A short story writer's attempts to build a profile on the literary scene and get published.
The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'? It came to me in a dream: short stories are like scallops! Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did, but on this occasion I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime. At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.
A short story should also be small and perfectly formed: it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art. As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story. But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Speak no evil, hear no evil
I've met a lot of odd bods in my time and an alarming number of them were writers. A large proportion of those have been screenwriters (excluding, of course, the supremely talented fellow blogger on myfirstscreenplay.com). I was so disappointed to find Charlie Kaufman - genius author of the Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine scripts - to be someone I would avoid at a dinner party rather than invite to one. But, let's be honest, many great works of art are born of some level mental or personality disorder.
The disorder all artists share - especially writers - is chronic insecurity. My writing is no good; it doesn't speak to people; it doesn't convey what I wanted to say; it's just not original enough.
Yes, yes, yes. We've all been there. Who said it should be easy? Who said everyone should love your writing? Personally, I hate Jane Austen - what a yawn fest - but I accept others adore her stories. You can please some of the people some of the time. Twas ever thus.
But misery loves company. That is why, perhaps, there are so many groups out there promising constructive peer group support for writers - all of which are mostly attended by new and unpublished authors looking for validation. I was that person and may be again, so I'm not criticizing anyone, but this Meet-Up advert is a classic example of the problem:
San Francisco Writer's Community Positive Feedback Group
-This is a positive feedback critique group.
-Hear what is good about your writing so you can do more of it.
-Get the exact type of feedback that you want.
-This group is for people committed to helping each other and improving their own skills on an ongoing basis.
I may be unfairly judging this group (I haven't been) or misinterpreting the advert, but it seems to be a general slap on the back type of shindig. Of course you don't want people to be rude but if you can't take the heat, get outta the kitchen, right? How is hearing what you want to hear going to help? New writers need tough love if they're going to make it so they need to hear it straight, from the very start: this is good, that is bad, this has potential...but keep up the good work comrade!
In all critique, some comments are just trivial fluff but others are made of more valuable stuff. As a new and unpublished writer myself, I've found that one of the skills I've had to learn from scratch is how to identify the good feedback from the bad (a more in-depth exploration of what I mean by good feedback must wait for another post). All writers need to grow a thick skin as quickly as possible. As for my own skin, it may not be paper thin anymore but it's still some way from being the rhinoceros hide I need. So bring it on: all comments welcome.
Lorna is a Brit who has recently made San Francisco her home. She has been a keen creative writer since the age of 11 when she, somewhat precociously, started a novel. At 21 she began another novel but then discovered the joys of the short story form, committed whole-heartedly to it and hasn't looked back.