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.

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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.

No Good Can Come From the Comments Section

That’s what everyone says? Right? The comments section is the place where the trolls and spammers hang out. Especially when the topic is controversial or polarizing. Or someone is having a bad day and wants to make trouble. That’s what the comment section is for. To make trouble. It can also be the place the spammers go when they think no one is looking.
For example. I take a slight break (as unintentional as it might have been) and come back to a hell of a spam attack. Thank you, WordPress, for keeping an eye on that and keeping it at bay. As of this morning I was up to 942 spam messages for this month. Yikes. No comments have made it through (as far as I can tell).
I knew going into this blogging business that spam attacks was going to be a concern. I’ve been a ghost blogger before, so I knew what to expect. Spammers see an opportunity to strike and they will take it. I’m not sure why they keep it up, though. How many people actually click those links these days? And, so far, no trolls. Hopefully they stay away, all though, I suppose, trolls mean your blog is successful and getting attention, right? No? Just me thinking that?
But, unlike some, I think good can come from the comments section. Like today, I’m in a critique contest. The blog can be found here.  Authoress (who runs said blog) has created an amazing community and an opportunity for people to get feedback on their work. And, don’t tell, but the occasional agent has been known to lurk there. I’ve been lucky enough to have stuff critiqued in other contests.
It’s always scary putting stuff out there. Particularly a WIP that hasn’t exactly been edited yet. (Not to fear. I proof read it before I put it up, it’s just not perfectly polished yet. I think that’s OK, according to the rules.) What I really don’t like about it is that I’ve got this perfect image in my head and I’ve taken the image, put it into words and now you’re reading the words and peering into the image in my brain. I have to do a really good job to get you to see what I see. To hear, smell, see and feel what the MC is hearing, smelling, seeing and feeling.
And I don’t always get it right. And the community lets me know that (nicely, of course.)
Yeah. It’s not pleasant but it is necessary, for two reasons. One, you’ve got to learn to put it out there, otherwise, you never will. Two, you’ve got to learn from all the comments that come in. Good one, bad ones, evil ones. How to find the positive and incorporate that into your work. How to handle the bad ones (and maybe find some good in them). Hence, good can come from the comments. You may not like what they have to say (trust me) but you can always learn something from the comments. Maybe you learn how to set things up for your world building, or how to write better dialogue. Or you can figure out why a scene isn’t working or why no one gets your MC. Or how to ignore the trolls and how to just keep going.
So, if you get a chance, hop on over to that blog today and check it out. Take the opportunity to comment and read other’s comments. Maybe some good will come from it today. And, for fun, see if you can figure out which entry is mine. I have to reveal it by the end of the commenting period so let’s see who can find it.
I apologize for the formatting of this post. I don’t know what is going on today.