Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yeah...I got nothin'

This weekly blogging on writing an original work when I'm not yet actually writing the original work is hard. However, I have absorbed two lessons this week, writing-wise.

I've been tapped this week, mentally and emotionally. Work has grabbed my head and twisted me into the ground. I haven't even had the opportunity to work on my SPN fanfic. However, I did post chapter one of said fic and thus far people seem pleased. I'm always braced for the flame, but am filled with relief when it rarely comes.

I did have one review spin me a bit -- not for On the Surface, but for Heroes for Ghosts, a story I finished over six months ago. Or maybe longer. Time tends to fold on me at times. The story won a fanfic award on LiveJournal, and due to a spoiler that leaked my way after a convention in San Francisco about a possible upcoming time-travel western episode, I've heard some people speak up about it again.

The reviewer started out by saying she (I'm assuming she, I really don't know for sure) liked the story, then segued into a bit of a mocking tone about the convenience of time travel that just "works out" and then said she had to "get something off her chest" and proceeded to bash my depiction of the 19th century. The 'back in time' part of the story took place in 1870.

Now, I will say that I did research to make sure what guns could be used, what medicine would be available, if there would be a town where I placed my make-believe town, that sort of thing. I purposely set it soon after the Civil War and I purposely set it in Texas. However, this reviewer thought the language and social class depiction was (as she put it) "hella" wrong. She brought up several things that apparently took her out of the "realism" (*cough*) of the story.

I haven't replied to her yet. I needed to shake off the sting of the 'tone' her review wrought. I had to remind myself that it, like any positive review, is just an opinion. And I had to also remind myself that I knowingly went into this story basing things like language and social class depiction on things I'd seen in Hollywood westerns or read in Zane Grey stories. So...maybe she has a point. Maybe it is "hella" wrong. Not sure how she would know; I'm assuming she, too, was born in the 20th century. And based on what I read of her profile, I highly doubt she's a 19th century opinion.

The thing is, I did the research I needed to do to tell the fictional story I wanted to tell, and it worked for most who read it. It really does need to be okay with me if it doesn't work for everyone. Because my style won't work for everyone. If I'm going to do this for real, I have to settle myself with the fact that I can't be liked all the time and that sometimes people are going to tell me about it. Sure it'll hurt because I'm sensitive like that and I really take to heart what people say about my writing -- because I put so much of myself into it. But it's life.

Also...I have to remember to think about where the person who offers such opinions is coming from. This particular reviewer does write -- mainly (at least on fanfic) Japanese Anime stories as far as I could tell. None of them over 2K words, and none of the more than one chapter. Heroes for Ghosts is nearly 120K words and is 10 chapters long, and is one of many stories of similar length. It takes some work to conceive of and bring to life a story of that length. Not to say anything one way or another about her stories (which I haven't read) or any other short stories. Just that...I didn't go into this story lightly.

Second lesson came from reading the novel The Passage; a vampire apacolypse story the magnitude of The Stand, this story became more of a mission than something I enjoyed. The author had a point and a path, but he introduced a plethora of characters and told us intimate details about these characters and got us involved with these characters...and then they were killed off never to be heard from again -- and that was just in the first 1/4 of the book!

I have several characters in Gone, and what reading The Passage showed me is that if you want to keep your reader's attention, make each one pivotal to the overall arc of your plot or you'll frustrate the reader.

Either that...or make sure vampires are involved.


  1. Okay, You have to expect that ANYBODY who is well versed about something is going to be taken out of the story when someone gets their subject wrong. My husband the computer programmer can't STAND it when television takes liberties with what a computer can do. I get really feisty when stories about teachers break the law in what they can or cannot do without parent permission. History buffs are just going to have a hard time with getting the history right. When your original piece is published, all you have to remember when it comes to criticism is that ha ha you got paid for the book and they didn't :)

  2. I agree. If they are well-versed, they are going to hunt and peck for mistakes. I've heard real cops slam cops shows for the way they hold their guns to how they enter a room. If this reviewer had been any kind of a 19th century expert -- or even a 19th century 'buff' -- I might've taken more of a lesson than "you can't please all the people all the time."

    But even in the review they said that the 19th century wasn't their area of study, which made me snarl at my computer, "they why are you slamming me for, huh?"

    Ah, well. It is what it is. And you're totally right. If/when I get published, I can cash my check with a "you don't have to like it, they did" smile. *laugh*