The Writer as Artist

“I’ve never thought of writing as being artistic.”

I’m paraphrasing a little, but that was a friend of mine said during a conversation we were having a couple weeks ago. He’s a moderately new writer, meaning he’s been working on it for a while, but still has tons o’ questions and tons o’ worries and whatnot. When he said that, he didn’t mean that writers were not artists, but that he honestly just hadn’t thought about it. As I recall, we were talking about voice then, and about the use of vocabulary and how the voice of a piece has to come through the characters and the way the setting interacts with those characters. Or something like that.

I’m thinking about that today because I’ve just spent most of the last three days doing a deep rewrite of Lords of the Freeborn, which is the 8th, and final episode of my Saga of the God-Touched Mage serial. For me, this kind of work requires a different skillset than that of writing first drafts, or perhaps even second drafts for that matter. While it’s safe to say that in reality, no two stories happen in the exact same fashion, I’ll say that–for me–a first draft is often pure creativity. It’s also generally pure fun. A second draft is then often quite crafty, and consists of lots of basic block and tackling around character development, proper structuring of plot points, and whatnot. So by the time we get to this point things are different. At this point, I already know exactly what the story is about, so I’m turning my focus deeply back to the text itself.

This is really fun, but it’s fun in a different way than that jubilant thing that happens in first drafts. This work brings me deep into the characters, and makes me dwell on exactly what they mean. This work lets me play with the language where I want to. It’s a very granular feel. As pretentious as this sounds (and, yes, I know it can sound that way), the fun associated with these later passes is the glory of wallowing in the true art of the work.

So, draft 1 is about creativity, draft 2 is about craft, and draft 3 is about art. Can I break this process down any further? Is that my inner engineer showing? Sigh. I guess I can live with it, though.

Ideally, of course, the whole thing winds up with a piece that reads as if it was all so natural, right? As if there was no work to it at all. With luck, folks will read these stories and be happy with them—find them interesting, and purposeful, and all the other things people come to fiction to experience. We shall see

But, yeah, I’m thinking about this now because I’ve been wallowing in the art of this business for the last three days. And perhaps I’m being even more deeply influenced by this right now because I’ve been so focused on the production side of this project for the past two months. Or maybe I’m so focused on it because this is the last episode, and today I officially put “The End” down there for the last time (barring copy editing, of course).

Whatever the reason, I’m just happy to say that the stories have already done their primary job for me. I’m happy. Finally. The stories play right. They say what I want them to say–to me, anyway. And as an artist, I guess that’s the entire point.

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