One of the problems with having had a few blogs over the years is that I often forget what I’ve written about on them, versus here. As someone that prefers to go against the grain of standard writing advice, I could’ve sworn I’d written on here about that classic piece of advice “Show don’t tell.”
I solemnly put my hand in the air and admit it without hesitation. Sometimes I tell. I’ll revisit exactly why I don’t agree with the advice in detail, but in short, it’s the reason I hate most writing advice: Many proponents of the maxim insist its an unalterable rule. It’s not.
The reason for this blog post goes back to the idea of telling the story, in the sense that these words we’re putting down aren’t meant for our eyes only.
That’s not to say that we’re writing it for an audience, market or demographic. That there’s a road of hurt and anguish. I write because I have a story that needs to be told, and in that sentence it says it all. I love the experience of planning it out, imagining what could happen, and to an extent, the hard work of writing it. Making the time to write makes it a more fulfilling process, but it’s not as much time as I really want it to be. What’s clear is that I’m not content with letting those ideas sit inside my head. I want to find out what happens, but I also want to be able to talk to others about the stories. I would love to be able to have length discussions about character motivations or speculation about what might have happened if a character had done something different. There’s also pieces of the story that I want others to read, because I think it’s worthwhile.
It took me a while to get to the stage where I was willing to share what I’d written, but it has to be done.
I saw a comment online recently where a person said they felt discouraged because their writing wasn’t as good as they thought it would be. Suggesting they edit or rewrite made them feel they’d lose something about what the story was meant to be, and that they’d already worked so hard to get it there. I disagreed completely with their reasoning, but it’s not my place to tell somebody they’re wrong (again, my approach to writing advice). I figured that while they might be opposed to tearing apart something without having a belief it would improve, it could be a case of them not seeing what was good about what they’d written – they were too close to it.
We do that. I write my way, and everybody else writes theirs. They express themselves with sentences that suit them, that come to them easily or otherwise, while I plod through my writing. Sometimes I’ll take extra care to craft my writing, and well, sometimes I just scrawl shit down. When I read it myself, I usually know which is which, so I can read it back and think “Meh, this is pretty crap.”
If you’re at a point where your current work is a source of fatigue and you’re sure it’s hideously bad, get someone else to look at it. You don’t need a full-blown critique until you’re happy with it, but tell them – I think there’s a problem with character X, or I’m not sure if situation Y is believable. If you can’t take the criticism, ask them to find what they like about it. You shouldn’t isolate yourself from the world, and you shouldn’t hold back on what you have accomplished. If it’s bad, it can be improved. If it’s not, it can still be improved. Love your writing.