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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand

True Confessions: I Am Not The World's Best Writer


There's no M. Night Shyamalan twist here. I'm not the world's best writer. Duh. I know that. As this blog proves, I'm not the world's best writing marketer, either. I will never write and, truth be told, have no interest in writing The Great American Novel. For one thing, The Great American Novel would probably have to be all literary and serious, which are not my natural inclination. For another, such a product would probably require a type of fanatic dedication to writing that is beyond me. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't have an ego or that I don't work at my writing and do my best to improve it. I meet deadlines, try new things, read plenty, and do my best to polish my drafts until they are ready to see the light of day. It's just that I know where I stand in the order of things. I read some things by other authors and know that I could never write something as beautiful or complex or subtle or popular as they did. I also read things by other authors--even best-selling or highly-regarded authors--and know that I can (and sometimes have) written better than that. It's not that I'm not competitive. If you've ever played a board game, card game, or role-playing game with me, you know that I'm competitive. Heck, when I was playing in the RPGA's tournament circuit, I hated playing "no points" games, not so much because I needed or wanted the points, but because I believed (and still believe) that people don't try as hard or play as well in non-competitive situations. But, I've not arranged my writing to be optimally competitive in the marketplace. My writing is a smattering of output in a wide variety of scattered fields. I write in many different genres: scifi, fantasy, action-adventure, horror, steampunk, romance, mystery, comedy, memoir, essays, etc. All interesting, but mostly niche, non-mainstream, non-literary categories. I write a variety of lengths: shorts, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. I write on spec and on deadline to a specific topic and word-count. Sure, I have a bit of a reputation for clever tales and have been accused of having a "signature dark humor" and I'm always pleased when one of my stories gets singled out in a review of an anthology in which it appeared and am happy when an editor seeks me out because they know I can write competently and quickly to help them meet their needs, but it's not like I've concentrated all of my artistic effort in one place. When my wife and I go to art fairs and art galleries, you can always tell the artists who are smart marketers. They're the ones who are the "fuzzy tree" artist or the "cartoon gremlin face" artist or whatever. Not me. I'm that guy who does a bunch of different things. And, all that diversity in my writing comes at a price. Being Writer on Demand TM may play well to harried editors, but it doesn't really define me for readers. And readers can't be faulted for always searching for the very, very best in the genre(s) they choose to read. And that's not going to be me. Why? I think, in part, because I am not a fanatic about much. (Moderation in all things, including moderation.) I have my interests and preferences, but I always know there is someone out there more interested, more knowledgeable, and more fanatical than I am. When I chat with my mundane, mostly non-genre-fiction-reading friends, they may think of me as well-versed in science fiction, but when I chat with my writing friends or my fellow convention attendees, I feel woefully inadequate in my knowledge of current and even classic authors and works in the field. Pick any historical event and there are plenty of people who know more about it than me. Pick any piece of popular culture and there are scads of fans more devoted and knowledgeable about it than me. Instead, I know a scattering of bizarre trivia and interesting facts about a wide variety of unrelated topics which can, if judiciously applied in the right context, make me seem smarter and more clever and knowledgeable about things than I am. And, with a little research, I can also find a few obscure, interesting facts or observations about whatever topic I need or want to be writing about at any given moment, tidbits which I can drop into the work to give it an aura of expertise. I can't tell you how many times readers have asked me how I know about certain things in my spy novel or my scifi or time travel writing and been generally perplexed because, to me, it all is information I either picked up in the course of my mundane life or is simply the logical way something would be handled if a reasonably intelligent person thought about the issue/problem/task for a few minutes. Logical extrapolation is a critical skill for a writer. Not only what could happen, but what would realistically happen in response and reaction to an event at a variety of levels (personal, political, societal). Being able to see and understand different perspectives to most events (and issues) may make you a less lively and idealistic participant in political discussions and flame wars about the latest issues (trust me, I would be more tolerant of the views expressed by my various social network friends if there was any evidence they thought about the subtleties and complexities of the issues seriously, rather than just regurgitating some piece of propaganda or name-calling), but it can be a blessing when writing realistic characters caught in conflict. So, don't be surprised when I continue to come out with various pieces of writing which range far afield in genre, tone, and length. They may not be clever pieces in some grand marketing scheme, but in some way they are all pieces of me (whether or not they reflect my personal views or point of view on any particular subject). Check out the various published pieces of me at www.donaldjbingle.com. Aloha, Don

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