I’ve managed to reaffirm something I secretly knew all along, during my absence from the internet while I tried to work on an idea I had for a swords & sorcery novel. I can’t write fantasy fiction for toffee. I’m not sure why this should be the case, since every other style of story I attempt, I at least make a readable hash out of, if not an actual worthwhile story (See Redcap for evidence of such). For no good reason I can figure out, when I try to write swords & sorcery-style fantasy, my brain turns to mulch and everything I write is, well, terrible.
Now understand, this isn’t a crisis of confidence or a novice writer’s natural doubt. I play the self deprecation card often enough in my blogging, but I’m also self aware enough to know that on my best days I’m good. My best work will stand up favourably against a surprising number of published writers, I simply lack the consistency that comes with experience. One day, with enough hard work, I’ll get there. The plain, simple, unavoidable fact, is that when I try to write secondary world fantasy everything falls apart. Every tool I’ve picked up stops working, every trick I’ve learned fails miserably and my natural ability to just keep banging the keyboard until something worthwhile appears deserts me. No matter how many words I grind out, the result is uniformly terrible and no amount of rewriting can make it into a readable piece of fiction. As the old saying goes, you can’t polish a turd. (Whatever Mythbusters might say to the contrary)
Why can’t I write secondary world fantasy? This isn’t because I don’t understand the territory, goodness knows I read enough of it. It isn’t because I don’t appreciate the genre, since I’m of the firm belief that fantasy fiction in the past decade has undergone a renaissance and is now producing some of the most exciting and interesting fiction to come about in the genre for a couple of decades. I’d even go so far as to say that I think the genre is entering something of a golden age. It isn’t because I’ve failed to do my preparation, since I’ve had the secondary world I intend to use built for at least ten years now. Geography, history, politics, economy, demographics, population densities, the whole kit and caboodle. So far as I can tell, it’s for no other reason than I’m simply not cut out for it. This is extremely frustrating, since usually when a particular style of writing is troubling me I can figure out the root cause of that trouble, then work on improving it.
Anyways, long story short. Novel is dead. Working on a short piece of sexy urban fantasy (what? What? I can’t try something outside my comfort zone as a reader, now and again?), complete with hard boiled dialogue and the re-tooling of a very special guest appearance which was initially pencilled into chapter eight of the abortive attempt at a swords & sorcery novel.
Back soon, and with an experimental short story to throw at the internet and see if it sticks.