Critiquing a genre you dislike Part 2

Are you one of those people able to discard a book after 10 pages?  Me too.

Maybe it’s because of my age.  I have spent 50 years reading, on planes and subways, in sleeping bags and bathrooms, and frankly I feel that by now that after 10 pages, I have given the author his chance.  Reading time is precious to me, so if he hasn’t got me hooked in the first 10 pages, I’m waiting on the movie – or my sister’s copy.

‘Cause my sister is younger than me and still feels the need to finish everything she picks up.  So if my sister appears in my kitchen, slams a book on my  counter, unholsters her pistol and says, “Keep reading,” then I give it another chance.  Gone Girl, good example.

But joining a writing group means, well, you know what it means.  Suck it up.

Part of my problem is that my dislike for the genre makes me even more impatient with the flaws of the novel.  So if the characters don’t resonate, I tend to think it’s because I can’t stand bodice rippers (or whatever) anyway.  Not true.  Stunted characterization is what you are there to point out.  That’s your job.

So essentially, it is your job to ignore the genre and respect the writer.  ‘Cause your turn is coming up, and not everyone likes __________.

 

 

I have low word count

It is true.  I cannot write a full-length anything right out of the box.

Those of us with this impairment should have a disease named after us.  Or at least a test to take at that point of time when we contemplate the writing life.  Like a DNA test.

Woman, the results are back.  I’m afraid it’s bad news.  You should know before you embark on this creative endeavor that you have a challenge which is not only Herculean, but, well, embarrassing.  Many people will laugh at you behind your back.   It is also potentially (writing) life threatening.  You will need special classes, perhaps even therapy.  It is surmountable, but many do not survive.

It is easier to cut than to add.

Other people wax poetic about their 600,000 word romance/thriller/historical fantasy/fairy tale/graphic novel/western, pretending to complain about their Sisyphean days ahead when really they are saying, look at me, can I write the shit out of this or what?

I envy these people.  I bow to their gay abandon to write down whatever comes into their literate and unabashedly opinionated heads on any given day, at any given moment while I delete whole chapters like an out of control seven-year-old popping balloons at a birthday party.

Me?  I start with an outline.  I know  – control freak, right?  But it’s actually a built-in stress reduction tool because – What if I get to the middle, and I forget what was going to happen?!!!  My nightmares are crowded with multiple choruses shouting,  I forgot what happens after she laid out the poison for the serial killer in the library hefting the weight of a fireplace poker he aimed to use upstairs! (copy-write pending)

Then it’s about 20,000 words before I come up for air, thinking, Lord of Mercy, I’m on fire today.  Actually, it takes about two weeks, and then I’m done.  The well is dry.  Got nothing.

My problem is that I see my story like a cinematic experience happening before my eyes.  I get so engrossed in the action, I don’t notice the elements that make the experience rich, profound, and relate-able.

So, after much, hand-wringing, lamentation, and disassociation, I have hit upon the solution.  Actually, more like I’ve developed a method to deal with my wild, open throttle, galloping  joy ride through plot.  I pick a chapter, lay on my bed and watch it again, like a movie.  Then I describe the scenery.  40, 000 more words.  Bada-bing

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Critiquing the genre you dislike > that sinking feeling.

author-1320965__340 Yeah, 1984 and Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver.  After I saw the movie A Clockwork Orange with my brother when I was 19, I puked on the sidewalk outside the theater.   After reading On the Beach, I woke up frightened for weeks I was so affected by the ending of the world.

So dytopian novels are not my genre of choice.  Probably why I am the only person alive who hasn’t read the The Hunger Games books (or at least seen the movies).

But when you join a writing group, you make a commitment, and I am nothing if not about honoring my commitments.  (OK, all honesty?  I  stop reading a book if after 30 pages, I believe could leave it on a bus without moving heaven and earth to retrieve it.  That’s the test)

So here I am with my first novel to critique in my new writing group, and it’s a dytopian world of quarreling Buddhist-ish monks.

The author, knowing I am not her target audience, asked if I was finding it hard going.

“The first 30 pages I read out of respect for you,” I told her.  “After that I was ok.”  And I was.  Because good writing grabs you.  I discovered that it wasn’t that I didn’t like the genre >  I just don’t like being depressed.

Then I remembered The City and The City and Embassytown, two books about dystopian worlds that remain at the top of my list for all time favorites and the holy grail to my writing pursuits.

In part 2, I will tell you how I managed to separate my dytopian anxiety from my role in the writers group.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I need to get away – from my writing room

Is it writer’s block, writer’s fatigue, or as a fellow writer confessed at group – writer’s fear?

Good ideas often come to me in the metro, or a taxi, as I wait in line at the bank.  Sooooooo, there are whole blocks of days, I make myself leave the security of my computer desk behind and ride the rails, usually with a book and my Galaxy Note.  Amazing how an inexpensive change of scene can free you from the pressure.

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