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12 July 2010 @ 02:41 pm
This weekend in writing  
So this weekend, I met with some writers on this anthology we're doing. I had submitted my writing first, and being the longest submission so far, I had a lot of criticism to take. It will surprise no one that one of my problems was it was too wordy. Too much "world building" was the term they used, which I think was apt. "The story didn't really start until page three," was another. Both were fair comments. Then they proceeded to tell me where I needed to add things, which I thought was ironic (not meant in a mean way). Also kind of interesting was I presented my case and won a few rounds.

My last experience with a team of writers was pretty bad. I was with a writer's group that my friend Dave ran for a few years, gave it to me, and then after a year of herding cats, I gave it to a girl named Adrienne, who took it to a level that... frankly, I was impressed and humbled. The writer's group exploded, and published its own magazine at its height. Sadly, she left the group to take care of domestic issues she was having, and the whole thing fell apart without her leadership by 1993 or so.

Part of the reason it fell apart was due to three people whom I will not name, but in retrospect pretty much deserved the fate they received. I won't describe the whole story in great detail, but I will skip to the end when I was asked to leave. Those three people, who considered themselves the three Musketeers of proper and correct writing, didn't care for some of the other writers. One of them was me. After I read a comedy piece I had done about a space captain who was completely inept as he was overly confident (think Zap Brannigan), one of the three said that my peice was not "serious writing," and being a comedy, my first response was, "well, I certain HOPE not." I was taken aside by these three people after the meeting and given a stern "suggestion" that I leave the group. I was told that humor was not real writing, and my flighty style and shenanigans were doing nothing but distracting people who took writing seriously, and a detriment to the group. They had been tasked by Adrienne to ask me to leave. Pissed off and hurt, I said, "Uh... okay," and later added "jerks" when they were out of earshot. They also booted out a few other writers for writing "fluff fantasy" and other genres they didn't think were "mature." Years later, when I looked back on it, almost everyone they booted were writers that had already published, so I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

A year later, four things happened. Adrienne explained she most certainly did NOT ask them to say that, and they had told her I quit because I couldn't take criticism, and was suitably pissed off because "this explains so much!" I had also published my first book, and became the second writer from that group to do so. And another girl they also cast out started writing for TSR, and now writes some best selling sci-fi and fantasy novels. And then the writer's group folded, the magazine collapsed, and that was that.

Years later, at Worldcon in 1998, I was on a panel about local (DC/MD/VA) sci-fi groups, and represented FanTek. Among the groups at the panel, one of them was a Baltimore-based writer's group that was made of two other writer's groups. In a description of the group, they said, "one of the merging groups was from a group of people cast out from a former writing group." This led to audience discussion about the value of writing groups in general, and the general consensus was that most writers groups were poisonous, unhelpful, and full of political backstabbers who had fragile egos and sharp bitter commentary that undermined any useful support they could have provided. It was also brought up that almost no real successful writers in our genre ever mentioned they were part of any writing group, except perhaps that they were cast out or rejected from one. Whether this is true in all cases, I doubt, but it does seem to be the general pattern.

So I was understandably nervous to meet up with two almost perfect strangers, who were friends of a third, a girl and fast-becoming-friend I just got to meet when she married a friend of mine this year (although her and her brother are legacy fandom). And ninjacooter was there, of course, who discussed the details of the publishing deal under Soylent Publications. Some of us are also going to ConText in Ohio at the end of August to... schmooze? Damn, I gotta get some of my writing done.

I have some work to hash out on my short story. But I have also been working like mad to get my "Eliza and Essar" book done, which is starting to be retitled to a final version. I am about halfway done on the first draft.
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(Deleted comment)
maugornmaugorn on July 12th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
What a small world! When you mentioned a writer who worked for TSR, I just had to look.

Yup.

I recorded a music album with her in the way back.
She and her partner usually worked with someone else, but he was unavailable and a mutual friend recommended me. To this day, I'm not unhappy with that session or it's results, but I *wish* I could obtain a copy of it somehow. (mine was lost, like the Precious, somewhere amid some ugly moves)