Memorable Writing

Someone remembered my writing and used it as an example!

Of bad writing.

(Oh, come on. You had to see that coming.)

I can’t say that I disagree, per se. It wasn’t my best work and could have used some polishing. However, that’s not why it was used as an example. Of bad writing. (I might be a tad bitter.)

I know up front that I still have a lot to learn about the craft of writing. Loving to write, needing to write, being unable to stop writing, isn’t enough. That’s the truth I’ve come to grips with lately. Loving it isn’t enough. Very few of us are naturally “that good.” Most of us are good, but have to really work at the “that” part. I’m one of them, and that’s fine.

The reason it was held up as a bad example wasn’t because of the writing but because of where it started. Specifically, because this reader didn’t care about the character yet. There was no emotional involvement so why do we care about what is happening to the character.

OK. I see what she’s saying. Really, I do. But.

(Because you knew that was coming, too.)

Don’t you automatically care about the character because you picked up the book? Part of me wanted to say, isn’t that what book jackets and synopses for? You’re reading the book because your friend said it’s awesome, right? So, don’t you automatically want to know what happens even if you’re not emotionally connected to the character in the first 200 or so words? You don’t just give up on a book after 200 words do you? If you’re an agent, maybe, sure, but a reader? Don’t you keep reading a little further, just to see?

Personally, the soonest I’ve ever given up on a book was about 3 pages in. A record for me, to be sure, and it wasn’t because I didn’t emotionally connect with the character. It had to do with some really bad writing about testicles. Don’t ask. But that’s more than 200 words.

Don’t misunderstand. She wasn’t saying she had to like the character, which is a totally different thing. She just needed to connect. And that’s fine, for her. Not everyone needs to connect with a character just to keep reading.

Take The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I loved that book. But the first 70 pages. Yikes. What the hell was that? I couldn’t understand what all the fuss and hype was about. But, people told me not to give up and I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. And, in turn, I shared that advice with others who wanted to give up. Don’t, I said. I promise.

I didn’t connect with any character in the beginning because, frankly, there was no one really to connect with. Lots of set-up, no action. Boring. When I was reading it I remember thinking, I could easily condense this into about 3 pages and move on, but, that’s not how that book was written. I would have missed out if I had given up after 3 pages just because of the lack of connection.

So, what does this all mean? While the critique was coming from a good place, I just can’t agree. I started in the right place. Perhaps I needed more characterization for context and connection, but, no, I was right to start where I did.

And I’m going to keep going.

It’s Hard to Be a Grown-Up

Long absence, I know. But that’s because I’m a grown-up and have “responsibilities” and such. Things I don’t want to do but have to. Some of them are legally required of me, some of them I just have to do because I’m a grown-up. But, man, it is tough sometimes.

(I know, I know, a lot of what I’m about to say falls into the category of “first world problems” but, due to lack of anything else, that’s what today’s post is all about.)

Like this blog post. I’m sitting here basically not doing it (even though I am) because there are other things I don’t want to do. Like mend a pillow case and paint some shelves. Easy things that will probably take all of about two seconds to do.

Then, there are the harder things, like waiting back on 2 email responses that I really don’t want to deal with. I mean, they are things that need to be dealt with and that’s part of being a grown-up. But I just don’t want to. I realize that if no one else does it, it won’t get done and then I will suffer the consequences, hence my taking the lead on it, but… Yuck. I really hate dealing with stupid stuff. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I just hate dealing with stuff. But, that’s part of being a grown-up.

And, I’m not even sure when this grown-up thing happened. I kind of woke up one day and said “How did this happen?” I don’t remember a ceremony marking the occasion. Or getting an official written offer that I accepted. It just kind of happened. Sure, there are some aspects of being a grown-up that are awesome. Like right now, it’s 10 AM and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to leave them anytime soon and in a few minutes I’ll probably have a mid-morning power boosting snack of coffee and donuts. And, since I don’t work the day job today, I can go outside and play in this beautiful weather (probably the last one for the year).

Play. Like a kid. Only it will be grown-up play which is more like exercise, really. Like riding the bike and cleaning up the yard, checking on the fall/winter crops (OK, last surviving crop) in the garden. Adjusting the Halloween decorations. Which really isn’t play. It’s the grown-up version of play.

And then, oh, yeah, gotta work on the WIP, too. Trying to create a compelling character is rather hard work. I had hoped it would be an easy, natural process. Nope. I’m excellent at creating flat, boring, cardboard characters though. So, there’s that.

OK, enough whining. Off to work and all those other grown-up things I have to do.

It Came From the Comments Section!

If that’s not the title of a horror movie, I don’t know what is!

Two minor items before I get started on what happened after the public flogging, er, critique of my opening.

First, for the moth of August, I ended with over 1300 spam comments blocked from the blog. Thank you, again, Word Press. I shutter to thing about the amount of moderating/deleting/screaming I would have done if it weren’t for that.

Second, I was going to post about the critique yesterday, but I got sucked into the Saved by the Bell movie. Don’t judge me. Sadly, I was horribly disappointed. It was rather boring and tame. I didn’t really learn anything about what went on behind the scenes, nothing salacious or even remotely interesting was revealed. Yet, I’m not at all sorry I watched. Really. Please, don’t judge me.

So. The Critique.

To set it up, you sent in your first 150 words and the critters (as I affectionately call them), had to try and guess your genre. The top ten entries with the most correct critter guesses move on to the next round. The idea was to see how well you built up your world right from the start.

At the end of the critique period, I decided I will now write in the “I don’t know” genre.

I’m OK with it. It’s a necessary part of being a writer. And, it was very eye-opening. While I’d argue that trying to get a genre type (or world) established in less tan 150 words is kind of difficult, it might even be unnecessary. A reader who picks up the book probably already knows the genre or world based on the title or the cover or both. Or maybe they got an idea based on the flab copy. However, there were a fair number of entries that did establish a genre in less than 150 words. Very clear, very concise, very obvious. And very well written.

As a sort of side observation, none of the adult entries (versus middle grade or young adult) made it through to the next round. In fact, most of the adult entries seemed to have “I don’t know” as a guess. I’m not sure what this means. Is it that all of the adult entries selected happened to have weaker openings? Is it that writing for an adult audience results in a different type of writing – one that is less concerned with world building in the beginning?

Interestingly, one entrant echoed my thoughts about how 150 words just isn’t enough and the title would have made it clear (or clearer) what the genre is. And, another said that the set-up was more obvious at about 500 words in. What this all means in terms of writing for a broad audience, I don’t know. Yet. But it is intriguing.

As for my entry. Well, I knew it wasn’t totally polished when I entered. The entries are selected at random so you never quite know if you’re in or you’re out until you are. So, I probably got what I deserved. Feedback that wasn’t very, um, great? That’s not right. It was great. Just not what I wanted to hear. It was totally clear in my head, just not so much on paper. Eating banana pudding while I read it helped.

It did encourage me to rewrite the opening, which I did. On paper. With a pen. Which slowed the process down for me and allowed me to really stop and think about details. Which got me thinking about character names (another critique) and streamlining things and where to add and subtract from the overall arc and a bunch of things I probably wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t done this. So, in the end, very useful. Like I said, good can come from the comments section. You just have to be willing to find it.

And do it while eating banana pudding.

Where Do I Go Now

One of the coolest parts of being a writer is that you can work anywhere. Home, coffee shop, library, beach. Wherever.

Presuming you actually get work done.

I’ve learned I can’t work from home. I’ve had an inordinate amount of time the last few days to write while at home, but I haven’t written. Too many distractions. Or excuses. Whatever you want to call them.

So, I’m at the coffee shop, writing. I’ve got the essentials: coffee, cake, bathrooms and a ridiculous amount of people to watch. That could be the downfall. I’m busy composing character sketches in my head, wondering if I can fit them into the WIP.

I can see the corporate office is here, monitoring, watching, timing. That’s got to be nerve racking. They’re just staring at the baristas, timing them, looking at manuals, monitoring them. Not saying anything. Just looking cheery and bright. It’s all a ruse. I just know it. Underneath lurks the cold, dark heart of a corporate cost-cutter, looking for ways to improve efficiency, without any regards to the humanity of the situation.

There’s the guy I only glanced at. I could only see his white shoes and white socks. Bright white. Blinding white.

The guy in the corner is creeping me out. This place is longer that it is wider and on the back wall, there’s a little seating area consisting of two comfy looking chairs, and a little table. What’s odd is that just in front of this seating area is a few display racks. They’re open shelves, but chock full of stuff, so you can’t really see behind it and, really, who’s looking behind the display rack?

This guy is essentially hiding back there. Is it on purpose? This place is very crowded today (it usually is in the AM), so maybe he didn’t have a choice, but he’s hunkered down in the chair, typing furiously into a lap top. Or is he? The way his glasses sit on his face, his eyes are somewhat obscured and it’s hard to tell if he’s looking at the screen or around the cafe, taking inventory of all of us. Plotting something.

I’m at the communal table and the corporate people sat down at the other end. I’m plugged into headphones and really trying not to overhear, but, they don’t know that. They can’t tell that Pandora is on and I don’t care what they have to say. I could be listening, gleaning corporate secrets on the best way to brew coffee (I really would like that information) or learning about personnel secrets I can leverage for blackmail.

Man! Too many distractions! At least there are fun and possibly useful for the WIP. But, we’ll see what I get done.

Which leads me to ask: Where do you work? Where are you most productive and least distracted? Am I the only one that creates back stories for everyone I meet?

Edited to add: The irony of this post is that while I got a lot done today, I had to come home to retype this into WordPress because something was messed up and I couldn’t copy and paste!