John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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So Totally Not Writing About My Fitness Regimen, Either

I was going to, but all the cool kids are doing it today, so I decided to be a maverick and wait to talk about it tomorrow.

Instead, I'm going to talk about my writing a bit.

Originally, I thought I wanted to write horror, which isn't really accurate. I wanted to write Weird Fiction, which may or may not be scary. My first major prose attempt, now thankfully lost in the mists of time, was a faux-Lovecrafty (or maybe faux-Poe-ish?) sort of thing about a writer who finds himself inheriting a creepy old house in a remote mountain town and has to fend off the evil spirits of his ancestors who inhabit a mirror therein. Nothing all that much actually happened, mostly it was a lot of strange menace, and ended with the house burning down. It was written when I was 11 and I regret nothing, nothing, do you hear???

Er, sorry. Moving on!

As time went on, I found myself wanting to write science fiction (by which I mean space fantasy, not "real" SF), then sword-and-sorcery, then Big Fat Fantasy, with occasional forays into Douglas Adams pastiches starring hantamouse, jamesbarrett, praeriedog, murrrmaiyd, and myself (with guest appearances by dilletante and others). This was all during high school. Then I got to college, and started studying English, but mostly kept writing the same stuff. I wrote a cycle of goofy-but-fun short stories called "The Once and Future Gneech" that did a pretty good job of aping Douglas Adams' writing style, even though it contained little of his depth. Reading them now brings winces to my face, mostly at the mindset they reflect, but it was good at the time!

That was half my lifetime ago. 0.o

I then spent the next decade basically writing a short story every week, in the form of introductory pieces for RPG scenarios. I would set up the situation, give NPCs some moments of characterization, and add background details to the setting, usually in 5 - 10 pages, and hand them out to the players at the beginning of the session. After a while, they would start to get really elaborate. The longest one ever, IIRC, was for a Fantasy Hero session in Richmond and was 32 pages.

Like drawing every day would later do for my art, this regimen of constant composition really honed my skills as a writer. During that time, I also kept reading new and different genres of books, and experimented with writing longer and longer non-gaming pieces. I wrote my first attempt at a novel just before laurie_robey and I were married, and it came to roughly 25,000 words. It was a totally predictable sort of furry Shogun in space, but what was important about it was that I'd finally done something fairly large.

In the three or four years following that, I further wrote a Elizabeth Peters-esque "cozy" style murder mystery (which I actually shopped around to a few agents, who liked the prose but not the story), and a fantasy novel which a few people on my LJ friends list have read (with the working title of "The Ghost King's Revenge"). Each one was slightly longer, and slightly stronger, than the one before it. And I also kept working on story ideas for an eccentric psychic detective named Michael Macbeth, who was inspired by Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but none of them seemed to gel in any significant way.

Then came Suburban Jungle. 0.o

In the six years since I started SJ, my writing output has been cut back severely, just because there aren't enough hours in the day to do a comic and write. However, in that time, I also feel like my writing ability has grown, largely in response to the experience of getting through my depression. I've commented before that in a lot of ways, it was like my psyche was effectively destroyed and had to be rebuilt from the foundations up ... well you can't go through something like that without learning a lot about both yourself and the world around you, and that will make anybody's writing a lot better. In the past six years, I've also made major studies of P.G. Wodehouse and Rex Stout, both of whom were master wordsmiths, and it's done amazing things to my skills as a wordslinger.

I recently said to laurie_robey, and I meant it, that I finally feel like I'm a good enough writer to really start doing some good, strong work. The problem now is a logistical one -- doing the writing and the comic both simultaneously is not likely to get me more than half-vast attempts to do both, but I don't want to lose SJ now that it's starting to have some real success. So where I am now, is trying to figure out how to juggle them, or if one is going to need to be put aside for the sake of the other. I don't want to go that route, but at the moment I haven't yet found a lot of alternatives.

-The Gneech

PS: "Faux-Poe-ish" is a neat-sounding word.
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