Sigh… seems like I can’t stay away from this post. And it might get me into some trouble. So yeah. Please be warned that if it isn’t quite a full-on rant, it’s pretty rant-like.
Especially since it’s a bit hard to put my thoughts into words without sounding smug or anything else horrible.
But, I took on this writing gig with honesty and helping writers in mind, so… here we go.
*takes a deep breath*
We, as writers have to take responsibility for the quality of our writing.
I’m not talking about the rough draft. Hell. Go nuts with your drafting. Chase plot bunnies with wild abandon. Be dedicated by your muse’s whims. Let your characters direct your way. And experiment, experiment, experiment. This is what rough drafts are for.
But at some stage a writer who wants a successful career needs to put his/her pro writer pants on. This means facing that what you’d written isn’t perfect. And that some of what you’ve written needs work.
Or that something you loved has to go, because it’s weakening the story.
It also means not being a pretentious prick who puts “intentions” before quality. Honestly, I as a reader can’t give a damn what you intended. I only know what I see, and if it’s not working, it’s not working. I won’t be the only one. So the way I see it, a writer has the option to either make his intentions come across the right way by adapting his writing, or to leave it. But don’t blame readers for not understanding your intentions if your writing isn’t up to standards.
Always know that if you’re keeping some aspect to a story despite what crit partners and editors say, that you made that call. Someone will notice, and you might get nailed in some review.
The other day, I talked about a book that was hampered by too much dialogue with too little description. Someone commented that I can’t say those things because the writer probably intended something with writing so little description.
I’m sorry, but having literary intentions does not exempt us writers from critique. In fact, it sets us up for it more. Readers can’t read the writer’s mind. They can only read what’s there in the book. If you got so fixated on speeding up the pace that you didn’t realize that all dialogue pulls readers out of stories, I’m sorry, that’s your responsibility as the writer.
It’s the same with intending to write a message into your story. I’ve addressed the issue multiple times, to huge consternation in some factions of the YA community in particular. I’m not rehashing that, but what I am saying now is that if you put the clarity and strength of your message before the strength of your story, you will be nailed again and again. Don’t blame the readers.
YOU made that decision.
Editing is all about decisions. Cut this. Keep that despite what everyone says. Accept or disregard advice. I’m not saying that reviewers bullying writers are right. That’s also a post for another day.
What I’m saying is that we’re writers. We’re story tellers. At the heart of it, those stories always remain ours first, but we’re responsible for what we put out there. Own that responsibility.
Stop hiding behind your intentions. Stop blaming readers. Sit your ass down and take a hard look at what you wrote. If you find your opinion still differs from the criticism, graciously disregard it. But don’t do it because “they just don’t get it.”
Do it “because I made that call and I knew not everyone would like it”.
Taking responsibility for quality is a sign of excellence.
Blaming others is a symptom of weakness.
Which do you prefer to be?