December 2017 Guest Post:
Welcome Travis Casey!
A writing dream, an editing nightmare
One of the greatest things about being a writer is the isolationism. There are no political games to be played with co-workers. No bosses are riding your back and telling you what to do. It's just you and your imaginary friends creating a world to live in for the upcoming months.
One of the worst things about being a writer is the isolationism. There are no games or jokes to share with colleagues. There is no one to spur you into action when don't feel like working, which results in going unpaid for weeks, months, perhaps years or maybe never. And some days your imaginary friends won't talk to you—then you're really screwed.
So where does a writer get his or her inspiration? It has to come from within, but we also need a little help from our friends. But where do we get like-minded friends when we're locked away in solitary confinement? If you're serious about your writing, you find them in an environment where they are working to improve their craft—not trying to Facebook their way to the top of the bestseller list.
The point is this: even though writing is a solitary effort, an author needs people from the outside world to help progress their work. Everything I write makes perfect sense to me because I know what I intend to convey, but it doesn't always translate to an outsider logically. I need feedback long before it gets into the public domain. And there is a way to get it before spending several hundred or even thousands of dollars on a professional editor.
I wrote my first book in 2010-11. I sent it to twenty-one agents, and over the course of time, I received nineteen rejections—two no-shows. I didn't want to give up or self-publish at that stage so I decided to polish it and try again. I went in search of an online writer's group and found critiquecircle.com I expected hearty slaps on the back for brilliant writing and waited for the other writers on the site to tell me my commas were in the wrong place and that's why I suffered rejections. Perhaps I dangled a few participles or split my infinitives—you know, all the boring stuff. And after I restructured my grammar and punctuation, agents would beg me to sign a three-book deal. As they say in Spain, "El wrongo!"
What I got was a slap into reality. It was brutal, but I learned. I learned how to show, not tell. I was educated to the fact that filtering what's happening through the character weakens the action. I was taught how and when to use action beats instead of relying on dialogue tags. I learned so much I felt guilty learning all this treasured information on a free site.
Not only did I receive invaluable lessons about how to write more effectively, but I also made friends. Real writing friends who understand what it's like to stare at a blank screen waiting for that magical line to be spoken by a fake person. I still use Critique Circle from time to time, but I've developed friendships with people who understand my writing and style and don't try to change everything to suit their own personal tastes—which does sometimes happen with complete strangers. I built relationships.
And with that, I now have a 'go to' people. One of my friends is a lawyer. I ask her legal questions from time to time about the plausibility of some courtroom situations and such. Another friend is a bleeding heart liberal and totally in tune with political correctness—which I am neither of those. She knows I sometimes write on the edge of acceptability, and she tells me when it crosses a line, but she gives me a pretty high threshold. As a writer herself, she understands I need edginess to cultivate tension, but she can also see when it may be seen as gratuitous for the sake of a misspent laugh.
D. K. is another friend I count on. We met on Critique Circle and have a great writer relationship. If I write a query letter to send to an agent for my latest book, the first place it goes is to D. K. She gives me honest feedback and tells me what's lacking. But she also compliments what she likes, which gives me encouragement. A sticky plot point? I ask D. K. And my screen is always open for her as well. Having that second opinion before sending it to the sharks is priceless—for confidence alone if nothing else.
Having writing friends you can count on is important. We can get the cheerleaders from family members. Pats on the back are widely available from people who don't know what they're looking at but are impressed by the fact that you've been able to string 70,000+ words together in a coherent fashion. But now and then a writer needs someone to tell them, "This actually sucks," and then be able and willing to tell you why it sucks so you can fix it.
I write alone, but when I edit, I step out of my solitary confinement and get a little help from my friends.
Like Travis on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TravisCaseyAuthor/
Check his history on his website http://www.traviscasey.com/
Buy his books at https://www.amazon.com/Travis-Casey
Travis, thank you for being my guest!