When I write, all I’m doing is entertaining myself. True, sometimes my writing is a method I use to recover from stress, or I pick something to write based on the challenge it represents. However, if what I’m working on at the time, no matter the other reasons why I’m working on it, is not fun, it eventually does the opposite.
I experienced this with the gay romances. I lost the fun of them. And, yes, they were actually quite fun and enjoyable to write when I first started writing on them. It was also a challenge to come up with various situations, do the research, and use them to advance my writing skills and break some poor writing habits (like way too much use of “that,” or all my characters nodding at everything—which, when I come across now, makes me laugh).
Part of keeping myself in the I’m Totally Entertained mode with my writing is taking time away to read others’ writing. It refreshes my mind and gives me fodder for my own ideas. Occasionally, I’ll pop a movie in my DVD player and watch it while crocheting for a break. I used to set up my laptop on my craft table a couple-few times a year to watch movies while figuring out stories—sometimes chatter helps better than music does, but it’s got to be something I’ve seen many times before, to the point of having memorized lines. This year, I’ve been taking my laptop to the coffee shop on the corner across the street from where I live; simple half a block walk, a nice specialty beverage or cup of flavored coffee, and I can spend hours there working on my writing.
This is all to keep writing entertaining. When I’m not entertained, I don’t enjoy my writing, and it depresses and stresses me out. And I do this for one main reason, a reason I’ve had since first putting pen to paper in 1988 when I wrote awful piecemeal Star Trek: The Next Generation “novel” pastiches. Because I was entertained by my admittedly awful fanfiction.
Writing should entertain the author of it.
Why do I believe this? Simple. If it does not in some way entertain its author, how can that writer expect it to entertain anybody else? Granted, it will capture a few readers, but not nearly enough for true success. It may even become a bestseller. However, I have to ask myself before I write: Do I want this to be a bestseller because I followed a trend, or do I want to put sincere effort into entertaining people, even if the only “people” are myself and perhaps a beta reader or two? Believe me, I’ve written some stuff—mostly in my pre- and early-FM days, which, after getting critiques on it—I never attempted to fix. It simply wasn’t worth the effort. The people may have been entertained, but I don’t see how, looking back on some of the work I have from those early-FM years, because it was so laughably awful. Worse than the worst fanfic I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across some pretty bad fanfic. My early original stories . . . no words to describe them. Just so awful the people who took the time and made the valiant effort to critique probably either wanted to wallbang it or laughed so hard at my storytelling mistakes—beyond mere Mary Sue characters, believe me—they could barely read at some points.
I wrote that stuff with a GOAL, though, and it was to Become A Published Writer. So I wrote what I thought people would want to read. It wasn’t until I backed down from that stance when my writing truly began to improve. When I recaptured the ability of writing to entertain myself. I’d lost it as tome point between graduating school and finding FM.
Writing with a GOAL prevented me from learning. My skill stagnated, all my stories sucked. I was writing to others’ expectations, and writing had lost its charm for me. It didn’t take me long to realize the reason why I didn’t want to rework my first few posted stories on FM was because they were not in any way fun to think about, never mind contemplate reworking to make them better. So I moved on to other projects, went to workshops at conventions I attended to learn more, and studied my favorite books to the point of memorizing passages in order to improve my writing. It was all challenging, and fun, and it entertained me.
This is not to say I did not have goals for my writing. I’ve always had goals. They’re just small. First with the gay romances, I learned how to write without using “that” so frequently—I mean it, it was everywhere, when there are quite acceptable alternatives, the main one of which I use is to leave it out altogether, which, for the right sentences, works perfectly fine. I’m still in the process of learning to include description in my exposition. I’ve learned how to tag dialogue without using saidisms every single time—that was as bad as my nodding characters; if their heads weren’t in danger of falling off, they were overdramatic in how they spoke.
But I don’t have GOALS any more. No really BIG things which I obsess over and work to see happen. Yes, I want to publish, even now. Publishing, however, is not the GOAL it was before. That’s another thing the gay romances taught me: I’m not required to publish anything. I can be as happy hoarding my stories as I imagine I’ll be publishing them. Publishing, in essence, has become another of my little goals and is no longer the monumental step it was before.
Because the idea of publishing my stories is, like writing them, entertaining to me, and, ultimately, this is how I want all of my writing to be for me. It’s like forcing myself to read a book whose characters I don’t care about.
Why do it if I’m not entertained?