Why Do You Write?

image from open clipart.org by Firkin

 

It’s a simple question, but one I’ve found a lot of writers have never asked themselves.

I write because I have stories and I want to tell them.  Compulsion pulls me through where a reasonable person may surrender.  There are days where I think “even if no one ever sees this, I need to complete it.”  That’s an internal part of writing, when an idea gets too big to hold in my head and needs to come out to the page.   There are stories of mine I’ll never seek to publish.  I “had” to write them, but that doesn’t mean they are good or meant for public consumption.  Two, even though they are fiction, just mean personal things I don’t want to share.  Others are artistic dabbles that I either think aren’t good or may be acceptable but not noteworthy enough to go through the work trying to publish.

I write because I enjoy reading but it’s rare I find an engaging story.  Arrogance at it’s finest, to think I can be more unique and captivating that those already published.  What I want is so niche it’s probably not worth creating.  If I’m looking for a gritty urban fantasy with relatable characters, attainable goals, and both good and negative parts of magic and myth running the world, there must be other people looking for that.  Urban fantasy readers can’t all be there for the romance and laughs.  Some of them must be like me looking for the substance.  American Gods exists and was a huge hit.  There are so many other directions a work like that could go that I want to see.

I write as a way for reaching out to others.  As someone shy, nervous, and concerned about other’s feelings and perspectives, there is no better way to broach difficult topics than through fiction.   It’s a lot harder to feel attacked by an idea expressed in an imaginary world than an idea that will affect people now.  Stories create space for people to say “that’s an interesting idea, could it work here?” or “I wonder if issue X is relevant now and what that looks like?”

I write because it distracts me when my anxiety is high.  To a lesser extent: I write when I’m depressed because I need something beautiful or I write when the world spins out of control because writing is all in my hands.  Most writers I know have an element of this.  They are pensive, depressed, anxious, socially awkward and writing mitigates that for them.

I write because it’s one of the few skills I have that makes me proud and leaves me feeling accomplished.  I write because I have something to say and I’m always exploring new ways to express my points.

And now you, the reader, know me better.  Tell me something about yourself.  Are you a writer?  What do you write?  If it’s fiction in nature, why write it?  If you’re a reader, what do you read and why read it?

The Rules of the Game

image from open clipart.org by nicubunu

 

I am the self-appointed editor of our group round robins.  Anyone who’s read our work knows I am LEAST qualified of the four of us.  ProWritingAid is the great equalizer, or at least I have to tell myself it is.

As the editor I have self-imposed rules.

 

1. Don’t change the core of other’s sections.  Whatever they wrote is what they intended and I have to work with that, not hack and slash around to change inherent meaning.  Too much change makes it “my story” instead of “our story” which runs contrary to the round robin’s goals.

 

 2. Seamless flow from one writer to the other is the goal, but I can’t change all the phrasing to be “Jessica” (or anyone else’s) style to achieve this.  It’s not right to erase someone else’s voice on a joint work to showcase another’s.

 

This worked well in our first round robin.  I used ProWritingAid first to correct grammar, style, to catch and rework repetitive phrasing, and to delete adverbs.  The major change I made was plot continuity driven.  One writer misread another’s part of the story.  Where Anges finds a dead body that writer interpreted it as Anges being the dead body.  I had to change content.  I adjusted three lines.

 

Fast forward to our second round robin project.  We used Reedsy to find a prompt.  The gist was: “Your grandmother makes pancakes for you every morning.  Your grandmother dies, but there are still pancakes the next morning.

 

This prompt was a different challenge from the last.   The first story blooms from three words/themes.  Using a specific scenario, encouraged more partnership instead of competition to “take over” the story.  This second round robin was smoother and required a lot less finessing to make it seem like one person had written the work.

 

If reworking it was simple why isn’t it posted here?

 

The “problem”: I hate my part of the story.  Not all.  I’m happy with the first three almost four paragraphs, but it goes downhill fast.  My ambitions to churn the most words and be the first to “finish” a round robin in fifteen minutes left me with a rambling sticky mess.  I do not want to publish such a poor expression of my writing.  Everything I think is weakest in my form is on display.

 

What might be worse, my closing section only drives towards a handful of endings.  I broadcasted the only natural conclusion, and that’s driving me to play with the less obvious choices to thumb my nose at myself (because I hate authority so much I’ll rebel against myself when I become the authority and isn’t that an unattractive personality quirk).

 

Help!  Do I publish and unfinished story as it stands?  Do I scrap this work as hopeless?  Do I make my changes because if I cut the last two paragraphs I could write three kinds of separate endings on my own?  Are more drastic changes to my section a benefit I gain as the person completing the editing work?  Do I have to keep everything I wrote in the spirit of the exercise and endure the cringe?  Tell me what’s a “professional” writer/editor to do in this situation with my minor conflict of interest.

Progress: What Markers Indicate Success?

image from open clipart.org by Firkin

July is one of the Camp NanoWrimo months and it’s made me reflective.  NanoWrimo is all about encouraging a person to write because a story-teller can’t do anything with an idea in their head.  They need to express their concept outside of their mind and writing is one format.

I, like Nano,  judge my success by word count.  A thousand words an hour is the bare minimum required to claim success.  If the other writers achieve a hundred or two hundred words in a blitz round robin, I want to double it.  Out pace them with verbiage, the quality of the story spun be damned.  Do all the articles and adverbs just make my writing clunky?  Do I spend too much time hammering a point?  All of it takes a back seat to the count of words I’ve crammed together.

I’m very frustrated working on my novel right now because the words are taking so long to come out.  I’ve “completed” a new third chapter.  It’s about 2,500 words and took me five hours to write.  That’s so slow for me, I never got the victory high completing story elements offers me.

I’d told a fellow writer it would take me two weeks of dedicated work to rearrange the novel.  I made those claims based off of the word count I predicted I’d add.  It’s been longer than two weeks and I’m not that far in.  I’m still asking myself questions over the new third chapter, that keep me from moving cutting the rest of my chapters open and finishing them (though I will attack the fourth chapter today no matter what).

Even Nano, knows writing is the first step to crafting a story.  November is their traditional writing month (outside of camp), but January/February focuses on the editing and publishing process.

What, besides the story idea itself, drives you to write and how do you measure your success?  How do you push through editing or slow word counts ticks?  I’m straining to think of other elements I can track that might show success.  Is there a search for emotional depth or for a “realistic” action?  Does a writer need to fall in love with their own writing and style, seeking achievement through reveling in the quality of their story development?

Opening the floor to the other writers: if word count isn’t your measure what keeps you sane in the writing process?  How do you leash your agitation at the slow pace of progress?

And anyone working through a Nano Camp run, happy typing!

Looking for a better way to count those words or encourage the words to keep coming?  Try our Bells and Whistles: Fancy Tools to Encourage Writing

Would You Rather….

image from open clipart.org by oksmith

 

Fellow writers: would you rather a reviewer tell you that the book’s story and characters were amazing but the writing quality didn’t meet expectations or that your book’s writing was mind blowing but the characters and story were cliche retreaded territory?  Follow up bonus question: are your feelings hurt by either or these critiques?

 

I’m asking because I write a lot of book reviews (check me out on Goodreads/shameless plug) and they are critical, even on books I like. I wonder like many aspiring writers might, what effects if any of my reviews have on the authors and on my ability to reach out/break into their world of publication.  Am I speaking to other readers or do authors also follow discussions on their books?  Am I closing doors by breaking a book down or am I showcasing a thoughtful and attentive mind by considering so many facets?  For me these answers break down to whether my comments are offensive and insults are often in the eye of the beholder.

 

Assuming for the moment that critical discussion on aspects of a book don’t automatically equal injury, I want to know what specific kinds of critical discussion would be fair to discuss with an author.

 

Personally, I’d rather have characters and plot that a reader falls in love with than pitch perfect writing.  Things I want to hear include: “The characters felt very real,”, “I felt like I knew everything about these characters,”, “I needed to know more,”, “I’ve never seen this kind of story explored this way.”

 

That said, I have a distinctive sing song almost poetic style in all my writing.  I have an unique “tone.”  If someone compared my writing to another person’s style, I’d be curious to read more of that person’s work and excited to meet a kindred spirit.  If someone doesn’t like my style, I get that too.  It’s heavy in description, relies on alliteration, and is simile/metaphor heavy.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

Grammatically, I know I need serious help.  Critiques to that effect can dishearten me after I’ve gone through editing that relates to correcting grammar, but it doesn’t cut me.  Either I can go back in and correct the grammatical errors (a bonus to electronic publishing), or I’ve made the error in favor of how a phrase flows or draws out a feeling fragmented instead of a full detailed thought.

 

Does it all boil down to where we as writers are insecure?  My confidence in writing style makes me believe problems in my book must be character/plot related, and therefor I’m more concerned with feedback from those quarters.  I still want the feedback.  For me there is never enough feedback or feedback that’s too harsh as long as it comes with specific examples so I can follow another’s thoughts.

 

Please give me your thoughts.  Do you fear another kind of feedback?  If someone published you would negative or mixed reviews hurt your feelings?  And how do you rate books/media?

Stuff I love About Writer’s Group: Pitch Sessions

No surprise to anyone who knows me, but I love to pitch ideas.  Big details, small details, little repetitive themes no one will ever notice, there’s no thought big or small that I don’t want to throw a million ideas at.  I have more ideas than I have time to write.  Half these ideas are concepts I’d prefer someone else develops.  As much as I love to write, reading is my preference.  If I saw more engaging imagination in print, I’d write a lot less.

 

I go to Writers’ Group foremost as a chance to deliver a bouquet of premises at other writers.  There’s plenty else to enjoy and appreciate at our weekly meetings, but each week I’m most interested in hearing what others are working on and what I can cook up to help increase their narrative.

 

There’s always the worry.  One day, I’ll ask too many questions, throw out too many ideas, or fixate on an idea I like but the writer who owns the story does not.  Got to keep looking for those little tells, but thankfully (and please correct me loudly if this is wrong), it doesn’t seem like my barrage has annoyed anyone yet.

 

What’s best about the pitch is there’s no wrong concept.  Nothing too strange, just a constant flow of ideas until we hit one we like.  Free thought association that slowly develops a narrative.  Sitting in a noisy coffee shop refining an engaging story to its best form.  What isn’t rewarding about that?