Friday, July 24, 2009

Weber Sweats the Details

David Weber, author of the Safehold series, discusses at why having a great idea doesn't always result in a great story. Excerpts:

I've come to the conclusion that there's no great mystery about writing successfully. That doesn't necessarily mean that everyone can do it, any more than everyone can master any craft. It does mean, though, that if your talent and your inclinations lie in that direction, you can learn to do it. And, hopefully, you'll recognize that you can always learn to do it better. Personally, I consider myself a storyteller who happens to use the written word as the medium in which I tell them. As such, I also consider myself a writer, a craftsman, rather than an "author" or an artist. Some writers are both, and craft can certainly approach and become art, but my focus is on the tale well told, rather than worrying about whether or not it's "literature," and that's the way I approach my craft.

One of the things that's always struck me when I talk to people about writing is how many of them worry about the wrong parts being "hard." The biggest fallacy of all, in a lot of ways, is the notion that coming up with the "idea" for a story is the really hard part. Don't get me wrong, because coming up with the concept for a story -- or, at least, working your way from the original concept to a workable basis for a story -- can be difficult. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Read the whole thing. Weber delves pretty deeply into the nuts and bolts of speculative fiction, but an aside about how its authors tend to run in the same conceptual rut is particularly interesting. Yes, genre fiction has few taboos about sharing ideas. But I've found that its best storytelling possesses more than the usual tropes, more even than an arresting plot, captivating setting and fascinating characters. It also has a unique intellectual framework, a certain thematic originality. These are the kinds of works that not only appear in genres but create them, too.

(Picture: CC 2009 by

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