Okay, so most of you are probably aware of the discussion which occurred on my fiction blog over the weekend. I posted a bit of a novel I’ve been kicking around for a few months. It’s the opening. But I posted it as a piece of #fridayflash, which is limited to about a thousand words. I wrote the piece at about 3 a.m. on Friday morning, read it and trimmed to to under 1K, then posted.
And it promptly met with mixed reviews.
Most folks found it entertaining and emotive, but some questioned the direction I chose for the piece. New blog buddy Linda had some excellent things to say. Foremost among those was use of the term “post critique syndrome”. It’s very much like PTSD in some ways. I was shell-shocked, discouraged, a trifle depressed and in the end, just wished I hadn’t posted the piece at all.
But CalliopesPen showed up and offered me some outstanding, glowing words. I sat and basked in them for several hours before I could even realize I had no words to describe how she’d made me feel. Sherri was also encouraging, and my loving wife? Well, she’s always the most amazing and supportive of all. Those who enjoyed it really did. Those who thought it could’ve used a bit less had me on several counts – too much adjective-spicing, too abrupt an injection of the fantasy element (even though this was deliberate, the 1K limit made the couple of sentences I used for that portion of the story severely inadequate), should’ve said more with “less words” [sic].
Then, Linda went a step further. She emailed me a line-edit critique of the piece.
It was amazing how many mistakes I’d made. How much I’d been lazy about the writing portion. I tried to work the piece as both a study in character and a fantasy-western piece, and that just didn’t work, period. I did overuse adjectives. I made sentences more complex than they had to be. Some of the wording could’ve been smoothed out and solidified by just saying the plain, ordinary thing I intended. But no, I tried to get all literati and eloquent, and boing! – weak piece. Big surprise.
In the end, what happened here can be boiled down to this: I tried too hard while not trying hard enough. I didn’t put enough effort into cleaning the prose, and I put too much effort into trying to “write”, like I think I’m supposed to write, like I’ve always told myself I write. Different pieces cry out for different voices to me. I’ve written some which were deliberately lyrical and lilting in tone. I’ve written them punchy and direct. I’ve written in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. I’ve written like King, and like Hemingway. In all of that, I never lost sight of the writing and the style.
In this short bit, I did absolutely lose sight of the writing. I blame those who came by and offered only accolades for previous works I’ve done. (Just kidding.) It inflated my ego to the point I thought I wouldn’t get anything but glowing reviews for this one too. (Not kidding there; my ego was out of control this time. I didn’t even imagine I’d get so many people calling out my flaws.)
Well, I’ve learned my lesson. I got over my PCS, and moved on to the point of being my usual, thick-skinned self (with a little more humble added, me hopes).
I’d love to do another character study, but this time I’m going to stay focused and remember my KISS principle. Finding the best way to say something with as few words as I can is the goal. One of the comments I received stated “I’d never suggest you eliminate adjectives from your writing.” That person is being honest, but for me, the best medicine is the harshest. Taking things to their extreme as much as I can helped me break my addiction to, reliance on, adverbs. This part about the adjectives is the next step. Finding the best noun-verb combination to say what I want to convey is the best medicine for me. It’s just how I work best.
So next Friday, if I have time to do an entry, I promise to make it better, and pay attention to those things I didn’t pay attention to this time. I promise to apply the lessons I learned from all the wonderful people who challenged me to stop trying to pull a fast one, stop thinking more of myself than I ought. Most of all, I promise to apply the lesson of humility I learned. It was long overdue and desperately needed.
So, to Linda, CalliopesPen, Sherri, Louise, Al Bruno III, and every one of the great people who sounded off on the piece – thank you. I needed you this weekend and you delivered. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
So … how was your weekend? What did you all do? Have fun? Ready for Christmas yet?
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