28 April 2009

Every Dr. Who is Different

Every year, the character undergoes a metamorphasis and another actor gets to bring their own quirks to the role. And I think there's a lesson in that.

There's a framework around the character Dr. Who. Let's call that the craft of writing. And then there's the person playing the part. Let's call that the writer.

Like Dr. Who actors, as a writer there are things to that only YOU can bring to the writing table. It sounds simple enough, but I think in the midst of what I call Writer's Boot Camp--you know, when all the "rules" start slapping you in the face--it's easy to lose sight of the fact that no one can write about something exactly the way you can.

Do follow the basic tenants of your craft. But DON'T forget that most important bit of every story--your particular slant. No one else can own that.

See if this sounds familiar. Early on my road to publication, I wrote some weird stories. They weren't very good. Creative, yes, but craft-wise they sucked. Then I stumbled into boot camp (AKA my critique group) and realized I needed to hone my skills. So I did, and I got pretty fair at my craft. But, I let learning craft intimidate me to the point of letting the market, the readership, and my own ideas intimidate my creative process. Craft became reins rather than a framework.

I wrote some picture-perfect stories that didn't have anything to do with me and what I wanted to say, and everything to do with craft and what I thought other people wanted to hear me say, and I didn't sell them, and I didn't have fun, and one day I decided Screw it, I'm going to write what I want to write. Even if it's bad and weird and no one likes it.

So I wrote a little piece about a homosexual shape-changer couple who preyed on humans for food. The antagonist decided to eradicate their kind for the betterment of the world. The protag, though he felt a load of guilt over it, actually liked being what he was. He began to subtly undermine his lover. It was twisty and ironic and weird. I finished it and even I thought it was weird. I knew it was never going to sell.

But sending things out is what writers do. I sent it out.

The fifth market that looked at it bought it. Since, I've found that the stories that most reflect me and my world view are the easiest for me to sell. My latest story is an ugly little piece about ugly, broken, little people. A couple of betas who read it turned up their lips and asked me flat out Where do you ever get your ideas? alongside the unspoken Why would you write that?

I hold that if you don't hear those questions at least a couple of times a year then maybe you're not quite tapped into your own writer's psyche. First lesson, grasshopper: not everyone will be comfortable with what you write.

Well. That ugly little story about ugly little people sold to the first market I sent it to.

Never, never be afraid to let you shine through your writing.


fairyhedgehog said...

I really needed to hear that.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

you go, FHH!! :)

lesleylsmith said...

Editor Betsy, I hope we haven't pummeled/garroted your muse in any way. :( I also hope we haven't injured the muses of any of our authors or potential authors. Authors, send us your "uncomfortable" stories! :)

Betsy Dornbusch said...

It was all my own doing. I think it's a part of the learning process, the way Boot Camp beats some of the individuality of soldiers out of them and reforms them into something new and hopefully better. :)