Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Writers' Craft

So I wrote a story.

It's pretty short, as stories go, clocking in at about 900 words. It's for an anthology of "short, weird fiction" that a friend is editing. He's been very encouraging in getting me to write more over the last year or so, so I figured that I owed it to him to actually write something to justify his kindness.

While I'm mostly quite pleased by what I've written, I did feel like there was something there that wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I got Mat to edit it for me. He thought there was something else wrong with it other than what I didn't like. So I took to the internet--specifically Twitter--and found a cadre of people to read the story and give me feedback.

The group was varied: a Raveler, a couple of guild friends, an old co-worker from THSWSBN, a NBRC twitterer, and Youngest Sister. The feedback was equally varied: Some liked it; others didn't care for it. Some of the feedback was contradictory. Some of it was hard to read. I've written approximately four short stories in the last seven years; this is the first one I've written with a specific purpose, and the first one I've shown to other people. Taking criticism--however well-intentioned--is a difficult thing to do. It gives me a new appreciation for what my students go through with their essay writing, and I will have to remember this lesson the next time that I have a set of papers to grade.

Trying to synthesize that much feedback was really challenging. One of my respondents began his critique by telling me that he hated the type of story that I wrote, which made it really hard for me to situate his feedback in with the others: If it's not the kind of fiction you like, is there anything I can do to redeem it for you? If the genre grates, isn't it likely that my tone and narrative voice will as well? It turns out that a big part of editing is allowing yourself to say, "No, I think her eyes are green," even when your readers keep telling you that her eyes are obviously blue. It's also about admitting to yourself that you have a problem with adverbs and also one with semi-colons. (Frequent readers of this blog are shocked by that information, no doubt.)

After much gnashing of the teeth and rending of the hair, I finally managed to fix it into a shape that I'm not disappointed with, and I've sent it off to the review board. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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