Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Starting again

Thank you for dropping in.

I kept this blog for two years or so with the intention of recording all the ups and downs of being a writer.

I began writing fiction in late 2003, seriously, and have had many nice things happen and also many not so nice things. I wanted to share those with other writers who may drop by, especially new writers.

All too often, established writers just do not give the whole story when you ask or read about them. Anyone would think that these people woke up one day able to write prize-winning novels, prize-winning short fiction.

There is a great reluctance to share real experience and advice, I have found. Almost as though if you do expose the fact that you had to learn, that you had /have great self-doubt, that you have had rejections as well as acceptances, failures as well as successes, that you will somehow lose out.

Maybe you would lose out. Maybe marketing machines do not want you to admit that you have had strings of failures on the road to something better. Maybe publishers would not take you on if you seemed to be anything other then perfect.

But I have to believe that in the end, if you write as well as you possibly can, learn as much as you can and add a spark of complete originality, your words will be read.

Of course, many many writers are happy to write ‘for the market’, writing entertaining works that earn them a lot of dosh. This is fine, … for them. It is not what gives me pleasure, and not what I want to do. I have always been honest about that. To me, marrying craft with spark is vital. I do not want to write like anyone else.

Ther are ‘bear traps’ out there, and it is so easy to fall into them. Whether it makes one popular or not, I think it’s necessary for writers who find out about less than desirable practices in the writing world to warn others. Competitions that are not what they seem. Publications that are… empty.

Keeping a public document does open you and your words to scrutiny… otherwise why do it. It was lovely to engage in debate with other writers when they dropped by and left messages. One particularly good debate centred round ‘what is good writing’… a fascinating exchange that seemed to go on for ages between writers who saw ‘good spelling and grammar’ as ‘good writing’ and me, who saw that as a given, and good writing being something crafted on top. Who is to say who was right? Both sides backed up their arguments, and both sides I think enjoyed the cut n thrust.

Sometimes, I posted on subjects that were somewhat emotive. And made my own views known.

Examples of these are as follows (heavily précised)

1) Writing competitions. That there are some that are not worth entering because they mean diddly squat on a CV. You may as well run your own competition, enter it and award yourself the prizes. I advised writers to research, to find out who is judging, and whether that person’s endorsement of your work would mean something. I said that I no longer mentioned some of the little comps I had entered on my CV because they were meaningless, although at the time it was nice to call oneself a prize-winning writer. And that there are so many prize-winners now in the world of short fiction that the words are slowly coming to mean very little. I asked editors and other writers to ask ‘what competition’, and ‘who was judging’ if someone calls themselves a prize-winning writer.

2) Time. That how long it takes to write something does not matter at all. Something wonderful might appear in ten minutes. Other times it might take two years to get something ‘right’ (whatever that means).

Both the above had extraordinary responses, not from people who wanted to debate seriously, but people who came over as just fairly mindless. It is odd… they never posted as themselves, but seemed to have created blogging personas just to come in and twitter. Apparently I am arrogant, for telling things as they are.

One can only assume that I was touching a nerve. Good. The writing world can be so up itself, that maybe they needed it.

But to reiterate:

1) I am grateful for all affirmation of my writing. I love it when something I have done touches someone. But I am honest enough to admit that this pleasure is sometimes fleeting. It means far more to get affirmation from a tough editor, writer or final judge who is a good writer than from a well meaning unpublished or inexperienced judge.
2) It is possible, when on song, to write well first draft. Doesn’t happen often, and now that I’m writing a novel, it becomes a distant memory. But short pieces can be born almost perfect IF IF the writer has studied, learned their craft over time and is able to switch out and write free.

One anonymous comment recently said I was arrogant, that any successes I had were luck, and that she hoped my luck would run out soon. (Nice!)

She also said this: that literary competition judges might find out that I had said the above. That if my work had been selected for a place, they might Google my name, see that I said often unflattering things about the plethora of meaningless comps that were taking aspiring writers’ money and hearts… and that they would forthwith say:

“Oh. Vanessa G isn’t very kind to Little Burblington on Twiddle Terribly Important Literary Competition, (finally judged by some unpublished doggerel writer)… let’s delete her writing, and award the prizes to a writer who is more diplomatic.”

Let us hope that whoever this person is, that she does not judge any meaningful competitions. Because if she does, it is NOT the standard of your writing she will be interested in but how nice you are to her.

THAT is the appalling thing here.

Ach, I got angry, depressed, and deleted the whole blog. Two years worth. That was mindless, and stupid. I should have had the courage of my convictions.

When I can be arsed, I will write here again.

Any topics that spring to mind, let me know.

Meanwhile, check out my writing mate Tania Hershman’s blog for a near scam that caught her, and she is no newbie…



TitaniaWrites said...

V -I am so glad you are blogging again! Lovely to have you back, with your wise words and your insights and experiences of the real life of a writer. I hope the less generous elements in the blogsphere reign themselves in this time!

Vanessa G said...

Thanks T,

Actually, I am adopting 'Mimi' as my mascot.

Whoever it was, it is someone who clearly doesnt tell the truth about the writing world, and pretends it is all gilt and gingerbread, when it is actually hard slog.

It is also somene who doesnt seem to like differentiating between scams or near scams and great competitions, which is a pity.

It is certainy someone who doesnt see that there is a necessary progression to learning to write well.

The way I chose to do it, little acceptances and little pats on the back come first, then harder and harder ones, until at some point I was truthful enough to acknowledge that the little 'successes' were fine at the time but at some point you leave them behind.

Or maybe Mimi does list everything? It's always possible.

Mimi... Booker winner.
Bio: Eleven Plus. School English Prize for an essay on "How I will help new writers when I am a proper writer..."...etc