Learning To See

I’ve been meeting with a small writer’s group lately. We each bring a few pages of our work and get feedback from other members. I started going to these meetings thinking I was going to knock all their socks off with my writing. But it turns out I’m not. Without even realizing it, I discovered I was writing for myself. I knew the big picture, so subconsciously I wasn’t including precious details. That’s probably why my book sales suffered, and why I get more questions than congratulations from readers of my stuff.

Here’s the kicker. Bit by bit I’ve been noticing the lack of detail in my stories. I began to write for other people in mind and not just myself. The group changed my writing for the better.

So thanks to the Ink Well Writing Group. With their help, I’ve been able to focus on making sure the reader can understand my writing. The best part is, in terms of my writing, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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Innovation

Writing is an art form. Thus it has rules defining the parameters of what writing is and isn’t. At the same time, art is subject to interpretation. Artists try to create writing that is outside the box in some way, thus creating a sub-genre of writing. Every writer wants to be remembered as a visionary, of creating something unique that will stand out amidst the pillars of revered writers. I tried to do that.

But it’s a gamble. In giving hints and details to the plots, you can fail to connect to an audience, and thus lose them to unclear writing. I tried to imply that my future society doesn’t know how to read. By making details obscure I thought I was setting bread crumbs for the audience to follow. But looking at the piece now, I knew all I had done was provide a lot of confusion for my audience. A confused audience will abandon the work in a flash.

Hence my lesson for the day: get others to read your stuff. Listen to what they have to say. Try to rebuild your writing on their suggestion. All the innovation in the world is nothing if the audience gives up on the reading. Good luck.

No Wisdom

Today I have no words of wisdom, no precious tidbits of a writer’s life. I’m been editing my work a lot lately. The first book isn’t as successful as I thought. Most of the blame lies with me. I didn’t market the general audience. Or maybe my idea of an audience was too broad (the book was supposed to be readable by anyone). I never thought to get feedback. There are hundreds of other reasons.

Which makes me wonder if I’m cut out of this at all. I spent my entire adult life creating this grand story, and when I showed it to the world, the world wasn’t interested. The only good reviews were mostly by my family members (a few who are only serious readers). Plus, I think I burned myself out.

So why keep doing this? I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t have anything else. Maybe I’m so invested in my fantasy world that the real world is terrifying.

I understand that this is a phase, a symptom of my depression. I understand it intelligently, but all the logic in the world can’t plug the hole in your heart. The world and I speak different languages. I just wish I could convey my translation. Thanks for the read.

Rewriting

In 2003 Stephen King produced a revised edition of his Gunslinger novel. He did this to make the first novel more accessible to new readers and to make the plot “more consistent” to the series’ ending. After Chased By Flame’s monetary failure (only 80 books were sold), I always toyed with the idea of revising the book. As a writer, I write down everything — scenarios, plot twists, things that are good writing but ultimately don’t fit with the narrative — I began to file down certain elements that confused readers (like the time travel paradoxes, the absence of magic, etc) as an experiment. I’m not ready to gauge the finished product until it’s finished. There’s also the danger of letting the revision consume my writing (an inability to let things go) by sacrificing time better spent on current works. Still, the relationship between a writer and his writing is an ever-shifting master/slave symbiosis, so I got to continue writing, no matter what. Wish me luck.

Egocentric View

I’m modifying an introduction of a character and I was stunned to realize that I didn’t answer certain background questions essential to an introduction: appearance, his physical disability for example. I wrote the piece for me, not the reader. Wow. Just stunned me that I did that automatically. Sometimes it’s hard to separate your own viewpoint of the character and the viewpoint of the first-time reader.  Looks like I have a lot to work on. Wish me luck.

It’s A Process

Writing is a focus of intent. You get as much from it as you put into it. Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they stagnate. There have been times where I felt I could do no wrong; there were times I felt like I lost the edge. It’s one of those processes that act as mysteriously and cohesively as possible. Sometimes trying to define that process separates the seamless narrative that all great works are created and nurtured. That’s where I am right now: I feel like a lost the edge, and with it, a piece of myself.

But you have to keep trying. Just like you got to keep breathing. It does come back. It is a joy to rediscover that part of myself. To not try is folly. To not try is to deny your gift forever.

Right now I’m riding the low. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be riding high. Maybe next week or the next. I don’t know. But I have to keep trying because the alternative is always worse.

Rude Awakening . . . Sort Of

I knew that some people wouldn’t make sense of my writing (time travel, for example). I didn’t know how much of a chasm that lack of understanding was until I joined a weekly writers’ group.

Don’t get me wrong. These people are some of the most creative people I know. They are fantastic story-tellers who are braving the cruelest task a writer faces: the fact that sometimes they need to get out of their own head, take a long hard look at their stories and accept that their writing might not be as clean-cut as they thought.

These people are giving me a kick in the ass, prompting me to look at my work objectively. I know that I’ll become a better writer because of it. What I’m writing about now is simply the process of taking that first hard look. Thanks for reading.