Assumptions

Photo Credit Used under a CC licence
Photo Credit Used under a CC licence

Question: What assumptions do people make about you because of your writing? Are any of them true?

Here is a list of assumptions people have made about me because of what I write:

1. I practice Wicca or some other form of ritual magic. Not true. I’m an atheist. I think magical thinking is interesting. I sometimes wish the world worked that way, that I could know my future from tea leaves and such. So I write about it instead. If it were true, I’d write about something else instead.

2. I condone violence as a solution. Not true. I’m not a pacifist, but I think violence should always be a last resort, and circumstances need to be extreme for violence to be necessary or justified. The fact some of my characters do not agree with me is what make it, y’know . . . fiction.

3. That I’m confused/troubled/ambivalent or otherwise messed up about my sexuality. One person even asked me if I thought of myself as a prude. Nope. My characters sometimes have issues in that part of life. I write it that way because I think those are interesting and complex problems to have. Good characters need to have problems, that’s what moves the story along.

On the Panopticon and Being Discussed by Strangers . . . or Be Careful What You Click On

I had a weird experience the other day. I was checking out the stats on my other (not-about-writing) blog. There was a noticeable uptick in the number of views.  In exploring the details of where the viewers were coming from, I noticed that quite a few came from the same source. I copied and pasted the source URL into my browser to see what was going on.

overheard

It was some kind of conversation forum where a bunch of peeps were discussing shoes, outfits, style, and the like. One person had posted a link to some pics of me for the other forum peeps to look at as an example of someone whose style was similar to her own. Her forum-buddies chimed in their various opinions. Apparently I was found lacking and the poster was deemed superior in every way.

That wasn’t the weird part– indeed, as the Interweebs goes, everyone was quite civil. Plus I’ve already been to the 8th grade, so I am aware that people put each other down, damn with faint praise, and act all judgy (I sometimes– to my continung chagrin– do so myself). Nevertheless it was weird to be discussed by people I didn’t know. It was kind of like being in the bathroom stall in a public washroom and overhearing people you don’t know talk about you. I also felt strange about being in the forum and reading what they wrote without them knowing I was there seeing their comments. Until this year I’ve stayed off social media, and avoided participating in blog comments sections and other such places, preferring to lurk and just check out what others say. I suppose entering the panopticon was inevitable, and so were the vague unsettled feelings that come with it.

It’s funny, I was totally prepared- when starting my blogs- for people to write and say mean, nasty, horrible, and unreasonable things. So far, no one has. But I didn’t expect to be unsettled by ‘overhearing’ discussions.

On giving feedback, part 1

sandwich-1

I was recently asked to give feedback on an unpublished manuscript of another emerging writer. I was told the MS was complete and ready to send out on queries.

It wasn’t.

I was mortfied because now I was faced with having to tell an emerging writer (a complete stranger, no less) exactly what was wrong with her draft.  It particularly troubled me because she sent it around with the idea that it is ready to go out to publishers with query letters. Think about it: that means she either can’t see what is wrong, or she didn’t actually read her work. Either way: not good, amirite?

I spent almost two hours writing comments in MS Word track changes  just on the summary and the first chapter. To do that for the complete MS with these sorts of problems goes way beyond doing someone the favour of beta-reading something that is query-ready. (I can read  an entire 250 page MS of light fiction in about two hours, and then write an overview with suggestions in about 30 minutes plus a little wool-gathering time).

I’m not even a particularly diligent proofreader (as anyone who reads my posts or my first drafts knows), so it’s not like I was spending that time inserting Oxford commas and debating the merits of colons vs. semi-colons or n-dashes vs. m-dashes with myself.

What that means is I had to write the second most difficult email of 2014 telling this person what was working (a short list) and what was not (a much longer one). I think I was as kind and supportive as a person can be. Bleh.

Just to share some of what I experienced, a quote follows. Note that this is not intended to mock or belittle this other writer. I think it’s more a cautionary anecdote about the importace of second (and third) drafts.

She shoved the last bite of the sandwich she had thrown together in her mouth and hurried from the kitchen.

*face palm*

I have a very cartoon-like image in my mind right now that involves a cantilevered, unhinging snake’s jaw and Dagwood sandwich fixings. Neat trick if you could do it; fewer dirty dishes.