Tag Archives: Fiction

Zodiacs and Genres

Graphic: Genre Spinner

So what’s your sign?

Labels… so many labels that attempt to define who we are and what we do!

It seems that everything is classified according to some standard, pigeon-holed along with countless other folks that may or may not agree on most things. Yet it’s the way we begin to evaluate a new idea or thing of which we have no immediate knowledge. We compare things in order to begin to understand them. We always ask the question, “What’s it like?”

Arbitrary categories mean different things to different people and require even more sub-definitions to clarify our concepts. For instance, if I told you I was a fiction writer, what would you think?

I have just placed myself in a general category that basically says I make up my stories, but it doesn’t convey any sense of the types of stories I write nor does it indicate anything about my style. As far as you know, my work could be anything from crime mysteries to fairy tales, mythology to science fiction.

So now I say my work is fantasy-adventure, which narrows it somewhat, but it still encompasses a wide range of possibilities… still pretty near infinite, I’d say.

I could suggest that my work touches on science fiction and involves crime mysteries. But that tends to widen the field again.

How about if I say my genre is sci-fi-fantasy-mystery novels with a touch of humor? Sitting astraddle of a handful of these categories somehow makes me uncomfortable and really clouds the issue. Perhaps I would feel better just going back to the general fiction classification, but it wouldn’t serve well.

So how should I go about defining the type of writing I do? I could say I was inspired by such writers as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, E.R. Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, O. Henry and others. But does that do anything to clarify it? Not really.

Maybe I could find another writer that produced work similar to mine and compare myself to them. But that would tend to dilute my image as a writer with a unique style. Hey! I blaze my own trails! I’m not a copycat and I refuse to try to model myself after anyone else’s style. Like most writers, I feel my work is unique. It doesn’t really fit wholly into any one category or classification, and I’ll be damned if I will try to make it do so.

So maybe I should invent a new genre? How about MysSciFiHumFant? Say it real fast and it sounds… well, silly. But am I all alone? How many writers have difficulty classifying their work? What if you write several specific kinds of fiction?

I not only write novels, but I have tried my hand at poetry, songs and short stories, all with different styles and I’m not sure you could classify any of them. I prefer to think of my genre as undefined and without limits. I’m a free-thinker and I want my writing to reflect that.

Too often my attempt at genre classification will turn some people off. They will say “I’m normally not a fan of sci-fi (or fantasy or mystery… whatever), but your book was really a fun read.”

So it seems that the best strategy might be to give ’em a little taste without telling them what it is. My mother (and my wife) have both tried this technique in order to get me to broaden my horizons and try new things. I must say it has worked on some occasions and I have indeed expanded my experiences for the better.

I’m suggesting here that whether you are Scorpio, Pisces or Sagittarius, you could actually step outside your assigned preferences and check out some of the unclassified literature being  produced by some very talented writers.  Genres be damned!

I hope to be interviewing some rogue authors in the near future to find out how they see themselves and what they are doing to promote their work.

As always, I invite comments and suggestions about the business of indie publishing and ways to help fledgling authors be seen and heard. What’s your genre? How do you classify your work ?

About Time Publishing

Photo of Michael Faris sitting at desk

Michael Faris

I have three books available at present. Check out the links at the very top of this page.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac

http://literature.pppst.com/genres.html

http://genresofliterature.com/

http://webclipart.about.com/od/businessoffice/ss/Chinese-Zodiac-Calendar.htm

Its the same old story…

Photo of Michael Faris sitting at desk

Michael Faris

I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas for your stories?”

I get them from everyday news events, from personal experiences, friends’ suggestions, from happenstance situations, satisfactions, disappointments, absurdities and ridiculous occurrences that are all around us… or maybe from a wish, a realization that things could be much different than they are. I have only to open my eyes or lend an ear and there are things to write about.

I probably have more trouble narrowing ideas down to a reasonable size so they don’t become a career project. For me, it really becomes a matter of deciding what’s important and sticking to that thought.

These what I call “career projects” become an awesome burden, mainly because of the time invested. I somehow cannot let go of them, desiring to see some kind of reward for my efforts. It’s like I won’t admit to myself that I acted on a bad idea.

What happens is that it gets stored away in a box or on DVD for future reference, (just in case I want to pick it up again).

One day I realized I had dozens of these “great ideas” all at various stages of development, any one that I should be able to pick up and finish with a little more effort. But somehow, yesterday’s ideas just don’t provide the inspiration that today and tomorrow promise. Or is there something else is at the root of my problem?

I know I have trouble finishing stories with sketchy plots. Attempts to outline the project ahead of time just never seem to pan out. Once I get to writing, my imagination just takes off and leaves the plan in a ditch somewhere. To heck with that outlining BS, I’m too busy having fun!

My first novel took me almost ten years to write. I went through three computers and swapped platforms twice before I cobbled together a meager 100,000 words. That’s about 27 words per day.

The sequel only took two years to write… (comparable length of 100K words). I was now working five times as fast now at 135 words per day!

Novel number three was also taking two years. But I could see an underlying problem here that made finishing very difficult. I was getting bored with the project and enthusiasm waned.

As much as I enjoyed writing, I couldn’t seem to finish a project. I asked myself why and could only blame it on the size of the undertaking. So I decided to concentrate on short stories.

This presented a whole new set of rules. I had a lot less time to develop my characters and to execute the plot. They tended to drag out because I couldn’t effectively tell my stories in so short a time… the very reason my novels became so long. So what was my problem?

I decided to join a writer’s group and get some pointers so I could effectively improve my work to the point of writing more complete material in a shorter length of time. I had no idea about how a writer’s group was conducted. I just wanted to get some of my work out in front of some guys that didn’t ‘love’ me. They would all be strangers and that seemed a good way to find out if my stuff was any good. So I found a fiction writers group on Craigslist and joined.

It has been about four years now since throwing in with “The Write Guys”, a very informal group of six members that meets twice a month. I have found it to be very rewarding and I have grown because of it. I have also followed and enjoyed a lot of superb stories from the rest of the group. Good fellowship. Great medicine for me as a writer.

The Write Guys try to get three readings in per meeting, which keeps each member’s presentation down to around 20-30 minutes and allows them to read about once a month. Each of us reads the next chapter from our ongoing novels, then the group discusses the story, pointing out things that we liked (or didn’t), and making suggestions that might help to improve the work.

The guys really seem to like my writing, but I’m still having the same problem. I can’t seem to finish a story because the plot isn’t well defined. I’m starting to realize that beautiful sentences do not make a story. It takes more than that.

The writers group experience has been positive, and I thought we were doing reasonably well, until I ran across Kristen Lamb’s blog. Her perspective has radically altered my thinking and presented a few challenges that I know will help me to grow as a writer.

Kristen’s advice and tips on how to effectively write and critique fiction are terrific! She also has some excellent advice on promoting fiction using social media, together with a couple of books that every serious fiction writer should read. Check it out at warriorwriters.wordpress.com/.

Now I think I will go cut a few projects down to size.

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing