Why I Finally Saw the Light On Some of My Writing Prejudices

That goes for reading, too.

I think every writer - published or not - has a writing prejudice. It could be against an entire genre - romance or fantasy, for example - or it could be just against a certain group of writers (more on that in a moment).

My Epiphany

When I speak of a group of writers, I'm not talking about racial groups or anything like that. What I'm talking about are writers who write for shared universes or shared worlds.

Think Star Trek and its various iterations.

And, I just happen to be talking specifically about one such writer who wrote in the Star Trek universe.

This writer wrote on either a writers' board or somewhere; unfortunately, I can't remember where I read this nor the writer's name, except that this oerson was definitely male.

Once I went whole hog into the writing gig, one of my main, smug assumptions was that anyone who wrote for something like Star Trek couldn't be a writer worth his or her salt.

The Eye-Opening Post

This writer's post open my eyes, big time.

We're talking about 2-3 years ago. What this guy wrote impressed me no end, and completely changed my mind about those writing in an already-established world.

Think about it. We, as writers, get to create the story and characters - and the world those character inhabit.

Writers in a shared universe don't have that luxury. They have to remember on-going characters' names. They have to remember situations that came before. They have to remember whether a character would or wouldn't do certain things, considering that character's past. Certain "logics" of the world are already supplied, and the writer can't deviate from those logics. (This comes into play if you have a series, certainly; but you, the writer, still get to make it up for Book One.)

Tough Stuff

Those were some of the things this particular writer pointed out - and I had to give it some serious thought.

I felt he was right, and I was wrong.

Remembering all that stuff and coming up with a story that the publisher/whoever can live with, is tough, in my mind. At least with characters and situations I've come up with - they're my creations. Although this might be "easy" money in a sense - the characters and the world is already there for ya - I don't feel it's easy to come up with a coherent story. Yet, writers are regularly signed up for these sorts of gigs all the time, and they can be quite popular. (I can only think of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, but I'm sure there are others.)

So I slowly changed my smugness into respect. It was hard for me to do, but I had to be honest with myself, especially after I let the idea roll around in my head for a while.

Then There's the Entire Genre Bit

This one is as old as the hills. The literary people don't like the fantasy or SF genres because it's "not really writing" or it's "not based on the real world."

Or there's the thriller crowd (or fill in whatever genre you want) who thinks romances are all "bodice rippers."

Eek!! Enough of that stuff. Did I have my prejudices against reading certain genres? Damn right! Yup, had a thing against romances, had a thing against literary, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So what did I do, once I got past that bit of snobbery?

I decided to start reading some romances.

Now, I have read one, The Smoke Thief, that had fantasy elements in it, and I thought it was a Very Good Read. I have two other ones that have fantasy elements in them, but I've only read a couple of chapters of one; haven't yet started the other one.

But I didn't want to just read those types of romances: I wanted to read other types, just to see if I'd like them. So I picked up an historical one, this one set at sea for the most part (I'm such a water person, you wouldn't believe!); the first half of it was quite fun, with the heroine dressing up as a boy, but eventually being found out (yeah, I know, it's one of the usual tropes of romance). Even though it sounds like the same-old, same-old, it was still a lot of fun to read.

Once they landed, not so much.

Especially as she still loved him after he kidnapped her.

But I wanted to read books with unusual twists - HEA (Happily Ever After) is fine with me, I mean, duh, that's what to expect in most romances, ya know? :-) So I picked up a couple more, after reading some reviews of them.

And, Your Point?

My point is, even as writers, we have to keep on guard about our prejudices. It really helps, I think, for us to read in other genres from time to time. (Ask me about my Stephanie Plum mysteries obsession. I triple-dog dare ya! ;-)) I think it helps us to grow as writers, giving us insights into certain things that we can incorporate in our own stories.

Or we might even come to like that particular genre.

Or we might just like that particular writer's books.

My take on it is to keep your mind open to new things. I dispensed with the idea of there shouldn't be such-and-such genre by rethinking it as: If there's a whole bunch of people clamoring to read it, why not write it?

If that's what interests you, that is.

So keep your mind open. You never know what might wiggle in - and for the better of you and your writing!

~Nancy Beck


writtenwyrdd said...

It's true, we have to recognize our prejudices so that we can actively ignore them or work around them. Regarding reading preferences, it's good to read other things. I believe it will help to keep my writing perspective fresh(er) anyhow.

What you said about pre-existing worlds amused me, because I actually find it easier to write using a pre-existing world! (I've written some fanfic.) Everyone has their own perspective on that, though!

Have a happy easter!