Belly-Aching 101

Can you spare a minute?

I’ve got to get something off my chest.  I have some work I have to wrap up before things fall apart for me at the end of the month, but you know what?  I’m going to take some time and vent here.


Hey, it’s my blog; my corner of the Internet.  If you don’t like what I have to say (and you know who you are), wtf are you doing hanging around my page?  Get off.  Mind your own business.


That being said, if you don’t like bitching, move along, Sparky.  This ain’t for the faint o’ heart, all right?  I’m in full-on bitch mode.  Click away if you want.


Still here?  Fine, you’re in, and I don’t want to hear it.  Matter of fact, I’m contemplating turning off comments, because I don’t want to hear it, or read it, frankly.  You don’t have something encouraging to say?  No problem.  STFU, then.


I’ve been trying, over the last several months, to strengthen my prose and my skin to the point of being able to handle rejection like a grown-up when it comes my way.  It’s going to come my way.  I have to get used to it.  And I want to be published, so that’s part of the package.  You will be rejected, period.


I had a karate teacher many years ago tell me, “Don’t worry … you gonna get hit.”  Same thing here.  Don’t lose sleep, li’l buckaroo — you’re gonna get hit, period.  Rejection letters are coming.


So anyway, in order to try and develop a thicker skin, I’ve been trying to expose myself to people who aren’t in the habit of telling me how great I am.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but over on my deviantART page, and to a lesser extent on my fiction blog, I get a lot of positive reinforcement.  I need it — we all do.  You’re a liar if you say you don’t.  And I’m grateful for it.  I can’t tell you how much folks like KnytStalker and Sherri and Ben and Bryce mean to me.  They’re my lifeline, my shot of good feeling when things get so hard in every area of my life.  And they do get hard.  Don’t worry — you gonna get hit.


But I’ve been trying out various places to see if there’s something I missed, some nuance to being told you suck that strengthens a writer’s ability.  I got a recommendation from Bryce on a couple of sites and tried them both (Bryce, coincidentally, joined those same sites but hasn’t done anything with them for months, which I find amusing, because it means he has more of a life than me).  They both are supposedly feedback oriented sites — that is to say, you give and receive feedback on your writing from the other authors on the site.


Can you see what’s wrong with that system?


In case you can’t, let me offer you an analogy I’ve recently read in my new book (which I love), On Writing Horror, by the Horror Writers Association.  In it, four new (at the time of compilation) writers offered their insights and thoughts on the industry and genre in one of the chapters.  The interviewer asked them what advice they think is wrong that’s being offered to new or unpublished writers.  Do you know what one of them said?


He said joining a critique or writer’s group is bad advice.


I can hear you unpublished but agented (again, you know who you are) authors-to-be either gasping or groaning.  Or maybe I have gas and it’s my stomach.  I don’t know.  What I do know is, most writers I’ve talked to would consider that bit of “insight” stupid and heretical.  Many, many writers maintain they’re the most important developmental tool a writer can get.


But hold on — let me get to that analogy I told you about.  The basis for his statement went something like this:



12 thoughts on “Belly-Aching 101

  1. You start writing romance and I kick you in the shins! That’s typical though. People get emboldened and begin to think before writing stuff. To you I’m a newb. Not going to offer advanced critique UNLESS it’s about flow in the story. Or maybe techinical stuff. You write about ships or military life I’m your guy.

    She obviously doesn’t understand that you are shaking your fist at her not in frustration but because SHE NEEDS TO ACCEPT THE ORDER OF THE FIST!

    We will rule the world!!

    {insert insane manical laugh here}

    That’s right, everyone needs to learn to OBEY THE FIST! Dammit!

    If I do write romance, it will be only for the exercise. No harm can EVER come from learning to write in other genres, or better yet, sans genre (literary fiction), young Padawan.

  2. Page 1 comment: Orson Scott Card also says joining crit groups is a bad idea.

    (I’ll forget if I wait to write my comments at the end. Always do.)

    You comment whenever and wherever you like, love. And that’s interesting. I wonder why, if published authors seem against it, we keep breaking our necks to do it?? Does OSC offer an alternative? Just curious. I have only one book by him about writing specfic, but I didn’t see anything in there like that.

  3. Couple of points:

    – Women never get tired of having their ass-kissed.
    Neither do I. Does that make me a woman?

    – What’s this Order of the Fist thing you guys keep pumping?
    It’s just a euphemism for my dogged determination to eliminate adverbs that end in “-ly” from my writing. It sort of took a swing toward the silly when my buddy Ben put up a contest on his blog asking people what ideas they had for rescuing the country (ours, not yours). When everyone had gone, I read them all, realized they put a LOT more thought into it than I was about to, so I said something like, “I agree with all of these. Now the only thing for me to do is wait to be appointed Supreme Emperor and rule you all with my IRON FIST. OBEY THE FIST!!”

    That last bit, if you’re not familiar with it, is from an animated show called “Invader Zim”. Google that shit, dude … BEST. SHOW. EVER.

    OH, and the Order of the Fist was born because the aforementioned Ben wasn’t familiar with the phrase, but understood my hatred of adverbs and drew the association (I’ve ruined him for adverbs too), and came up with the idea that we should form our own little clique, a separatist club of elitist known as the Order fo the Fist. Heh. Sorry, left that part out before … which answers the question.

  4. I think what DZ said is true – people become emboldened by praise – especially when it’s false/undeserved praise. I think she’s had her ass kissed so much that now she thinks she’s good enough to be published as is. Problem is, the people kissing her ass are NOT in a position to publish her.

    Well, we’ve talked about this before: YOU say undeserved; but I can say for sure that’s true. She’s not all that bad. And she’s improving all time.

    People in online groups, crit groups, whatever, are all in the same boat. The real test will be when the work is submitted to an agent, editor, publisher. Then, and ONLY then, will you know if you have what it takes. In the meantime, I’m tempted to tell you to stop putting your stuff online in places like that. Few people recognize talent, especially other writers who see you as competition. Naturally they have to take you down a peg, keep you low, especially when your writing is good, because they feel threatened.

    I’m with you about the agents/editors; who else matters, in the end? Still, I can’t agree with the whole “take you down a peg” thing, otherwise it would be happening to EVERY good writer, not JUST ME. I see other good writers — like the one I’m no longer associated with, and the one mentioned here today — that get the praise for being good. I just don’t see a bunch of bullies coming around to make sure they keep ME down. Y’know? Doesn’t make sense at all.

    And you don’t need them.

    Fair enough here!

    The people who know you, love your writing. And I believe we also love you enough to tell you when something needs work, and when it’s great as it is. So you’re not writing in a vacuum. To me, the real vacuum is those groups, because all they seem to do is suck the creative spark out of you.

    That’s my point; the people who know me love my writing. Other people not so much. I may as well resign myself to a vanity publisher now if that’s true. And since people that love me are the only ones fond of my writing enough to pay for it, THAT IS A VACUUM. Unless I go OUTSIDE the people who love me, I won’t know what other people think of it and all those rejection letters that are surely coming won’t mean a thing.

    The wife of the FIST has spoken!

    (and we all know that behind every great man is an even greater woman! HA!)

    Yeah. Right. Oh, and forgot to say I love you.

  5. First – you took karate, too? Awesome. I really miss getting worked over and in turn beating the crap out of other guys, then being better friends afterward. (We did lots of sparring.)

    Yeah, I did, but not for long (enough). 😦 I want to get back into it, but I’m sorta old, fat and not in any condition to embark on something that strenuous. I still remember some of the bone-break techniques I learned though. Heh.

    Second – Those sites just weren’t really meeting my primary goal, which was of course more traffic to my blog. (I’m a filthy traffic whore.) It is nice to still occationally get reviews telling me how awesome I am. Maybe I’ll cross post chapters of my next book there (or perhaps the first 10 chapters only…) when I start writing it.

    I figured it wasn’t for you, and I sort of forgot about the traffic-whoring as the primary goal (for me too, as I recall), but that didn’t work out for me either. Huh. Go figure.

    Third – I love Ray Bradbury! Ray Bradbury’s “Zen & The Art Of Writing”, especially the first few chapters, is the book I read whenever I need to get excited again about writing.

    Ray’s “teh awesome”. A living national treasure. A dark day for writers and literature when he finally passes. I’d better get hold of “Zen” somehow soon.

    Fourth – I’ve critiqued a story or two on the same site and been chastised for grammatical corrections, you know, stuff that really should be fixed to make a story readable. Stuff I felt guilty for even being generous enough to give it a two. Other folks gave it a 5, just to make up for my two, I guess.

    Meh, if they aren’t willing to play along and do it the right way, don’t waste your time. I try not to give everything a five, but I probably do. Why? Because what difference does it make what I say? No one’s going to edit based on my input anyway, and how indepth can I go with 1000 characters at my disposal. Right now it’s just about collecting points, I think, for me. So I can, you know, post more crap that gets a four.

    Fifth – It might be helpful to write Olga (or whatever the romance writer’s name is) into a flash fiction wherein she is deismembered by gremlins or something. Go ahead and throw in lots of adverbs for irony’s sake.

    Well, I think I painted her in a bad light here without meaning to. I’m not really against her, I’m just frustrated in trying to figure out why she’s so highly thought-of and I’m crap. But it’s not her fault. And I already DID something like this, back when she won a kiriban on my dA page. Heh. Not for this reason though … I did it to be creepy and/or scary. It was called “Getting Away from it All” — maybe you remember it.

    Or not. 🙂

    “Blood seeped gooily from her foul lips. She stumbled clumisly over the hastily set tripwire and fell noisily into a vat of greedily screaming weasels…”

    That’s hysterical.

    Then print it out and take it to a hilltop, where you will set the story on fire and watch its ashes float away (lazily?) on a cool breeze. You never know – it could help.

    Note: Don’t let anyone (exept maybe {maybe} the missus) ever read it. I’m sure she’s a nice person (the romance writer), and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for you hurting her feelings, even if she has blossomed into a pompous windbag.

    I don’t know about pompous, but certainly confident bordering on arrogant. But she’s not trying to flaunt her shit at me. These are my own self-doubts and weaknesses, not hers.

    Sixth – Check out Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction writing blog from time to time. He occationally holds comment contests whereing winners get free one-page critiques and sometimes just asks the readers for blurbs that he critiques for the blogosphere en-masse. Even if his writing style isn’t for you, at least he’s someone that has published 7 books that you can have at least a little access to.

    He’s been so WINDY lately — I get intimidated just LOOKING at the articles he’s posting. I’ll try harder to get there and see what he’s up to, though. Great reminder — thanks!

    Seventh – If romance isn’t for you, then maybe you should look into writing some Harry Potter fan fiction.

    Yeah, or maybe Avatar: The Last Airbender fan fic. If I add in sex, I’ll have a guaranteed hit. I had no idea it was so popular and that people wanted their cartoons to be pornographic. But it certainly has made a splash on dA.

    I think that’s everything.

    Thanks for coming by and being encouraging, Bryce!

  6. “Blood seeped gooily from her foul lips. She stumbled clumisly over the hastily set tripwire and fell noisily into a vat of greedily screaming weasels…”

    Then print it out and take it to a hilltop, where you will set the story on fire and watch its ashes float away (lazily?) on a cool breeze.

    ROFLMAO Bryce!! That was AWESOME!!! I actually laughed out loud, and startled my kids! 😀


    I love you too Babe. 🙂

  7. ::just dying at some of the comments::

    Okay…I guess I am one of the “ass-kissers”. ::grins::
    Wow…that sounds bad! But I love your writing. And I think I am well read enough to be qualified to judge. I have no time or patience with most critics. There are only a few people whose judgment I trust. You KNOW that you are good, Batman. Trust in your own inner voice. You are versatile, and I cannot recall anything that I have read of yours that I did not like. Of course, some appealed to me more than others, but that is just personal taste. I am not a fan of pornographic romance. Very few writers can successfully walk the line between sensuous and sensational. And romance writers are a dime a dozen. Trust me…I know! That is why I do not take my own scribblings too seriously. But you…and Denise…have real talent.

    Do not let anyone dissuade you…especially not yourself!


    Aw, thanks, Beth! You’re not an ass-kisser. I think you hold real admiration for some people, and I think you don’t go around saying something nice to everyone. I know how much you appreciate Denise’s ability and for you to keep me in that same level is a high, high compliment indeed. Thank you so much.

    And I like ass-kissers anyway. 😉 Can’t ever get too many of ’em.

  8. I tried online critique. I didn’t like it so I let my free membership period lapse. Mostly, I don’t have time to post there (and hate their format process) and I don’t know really if the people who are reviewing know their shit.

    That’s my wife’s point, too. And the point of a lot of writers about critique groups in general. It’s an iffy proposition.

    I like going to writing groups in person. I like talking writing with others. I like sharing new stuff and getting warm fuzzies. I have my husband for critiquing and frankly, he does a great job. I have rejection letters and emails to let me know when something isn’t ready.

    Do what works for you.

    My wife can do some things; my friends can do other things. I have enough people around me that can actually critique for me, so that’s probably not an issue. I guess doing what’s write (get it?) for me is going to come down to whether I seem to benefit from the group or not. I like the idea of talking writing with others, but not the idea of chasing all over creation to do it, which is why online groups appealed.

    Thanks for stopping by during this hard time you’re having. You’re still in our thoughts and prayers.

  9. “Avatar” rocks.

    A whole lotta fans love it, that’s for sure!

    OSC is sort of a grumpy, buck-the-system dude. He has lots of ideas that go against the accepted “rules”, and my lord is he opinionated. I love his books on the craft of writing. He reminds us not to take the “rules” too seriously. Even his own.

    He’s my kinda guy, I can tell. I loved his book on SpecFic. Good stuff. I’ll check out the others. Thanks! 🙂

    I think you can make good use of a critique group, but you also need to understand when you have learned all you can and move on.

    That’s the catch. How will I know?

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