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Ah, the Writing Life. At least I’m not dependent on book sales to stay alive; I’d be sleeping in a car and eating out of dumpsters.

MEDUSA is moving along at a crawl, but she’s moving. So many things have interrupted my “Flow”(sarcasm alert) of late, that I have been in the ‘one sentence here, a paragraph there’ mode for a couple weeks. BUT keep that up for a while and in the end you have something.

And since the book itself is done, so to speak, and I’m writing an interweave chapter to tie up some loose ends, I guess I’m not actually in a big hurry. At this point I want it to be good, and I want it to be ready by Orycon, and there is no good reason that I can’t just mosey the thing along and make it happen. It’s a very different feeling from the run-up to publication of SALTARAE.

I will be at Sam Bond’s Garage tonight, and as usual I will have my bad attitude, snarky sense of humor, and copies of all my writings.

To the NSA: Nothing new this week, so you can concentrate on militias and such. Edward Snowden, the drinks are on me if you can make the scene.


Apr. 26th, 2011 06:59 pm
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Writer's Groups, or:
Why exactly would I subject myself to THAT?
So one rather negative impression I got, not just from Norwescon but also from Orycon, came from what little interaction I've had with the group criticism process. I was prepared to read from 'Medusa' (Book Three) at Orycon. When I arrived I discovered that the limit on submissions to the group process was 750 words (!). If you are reading a standard paperback, that is the first page of a chapter plus about 2/3 of the second. I went off and sought for any 750 word segment that I felt might complete a thought. Then I found out that it HAD to be the first page-and-a-bit of your piece.
Okay, I get that there has to be some limit on the readings, that you can't read a whole chapter or anything. But really, who completes a thought in 750 words? Particularly in SF where so often the writer has to build a world or a timeline in Chapter One?
So I blew that off and thought: 'Well, let's see what Norwescon offers. Maybe that will be more open.'
Well, the Open Critique at Norwescon was a different basket of snakes, all right. Submit 10,000 words; one Chapter plus an up-to-1000 word synopsis. Then send it off to the Fairwood Writer's Group (and nowhere online can a body find out who they are) and they will assign a panel of 'professional' writers to critique it.
So I set to work to create a couple of possible submissions out of 'Viasmae' and 'Medusa'. In both cases, I found that condensing a Synopsis into 1000 words was difficult but possible. However, by the time I got the first chapter of either book edited down to fit the remaining 9000 word limit, I found that I didn't even, well, like them. It didn't sound like me anymore. I found myself removing necessary description and exposition and also engaging in the rather silly process of changing 'went with' to 'accompanied' (in order to pare away a word, you see), to the point that not only did the story fail to flow, but the characters became wooden and spoke in voices other than their own, using simpler syntax and becoming far less interesting.
I wound up finishing the process, then giving the whole thing up as a bad idea. (Oh no, not another learning experience!)
Now here's the real rub: at both cons so far, I've heard tales, sometimes from the perpetrators, of critiques that drove the novice writer to tears; or even drove him/her AWAY in tears; and the implication put forward was that this is in some way a good thing. The speakers imply, or even explicitly state, that such cruelty is justified because it makes the victim become a 'better' writer. To this I say "Fie! Nonsense! And nasty nonsense at that!"
It's nasty nonsense because it is clearly (from the expressions and vocal tones in which it is described) INTENTIONAL.
They seem to expect the new writer to accept insults and degradation as part of the critical process. I do not accept such. If you cannot speak to me in a polite fashion, wrapping your criticisms and suggestions in civility and compassion, then the fault and lack is with you and not with me. And if this culture of intentional nastiness has grown out Clarion and its descendants as some have said, then I say also: "A pox upon them, and all their houses!" And I don't really care how many 'great' writers this process has produced, nor how many sales they've made nor how many awards they've won. The ends don't justify the means, certainly not in this case.
If this is what is on offer to help new writers, I guess I'll just have to muddle through on my own, and get better without much help. Oh, well, that's how I learned to swordfight, how I learned to armor, how I learned to crochet. Musashi would approve. He'd say: "You have learned hei-ho. Go forward now. This requires much study."

I'm on it, Sensei.


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