Thursday, December 22, 2005

Remarks I made on reading every day at the AW forum:

I don't think I've read a single book from cover to cover since early college. A lot of that is the narcolepsy, but it's partially a matter of impatience with my own writing. I pick up something and want to write about it before I've reached the end, or better yet, I want to rewrite the entire book! O.oMaybe it's a rebellion from those days in high school of never skipping ahead in a story or passing over the boring sections. I used to force myself to plod through them, and it drove me nuts. Now I can't seem to stay awake through a single chapter (again, mostly because of the sleeping disorder).That isn't to say I don't read volumes every day. I read countless magazines, newspapers, web pages and the like for at least three hours out of every twenty-four. That is how I excuse the lack of interest in finishing books.I don't think I'll ever be able to read another fiction book in its entirety until I finish one of my own. It's a self-imposed mental roadblock; sometimes I purposely skip several pages or a chapter so that I haven't really read the entire thing...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It astounds me how pretentious some unpublished writers are. When I say unpublished, I mean "have not had any piece of work published professionally, including novels." I am not in that category because my work has appeared in publication, but at least I attempt to show some humility when asking for critiques. Yes, it's a natural response to get defensive about one's writing. Three paragraphs of back-at-you defenses, contrary to popular belief, does NOT make you a better writer. However, the internet's facilitation of instant posting and response provides remarkable insight into the mind of the average 'wannabe author.'

The typical critique at AbsoluteWrite goes something like this:

1. 'Author' (One should not employ this term here in the first place, as an author should be published, but I'm using it here for the sake of mental clarity) posts his novel exerpt. Author is most likely new with fewer than ten posts to his/her name.

2. Other writers review and critique said novel excerpt.

3. Author feels compelled to respond in order to protect his/her fragile ego and his baby (substitute 'work' for 'baby'). Author thanks critiquers for replying, then proceeds to explain in long-winded paragraphs too boring to even read why every suggestion the critiquers made is wrong, why they don't 'get it,' and something along the lines of "thanks but no thanks." Reply may include several plot points that author failed to point out in the piece that confused other writers instead of spending his/her time figuring out *why* audience was confused.

4. Harsher, more blunt critiquer comes along and says all of the above, and them some, in blunt layman's terms.

5. Shit ensues.

6. Author stomps off in a huff, determined to see the story through their way no matter what, taking nothing of consequence with him/her that might have resulted in a publishable manuscript.

7. Critiquers roll their eyes. They notice another newbie who has posted their work.

8. The circle of life continues.

I don't know if this is a syndrome that everyone has to grow out of or recognize and squelch within the bowels of his/her mind, but it sure seems contagious to me. No wonder editors and agents say that there are heaps of slush out there from crappy writers who think they have a masterpiece on their hands. Didn't any of these people have peers reviews of their essays in high school? Do they really think that the publishing industry is going to be NICER to them?

It's one thing to take all criticism with a grain of salt, especially on message boards where the reviews come from people about as successful as you are. It's quite another if several people in a row find your references so oblique as to frustrate all understanding of plot, your prose to be purple beyond and purply purplish prose ever written, your understanding of POV to rank at about the level of a sea slug, and your telling (vs showing) to recall trite, self-published reading 'booklets' from a second grade writing class.

If you have to explain all of the vital references, plot points and character flaws to your audience AFTER THE FACT, then it's time to rewrite. Drastically.

We all get defensive of our work. It's a natural response. But take a step back before you hit the keyboard and send a flaming rebuttal to someone's effort to evaluate your work. You wanted criticism. You wanted to make youir work better. You wanted to improve...right? There is always room for tightening and corrections; only you have the ability to recognize when to stop, and chances are that if you're uncertain enough about a piece as to plead for creative feedback, you have not reached that point.

Just food for thought.