Monday, June 20, 2005

Ranting in the Rockies

I've said often that I haven't been involved in fiction writing for very long. Only a couple of years. And during those two years, I've been in learning/listening mode. As usually happens when I begin something relatively new (and I was very surprised by how different fiction is from my familiar nonfiction, although writing in first person takes a bit of the edge off), I respectfully sit back and figure out the ground rules -- scope out the territory -- map the psychic environment. I noticed several things which I found to be annoying, but wrote them off to the eccentric characteristics of some writers. Hell, I'm eccentric. I thought most creative types were. But then I started to notice this other thing. This nasty, competitive thing. This "I'm an expert" thing. Let me say right off the bat that I know for sure that writing -- regardless of the "rules" -- is highly subjective. One reader's masterpiece is another reader's eye-rolling, book-in-the-trash disaster. One writer's wonderful story is another writer's info dump. A dear writing friend of mine recently got a "critique" from someone who writes in an entirely different genre than she does. This "critique" not only hurt her feelings (she's a fine writer) but set her back (my friend has the necessary tough skin, but this "feedback" was unnecessarily harsh). My friend let herself be swayed by the "I'm an expert" approach of this "critique" giver, and forgot that what this woman considered "wrong" with my friend's story, was only her OPINION. Take what you can use from the feedback and beware of people who give their opinions as if they're facts. At a conference, I listened to two editors trash a well-known book series for a multitude of reasons. As much as I was offended by this public display of ignorance, I was more amazed by the audacity of the "experts." Their reasons for trashing this book series made it clear that they are both very, very young and their understanding of the layers and complexities of life is very limited. What I learned from listening to them is that I would never, under any circumstances, submit any of my work to them. I wonder how many other people in the audience came to the same conclusion as I did? Then there was the moderator of a loop I belong to who felt totally free to tell her membership that a highly-touted new book ("The Historian" -- I added information about it in my list of recommended paranormal books in the November, 2004 archive) wasn't the literary gem they'd heard, but it was, instead, a massive info dump. Having just read that book, and enjoyed it tremendously, I'd suggest that everyone remember that info dumps are in the mind/eye of the beholder. Just because something is too much for YOU doesn't mean it's wrong, bad writing, or should be slapped with a simplistic label. There are many, many kinds of good writing/good stories. Enough rant for now. I'm sure I'll think of something else. Stay tuned.


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