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Shorthand

Still no baby. The doctor did advise Lisa to take it easy this weekend, so she's currently chilling upstairs with her laptop and the tube, as cats come and go. Like they do.

* * *

And now I must rant. No, not rant: too strong. Complain, that's it. And now I must complain.

I've seen this post on writing linked to in several places from several different people, and I have to say, it doesn't have the electrifying effect on me that it seems to have had on everyone else. No, my reaction is just like this one, which is to say:

Where you hear a concrete idea, I hear "wah-wah-wah" of the grownups in a Peanuts cartoon.
Exactly. The words are in English and all strung together into a sentence, but it might as well have been "We need to improve our synergy." Que?

I was also quite disappointed to see that when clarifications were asked for, Charlie punted. An answer of

If something in your writing or writing habits isn't working, try something else; which you already do. That's all it boils down to.
isn't really an answer. It's avoidance.

It would have been just as effective to say something like, "When you write, your characters should be jumping up and down on the keys of your keyboard," or "It is important to find the heart of your story, but you should also consider the gallbladder." What's that mean? Well, if it's not speaking to you, don't worry about it.

I once got a rejection email from an editor that used a phrase common to rejection letters. It wasn't "didn't grab me," but it was something along those lines (I no longer have the email). I actually wrote him back, apologizing for doing so but asking him if he could explain what that really meant. To his credit, he did so. It's a fine phrase, but it's really a form of shorthand. That's what so much writing advice is: shorthand. "Write what you know," for example. But it needs to be explained, or it might be interpreted incorrectly: kiss that fantasy tale, that space opera, that 19th century gaslight tale away, and let's go write realistic stories about life in your town. No, that's not what it means. So explain it.

Writing advice like "Put more of you in your work" is also shorthand. But if you can't explain it, don't say it.

Grumble.

Caveats: I do not know Ms. Link nor Mr. Finlay, although I have read and enjoyed their fiction. I've also not been to any of them long term workshops. Perhaps this is where the translation keys are hidden.

Comments

I like the idea of searching for the gallbladder of your story.

For me, that post resonated on a level of not just writing the stories that come easily. In my case, that would be the goblin stuff, to pick one example. I know I can write those, and I feel safe doing 'em, because I know I'll end up with something competent.

Then there are the ones that scare me, because I don't know if I'm a good enough writer to pull it off. "Sister of the Hedge" was one of those. The princesses book I just finished was, to some extent.

So basically, I took it to mean "Push yourself beyond what you think you can do." Whether or not that's what they were actually saying? Who knows. My translation works for me, so that's what I'm taking.

Right, well, it either strikes a chord or it doesn't. If you look at Link's stuff and contrast it to the normal fare, you'll know what she's talking about. I'm frankly a little surprised Link became championed. She struck the right chords for someone.

And though I'm tickled that she made it and tickled that she encourages "the road less traveled," the road isn't that wide. We'll be getting faux travelers who are just pretending to be different who aren't, possibly hiding what they don't know.

This goes more for stories.

Novels, on the other hand, do require at least some stretching. Gibson made it big for doing something different. I agree with Jim on this issue.

Well, the gallbladder is important because it controls bile, the corrosive properties of which help in digesting the tale. So, no gallbladder and your story might end up with too much bile, which dissolve this metaphor.

I thank you both for providing your particular insights, which I think are pretty spot on as well. I'll admit, I was just really hoping to learn what phrases like "Put more of yourself in your work" mean, and I was bitterly annoyed that Charlie dodged it.