A Writer’s Confession


So, I’m a yellow-bellied coward, because despite the encouragement of a loving spouse, I’ve never had the testicular fortitude to go find a critique group and let my work be torn apart. I had a friend offer to do it for me, but I stopped her because I needed to revise/edit the piece in question in major ways. That first draft has been done, and she offered to do it again, and I stopped her again, saying I wanted to do a unifying round of edits. (This is true; I want to make sure I bring the whole manuscript to the same level, if possible, because I grew a lot as a writer between first edits and what I’m ready to do now.) And when I’ve completed those — and the month of September is going to be dedicated to doing them — what excuse will I have not to let her do what needs to be done? I need an outsider’s objective eye on this thing if I want it to go anywhere. I can’t write in a vacuum. Unlike some authors I know, I’m not content to just put it in the hands of a select few by self-publishing. If I believe in my story (and I think I do), then I should be willing to toss it out for folks to see, right? I mean, an agent or editor isn’t going to take my sensitivity into account, are they? No, they’re not. They’re going to examine the book and see what’s wrong with it. Their goal is to weed it OUT, not pass it through. They’re looking for excuses to oust it, trying to find flaw. Doesn’t sound like a gentle or loving examination of the story to me.

So, the dichotomy. I’m not afraid of much, but what I’m afraid of, I’m terrified of. And for some reason, I seem to be afraid to let serious author-types read my work. Afraid they’ll say something that causes me to tailspin into an angry and bitter smoking wreck of despair and drives me away from the one thing I think I may do better than anything else in my abilities.

Why?

I have no idea, to tell the truth. None whatsoever. I wish I could answer that question, because I’d be a lot more stable. At least I’d have a reason, and then I could find a way to either dismiss it or substantiate it. As it is, I feel the sands running in the hourglass and can’t move to do anything because of the paralysis of fear.

I can’t keep on with this. This isn’t normal or healthy, and it’s certainly not going to get me published. What to do?

23 thoughts on “A Writer’s Confession

  1. Oh, I’m the same way. I love to write, and I like getting feedback, but I’ve been avoiding posting my fiction and such until very recently on my blog because of the fear that my writing sucks.

  2. Hi, Leapsecond! Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it.

    Y’know, for some reason, posting online didn’t bug me. I think if I’d gotten too many negative comments it would’ve, but I either got nothing or positive feedback. So I kept on.

    Weird. Like I said, I’m a series of stupid dichotomies.

    But now I’m off to read your fiction so I can be sure and be rude and condescending if I think it sucks.

    (Just kidding. I wouldn’t dream. But I am going to read some. 🙂 Oh, and if you’d like to read mine (but please don’t feel obligated to), I have a fiction blog dedicated to it. I think there’s a link on the main page of this blog.)

  3. I only have one story up right now, that I posted yesterday. My writing habits are erratic at best; I think of some plot/concept that I could base a story around, I write a page or so, then I decide it sucks and throw it in the proverbial trash.

  4. Leapsecond — Well, we all go through that, I think. I’ve screwed up more ideas than I’ve been able to get down correctly, hands down, and I’ve tossed out ideas I thought were good and can’t understand why I thought that in the first place, so you’re not in new territory.

    I liked the story “In One Moment”. I have to admit the question of what they all have in common has me thinking about it. Nice work on that one.

    And I read the one about the journalist on the plane that goes down. Interesting concept. 🙂

  5. i’m not particularly good in writing. i’m still learning and grammar is still defective. i’d say i have creative thinking. i’m afraid that one day a mr. know-it-all linguist would rattle on some areas of my ineffeciency instead of what i’m really trying to say.

  6. Rommeldb — Oh yeah, they’re out there, just waiting for you to slip up. I once made the mistake of commenting to someone looking for help on a forum with some comic book stuff he’d written. I mentioned that because he used the passive form “had been” a lot in his writing, it slowed the pace of the piece and detracted from the work.

    But, along came a grammarian who reamed me publicly for saying “passive” when technically it’s NOT the passive voice but the “past perfect” tense, which expresses events happening previous to the events of the past tense. I’ve never spoken up about helping someone with technical aspects of writing again. And until I go get my degree in English, I won’t. But I stand by what I said — the tense chosen was more passive and a more active verbiage choice would’ve helped.

    So yeah — the sharks are there, waiting to gut you.

  7. Darcknyt: There is no right answer to “what they have in common”; I constructed the mini-stories first, THEN the question. The question is supposed to make you think, like, “Well, they’re all human. Or they all have hope.” I can’t really tell you what my opinion is of what they have in common because that would eliminate your job as a reader… Unless you really want me to tell you, of course.

  8. Leapsecond — You accomplished your goal, at least with me; I was thinking about it and looking for a common thread. A neat concept!

    And if you want to spill, please feel free!

    I got a great giggle out of it either way. Thank you! 🙂

  9. The stories could be about the same people. In One Moment signifies memory, as all memories take place in our mind’s eye “a moment at a time”. Each “character” could be part of the same person or people. ugh, it’s hard to explain.

  10. The early experiences with a critique group will definitely shape you one way or the other. Finding the right crit group with the right mix of minds committed to growing you is tough.

    A fan club will never help you grow.

    A masochist/sadist fetish enclave won’t help you grow either.

    But… dude… Chicago. For all it’s suckitude, it’s… Chicago. You have more crit group resources available to you than 94% of the rest of the US population. If you don’t leverage that kind of aspiring writer density, you’re wasting a real opportunity.

    Just sayin’.

  11. Hey, Dwight, how’s it goin’, bud? Nice to see you.

    I know what you say is true, and you’ve been down this road ere I; and I need to take that advice. I need to grow, no two ways about it — which of us is perfected in our craft?

    But dude — DUDE — I’m chickenshit. No way ’round it, man. I’m a chickenshit plain ‘n’ simple, and before I get in front of either one of the enclaves or one of the clubs, I’ve gotta get the cajones to even FIND one.

    Any input you have, D, is welcome here. Big time.

  12. Darc, I am the same. Terrified to put my stuff out but writing groups are good overall. So is taking a workshop based class.

    Critics are supposed to highlight strengths and weaknesses because in a way they are teachers. As a former English teacher my job was never to shred but to find stuff that should be cut, improved and applauded. Not necessarily in that order.

    I am taking classes through the University this fall to hone a bit and focus more. I already have my project for NanoWriMo. The manuscript I am working on now? I have scoped out the publisher to send it too (they like new authors and off beat/fantasy reads).

    I applied to the Writer’s Workshop in Iowa City years ago. They basically told me I sucked. I believed them and spent way to many years denying what I am – a writer. The people there at the time just weren’t my audience.

    Get out there and find a group.

  13. Annie — Wow, I’m not sure whether to be encouraged or disheartened! 😉

    Thank you for the advice. You and Dwight both have experience with these things, and I need to take your input seriously. I guess after the second round of edits it’s off to find a group. Somewhere.

    In the meantime, I’d love to find out what publisher that is, and see about how offbeat and fantastic they’d consider my work. Willing to share? 😉

    Thank you again. I really appreciate it, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  14. Nice post. I pretty much agree with everything you say about writing!

    I actually write as well, but I write screenplays on my spare time! So you write novels eh? It is pretty sweet knowing that people out there read your blogs, but it is a little heartbreaking knowing that some people will end up bashing and crashing what you write!

    Well, guess what? Screw ’em (I would use the “F” word, but I don’t know whether or not you want that language on your site, haha). If you’re happy with what you write, than your self gratification contributes much more to you as a person than some schmuck who felt cheated by the book/blog/screenplay’s ending.

    I got some pretty neat-o ideas up my sleeve for films, and just write them down ASAP on paper so I never forget them.

  15. Franktown — Sounds interesting! You should check Craigslist once in a while; they often post openings for screenwriters. Check it out, and thanks for coming by!

    I’m not too stressed about the language, but do try to keep it to a “PG” rating if I can.

  16. “Testicular” fortitude? Is that better of worse than the “intestinal” variety?

    I know what you mean about being afraid to let others see your work. For the longest time, even after I started posting Oasis on the web, I wouldn’t tell people I know offline about my writing hobby.

    One thing that helped me (online) was the realization that there are a lot of people online. And even if the overwhelming majority would never read a novel with the word “zombie” in it, if I did my part I could still find at least a few somebodies out there that would like it. The internet was my only hope at an audience.

    And as I’ve found a few of those online somebodies, I’ve been more prone to talking to a few real life somebodies. Now I’m happy to talk and share my work with just about anybody. As it ends up, people are much bigger jerks online than they are in real life.

  17. Bryce — Yeah, basically I lack the balls to show my work to people I think might be less than supportive. Read: “Chicken”.

    I think you’re right, though; I think people are bigger jerks behind the anonymity of the Internet than in real life. I would bet there’s plenty of people I could have review my work who wouldn’t be asses about it.

    Thanks for the support. I think you’re onto something here. 🙂

  18. Oh, and Darc, about the grammar nazi – I think you were both right. It may indeed been in the “past perfect” tense, but it was also in a “passive voice.” What you described about the passive voice is exactly what I’ve read about the subject from guys like Dwight Swain, Sol Stein, Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card. If the grammerian didn’t understand that, then they’ve spent too much time reading “Ethan Frome” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and nowhere near enough time reading actually enjoyable fiction.

  19. Bryce — You’re right, I had a point. I may, however, have used the term “passive voice” incorrectly or something. I knew he was right — he’s sort of famous for that sort of stupid nit-picking — but he’s also wrong, in that the story is stalled and dragged, the reader removed from it when that sort of phrasing is used (and I see it used a LOT).

    But thanks for the confirmation; I feel better about it. I just didn’t want to argue at the time.

    Now I sort of wish I’d stuck to my guns.

  20. Hey. I’m a walking contradiction too. How bout that. Don’t you love being weird? Someday, the freaks will rule the world. Thanks for stopping in at my blog and posting a comment. Critiquers should aim to both affirm and offer constructive criticism. Crushing spirits should not be allowed, like an unwritten code or something. Hopefully you can find some that will help you improve your work. I found some great ones at thenextbigwriter. Take care.

    ~CV

  21. Hi, Courtney, and welcome! I’m glad you stopped by, thank you.

    I do like being weird … to a point. I want some things to be normal, but I don’t mind being different in positive ways … if that makes any sense.

    I believe the law against being a jerk critic is long overdue. And I hope I have the courage to press on before it’s passed, or I’ll be long gone before I show my work to anyone that may help me improve. 😉

    Thanks for stopping by again, and it was my pleasure to be able to read your blog. 🙂

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