STORM Experiences – Reality Check

So, I had a big reality check this week. I submitted a rough draft of a short story to a friend just to get some feedback before I started the big edit to get it ready for publishing…and, I must say, I did not expect what followed.

The review was honest and heartfelt…and my friend was deeply disappointed.

When I read what she had to say, it felt like she was pushing daggers through my soul and my immediate impulse was to lash back. But, I know that reviews about your own work are usually less scathing than they sound when you read them the first time. So, I sat back, played with my daughter, drank some hot chocolate…moped for two days.

None of it really helped. That is, until the moment came that I realised WHY. Why she had been so disappointed. And why it had hurt so much to read all about it. I had not told her that it was a rough draft and that I intended to refine it quite a bit more. As a matter of fact, somewhere deep inside I had already decided that anybody reading my work has no business but to adore everything that I put into words. So, it had never occurred to me that anyone could not like my rough first draft.

Yeah, I’m a bit egotistical, aren’t I? It’s sadly something that most artists suffer from to some degree. Our talent is to create and that means we lay our souls bare to the eyes of the masses. And that, in turn, means that we have to defend our tenders in some way. My way is apparently ridiculous amounts of hubris.

In the end, looking at the criticism again and reading through that first draft of the short story again, it hit me: My friend was saying things I had been thinking while I was writing. Things I had seen when I went back to look at the story. In fact, there was only one thing that I didn’t agree with in her review…and that was just because I had been unusually cryptic about something in the story. Heck, if I had read that without knowing everything going on in the background, I wouldn’t have been able to connect with the story myself.

I’m actually not sure what I learned. Maybe, it’s to be awfully specific about the stage of the writing to the reviewer. Maybe, it’s to find a balance between humility and confidence. Maybe, it should be that I really need to refine drafts a little more before I send them to friends for reviewing. Maybe, it’s that I should listen to my inner editor a little more carefully when there’s something that is bothering her. All in all, I think I’m better off because of this whole incident. In fact, I’m seeing my friend later today to discuss possible solutions. And I’m excited to see her.

See, I have potential for growth! lol *strains shoulder to pat self on back*

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Putting on the pressure

As a writer, I’m constantly grappling with an overwhelming urge to stop embarrassing myself by thinking I’m a real writer. I think a lot of writers do. We face a reality where pretty much every idea for a story that can possibly be written, has been written, rewritten, plagiarised, reworked, revamped, reorganised and renamed at least a few hundred times. How can I possibly come up with something new and fresh? How can I possibly create something more desirable than what is available already?

The funny thing is. Books come and books go. It’s just like music. Some music stays popular for a long time, some doesn’t. Even the really good songs generally have a shelf life when it comes to the market at large. That doesn’t stop Madonna and Miley Cyrus from making tonnes of money every year (even despite what we read and hear about them…heck maybe it’s because of what we read and hear about them).

What it really comes down to is this: If your dream is to write and you don’t ever put words to paper (…or an electronic document…um), you’ll never get to test yourself out there in the world. And what other test is there?

So, what I need is something that gets me to put aside all of my excuses…my doubts…my crippling fear and get going. That’s why I try to do NaNoWriMo every year. That’s why I subject myself to the humiliation of participating in competitions that don’t even cater to my genre. That’s why I’m taking on the My 500 Words challenge.

Without motivation, nothing will happen. If people are checking whether I’m doing what I set out to do, the sheer need not to disappoint anyone will drive me. I’m just that kind of person.

 

Aside: Ha ha ha ha haaaa! 295 words already done for the day. *beatific grin*

Also: A hat tip to Linzé Brandon for sharing Jeff Goins‘s challenge.

When you realise your inner editor is killing everything

I have made many discoveries in the past year and a bit. One has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me and I sometimes wonder whether I’m too brutally honest.

Ever since I picked up my first book, I’ve been hooked on reading. I’ve read a lot and I’ve reread a lot as well. Some of the books on my, now wall-to-wall-ceiling-to-floor, bookshelf have been read 12 times. I obviously love those books and something in them must appeal to me quite a bit.

But, after three years of literary analysis at university and two courses specifically aimed at novel writing, I have become just a little too aware of the flaws in stories and story writing. After recently rereading some of my old-time favourites, I was appalled at the terrible prose and sometimes massive, gaping plot holes. For the past year, all my favourite authors’ work just didn’t meet my apparently vastly elevated standards. You can understand my distress.

On the one side, it certainly did give me hope. If I could see all these mistakes made by people who have written best sellers, then certainly I could avoid at least some of them. It also meant that my chances weren’t that bad after all. On the other side, just who is the best selling writer: The person sitting on piles of money from book sales? Or is it the woman waiting to hear back from the first publishers she’s ever approached?

Then, a personal revelation broke through a couple of days ago: Nobody’s perfect. Everyone will make mistakes. The more you do, the more mistakes you will make. It’s as simple as that. And, you know what, it is in the human nature to appreciate the good things. And, even more importantly, what one person hates, the next person loves.

Now, I approach my favourites with a brand new attitude. I read them and appreciate them for what they are, for however they have touched my life. Not every writer writes charming characters. Not every writer has spell-binding plot lines. Not every writer creates believable situations or settings. But each and every writer has a talent for at least one aspect of story writing that makes his or her readers want more.

Just a quick update

I just sent in my first submission for my self-help book. Hovering the cursor over the “Send” button was one of the scariest things I’ve done in the past few years. Hitting “Send” is the first step in the journey that really means I’m living my dream. There’s no turning back now. I’m actually trying. I’m not making excuses because I’m afraid anymore.

To everybody who ever told me (or anyone else) that following your dream is silly: I challenge you to do what makes you happy, to walk the path less travelled, to truly live!

Each and every one of us have the potential to do something that will be remembered, to do the thing that makes us truly happy, to succeed where others have failed. And I’ll never find true contentment until I try.

Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Fantasy in all its forms

So. In my string of posts about Fantasy as an overarching genre that covers all things magic and not yet technologically possible, I pose that Science Fiction is but a subgenre of Fantasy.  Oh dear! What has happened? How could I possibly say that?!? Well, it really depends on your point of view and how you define certain things.

If you argue that Science Fiction covers fictive narratives that have a possibility of becoming possible in our reality of experience, and that Fantasy covers fictive narratives that have no possibility of becoming possible in our reality of experience…then, I guess it really depends on what you, as an individual, find plausibly possible.

All in all, I see it like this: The real difference between pure Science Fiction and pure Fantasy is magic. In Science Fiction, there is no magic. In Fantasy, there is magic.

But, like I have said in other posts, these genres just won’t stay in their own play pens.  Does Steampunk fall under Science Fiction or Fantasy? A lot of the gadgets in Steampunk are actually possible to manufacture right now…so, is it still Science Fiction? It certainly isn’t factual history. I guess it could depart these shores and head off to become Historical Fiction…but, you can ask almost any Steampunk fan and they would tell you that Steampunk falls under the Science Fiction/Fantasy banner. Sooooo….

This is why I put all the piggies in one pen. Sometimes they want to play  together, sometimes they don’t.

 

What do you guys think?

It’s been a while

So, in the time I’ve been busy being a new parent, my brother-in-law has been busy impressing people with his writing. Though, admittedly, I am rather jealous of his achievements and I not-so-secretly wish I could beat him, I would love to share his stories with you.

Since the first story of his that I linked, he has had two more honourable  mentions and a win. Go have a look at the stories written by Riaan Els!

I honestly think I’d enjoy and hate working on a collaboration with him. Enjoy, because he has innovative ideas and definitely does not think like I do. And hate, because he is obviously very talented (making me feel like a dud) and definitely does not think like I do.

Setbacks

I took part in NaNoWriMo in November, but I never finished. No, it wasn’t just the usual: I gave up. I went through a really rough time when my cat was poisoned and died. She had been part of the way I wrote and actually contributed more than I had realised when she had been around. Every time I even thought about writing, I would crumble and cry uncontrollably.

It took me a month and a half to finally gather the courage to write without her. And then I could only work on pieces that contained no emotional content.

In the end, I had stopped my NaNoWriMo attempt at ±32 000 words. I was still perfectly on target at that point. If I had been able to keep going at the same pace, I’m sure that I would have succeeded in writing the required 50 000 words in 30 days.

Now, at the end of December (2012), I am about to go into labour and there is just no way I can predict how much I will be able to get done in a day. It might sound silly to someone who has never been pregnant, but it is really not easy to concentrate or gather enough motivation to write more than 300 words in one go anymore.

I’m super uncomfortable. I can hardly walk half the time (read up about “symphysis pubis dysfunction” if you think I’m exaggerating). My porridge brain is also pretty bad at the moment. My husband’s been laughing himself silly at the strange spoonerisms and incoherencies I have been committing. This is hardly conducive to meaningful writing.

It looks like I’ll have a pretty full schedule once my baby settles into a more predictable routine next year. I’m hoping to start getting back to about 500 words a day in April. So, the blog will probably also be very quiet until then. *sigh* Such is life, n’est ce pas?