Friday, January 16, 2015
Critiques and Groups
You must find a tribe. Terrible as it is, new writers must find a tribe for support and learning. Your schooling is not enough.
The story is quite simple.
You love to read. Old Will at left is a favorite. You devour Marquez and Tolstoy and think Russell is just grand. You might even read Flynn on the train (scares the locals, though).
They won't help you at this stage.
You have to see what you are doing wrong.
Your literary heroes cannot help because they've edited out all of their mistakes. That's why they're your idols.
You have to read and critique the works of other unpublished writers. You have to see your mistakes in their works because when they're in yours, you don't recognize them.
It's true. You don't recognize that your story is a collection of scenes without conflict and so: not a story.
Oh, but all the verbs agree and the adverbs are only really really necessary and I use commas perfectly and ...
That's not it. Your use of the language - perfectly - is merely the beginning. That's the minimum standard.
You also must tell a story, involve the reader emotionally in the character, produce dialogue which moves the tale along, and command the use of narrative summary to prevent the story from being an overheard cocktail-party conversation snorefest.
Your writing isn't a problem. Usually. Your storytelling is.
You can't see it yourself because you know the story you want to tell. You know the story and so when you write you believe you've told it to the reader.
You do not develop the detector to tell when you have met the mission and when you've failed by reading Life of Pi. You develop the detector by reading works of your associates who make the same mistakes you do.
Find a tribe. Learn to critique constructively. Repeat the drill until you can critique your own work without passing judgement on your ability to write.
Your ego is fragile. You can write. You merely can't hold the reader's interest long enough to get a book deal.
You'll fix that. Your tribe will help you.
Welcome, comrade. Your seat is over there.