Thursday, September 29, 2011

What? It's not obvious?

An often repeated mistake writers do (even published ones) is info-dumping. You’ve heard all about that, I’m sure, so I’ll give some attention to the opposite problem. Fellow writer, reader and horse-rider MuseInks (check out her blog) did me a favour and beta read one of my manuscripts.

Halfway through she asked me why my main character refused to turn to his family for help. I was taken aback; I thought it was obvious. I took a good look at my manuscript and realised that no, I had never truly explained it. I discussed the issue with another friend and come to an interesting understanding.

The reason I hadn’t felt like I needed to go into depth about his reluctance was that he acted like I would have. My friend on the other hand would have immediately turned to her family in the same situation. I had been defeated by my own idea of substated facts!

Our experiences change the way we view things. As writers we can’t know how the reader will interpret our characters and their actions. A reader who has had a family member suffering from cancer will be able to relate to My Sister’s Keeper on a different level than most.

As writers we will need to compensate our readers’ “inexperience”. A word here, a memory there.

It’s not easy to see through our own “blind spots”, the things that are so ingrained that we take them for granted. This is when a writer is blessed to have a beta reader or critter to point it out for them.

For the times when you don’t have that handy beta reader around, make sure you have some kind of answer for every “why does she do that?” you can find in your story.

What kind of blind spots have you experienced? Have you read a novel where you just couldn’t understand why the characters acted the way they did? Feel free to share your examples.

Friday, September 23, 2011

That's it, I'm over you!

I love writing - right now I just don't happen to like it very much.

If you haven't had that feeling about writing yet, you haven't been writing for very long. But as a very wise person once said: "Don't Panic!" Even though a towel might be needed in these moments, the most important thing is a quote:

Doubts are okay.

We all have them, in everything from how to spell "mischievious" (did I spell that right?) to how the cute barista in the local coffee shop might react when being asked out - by another woman.

Writing is by essence something that doesn't easily relent to logic and reason: there are no ultimate right or wrong. We don't have a teacher that will stamp our manuscripts with APPROVED if we have managed to reach 50% correct answers. For me, this have a huge impact. I can't step back and think "but according to these standard, I'm good enough" which I can when it comes to schoolwork. I can't think "but they haven't fired me yet, so it must be fine" which I can at work. When it comes to writing, there is no APPROVED level. You are good and bad all at the same time, depending on who you compare yourself with and who is looking and how you interpret someone else's crit. This makes writers second-guess themselves a lot.

To keep writing, we need our coping mechanisms. Mine might be a little louder than most people like. I whinge and act out, scribbling ferociously on Twitter or Facebook and let the world hear my pain. And I swear that this time it's over. That I'm not cut out for writing, that I will stop. Now. Forever. I will NEVER EVER write again. (I blame my father for my tendencies to act the martyr) And everytime I feel like this, I AM convinced I won't write again. Considering how often doubts overcome me, I should have learned that I won't quit. That there is never a last time. But in those hours, or days, I'm convinced it's the end. And you know what? That's okay.

Feeling doubts don't make you less of a writer.

If you need to take a break, binge on pickles, kiss a random stranger, or tell yourself (and everyone else) that you will never EVER write again, then do that. I give you all permission to cope in whichever way that suits you. Because feeling bad for coping in the "wrong" way is not helping. Most helpful friends and strangers don't realise this. They try to convince you of better ways to feel and act. I understand their view, but more often than not, my doubts get worse. Which is why I write this:

Someone's way of coping with doubts doesn't separate a writer from a non-writer.

In fact, the only thing that could stop you from being a writer is to no longer write.

So how do you cope with your doubts? And should I ask that barista out?