I spend far too much time on the internet. Not (just) reading political stories which occasionally make me feel frustrated and/or helpless, either. No, I also spend far too much time in forums and writing groups and the like, which also occasionally make me feel frustrated and/or helpless. So I’d like to take a moment to address a question/problem that I see posed far too often. It goes something like this:
My son/daughter/partner/friend/mother/cat wants to be a writer, but they’re no good at it. How do I tell them that their writing is terrible and they should find a different career?
Now, I’ve heard this question in meat-space as well, at writing groups (or about members of writing groups), and in general conversation — often roughly 3.5 seconds after telling someone I’m a writer. I’ve also heard/read some absolutely atrocious answers. But I very rarely see the simple, two word answer that is most fitting:
Here’s the thing about writing: No one is good at it when they start out.
Let me tell you about the first novel I wrote. It was an epic fantasy saga, set in a world bereft of geographical, political, or social logic. The protagonist was a young man who was chosen by an ancient prophecy to save the world from poorly-defined evil through the tried-and-true method of finding a magical sword, gathering companions (one wizard, one thief with a heart of gold, one grizzled soldier, one paladin, and one token female who started out — obviously — disguised as a boy), and journeying across the incongruous landscape to take part in an epic battle. An epic battle that was fought and won in a single afternoon. Then, of course, the Chosen One got the girl, refused to take the treasure for himself, and was lauded by everyone in the world as a Hero of Epic Proportions.
I’m pretty sure I managed to shoehorn a few more tropes in there, but I’m too embarrassed to elaborate further.
That novel was named “Dark Forest”, and I was absolutely, positively convinced that it was going to be a bestseller to rival Tolkien.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. It now lives in an abandoned folder on my computer, a poignant reminder of how far I’ve come.
As if the hackneyed plot and character-free characters wasn’t bad enough, my actual prose was…. Well, let’s just say that if a sentence could possibly include an adverb, it had at least seven shoved in there. And no dialogue was complete unless it was shouted, whimpered, pleaded, murmured, or spat. Adverbily. [Read more…]