably ranges closer to 75%. I even focused on sf for my thesis and my cognate, which was always my hope. I’m a bit of an sf buff/nerd/geek/aficionado/term-of-your-choosing. I know it as a fan and as an academic.
When I returned to writing fiction this week, one of my goals was to try genre fiction for the first time. Before, I’d always written ‘general’ or ‘literary’ fiction. Now I realize that, for me at least, sf is a lot harder. I suppose it could be for a number of reasons, and only time will bare this out, which may include:
- I’ve simply never done it before and it will eventually feel natural.
- I haven’t written at all in a while and I’m simply intimidated.
- When I wrote before, I wrote so much realistic fiction that I have to swap some connections around and bridge some new neurons.
- Finally, and this is perhaps the only reason that I’ve certain about, I’m writing without a plan.
I’ve enjoyed meeting and exceeding my word count minimum this week. I’ve really liked forming new characters and planning a step or two ahead, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. I’m not totally sure why, but I decided to dive in without a plan for this first piece. I started with a word, then a sentence and a mood, but that’s it. I’m keeping a writing buffer so that if I put myself in a corner or kill story by writing it in circles, I can cull from the buffer to either revive what I’m working on or else start something new, but for just this first piece, I went in without a plan. That probably means that this piece will go out into the middle of nowhere and die a painful death in a paucity of ideas, but that’s ok. So long as I can introduce some sf element into the story that excites me, It will be a success.