Open Letter to Other Writers

That's nuts! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

That’s nuts!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Dear Other Writers,

It seems like everyone who has anything to say these days says it in a public forum, whether that’s blogging or Facebook, or Twitter or self-publishing a book.

Through blog challenges, I’ve had an opportunity to read other people’s work, and it’s been a mixed experience.  Some of these blogs are hidden jewels that I wouldn’t have found if I weren’t doing blog challenges.  They’re well written, interesting, and I keep going back for more.

Other blogs have a ton of basic issues, jumping back and forth between present and past tense, poor grammar, and poor punctuation.  It’s to the writers of these blogs that I’m addressing myself.

Even if you don’t think I’m talking about you, I might be.  I’ve been there.  Early on, when I made the transition from writing for myself to trying to get things published, I thought it was going to be easy because I was “naturally” a writer.  Words just seemed to flow from my brain to paper, and I thought that every word I wrote was golden.

Um, no.

I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t getting published, so I decided to find an online critique website, and I started using Reviewfuse (which I think is now defunct as it won’t load).  I don’t remember what the first criticism I received was, but I do remember that it hurt.  It stung.  It was obviously wrong.

I almost decided not to bother with it anymore, and then my better judgement overcame my ego, and said, “You’re here, so why don’t you try taking their feedback?  You can keep an unchanged copy of your story in Word.”

Thank goodness my Better Judgement speaks to me sometimes.  After edits, that was the first story I ever got paid for.  It was only $50, but that’s a huge amount to someone who would have written that story anyway, for free.  And that also cemented it.  Listen to feedback = get paid.  Discard feedback = stuff sits unpublished on my computer.

I tell you this, because even if you think your writing is wonderful, it might not be.  I’m not going to make unsolicited comments on your writing style when visiting your blog because it seems rude.  It seems like visiting your house and mentioning the crumbs on the counter.  I’m just not going to do it.  But please, have someone other than your friends read your blog and give you feedback on your writing.  I’d be happy to do it if you ask.  Join a writers group through Meetup or online (I personally like Scribophile currently).  Ask a retired English teacher or another blogger.  Read articles about writing from Writer’s Digest or Query Shark.  Read Stephen King’s book, On Writing.

If you just want a place to put your thoughts, keep a journal or make your blog private.  I’m a huge advocate of just writing whatever you want in your journal, without worrying about grammar or punctuation or spelling.  But if you’re going to publish your work, even in a blog forum, please take it seriously.  Writing is a form of art, and it pains me to see you writing that way in a public setting.  If you, who calls yourself writer, don’t have a basic grasp of English language rules, then what hope do we have for everyone else?

Shall I just give up and understand that evry1 is guna rite lik dis?  (That hurt to type.  Forgive me.)

Fellow writers (and readers too), what do you think?  Am I being too dramatic, or do you agree that this is a problem?

Sleep Is Plotting Against Me

Her paws are hanging out of the box... Can the monster get her?

Her paws are hanging out of the box… Can the monster get her?

I’ve decided that “sleep” is a woman.  Why?  Well, she’s moody and irritable, and she just stops talking to me for no reason.  The current time is 1:39 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I’m on my laptop because sleep is mad at me for some reason.  I didn’t do anything to her.  I’m always very nice to her.  I don’t drink too much before bed, and I try to get to bed around the same time every night.  I have a good pillow, and my room is nice and cool.  But is that good enough for her?  Nope!  She’s just decided that she didn’t like something, so now I’m banished to the couch.

At least I was productive, right?  I stayed up and wrote reviews for other writers on Scribophile.  If I smoked and had two fingers of scotch, I’d pretty much be a cliche at this point.  Insomniac writer.  Pretty redundant, right?

And now my house is making funny noises!  I’m sitting here in the dark, with my laptop screen on the lowest brightness, just hoping to get sleepy.  But my heart races from an unfamiliar noise, and I think about shining my iPhone flashlight toward the noise, but I don’t.  Half of me thinks, “There’s nothing there; don’t be silly.”  The other half thinks, “Of course there’s something there, but it can’t get you as long as you pretend it’s not there.”  But I don’t have any covers to pull over my head, and my feet are hanging off the chair.  Since I was a kid, I always believed the monster couldn’t get me as long as everything was covered and my feet were on the bed.

So on that note, maybe I should head back to bed.  Even if I can’t sleep, at least it’s safer there.

A Little Encouragement

Vancouver, BC; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Vancouver, BC; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Most of the people in my life aren’t readers, and they mostly aren’t interested in reading my stories or talking sticky plot points through with me.  I’ve come to terms with it, and since I mostly write for myself anyway, it’s okay.

When I submit something for critique, I ask for honest, unbiased feedback because my goal is to be published, not to get a pat on the back or get compliments.  My skin is thick, so I can take the negative and channel it into something positive and constructive.

I recently submitted Chapter 2 of the novel I’m editing.  Again.  I love this story of mine.  I love the characters.  I love the dialog.  And I love the plot.  I love everything about it.  I recently got three critiques on the story, two of which were helpful.  The third person who critiqued me gushed about my story.  But it wasn’t just, “Hey, I loved this chapter.”  He got specific about what he loved, quoted dialog he particularly liked and told me that my descriptions were great.  I struggle with descriptions, so this was so nice to hear!  He asked good questions about the story that will help me make it better.

It re-energized me.  I’ve started to feel a bit apathetic about writing, and I wasn’t sure why.  I think that in part, it was because I’ve lacked any kind of encouragement for so long.  I really didn’t even know I was missing it.  A little encouragement goes a long way.  I guess I need to remember that.

Revising, Critiquing, Passive Voice… Oh my!

DSCN2539

Jerome, AZ… Photo credit Doree Weller

I know passive voice slows down the pace of the story.  I know it.  I watch for the dreaded “was.”  But I swear that a word thief who wants all the good verbs for himself sneaks into my writing and puts them there.  Unlikely?  Yes.  But all good conspiracies are built from unlikely beginnings.

I used to use Reviewfuse for critiques, and I met a lot of good people there.  Many of my works I put up for critique ended up getting published, so I’m a huge fan of writers helping writers.  I’m not into the whole meeting people in person thing.  I’d be expected to socialize and have manners, and if I can avoid those things, I prefer to.

Anyway, toward the end, I wasn’t getting much valuable feedback off Reviewfuse anymore, and after “good job” one too many times, I drifted away.  I recently found Scribophile, and so far, it seems really good.  I’ve gotten three quality reviews on a novel first chapter, which I used to mercilessly revise it, cutting parts I’d grown to love.  They needed to go, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love them.

Scribophile works on “karma points,” so the more you review, the more you can submit your work for review.  One thing I like is that I can pick and choose what works I want to review.  That way, I can read stuff I’m actually interested in, instead of getting stuck critiquing a memoir I hate just because, as a rule, I don’t like non-fiction.  The user interface isn’t as easy and intuitive on Scribophile as it was on Reviewfuse, but that’s a little thing, since I’m getting good, constructive reviews.

If you’re an author, check it out.