For my first post for the IWSG, I’ll talk about 2 problems amateur writers face pretty much always:
#1 – What if it sucks?
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? You’ve spent hours upon hours on a piece, but you’re afraid to share. It doesn’t much matter how often you’ve written, how many pieces you’ve published. What if it sucks donkey gonads? What if everyone says my writing reeks like rotting carcasses?
#2 – My friends like it, that’s enough, isn’t it?
Insecure writers know #1 all to well. But wait, there’s more! The flip-side – you’ve got a good story you’ve just finished. You’ve had some friends read it, and they liked it! What more do I need? I like it, somebody else likes it, it’s great! No more changes – time to GET IT OUT THERE!
I’ve talked before about the need to share, share, share that drives me, and how I always wonder if I’ve done enough revision before the first release to the public. I started this blog by saying “Screw problem #1 – I’m just going to share!” Very little of the writing I first posted was peer-reviewed. You can tell, if you dare to click through my archives…
A lot of what I share and submit now shows signs of #2 – stories that I’ve run past a few close people, but really just wanted to shoot out there. I need feedback from readers on the net, after all. As I’m discovering, the problem with giving in to #2 is I end up with stories that very few people comment on or even acknowledge.
So when is a story good enough? How do I know it doesn’t suck?
Here are my own ideas, based on my admittedly limited experience and understanding:
1. Trial and error is better than sitting on stories too long.
One bad piece isn’t going to kill a writing career. Far from it – Bradbury submitted a bazillion works, and he didn’t worry too much about quality at the start. He also pointed out that anybody who writes 52 works a year pretty much HAS TO produce something good among that much output. No way will I get out 52 pieces a year, but 12 is very doable. It’ll be slower, but I won’t be neglecting family and job obligations either.
2. Review and critique regularly.
You must review and critique, especially in the genres of stories you like to write. This has the side effect of ensuring that you are READING, and it gets you thinking about the analysis and synthesis required for story-crafting.
3. Set nasty deadlines and hold yourself to them.
If you blog (and writers should, these days), hold yourself to one post a week, at least. Decide which day of the week. Post a notice in big letters at the top of your blog – “UPDATES EVERY WEDNESDAY”or whatever day you decide. There. You are obliged. People will be ANGRY and storm your e-mail inbox with cyber-torches and pitchforks if you don’t post!
Set a due date for your writing – I know I can’t do one story per week, but I CAN do one every month. The last day of the month is my big scary due date – I have to finish a piece of flash fiction or a short story, show it to people, revise it, AND submit, all BEFORE the end of the month! I give myself 2 weeks to write, 1 week to share, 1 week to revise, and then it’s out there, either as a blog post or as a submission to a short fiction publisher.
I go through this no matter how badly I think the story sucks. I go through this even if my ego is acting up and is absolutely convinced the story is the next freaking Shakespeare sonnet. Do I still have stories that suck? Oh hells yes. Do I still overestimate the quality of my work? Shyeah, my ego can get abnormally huge when I’ve fallen head-over-heals for a story idea. But holding myself to the steps and the schedule seems to be helping. I’m but an egg, so time will tell!