I quit writing fiction in February.
Actually, I quit more than writing. I quit writing related MeWe groups, at least two Discord channels, and my favorite blog.
What could lead to all of that internal drama? What horrendous things alienated me not just from writing, but my strongest online community?
That one voice is what did it.
What voice is that? It is the voice you trust to give you the thing you need most at the time. At the time what I needed most was someone, preferably someone who’d been paid for their fiction, to give me feedback. Just so I am clear, I did not need them to give me praise. I needed an honest opinion from outside myself by someone who understood writing for publication.
A year ago one of the many published writers in those MeWe groups, Discord communities, and among the commenters on the blog said they would give me feedback so send them a story.
Despite a few requests of when, sending that story three more times and a newer one three time by February I’d gotten nothing but promises. I had gotten so desperate when I got my annual bonus from the day job I considered hiring beta readers.
Then, a discussion on the blog and Discord related not to writing, but the breaking of the Canadian Trucker’s convoy, brought all the hurt to the surface. Specifically, I pointed to it as the latest example of why the right might consider joining in defunding the police1. When it blew up I told everyone to forget my contact info, unsubscribed from everything, and actually put blocks on my computer for the blog.
I seriously considered cancelling my attendance at LibertyCon.
In the end I did attend the Con.
This past Monday I sent a short story into an anthology call. I started the story on the Thursday after LibertyCon. I had attended several writing panels, including the one on the economics of being an indie writer, angry. When the costs of getting a book into print came up I mentally added “and $500 for beta readers”. When people talked about learning the craft I mentally added “without any external feedback.”
Still, I came home and started the story. I hadn’t finished it and probably wouldn’t have, but for that one voice.
Between February and LibertyCon I eventually rejoined all those things I’d left except one Discords, which I rejoined in the past couple of week.
In the writing forum of one I brought up the various workshops offered by Kristine Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith and asked if anyone had any experience with them. People asked why. I said, “Because they have assignments where they will give you feedback. I want actual feedback from an author who makes money from their writing.”
As I said there were a lot of published writers in these places. One said, “You want feedback? Do you have any stories?”
I pointed her to No More Than 51 Bad Stories.
I figured I’d never hear anything about it.
Eight minutes later, she initiated a conversation about “Bronze Dagger”.
Quite a bit of discussion later she’d made a lot of points about what I was doing wrong. Her conclusion, though, was I needed more practice. I had interesting ideas. My execution needed work, with a few specific examples (and a “I could line-by-line it, but that would be work I’d have to charge for”).
So, I finished “It’s What You Remember” and sent it off. I’ve started two more stories, one that’ll have to go out for an anthology call by the 1st and the other the next of the up to 51 bad stories.
What’s the point of this tale? That one voice, in the mouth of one person, said things that weren’t even negative for a year, but were enough to sour me to abandon a friend group and writing for a period.
That one voice, in another person’s mouth, criticized as well as praised me. In doing so it helped pull me up on the top of a wall so I could see where I was, that I was making progress, and that I should keep going.
When you deal with something important to someone else, you can be that one voice. Choose your words carefully and follow-up through if you promise something.
- I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I’ve come to the concluding that “professional” policing has failed and become a mix of random tax collection via fines and political enforcement agency. I’d rather see a return to sheriffs with a handful of deputies and a formal system to call up a posse when more manpower is needed.