Thursday, July 18, 2019

Let's take this outside!

Pictured: Writer prepares to receive feedback... all part of THE PROCESS.

Hey Writers,

So I've taken it upon myself to start writing classes. Under instructor Matt LeDrew, self-proclaimed hack, and author of over 20 published thingies. I mean novels. My goals with the course were to see what I was doing right, and more importantly, what I was doing wrong with VIRTUAL MACHINES. 

Technically, we're all shit in our first drafts, that just a matter of having a good editor who's willing to catch the technical gaffes. Put a comma here, close quotations there, you used four incorrect methods of dialog attribution in that last paragraph. That's one thing, but structurally, narratively, things get much trickier. You're writing your magnum opus, you think it's really damn good. You've been spitting hot fire at the keyboard for 4 hours a day for the last three weeks, no breaks. You're underwater, man. The bay is your story. You're not drowning, you've got gills like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, but you can't see the surface anymore. That guy on the beach, he's told a tale or two, and he's read hundreds or thousands of em, he's Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys. Let's call him "insight". The guy in the fishing boat, puttering out to open water? He's Robert Shaw in Jaws, he knows the sea like the back of his hand, he knows the water you're standing in quite well, but his view is from across the bay or the deck of his boat, he sees the surface, the beach, and everything around it. Let's call him "perspective".

You see, so many of us are so lost to our current WIPs that we ignore two very important elements that have to come from outside; Insight, and perspective. I've never had a problem asking for (or offering) either. More to the contrary, I've had trouble finding captive audiences willing to offer either. Friends are amazing for encouragement, they'll tell you everything you're doing right, if only because they're friends and they don't want to kill your creative buzz. Or maybe they don't want to bruise your fragile ego, who knows. When asked to beta-read two pieces of finished work by a dear friend, I made it my mission to be both brutally honest, and unflinching in my delivery, and I was. Luckily both pieces were really fucking good, and that saved me being a total asshole. My reasoning was thus; If I wasn't brutally honest and unflinching, what purpose did it serve him to let me read his stories. What good was I doing him if I didn't offer two things he can't get when he dives under the surface to tell the tale; insight, and perspective. 

This is why taking your writing outside, soliciting beta readers, finding a group, joining a class, is so damn important. Even more important; check your damn ego. If you solicit for outside insight and perspective, listen to what they have to say, especially when they start throwing thoughts or comments about narrative structure or technical flaws at you. You don't always HAVE to take their advice, but don't just reach for the assumption that they don't get your tale, or that it's a matter of taste (unless it is, which is usually pretty evident in the feedback you get.) Secondly; make sure you give your work to people who can effectively offer you both. When I beta read, I feel obligated to give about a thousand words worth of notes, what I liked, what I didn't, what I felt was missing. They asked me to read, they asked for feedback, I owe them that. When VIRTUAL MACHINES is eventually finished, and I solicit for readers whom I feel can offer me insight and perspective that differs from my own, I'd like to think they'll be as extensive as I would be. 

"But Steve! Should I finish my work first!?" I hear you cry. 

My answer is; I have no idea. Steve is not qualified to give Writing Advice (TM). Also, stop yelling at me! I can tell you that VM is my first kick at the proverbial can, and the perspective and insight I gained through submitting the first chapter to the class was essential and invaluable. It spurred a week-long edit/revision marathon of the first 10 chapters. It helped me shape the first few chapters (written about 15 months ago) into something I'm a thousand times happier with. Is it perfect? I highly doubt it, is any first novel perfect? Is any novel perfect? 

I can also tell you to check your library, or Facebook for local writing groups, as they could prove indispensable in shaping your work. If you do so, just remember that many of the other members are likely there for the same reasons you are, and be prepared to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. 

We are not put upon this world to GET IT!

Until next time,

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