Saturday, September 26, 2009

Walk the Walk, then Talk the talk

More ways that writers educate themselves:

I called a writer friend of mine, S, the other day to discuss OryCon stuff, and of course we ended up talking about writing stuff.  For an hour.  (Or so.  Ahem.)  We talked SF, real life, bringing real life into fiction, what people don't want to deal with because it's too big in real life but can deal with in fiction, other cultures, pigs, tropical islands, garbage, sequels, and each other's work in general.  

It can kill a story to talk about it too much before it's all on the page.  In fact, for many short stories, it's a sure way to kill it.  But once it's on a page, feel free to analyze it from all sides, and if you can enlist good help, that's even better.  Just don't overwork it by going over it again and again and again unless you how to revise without smothering the fire and life from your writing.

Writers talk to each other and learn a lot about content, writing techniques, stuff that's come out that's similar to their work, and markets that open up, among other things.  I came away from my phone conversation with S inspired to write.  I wrote notes while we were on the phone.  There's still a chocolate wrapper upstairs that says chickens, pigs and ducks; trash collectors:  Mean Scars.  I wouldn't have included the details that sprang to my mind if we hadn't started talking about pigs.

Writers don't have to face years of writing in a vacuum unless they want to.  In fact, learning from other writers may help boost their writing skill and their careers far beyond where they would have gone writing on their own.

But there are some things to keep in mind.  

One of the most important is that you can't start writing to please your writing group or writing friends.  It's important to maintain your style and to be true to your muse.  If they 'get' it and are just as excited about your story as you are, great.  They may become your best allies, with late night emails telling you about a piece of art they found, or a song that reminded them of your story, or a news article that pertains to your work.  Even if they aren't into your story in particular, because they're your friends, they'll do their best to help you by pointing out writing technique books that have helped them, emailing you about workshops and writing retreats, or telling you about anthologies that have just opened up that your stories might fit into.  Your writing friends don't have to like your writing in order to be supportive.  If they aren't supportive of your writing, it might be best to keep the friendship on a non-writing-related basis.

Another factor to keep in mind is jealousy.  I have yet to meet a good writer who would undermine a friend's career out of jealousy.  I don't think that's a serious worry for most people unless they have crummy friends.  But if you have a big success, it might be an idea to think twice before talking about it on and on at every opportunity unless asked, and be sensitive before enlisting your writing friends for promotional stuff.  If they offer, great.  But bear in mind that they're working hard on their writing careers too, and much as they might try not to be jealous and feel horrible if they are jealous, it's harder not to be resentful when it feels like their successful friends are shoving a victory in their faces.  I've been fortunate in that my writer friends have been successful and haven't been self-absorbed or insensitive about it.  In fact they've been understated (and there's one I'd really like to hear more about her success from!) but it's a factor to be aware of, just in case.

Lastly, like talking about games that your friends aren't actually involved in, be careful about going on and on about your characters, plot, subplots, setting, etc.  Not only might it undermine your work-in-progress if you haven't finished it by making it less interesting through over-familiarity, but there's a good chance you'll bore your listeners out of their skulls.  If there's a healthy interchange of conversation, fine--better, if the other folks are doing most of the talking, it's fair to assume they're not bored at all and are eager to talk about your work.  But be sensitive to the fact that talking about your work takes time out of their day and time away from a chance for them to talk about their work too.  It's easy to get carried away.  Use good conversation skills and watch for signs of boredom or attempts to get a word in edgewise.

There are a number of writing communities that meet in person and on the internet.  Get involved!  It can hugely help your writing.  Just be sure you spend the bulk of your time at the keyboard, not flapping your gums.  A fave of mine:  Absolute Write Water Cooler.  Nanowrimo also has forums up for most of the year--they clear them out and start over every year starting October 1, coming up soon! 

Happy Writing everyone! 

1 comment:

The Moody Minstrel said...

Reading all this makes me think back on my own writing. My efforts, which were madly fire-fuelled for a while, suddenly hit a brick wall and faded mid-project some time ago. Maybe I just didn't like the direction I wound up writing in, and it soured me on it. Maybe I ended a sentence with a preposition, and my teacher's conscience started nagging me needlessly.

Would it be worth it to pick it up again?