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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Avatar - The Reckoning

All writers are insecure. And I was insecure to begin with, so that's like a double stuff oreo of insecurity. It seems like my skill in writing is two steps forward, two steps back.

Here's the example, after I had my Stephen King dream on Sunday, I needed some comfort because I was feeling insecure that my story - Avatar - is now on Critters, but hasn't gotten many reviews. That disappointed me because, unlike Blood 2, this represents my current writing talent. This one I really tried on, I made it a subject I know, I blended humor, drama. It's not a whiny kid. There's a plot. And so on. It's a good story, at least I thought so. It's problem is that its 8,000 words, about 16 pages in Word. That's not really that many, but on Critters, a 3,000 word story is worth the same as an 18,000 word story (a definite flaw in the website's design), and there's always a handful of 3,000 worders, so why would you read an 8,000.

Then a little later Sunday morning, I checked my e-mail and found I got three reviews. Good, so my initial perceptions were off. All the reviews were coming in very positive, very much enjoyed the reading. Many said it reminded them of their time in World of Warcraft. This amused me because I've never played an MMORPG (except Kingdom of Loathing, which doesn't have much PvP interaction). It also depressed me because I started thinking that this might only appeal to a niche audience within a niche audience within a niche audience (MMORPG players -> RPG players -> video game players). It wasn't meant to, it was meant to appeal to video game players, but those seem to be the people reading it. No one knows how many of these people there are, so how marketable is my story?

My fears were confirmed when I got a harsh critique (not mean, but harsh) from someone who I think might be an editor. He said that its not in a "class of stories" that are appealing to publishers. I asked him what he meant and he said that everybody who's played a video game thinks they can write a video game story, and that mine, while not being "really bad", wasn't good enough to lift itself up out of its mire.

This was new to me. I've read through many of the cliches that writer's should avoid (Adam and Eve stories, loose A.I.s, comical aliens that take everything literally), and I don't think it fits that. The closest it gets is the D&D story, but I play that up for comedic effect. Besides, that's what typical MMORPG's are. It's unavoidable.

So that got me down. Then today, I got three more critiques. I think that brings me up to seven, the most I've ever gotten on a story on Critters. So that leaves me thinking I don't know what to think. Am I good enough to be published? Am I just catering to fans and not to editors? Is my skill up to snuff? Or am I writing on the wrong subjects?

That's what worries me the most. Years of studying writing, I've concluded that it really doesn't matter how you write, it's what you write. And if what you write doesn't appeal, you've got no case. Personally, I don't much care for that philosophy, but I think it's true. Steven Gould's first book I read "Jumper" was great. It was fast-paced, plausible, and full of action. His sequel to that book, "Reflex" seems like a different author. There's way too much detail, it bogs down the pace. The characters think too much, the narration follows each minutiae, describing each place so that I get so lost I just skip over it. It's not as good as the first one. But it still got published. Hundreds of other similar books are published every day, so that's why I make the above statement. What can I do about this? Well, writing outside the cliche would be a start.

But I still like the story. I believe in it, length or not, subject matter or not. And I am going to try to submit it. I think what I need to do more is choose what the story is about. I've got lots of themes going on, but none of them seem to be explained thoroughly. I can either write about A) the connection between the player and character B) gaming is a social event C) the mirroring of the real world and video game world.

If I make it A, I probably need to totally make it a different story. If I want B, I'm not sure how to change the story into that. C sounds pretty good, because I've got all the elements in there. And I think part of A is in there, in that the video game world and real world become more and more a part of each other, with all the elements therein. And the only way to conquer things is to work together, not as individuals (link to B).

Well, this entry's long enough.
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