Reality Check Are You Being Too Careful With Your Writing?

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Full Member
Sep 25, 2014
Perhaps we really don't serve the Muse by wondering who is going to publish our novel, who is going to read it, or like it, and what the reader might think about us, the writer, as a person?

Cream rises to the top, and scum can form there too, but a compelling story should be able to find a home somewhere in the publishing pantheon.

What makes for a compelling read?

I think maybe it is ultimately about Identification. Instinct is the common touchstone, the magic defying further analysis.

jung synchronicity.jpg

Fear paralyses. I suppose you need to be think skinned enough to be sensitive or the Muse won't be your deity in the first place, but you need thick skinned enough to say, OK, I am going to bring it! And if you don't like it, I don't care, and anyway, I'm just a messenger.

'Spirits from the vasty deep', each and every one of us.

It's as supra-personal, as it is personal. It's about the collective consciousness, maybe even the collective unconsciousness.

This from an interview published in The Guardian: Elizabeth Strout.

“You know, there’s always autobiography in all fiction,” Strout says. “There are pieces of me in every single character, whether it’s a man or a woman, because that’s my starting point, I’m the only person I know. But yes, Sarah Payne ... I realised in that scene, ‘OK, here’s a chance to let people know.’” She goes on to explain: “You can’t write fiction and be careful. You just can’t. I’ve seen it with my students over the years, and I think actually the biggest challenge a writer has is to not be careful. So many times students would say, ‘Well, I can’t write that, my boyfriend would break up with me.’ And I’d think ...” she sucks her teeth, “‘Well, OK, I’m sorry, I don’t really have much more to tell you.’ You have to do something that’s going to say something, and if you’re careful it’s just not going to work.” Or, as Sarah Payne tells Lucy, “We all love imperfectly. But if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”
I agree with this!!

The only "people" I'm thinking of when I write each book are my hero and heroine. ;) I swear it on a stack of Bibles. I don't give a fig what ex-boyfriends, current friends, my husband, my daughter, her friends, or my co-workers would think of this sentence or that scene. I'm telling a story - the story I want to read. They say to write the story you would want to read, so that's what I do now, each time.

Every single time I have not done that - the times I've been careful, or have written something I think others would want to read - those are the books that fall flat. Every. Single. Time. So yeah. I no longer do that. :)
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It can't be a camel designed by committee. I've gone wrong with that before. Listening when I shouldn't, for fear of not listening when I should.
It depends on what is meant by being too careful and listening to your fears to self-censor your writing. There's a vast difference between being fearless and acting in a foolhardy or cruel way. Secrets told in confidence shouldn't be used in fiction to further your writing career, not that this has stopped some authors from being blabbermouths.

There's a new novel out, called The Swans of Fifth Avenue, written by Melanie Benjamin, which tells of how Truman Capote betrayed the confidences of various society hostesses who'd taken him in and introduced him to influential figures during his early days as a writer. Several novelists have engaged in feuds through their writing, creating characters that savagely lampooned them. Martin Amis has form for doing this, bickering with novelist Julian Barnes and crime writer Peter James, among others.

I wouldn't betray friends, relatives, colleagues and clients from my counselling days by making attributable references to them—by choosing similar names for my characters, for example.

Some of the things I've written about are sure to offend certain readers, but that's an inescapable part of creating fiction and I've never avoided the grotesque and gruesome in my crime novels. What my characters think and do reflects their personality, not mine!

One aspect of being 'too careful' that I've kept my eyes on, is that I have a tendency to over-explain things, to lay out why a criminal did something awful. It's often better to leave a few loose ends—let the reader provide their own explanation.
Betrayal...yes, that's a facer, though I wasn't thinking of that in terms of fiction. I suppose someone might not liek it if you used an anecdote and they recognised themselves in it. One would need to be careful and skillful if the Muse demands its use.

Certainly, I'd worry about that if I was writing an autobiography. There is a famous autobiography, Bad Blood by Lorna Sage.

My mother feels she just missed knowing this lady as a friend, same age, they both went to to Durham Uni, and my mother stronglt related to Lorna personally, through the book. Whereas my pa remarked that the people she writes about, her awful grandparents and inadequate parents, had not given permission to be painted in public. But her book was about her life, so who 'owns' the moral rights to that story?

Of course, someone might do another person a great injustice, writing a malicious or mendacious autobiography...since the truth is often subjective.
[QUOTE="Carol Rose, post: 40284, member: 38". I'm telling a story - the story I want to read. They say to write the story you would want to read, so that's what I do now, each time.

This. Every time. For me the writing has to be, amongst all the blood, sweat and various other bodily fluids, fun. Otherwise what is the point? I accept that I am absolutely committed to the self-publishing route anyway for a variety of reasons so have no practical reasons to care what the 'market' might want but I would rather never write a single word again if I had to do it via a paint-by-numbers formula.

A discernible beginning, middle and end is about the only rule I conform to and I do so because that is how the over-whelming amount of story telling is meant to be constructed. Other than that, this is my hobby. What I do for kicks. And as long as I do no harm to others in doing so, then they are my stories and I guard that with a passion.

It is fantastic if others enjoy reading them, and if they are willing to pay me for the privilege then they have a friend for life but I do this 'thing' of ours for my benefit ultimately.
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