It’s a Bit Surprising I’m Still Thinking Like This

I write. A lot. Problem is, a good chunk of it — three quarters, or more, I would venture to say — is total crap. Well, not total, but it certainly isn’t great. In fact, most of it isn’t even good. Nevertheless, I still write. A lot.

If you’ve been reading for a while you know that my posting frequency has diminished from a high of five (and sometimes more) posts per week to a paltry weekly posting. The reason for this is multi-fold, but it really boils down to a few big reasons:

  1. I’m looking for better quality. See, while I like writing and posting stories here, I’ve come to realize that in order for me to really be able to show the site off to others (potential clients and advertisers, for example) as something more than the basic ramblings of a self absorbed, pale faced fat man behind a keyboard, I have to do little things like proof read. Mind you, for the stuff I post here the first draft is usually the near-final: it’s not often I read through a post and reorganize thoughts, eliminate superfluous words, or look to create a better flow for the story. Still, I take care to re-read, at least once, what I have written so as to ensure that what comes out doesn’t make me sound like an ignorant jackass.

    But that’s one of the things that have recently started to change. I’ve actually started the habit of writing something, saving it, and reading it later. I’ve come to the frightening realization that most of my first drafts are, while not utter crap, sadly amateur at best. In short, one of the reasons for the lack of frequent updates is the direct result of my search for better quality.

  2. Often, I feel like interacting with others, so I post on other sites, like 9Rules, Pownce, and other social services. (The results of that can be seen on the sidebar, in the “Random Thoughts” section.) I guess I’ve never been self involved enough to hold a one-way conversation with the ether, especially without allowing it the courtesy of an answer, which is why I leave comments on. Lucky for me, this feature is finally getting used on a fairly regular basis by about three or four people, and a few others somewhat sparingly. Still, sometimes, more often than not, it feels like a one way conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here begging for comments: the fact is that many of my posts just don’t lend themselves to commentary. Also, there are few blogs that really get a lot of comments. Nevertheless, I appreciate the readership all the same. (On the bright side, my AdSense numbers aren’t all that bad, but frankly I’ll take a good conversation over a penny from ads any day.)
  3. I’m spreading my writer’s wings. Or fingers. Or… whatever. With my foray into the world of literary fiction, I’m starting to make it a point to write stuff that I intend to either sell or give away as advertisement. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of what I write — namely, a lot of the short stories — don’t make their way here, since a clause for publication is usually that these stories not be published anywhere else. Of course, that’s had me thinking about using this site as a place where I put my stuff I either can’t sell or don’t consider marketable, but doesn’t that then defeat the purpose of #1? True, it probably doesn’t, and I’m probably just being a chicken about posting fiction. But the fact remains that I’m not all that comfortable with it.

So that’s the short of it: looking for higher quality, lower stuff quality going somewhere else, and looking to write in other places.

You know, considering I’ve been writing professionally since around 2000, it’s a bit surprising I’m still thinking like this. Then again, maybe this is all part of the continual improvement cycle. Or maybe it just has to do with my life’s focus changing from what I had to do to what I’m supposed to do.

10 thoughts on “It’s a Bit Surprising I’m Still Thinking Like This

  1. The realization that editing is more than checking for typos also struck me hard. It’s a really difficult thing to make sure that what you’re writing says what you want to say the way you want it said. But I’ve also found that the better edited something I write is, the more comments it’s likely to get. Maybe it’s just a coincidence though. And good luck getting your stuff published. That’s something I’ve never tried.

  2. You know, it’s a funny thing: I worked as an editor for a number of years, and while doing that I would occasionally restructure part of a story — usually a paragraph or two — in order to make it flow better. However, these generally weren’t my stories, but those of others.

    It wasn’t until recently that I realized the importance of this on my own work. I was reading an interview with Gene Wolfe and he talks about some writers wanting to write stuff like Neil Gaiman, without realizing that what they see is usually the fourth or fifth draft. Even with his own stuff, Wolfe doesn’t let it see the light of day until he’s revised it 15 times, ensuring that every word there is the word he wants there, in the order he wants it. Talk about wanting to get it right!

    Of course, if I could ever be nearly as good as Gaiman or Wolfe, even after 15+ drafts, then I will have surpassed even my own wildest dreams.

    Good luck with your own stuff, and if you ever need a proof reader, don’t hesitate to ask 😉 Worst I’ll say is that I don’t have the time.

  3. “I’ve come to realize that in order for me to really be able to show the site off to others (potential clients and advertisers, for example) as something more than the basic ramblings of a self absorbed, pale faced fat man behind a keyboard, I have to do little things like proof read.”

    Been considering the same regarding my stuff. Especially now when school’s diablogical plan to submerge me with homework is in full effect; it leaves me thinking that I should rather slow down the posting frequency and increase the post quality.

  4. @hthth: The challenge there is ensuring that you’re still writing enough. The trap I’ve found myself in before is that in my pursuit of quality, my quantity suffers, without any obvious returns in quality. In short, I look to publish less because I intend to take more care, and in the process I write less. Paradoxically, the only way to learn how to write well is to just keep writing, and when you’re done, write some more.

  5. It’s important to evaluate what we’re doing time to time and decide if it’s meeting our ultimate goals, and it’s natural for those goals to evolve and change, as you say.

    You also say, “You know, considering I’ve been writing professionally since around 2000, it’s a bit surprising I’m still thinking like this.” But if a professional writer doesn’t think that way, from time to time, he’ll go stagnant.

    Keep up the good work, and while you may not want to post your fiction pieces, what would be wrong with an excerpt now and then?

  6. With me, I feel as if both have decreased, frequency and quality. But I know what you mean though. I’d like for all my posts to be well-rounded, finished entries that someone can find in the archives and go: oh, now this was useful/interesting/wonderful to read. That’s hard. Most of the time it’s just pale-faced fatty ramblings too.

    As for commenting, I’m under the impression there is a slump in that. I blame Twitter and Pownce and Jaiku for it. People are too busy sending their stuff into the ether and forget how to comment. Also, comments used to be a form of greeting. How are you doing, good to hear from you again. Now with these multi-chat apps on all day, we no longer feel the need for that.

    So I thought I’d just comment here.

  7. I’ve slowed way, way down in my posting over the last six months — partly because I’ve been writing a lot of fiction and partly because I felt like blogging had become a little stale, so I know where you are coming from here. I like being back writing the blog more frequently, which is to say maybe once or twice a week , up from once or twice a month– it’s a great warm up for my other writing, a good place to try out ideas I’m interested in finding a home for in fiction. I also like the feeling of connecting with people I’ve come to think of as my friends.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts about whether daily posting is just too much — I’d be happy reading someone I really like just once or twice a week (the way you read a columnist you like), particularly when that blogger writes good, interesting, substantive (edited!) posts. Other people, who write short aphoristic daily posts, I’d still read daily — they’d be more like reading Peanuts or Doonesbury daily. (With a really good Sunday post.)

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’re going full steam on the fiction and I’m with the poster upthread who suggested you post excerpts of your fiction, particularly whey they’re early drafts you’d like to get out there for some feedback. (But that is indeed what a good writer’s group is for, and I’m looking forward to hearing how your Ft. Lauderdale group goes.) xoxo, BL

  8. @Terry: You know, reading your reply really got me thinking, which is why it’s taken me so long to answer. (Also, I blame my dog.) You’re right: if a professional writer doesn’t think this way once in a while, the result is stagnancy. However, I suppose where I was getting at when I wrote this — and it was more a personal note than anything I explicitly wanted to improve — was that I’m was surprised that I was still thinking about whether I could/should sell something. But then, navigating into new waters still means these are new waters, no matter how long you’ve been navigating in different seas.

    And yes, I’ll start putting some of my fiction stuff here. Not what I intend to sell, but a few of my writing exercises, and after I sell something, if I have permission to put it online here I will. (First publication rights seem to be somewhat important, and for good reason. I just like the fact that most serious publications don’t demand perpetual, exclusive rights.)

    Finally, thank you for the complement. I’m very happy to hear you like what you read.

    @Nils: Your comments are always welcome. And you’re absolutely right, apps like Twitter, Pownce, and even 9R notes — as much as I love hanging out there — HAVE slowed my responding to other sites (including yours, which is sad because your stuff’s great), which is a very, very bad trend. That’s sort of why I’ve stopped writing as much there, and have slowly moved back to (a) blogging more, and (b) commenting on other blogs more. Sadly, like 99% of the reading public, my natural tendency is to be the silent spectator. Weird.

    @BlogLily: Speaking of not hearing from someone in a while! It’s been way too long. As for your question… you know, I think that deserves it’s own post. Give me a couple of days on that. Since I was re-categorized as a Writing blog on 9R, I suppose the content is more than fitting.

    As for the fiction, the problem with putting stuff up here, even if it IS for draft purposes, if I want to sell it I have to take it down. NOT something I’d want to do. I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a writer’s group blog using a password protected WordPress page. That way the group wouldn’t get too big (30 is the most that can join for free, IIRC) and it certainly wouldn’t be “public”, since it couldn’t be indexed by a search engine. I will, however, start putting up the writing exercises from the meetings, though I may actually start doing some editing on those.

    @All: by the way, I’m working on a short story now which I’ll likely be posting here within the week. It’s about 5000 words, and it’s a prequel to the Instant Cowboy: Just Add Water story. The working title is “Instant Cowboy: Fat Daisy”.

  9. Gnorb, I’ve responded and given feedback to your Instant Cowboy short story in 9rules, and I must admit I’m looking forward to the prequel. (You really DID kill him off, didn’t you?)

    And, urm, embarrassed to ask here, but, can you tell me what you think of this short story of mine? Posted it up to the 9rules writing section too for criticism. So far no bites.

  10. Hey, Eli:

    First, don’t ever be embarrassed to ask my opinion, on 9R or on this blog. Worst think that could happen is that I either say “can’t — no time”, or I’m snarky. Of course, even when I’m snarky I’ll try to be helpful. I read through your story and sent some suggestions. Hope they’re useful. Overall, I liked the story. I thought it was enjoyable, and it had a great ending. In fact, the story had me laughing out loud at various points, and I found myself perpetually interested in what was going to happen next.

    As for Monkey — I’m not saying either way. But the prequel is… a different kind of story. It’s a bit more serious. And, believe it or not, Monkey’s not in it. He’ll likely be in a future story, though. Very likely. I should be done with the sequel by the end of this weekend.

    (FYI: I would have put this reply on your blog, but I seem to be having problems signing on to MT.)

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