You know what's really, really nice? Thinking to yourself that this week your goal will be to finish Chapter Four of your WiP, and then when you open up your working document and write the last couple of lines of the scene you'd left unfinished the previous week, you look at your page count and realize that... hey, I just finished Chapter Four!

So this week my goal is to make good progress into Chapter Five, instead.

Anyway, I said yesterday that I was going to talk about my attitude to writing, which I described as "literary busker". As you'll know if you followed the link from last night's post, I see myself as standing on an imaginary street corner, strumming (or in this case, typing) away in the hope that somebody, somewhere, will like what I'm doing and toss me a few coins of feedback.

Of course, now that I'm working on original fiction, I naturally look forward to receiving a few coins of the literal sort as well. But I didn't get into writing for the money (nobody in their right mind does), and dreaming about advances and royalties isn't what motivates me to keep writing, either.

No, it's all about the readership -- which is what has led me to the realization of what I'm finding most difficult about profic after several years of fandom. It's not the challenge of creating my own worlds and characters, because I'd already written two original novels before I got seriously involved with fanfic.

It's the lack of an immediate audience.

Let me explain... )

My experience in fandom -- where I went through a similar process of writing a chapter every week or so, sending it to my beta-readers for comment, and making revisions accordingly before starting on the next chapter -- served to cement my feelings about the value of feedback to my personal creative process. I am a storyteller, and a storyteller needs an audience. I want to know that someone is listening to the tale I want to tell, and that they're interested in hearing more about that world and those characters even if the story isn't perfect. I want to see their reactions, good and bad and indifferent, so I have an idea whether the direction I'm going is a good one or whether I should stop and retrace my steps. Of course, I know that the story is ultimately mine and not theirs, and that not all of my readers are going to like everything I write. But if there seems to be widespread agreement that a certain element or character either works or doesn't -- yes, that is going to affect me, and it should.

I am not recommending this approach generally, mind, and here's why... )

In my case, however, I write coherent first drafts, and I also know a fair number of insightful folk whom I can trust to tell me if a story is really working, or not working, or just Not Their Kind of Thing. So I'm thinking that perhaps I should put out an APB and see if I can enlist a small but dedicated audience (say, three to five people) who would be interested in reading Touching Indigo chapter by chapter as it's written, and letting me know what they think.

This wouldn't have to be a major commitment, either. All it would take is being willing to read the chapter more or less promptly when it arrives, and say something about it afterward. The response could be anything from an in-depth critique with suggestions for improvement to a simple "I'm hooked! Write more!", depending on the reader's inclinations and ability, but I would like to know that when I send out a chapter I can count on some kind of answer within the next few days, and that the people reading it are genuinely interested in the story and not disappointed that I'm not writing something completely different.

Any takers? ETA: I has peeps! Thanks to my new band of brave and possibly foolhardy volunteers.
Well, I have the first three chapters of Touching Indigo written -- finally, a proper partial to go with my synopsis. These chapters have already benefited from the critical eyes of [ profile] lizbee and [ profile] cesario, but I could use some more input, particularly from readers who have some experience or knowledge of:

a) criminal law, particularly in regard to psychiatric patients;
b) psychiatric counselling and therapy, particularly in the context of a hospital;
c) the effects of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants;
d) mental illnesses in general;
e) synaesthesia.

I've done a fair bit of research into all of the above, but I know without a doubt there will be things I've overlooked or simply didn't know enough to look up.

Anyway, if you don't mind reading three chapters of my original paranormal YA and giving me whatever thoughts, questions and criticisms that occur to you, I would be grateful. Though the down side to all this, aside from the work involved, is that you only get three chapters and then you will be stuck waiting for an indefinite period of time until I've written the rest! But if you like the book enough to want to continue, let me know and I will keep you in mind for future reference.

If you're interested, please comment on this post and let me know -- especially if you're an expert in one of the areas noted above. Comments will be screened for your privacy. Thanks!


Dec. 22nd, 2006 03:42 pm
rj_anderson: (Knife)
I made it!

KNIFE - The Hook

She didn't ask for pages, but she didn't stomp all over me with hobnailed boots, either. Now I just have to try and figure out how to incorporate a few more plot details into the hook so that the story's internal logic comes through. So... useful, yes.
...and I am SO DEAD. My hook is bland. The stakes aren't high enough. My sentences are all too long. There's no hint of an antagonist. Wah! *tears hair*

*takes deep breaths*

Of course, it would be sensible to ask why I am even bothering to do this, since I have two agents looking at the book already. But you see, I want to be prepared in case neither agent is interested in the project. If that should happen, I'll have exhausted all my personal contacts and referrals, and will have to start from scratch in the New Year, cold-querying agents who know nothing about me. And in that case I'll need to be ready with a well-written hook that can grab an agent's attention even before they've read a word of my actual prose.

After reading nearly 300 of the other Crapometer entries, I feel pretty certain that my hook for Knife needs work. I'm just not exactly sure where and how yet. But I guess I'm about to find out...

*meebles faintly*
Am I prescient or what? A mere 24 hours or so after my last post, say hello to the Nohari Window. Thanks to [ profile] infiniteviking for spotting the tactfully hidden link.

I have often said (yes, really) that one of my greatest fears is that I have some obnoxious character trait/flaw that I'm personally unaware of and that people are too polite to tell me. Well, now's your chance to speak up!

My Nohari Window

Use a pseudonym if you're worried I'll get huffy on you. Though really, the worst that could happen is that I drop you a line to inquire anxiously what I did/said that gave you that impression and how I might be able to avoid making the same mistake in future.* I have my share of flaws, but I am seldom violent or hostile.

*unfolds lawn chair, munches on a molasses cookie*

* Assuming it’s something I feel I ought to correct, that is. It might not be, because I’m just that arrogant (which is, sadly, not on the list. Though smug is, which I’m sure at least some of you will find useful).
And O, this essay by Tara LJC O'Shea on receiving and giving criticism is a fine, fine thing that ought to be read and cuddled and taken to heart by every writer and reader I know. Not that I have an opinion about this, or anything.

This is not to say I have always been the best at receiving criticism graciously, especially right off the bat. Criticism stings, especially when it comes from an angle you weren't expecting (or worse, were secretly dreading but hoping nobody would notice). It's hard not to bristle and be defensive when someone points out, however gently, that you've messed up somewhere. And I have sometimes been guilty of arguing with my critics, when I should have just said "Thanks for your comments," and moved on.

Of course, even criticism which is intelligently voiced and meant to be helpful isn't necessarily valid. Sometimes the critic has read carelessly and missed the point; sometimes the critic simply dislikes or is ignorant of the genre in which the story is written. Every criticism has to be weighed by the author in his or her own mind, and either used or discarded according to its perceived worth. But the point I think O'Shea makes most cogently is that criticism is necessary and important to every author's development, and that if we are unwilling to hear anything but praise or the very gentlest suggestions for improvement, we are never going to be authors in any meaningful sense of the word at all.

My primary reason for not liking criticism -- I confess -- is that I am lazy. I don't like having to revise things that I've revised umpty times already. It's frustrating enough when I realize on my own that a chapter or a story I thought was finished still needs work; it's twice as frustrating when somebody else points out a flaw or inconsistency or weakness I hadn't noticed and I realize that it needs to be changed too. But laziness is my problem, not the critic's, and I haven't any right to take my frustration out on someone else who is simply pointing out the truth. Particularly if I asked for their honest opinion, and they did me the courtesy of taking me at my word.

And that's the last point I'd like to make. If you don't really want criticism, or if you only want a certain select kind of criticism, don't ask people to give you their honest opinion. If you don't really trust a particular person's judgment or think they have a bias that would make them unfit to judge a certain story, don't ask them to be your beta-reader on that story. But if you have asked for honest opinions and you have asked a certain person to tell you what they think, don't be surprised if some of the comments aren't phrased exactly the way you'd like or if they tell you things you're not particularly happy to hear.

If you privately decide that the critic is an idiot or a bigot and their criticism isn't worth squat, that's your business. But it's pretty unfair to tell them to their face that they're an idiot or a bigot and their criticism isn't worth squat after you asked for their opinion and they gave you what you asked for. As a beta-reader I've been stung by this kind of response a few times now, in spite of making every effort to be tactful in my criticism and to give the author a fair chance, and it really makes me not want to read or comment on other people's work at all.

Rant over.
I received a piece of feedback this morning beginning with the words: I don't read [this particular subgenre] in fanfiction, I really don't, and then going on to repeat the same sentiment in a different way, before adding some words of slightly bemused, I-still-can't-believe-I-enjoyed-this praise.

Now, I know that some fanfic authors resent this type of approach. I've seen people become quite offended and indignant about feedback of this nature, because what they see in the feedback isn't so much your story is outstandingly good as your subgenre sucks. And if you're already feeling that your subgenre is maligned and misunderstood, you're not going to like the reminder that a lot of people who might otherwise have enjoyed your stories and given you great feedback will never even read them, because they are Of That Kind.

Well, I've written in a number of not-so-well-regarded subgenres. And yeah, it does get on my nerves at times that some people just dismiss my work out of prejudice, sight unseen, because of the ship or the presence of an OC or the fact that I'm archived on a site they hate or whatever. I also feel badly for other authors in the same subgenre whose work is superb, not at all cliched, and deserves wider attention.

Still, when I get a piece of feedback that says I don't usually like X at all, but..., I really can't take it as an insult. Quite the opposite, in fact -- I consider it a triumph.

Because if one person who doesn't normally read X got so far as to at least try my fic, and if they actually enjoyed it (however much that surprised them), then not only does that tell me my fic appeals to a wider and more critical audience than I'd feared, but there's always the chance that this person will be a little more open to giving other fics of the same kind a chance next time around, and perhaps even encourage their friends to do likewise.

In any case, I have to ask myself, what point is the feedbacker really trying to make? Do they mean their remarks to be in any way insulting or belittling of my tastes or my abilities as a writer? As far as I can see, that's not their intention at all -- in fact they're trying to offer what is, in their view, a particularly high compliment. I had some strong prejudices against this subgenre, but I enjoyed your writing so much that I forgot those prejudices. I wish I knew of more stories like yours. That sure doesn't sound like an insult to me.

Anyway, I don't know if the person who sent that particular bit of feedback is on my flist or not, but if you are, thank you again, very much indeed. As I said in e-mail, I'm touched and I'm honoured.
In other words, I haven't seen "Reunion" yet because I was so totally exhausted last night that I just fell into bed around 8 p.m., so would all the Alias fans on my Friends list please use cut tags when talking about it until this evening? Thank you.

In other news, gacked from [ profile] naomichana:

Which Heroine of Victorian Fiction Are You? )

I may have to read these books now.

And finally, thanks to my all too brief participation in the Mod Squad chat last night (yes, I am a Zendom mod, albeit an embarrassingly useless one), I was able to witness the creation of a beautiful new thing: [ profile] inflammable, where you can share the weird and wacky reviews your fics receive from readers who, for one reason or another, Just Don't Get It. Have fun!
The review of the The Potions Master's Apprentice is back up at [ profile] lawful_fic. My comments on the revised version are here.
Further to my recent post on the subject, the original [ profile] lawful_fic review of The Potions Master's Apprentice has been taken down. The author is reworking the review and plans to post a revised version on Wednesday.

I don't expect she will change her mind about disliking the fic, nor do I even think she should; but it looks as though she did think my complaint had some validity, and plans to make her criticisms more reasoned and careful on the second go-round. Which is good, and all I really ask for.

(Well, that and maybe one really witty piece of snark that I can giggle over, like the bit in the MarySues review about Maud's sense of self-righteousness having its own gravitational pull. That was funny.)

It is no doubt revelatory of my character, however, that when I found the author had taken down the review I felt obscurely guilty for complaining about it.
This is an interesting review of my HP fic(s). [ profile] lizbee has already made a couple of comments on one remark she felt was misleading; but it was another part of the review that particularly baffled me.

MORE... )

I don't mind having my work reviewed critically. Some of my favorite reviewers have been quite direct in pointing out flaws, as well as being honest about things they personally don't like to see in stories (Oi! for instance, never gave a fig for Snape and didn't particularly warm to Maud either, and I still loved her reviews). I can even think of some pretty severe criticisms myself (for the record, those include wobbly characterization of Maud in the first story; a number of embarrassing continuity gaffes involving numbers, dates, and architectural layouts; a really cringe-worthy bit of dialogue in the first chapter of IWS; and too much schmoop in Snape's letters, among others).

But I do object to the reviewer misrepresenting the content of my fics and disparaging faults of which they are not in fact guilty. As [ profile] lizbee pointed out, that's not a valid form of criticism.
Obviously I think it is, or I wouldn't be online. But even so, I sometimes despair of ever attaining real understanding -- not necessarily agreement, but understanding -- through electronic communication.

More along these lines... )

Here endeth the lesson.


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