My Writing Apprenticeship at Pan Historia

I earned my writing chops at Pan Historia.  Day in and day out, for more than ten years, I have logged in to my alternate self.  In the halcyon early days I am quite sure that I was averaging probably a thousand words a day easy, some days more, some days less.  The stories were numerous and varied.  I like a lot of different genres, and sometimes I found that what I liked to read was different from what I like to write.

I wrote historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt, the American West, and sometimes Rome.  I wrote science fiction, particularly beloved was the now sadly lost in time and space, “Forever is Far Too Long” (please forgive me if I slaughtered the title).  Forever was the brain child of one of my closest friends, a writer of amazing imagination and craft.  It was a real challenge not only to occupy a world created by her, but to occupy a character created by her.  I hope I rose to the occasion.  I know I surely learned a great deal.  I feel like it was a sort of apprenticeship.  I also wrote noir detective fiction with a fun bunch in our grand “Marlowe Detective Agency“.  That was an idea of brilliance, if I say so myself.  When I look at the way that people’s attention spans have shortened, even in the last ten years, it’s probably impossible to do now, but basically each episode was a complete mystery.  One person wrote the detective, and it was the detective’s job to actually solve the mystery the other writers crafted for him. Later on I moved to horror. I have never been a big fan of horror movies, but I have always enjoyed horror fiction from Edgar Allan Poe to Shirley Jackson to Stephen King.  I found great joy in crafting tales of dripping ickiness to disturb and creep out my readers.  I discovered I have something of an ability in creating villains that people love to hate.

For a long time I was so involved in my exploration of the American West through the eyes of Wyatt Earp and his brothers that I had great, and rather grandiose, plans for writing a fictional autobiography of his long life that was going to be so historically precise, and so magically astute as to his psychic and emotional landscape that it was going to be the final word on the subject.  The desire to take what I had learned from my near daily collaborative and role-play writing to a novel has always seemed to be a natural progression to me.  But for a long time I couldn’t get started. It seemed like I had this great idea, enough passion for the project, and yet I continued to divert myself with the small episodic posts in the collaborative environment.  The good was that I was writing everyday; the bad was that I wasn’t moving forward on my long term goal.

Finally I realized it was the project itself that was bogging me down.  My scheme was too research laden, too definitive, and too constrained by my own expectations and the structure of history.  My character, Wyatt Earp, couldn’t breathe. I simply knew too much about him, and yet too little at the same time.  My version of Wyatt Earp, the one I have now been writing for ten years, is not the same as the historical.  He’s grown into a very complex, and intelligent man, with a gift for the gab – which the real Earp never had.  I realized that I didn’t have to finish this project just because I had decided on it years before. In fact, after finally writing a version of the shootout at the OK Corral for my collaborative version on Pan, I realized that I had already written volumes on the man, and that my legacy to him was there – on the boards.

I was free to pick a different project.  Now I’m fifteen chapters and over 30,000 words into that novel, and I feel great about it.  My writing is solid (but there is always room for improvement!).  My ability to structure the novel and plot it has been aided by ten years of collaborative writing, but I’m missing the collaborative element.  With that in mind I am considering a coauthor, someone that has worked with me on this story as it existed on Pan Historia.  I’m hoping that another set of eyes will rectify the mistakes, point out the inconsistencies, and increase the liveliness.  What better way to build upon the many positive foundations that Pan Historia has provided me with?

About panhistoria

writer, online community creator, and artist View all posts by panhistoria

8 responses to “My Writing Apprenticeship at Pan Historia

  • Jick_Hambleton

    Ah, the much missed Forever Is Much Too Long. It was nice to relive a few old shared memories with you. Forever was my second attempt at co-op writing and my first set in a science fiction universe. It was like coming home. Zhu Smythe-Popov, Jean Friday, Dyrk Mistrine, Eugene Roe, Bhaba Doyle, Grass, Mat, Nephologia Roca and Callum Rouge (boo! hiss!)

    I’m glad to hear your writing project is still on course. Keep up the good work.

    • panhistoria

      I’m really impressed at your memory there. I hadn’t even remembered the full name of the character I wrote: Zhu. I assume that’s because you have some of your own writing saved. I know Jean has some too, but I have nothing. That was before I routinely saved every scrap I write. It was really nice to see some of it published in The Panthology.

      • Jick_Hambleton

        I’ve got everything I wrote for Forever stored on my hard drive but I didn’t need to look up many of those names. They are part of my writing DNA: the formative yeas, so to speak.

        I only have it all because I was paranoid about back ups even then. Not that I really want to share it with the world now. It was only my second go at co-op writing and I think my stuff was fairly rank in places. I love it but I like to think I’ve improved.

  • panhistoria

    I’m sure you have. I think I was pretty rank back then myself. I’m curious as to how you feel Pan might have helped you as a writer? And if you ever want to be a guest writer on my blog – let me know! I think that would be great.

  • Jick_Hambleton

    I think the main thing I Iearned from my time at Pan is that my personal writing disciplines require me to plan stories in advance. I don’t need to tell you that I struggle with the self-discipline necessary to pursue writing as a career. Through Pan, however, I have identified that the best way to maintain my discipline is to stave off the boredom. And nothing bored me more than a blank page. It was less a lack of motivation as much as a failure to record earlier inspiration. I’m better at this now.

    I’ll have a think about the offer of a guest post. I’m not feeling very inspired by my creative fiction right now and I’m not sure that’s the best space to be in when writing about it.

  • panhistoria

    The offer is long term, Jick. And remember the best way to get over the hump is to just go for it.

  • Patricia A. Hawkenson

    A mind cleansing showdown in Bejeweled never hurt, either! 🙂

  • panhistoria

    You caught me, Patricia, but you’re right. I do find it cleanses the mind and refreshes the palate, so to speak.

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