Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An Open Door

Wow, it's already Wednesday. I usually update my blog on Tuesday, but I got sidetracked. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I stumbled onto the train tracks on four separate occasions and got hit. I'm still reeling a little. Mostly because I don't seem to learn. My inability to learn can summed up with a certain bitter poignancy as:

  1. I've yet to learn that I'm a pathetic excuse for a writer.
  2. I've yet to learn how to write real, as opposed to caricature, characters.
  3. I've yet to learn how to plot.
  4. And I've yet to learn how to actually write. As in, create understandable prose.

As you might already have guessed, I got my first review for my first book this week. It was pretty bad. Oh, not the review—that was very well written. My book is apparently pretty bad. To quote:

It is a shame that Michael and Margaret couldn't have their story told in a more organized and better thought out way. I had trouble following the action, and couldn't quite picture what was supposed to be happening and by whom. The narrative was just too jumpy. The storyline isn't awful, but the author's style needs improvement for me to want to read her again.

So you can see how that relates to numbers 3 and 4, above.

And then, to reinforce this learning experience, I got three rejections which pretty much puts paid to everything I have completed at this point. The rejections covered items 2, 3, and 4, as in:

The writing was occasionally stilted and forced and many of the secondary characters came across as caricatures. …[And] the story felt a bit uneven…

However, as a whole the manuscript lacked the strength and life to continue on in our process.

One issue that I repeatedly found is that you have a tendency to throw multiple thoughts into one sentence making it difficult for the reader to follow.

…however, several of them come across as caricatures rather than fully realized people. This is especially true for Helen and Archer. I didn't connect with the hero or heroine very strongly—especially the heroine. The repetition of ideas got to be a little frustrating and several of the jokes and threads of suspicion fell flat. I didn't buy into the romance and found the writing on the whole to not be as strong…

Okay. I think that about covers it. Looking at those, item number 1 above should be fairly obvious.

Now why on earth would I share this information with anyone? Because of number 1.

Obviously, I have room for improvement. Vast expanses of green field just waiting for me. Lots of ways to make hay. For example, I could fix my prose. Or, I could fix my characters. Or I could correct my prose, my plots, and my characters. I could learn how to write.

But all of those things require that I actually continue writing and don't actually accept item number 1. Maybe that's wrong. Maybe I should say that I accept that I may be the world's most pathetic and awful writer at the moment and I may never be a brilliant writer (because one could argue I have no talent if I can't do a single thing well) but I can be a better writer than I am at this moment.

The only way to become a better writer is to continue writing. Yes, I agree that some people are gifted. Some folks are brilliant with characterization. Some have astounding plots that leave you gasping at each twisting turn. Other writers have such gorgeous prose that you can't help but read them just to hear the melody of their words. So maybe I'm not one of those writers. Maybe I have to sweat and slave over each small improvement. Maybe nothing comes easily. Maybe I have no strengths as a writer, only weaknesses.

Maybe my published book was a fluke. (Perhaps it is a bad fluke, but it was published so it must be at least marginally better than anything else I've written in the last five years.)

But no one said writing is easy and there is always something new to learn. When you stop learning, you're either dead or a quitter. Of the two, I have no control over the dead part, but I don't intend to be a quitter. (I know—I could always kill myself—but again, I'm not a quitter.)

In the end, all the rejections and reviews are doors. You can open them, look inside, and perhaps learn something. Or you can lock yourself out of that opportunity.

So for other writers out there: if you're talented, great! I don't know why you're reading this or how much you'll get out of it, but whatever. For those who are suffocating under a few pounds of rejections, just keep going. That's all. Keep learning and keep going. You can't possibly be any worse than I am. J

That's it for my motivational speech. Now get back to work.

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