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Why my writing stinks, and what to do about it

My Jedi Master, John Scalzi, has posted 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing,

where he explains why all teenage writers tend to be awful

at writing—despite the fact that most teenage writers think they

themselves are brilliant. (Full disclosure: When I was a teenager

writer, I thought I was brilliant. While I was probably objectively

better than most of the other teenage writers I was

competing against, this is not the same as being good. It is in fact

the same as being the least awful.)


What struck me about this piece was that one of the crimes Master Scalzi attributes to teenage faux writers also applies

to me: "You need to write everyday."


I don't write everyday. Well, that's not true, I blog or post or write

a Geek Trivia almost every weekday, and if you throw in e-mail, I do

write almost daily. But that crap doesn't count. I don't write fiction

every day. Honestly, I don't write fiction every quarter. I fall on the wrong side of J. Michael Straczynski's (He of Babylon 5 fame) line of demarcation between good writers and bad: Output.


"You can divide

writers into all kinds of categories: prose vs. script, mainstream vs.

genre, established vs. beginner, sane vs. insane (the former being

substantially smaller than the latter), but all of those are just

subsets of the one primary distinction, those who Get It Done and those

who don’t."


I don't get it done. That has to change. First, because you can't be a

writer if you don't write. Second, because I'll never be a good writer if I don't write more often.


While Geek Trivia

isn't doing me any favors on the fiction front, I have gotten

marginally better at quasi-snarky half-assed niche nonfiction articles

over the last five years strictly because I have to write one almost

every week, and having to find new and better stuff to write about

makes me work the mental muscles involved. The weekly deadline (and a

hardass editor whom I respect who really does demand I get stuff to her

in a timely manner) keeps me grinding away.


The same is true of my biweekly duties as a Gamemaster of an RPG

campaign. (Yes, the Geek forum alias is not merely for show.) Since I

run the game, the game can't happen without me. Since I don't want to

disappoint my players (who are a fiendishly game-addicted lot), I have

to write two scenarios a month. This helps me work out some

plot-creation muscles, but the responsibility involved is what keeps me

at it.


All of which is to say, I need a regular fiction deadline. I need some

group of people who expect me to produce on a regular basis in order to

force myself beyond all my insecurities and actually write some damn

fiction. I've toyed with a fiction-blog

before, but never actually went through with it. While it's a great

vehicle for simply archiving and soliciting feedback on my work, Master Scalzi disdains of fiction blogging

as a method of actually getting a writing career off the ground. That's

not a reason to toss aside the notion, merely of leavening

expectations. However, as past experience illustrates, a blog is

accountable only to myself, and I can avoid writing for myself pretty

easily.


I may actually have to bite the bullet and join the local writers group. Now, I have some really bad memories of writers groups

from high school and college. I need to be around serious writers with

no sense of mercy, so I can get the crap rightfully kicked out of my

work and shame myself into doing better. I have no idea if the local group meets the criteria, but their next meetup is in five days, so I guess I can find out pretty soon.


All of which is to say, I'll probably attend the writers group. If I

like it, I'll start attending the monthly meetings and producing

fiction work in concert. If this comes to pass, I'll file the work in a

standalone blog, which means the creative writing portion of this blog

will likely move to a new location (yeah, like anyone will notice).

Fair warning, though. Changes may be in the works for Trivial Pursuits.

About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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