Hi, Reddit! I’m Doug Dorst (http://dougdorst.com/). Looking forward to taking your questions about S.
Tumblr, I know you love S. And that you have questions about S. Go ahead and share them with author Doug Dorst on Reddit!
I read a nice quote recently in Bernard Mergen’s illuminating Snow In America: ‘As to all questions of quiddity, the answer to the riddle of identical snowflakes lies in defining the degree of similarity. The more interesting question is why we continue to seek twin snowflakes.’
I guess that’s where I’m coming from when it comes to genre manipulation and advancing the case for mixing and matching elements from different strands of fiction in order to best tell the story I have in mind. The question is not why some people want to bend genres, but why others are insistent on keeping them so damned straight.
The chicken comes first, but so does the egg. And somewhere in the relationship between them coalesces a novel. I can’t necessarily recommend this approach, as it can lead to periods of ear-bleeding confusion and doubt, but it’s how I do. And it’s how life works too, of course. We perform actions in order to make things happen: but things happen, too, and cause us to perform actions as a result. Causality is not a one-way street, and neither is the relationship between research and creation. Research is a type of creation, or can be. I don’t want to impose a plot upon a novel. I would rather discover it within what transpires on the page in front of me—and in this case, growing of what I found, by accident, amidst the streets of New York.
babyiowa asked: Hey man, I finished reading Skinner today and I loved it. Your books mean a lot to me, and if you don't mind I'd like to ask you for a little advice. How much importance would you place on actual writing schooling (like college courses/programs) for someone that wants to be a writer?
My personal experience with writing programs was my first semester at CSUSF. I enrolled in the creative writing program, and by the end of the semester I was dropping classes to keep my GPA just high enough to land on academic probation instead of being expelled outright. The following semester I loaded up on theater classes to lift my GPA, and never took another writing course in my life.
But the only conclusion you can really draw from that story is that me at that age and that writing program in that year were not compatible. I’m certain that there are any number of terrific programs out there that are genuinely productive in terms of helping their students to become better writers.
That said, I imagine that the single largest benefit of any writing program is that it is a focused environment devoted to the act of writing. Unless you become a professional writer earning a living wage off your work, you are unlikely to ever again be in such an environment and have a concentrated span of time during which you can devote yourself to your writing with few other distractions. The irony being that most students will only be in a position to avail themselves of this environment when they are at an age where their long term prospects as a writer might be better served by doing a whole lot of shit so as to accrue that life experience stuff.
What we in the trade refer to as: Shit to write about.
There is no good answer.
I have only two pieces of solid advice to anyone who wants to write for a living: Read and write a lot, and repeat.
As brutal as it sounds, if you have to struggle to get yourself to write and produce pages, that probably means that you’re not a writer. Desire and ideas are easy; sitting down and putting them on paper day after day is hard.
If you are a self-motivated writer who can’t stop worrying away at a thing until it’s “finished,” you may also be a good candidate for spreading your energy around into other areas rather than living in a scrivener’s hot house. If you have trouble self-starting and keeping at it, a writing program might teach you a new level of self-discipline that will carry you forward.
Regardless, go grab something by the short and curlies and don’t let go.
Whenever our authors give writing advice, I am reminded that these writers are my heroes.
It never occurred to me that there were elements of horror in my work until a review pointed it out. Most of my work is, at its heart, police procedural, which means that the narrative is bound by certain rules and measures—a body is found, police show up, science is collected, witnesses are interviewed, investigations begin. Perhaps it is because I am drawn to basements, catacombs, abandoned psychiatric hospitals, and crawlspaces—fertile landscapes all for horror stories—that components of my work are considered horror. That said, some of the greatest writers of all time (certainly my favorites) have written horror. I don’t mind the label at all. For some reason, my short fiction is more mainstream horror, and my screenwriting is fantasy. I think form often determines genre for me.