I was listening to a great interview with one of my favorite authors: Guy Gavriel Kay on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast and one topic of discussion was the artistic differences between writing a trilogy and writing a stand alone novel. The commercial differences were also covered.
Kay stated (and this is NOT an exact quote, I’m paraphrasing) that readers as a whole tend to be conservative and not seek change therefore commercially trilogies do well but writing is an art and that means change. Stories change, people change.
I kind of lost track at this point since some moron in a Honda Odyssey started driving erratically, but it did get me thinking (once traffic was smooth again) about the art of writing.
Is writing an art or Art?
Writing is an art form of course. It sure isn’t a science despite what those myriad hucksters with “Write a bestselling novel in 10 easy steps” will try and tell you (sell you?).
I just wonder if it’s Art with a capital A.
It sure isn’t for me.
Kay expounds on the need for change as he writes and I don’t doubt him and I love his work. Change is essential to Art was something I picked up from his words while swerving in traffic.
I don’t care about the capital A. I’d be happy finding a grove and writing a 3,5 or even 20 book series with characters people loved and that I loved exploring.
I think back to my university experience in creative writing workshops was plagued by these “fine folks” who consider writing Art above all else. I’d frequently butt heads when submitting my stories, or defending someone else’s when the sole point of critique would be “it’s so populist. It’s just too every man. Your themes are pedestrian.” I remember being scorned because I said that I enjoy Douglas Adams and David Eddings. I remember what I was told when I said that I would love to publish as many books as Stephen King (“Sellout” was muttered around the table).
At one time, they actually made this poor 30 something wannabe cry (actual little tears) because he wrote a sci-fi story and his main character ducked behind a white marble statue of a woman in a park. He was accused of being a male chauvinist pig for putting a woman on a pedestal and describing her as cold and some such.
From that same year, let me quote you from the most lauded “short story” (the term deserves quotes here). I keep it just for giggles. Let me be clear, I am NOT kidding. I still have the print out from the dot matrix printer we used back then.
“I swam up the down stairs because the fish told me to. I tasted blue and smelled the news on the tv.”
It continues like this for 12 pages. Some sentences read like they were put together by a random word generator and when I stated such, I think I mortally insulted 2 thirds of the workshop.
It was lauded as a breakthrough in showing the suffering of man and his confusion in the modern age or something. I stopped paying attention.
Thankfully, I eventually kept writing. It took almost 15 years to get back to it, but let’s not quibble.
I still run into people who worship the capital A type of art as they write, and I applaud them for doing so. It’s good to have goals. I doubt any of them would ever read this, but if they do, I have one bit of opinion to throw their way:
I’ve noticed the best way to achieve that capital A is to stop having your work be “Art” as your first priority. Let “Art” take care of itself and focus on the art with the little ‘a’.
Then again, why ask me? I just want to tell stories.