11 October 2012

The story you want to write vs the story you can write

I like space opera. I don't care if it isn't fashionable to do so, because it's not "rigorous" or because it's all tropey or whatever other reasons people say space opera sucks. (That was the first google hit for that phrase.)

I love Bujold's Vorkosigan series. I love Cherryh's Alliance-Union and atevi series. I want to write stories in universes as big as those, with characters people remember and care about.

But I don't have the skill yet. I have 160,000 or so words in two related space-opera-with-mercenaries novels (one's a completed first draft, the other is around 68k on the 0.5th draft). I intend to finish making book two into a completed first draft, then going over book one for continuity changes and "oh hey I should mention...", but I don't know if I want to keep poking at them.

What I can write, apparently, because I can sell it, is historical fantasy that borders on magical realism. U8: Alexanderplatz (1989) is a story about the end of the Cold War with ghost trains in the ghost stations of Berlin. "Something There Is," coming out in the anthology Substitution Cipher in December, is about the early days of the Cold War, with a teenaged girl who can hear the voice of Berlin.

(I have a vague idea about making "Something" into a novel, going on after the end of it, but I don't know. It needs to cook more, I think.)

It's a hard realization to have, that the thing you really want to do isn't something you're very good at. Though, to be honest, writing historical fantasy set in Germany is something I also really like, and it lets me use half my college degree.

This isn't the first time I've had this realization. I dropped out of chemistry grad school, because I a) wasn't very good at it, and b) discovered that lab chemistry wasn't what I actually wanted to do with my life. So I went to pharmacy school, which I liked better. Apparently what I want to do is write, but that's not making me any income, so I'm back on the hunt for a job in my field. (20 applications in a week, and not a single bite. This economy, I tell you...)

So, for now, I'll write the stories I can, which happen to also be ones I want to write, or I wouldn't be inspired by them, and let the universe-spanning space opera wait. Hopefully not forever.

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