The idea behind these posts was to allow myself to delve deeper into my writing process, open up, and even vent about my own frustrations. I don’t open up as much as I’d like, or should. Really, that’s about being reluctant to overshare. Or worse, fearing that you wouldn’t want to read such posts.
But I’m going to try to share more and see what happens and how long it lasts.
I haven’t been writing much. At first, I had the excuse of work. When I changed jobs, that excuse went away, so what’s the new excuse? I don’t have a project. I’m busy getting back into the groove. Nothing is clicking. Take your pick. They’re all bullshit.
I was in a writers group. I joined because I wanted to take my writing to ‘the next level’, which is writery speak for ‘I need to find some people to tell me if it’s worth it to keep writing or not’. Consensus was ‘yes’. I had some rough critiques starting out, but they allowed me to do a couple of things; build up a thicker skin, and get better as a writer by taking the critiques to heart. As time went on, the critiques felt easier. That became a new problem for me.
There were a few voices in the group who offered ‘tough love’ and critiques I valued immensely. When you come from a viewpoint of believing you suck, having someone tell you that you suck makes sense and reinforces that idea. It gives you a platform to build upon. Some of those voices changed or left over time, and I soon found myself feeling like the critiques were getting easier because they weren’t telling me what I needed to hear (that everything I write is crap). This is part of the self-doubt that can get into your head sometimes. Or mine, anyway. I started telling myself that the writing wasn’t getting better, the group was going easier on me, giving me a pass. The writing had to suck because I suck at writing (thank you brain). This created a whole new kind of frustration. I started looking for other people, outside the group, to offer feedback, and even searched for other groups I could join. Part of the reason behind this insecurity is the fact that I haven’t been able to sell my urban fantasy novel. I have editors and agents telling me it’s well written with good characters and story, definitely pro quality, but no one wants to publish it. That eats at me, eroding the thick writerly skin I spent so much time building up. And I know I shouldn’t let it, I know how the publishing industry works, the cycles and the economics of it all. Yet here I am, and it bugs me.
I ended up leaving the first group and joining two new groups, we’ll call them Alpha and Beta. They are very different in structure, make up of membership, and intent. Alpha has some people from the old group, Beta is all new people who are published authors at varying levels within their careers.
Let’s talk about Alpha first. 90% of what I’ve submitted has been long fiction – novels. I realized after my recent meeting on Saturday, that they are split almost perfectly 50/50 on the project I am currently pushing through – my epic fantasy. The folks who were in the old group are liking it and not finding many issues with it. The new people credit me for mechanical stuff, some characterization, decent dialogue (most of the time), but aren’t digging the story or the worldbuilding. Now, the majority did like the few chapters of the space opera I shared with them.
So what can I take from this? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?
Onto the second group – Beta. I’ve submitted two short stories there; a sort-of Urban Fantasy and a straight up Sword & Sorcery. No long fiction at all. I am already tweaked about short fiction and my ability to write it well. I got the sense that they hated the first submission. Not just the story, but everything; characters, dialogue, structure. From my perspective, my first critique felt like a blood bath. I left the meeting wondering what the fuck I was doing and why I bothered writing. The second critique wasn’t as bad, felt more structured, which helps me digest the information. The story was fine, not great, not good, fine. There were some good elements, but for the most part, they felt like I left the majority of the story on the floor somewhere instead of in the pages. I did too much telling, not enough showing, I was quite creative in some areas, and completely dropped the ball in others. My setting was too generic, my dialogue too similar from character to character, providing no unique voices.
Now, this could be a difference in critique style or my focusing on the negatives. So let’s look at some of the positives:
- Like the fantasy setting and where it’s going, sentence structure is perfectly fine.
- Areas of incredible creativity: The spells, how they work, how the Mage hides behind the hood, the four-armed cat person – all great.
- Liked the ending.
- The beginning has a reasonably good hook.
- Mechanically, the writing is top-notch.
It’s difficult to focus on any of these, though. Maybe that’s just my brain, I don’t know.
But this is what I was looking for, right?