After spending the majority of a 12 hour work shift putting together a reading wish list and trolling writing forums, I’m exhausted and full to brim with thoughts that won’t seem so deep tomorrow.
After reading a largish amount of amateur short fiction in the last few days, I’m yet amazed at ego involved. On the one hand, posting for reviews is good. Having others read one’s work is useful often. On the other hand, so many of these ‘reviews’ are fellow amateur writers who refuse to say anything more negative than making gentle comments about maybe looking into cleaning up grammar or spelling mistakes. It’s a lot of back patting and hand holding. For me, it’s very hard not to fire up the flamethrower and wade on in. For criticism to work, it has to be constructive. But it also has to be critical. “You’re story was nice.” or “I liked it.” doesn’t help. Even a little. And really, the illusions about their skills that 99% of these writers seem to harbor, well, it’s staggering. Half the time I’m tempted to leave truthful yet equally unhelpful reviews like “you really need to scrap this and start over” or “maybe your talents lie more in knitting, or cooking, or something that will never involve the English language or a keyboard.” Of course, this doesn’t tell them much. It doesn’t really help because such negativity is easy to ignore. So instead I try to offer real criticism that basically says these things in very long form. I tear tiredly into these little tidbits of drivel offered up by the writing virgins and hope that at least some part will sink in.
There’s a strange gap in writer ego, as far as I can tell. People who write amateur fiction seem to fall into two camps. There are the writers who think they are the next great ‘thing’, the undiscovered genius. Then there are those (of which I’m one, I must admit) who think that they’re pretty much doomed to remain unread and unloved because they’ll never be sure if anything they’ve written is any good at all. Sometimes I wish I could change camps. Having some measure of pride or at least misplaced glee in my work might spur me to actually get things done. Certainly some of my least favorite writers among the published masses manage to produce vast amounts of their mediocre fiction. Perhaps that thin illusion of potential would make a nice shield for my easily bruised writing ego.
Perhaps I should just stop reading good books. Every time I read a decent novel, I dig myself a little deeper into the trench of personal expectation. Sadly, reading bad novels just pisses me off instead of providing a ladder out of said conceit. Recently I’ve been reading Simon Green’s Hawk and Fisher stories. I’m disappointed. It’s amateur writing at its finest. The potential is there, but the stories so far feel like something churned out to meet a writing workshop first draft deadline. I pretty much hate reviewing things, so this should tell you how surprised I was at the quality of this work. I mean, it came recommended, damnit. Sigh. It should give me hope; this mediocre work by an author with plenty of published works to his name. Somehow this only makes me sad.
In the writing project news category: I’ve decided that while I’m not a daily writer sort of writer, I need to kickstart myself. I’ve taken on a lot more project than I intended to, which means my usual method of binge writing isn’t going to cut it. I can’t keep treating writing like a free bag of cookies that I eat half of before I realize I don’t really like these cookies, but then finish out of guilt. So I’m aiming for 2 hours a day of writing type activity. That’s ten hours a week. (weekends are full of work, and work is full of stupid which isn’t good for writing). We’ll see how Plan B goes. Plan C involves a blow torch, six white mice, a one way plane ticket, and pink silk stockings. Don’t ask.
(edit: also, I realize the irony of saying I write mediocre fiction vs my arrogant presumption that my critical reviews of other works are valid and useful. In my defense, I’m a pretty damn good editor. Also, I read more than pretty much anyone I know. It might be cliche to say that reading makes you better at writing, but it is true to an extent. I’ve spent years feeling out and learning what works or doesn’t as I read. )