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Author Topic: How do you define yourself as a writer?  (Read 11338 times)
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fnord33
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« on: March 03, 2010, 06:01:04 AM »

I thought that this might be an interesting way for new people like myself to get to know a little more about you guys and what you're going for. Everybody has some sort of "there are only two kinds of writers" idea and most people consider themselves similar to some more established writer. How do you fundamentally define yourself as a writer?


I think that there are three basic elements which make a person a good writer. You can be really good at one of them and make it or pretty good at two or lucky and kind of good at all three. We all want to be experts at all three, but not many people are. I define the three elements as story, concept and execution. Tom Robbins and Franz Kafka are the only writers that I have ever found who are damn near perfect in all three areas and the quality of Kafka's work seemed to decrease in direct proportion to the length of the piece. Of course that's just my opinion. I feel that I am great with concepts, good with stories, but my execution needs a lot of work. I mean that relative to each other not to the writers that I would use to explain myself. I identify with people like Thomas M. Disch and Robert Anton Wilson who were great with metaphors and stories, but the style of writing leaves something to be desired in comparison to someone like John Grisham who writes drivel (in my opinion), but captivating drivel with excellent pacing and characters that you miss after you've finished the book. My characters are rarely more than symbols to me, but I've been working on developing them and I think I'm getting better. My greatest weakness is that I have the grammar of a third grader. I know that I will never be one of those people who's sentences have the mathematical precision of music, but I hope to master the comma some day.       


Now you-
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2010, 06:30:41 AM »

I'm the other way round. Being a lit fic type of a person, I have no problems with execution, and my concepts are usually okay, but plotting is often weak and inconsequential. Texture is what matters to me above all else.
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delboy
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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 07:17:06 AM »

I define myself as an uneducated writer  Sad

For example, I don't even know what you mean by concept, and I've never read Franz Kafka, though I do know a couple of Franz Ferdinand riffs.

In terms of what I think are important - I put story at the top of the list. But it needs to be supported by great characterisation and good writing. If any one of the three is lacking then everything comes crashing down.

Story needs to be realistic - it has to have that "could happen" element and it mustn't cheat the reader. My number one issue with most modern novels (and movies) is that the story is weak, or has weak moments. It's far too easy to put characters into amazingly tough situations that demands the reader keeps turning the pages - but being able to create a suitable pay-off is very difficult. Writers who cheat me like that don't get a second chance.

Characters must be engaging and real and I must like them - even the ones I don't like, if you know what I mean. And again, you mustn't cheat me.

The writing has to be of a certain standard and quality, too. I don't (necessarily) mean unusual or clever words or new images or poetic language. I mean the rhythm needs to be right, the prose needs to be smooth enough to pull you into the dream and not let you out, no repeated words, or cliches, the dialogue needs to be realistic,  and if there's a cool voice, too, then that's a bonus.

There are a lifetime's reading worth of books out there that meet all three criteria in spades, so why settle for less?

How do I do against these criteria? In reverse order, I've spent thirty years achieving a moderately smooth style. Most positive comments about my crit group stories are to do with the ease of reading. My descriptions could do with a bit more work, but on the whole I'm happy with the writing. I'm no James Lee Burke, but then who is?

Characters. I like all my characters, but I need to work on ensuring all the things I like about them actually appear on the paper. Sometimes I think much of what makes them likeable remains in my head. Not on purpose. It's just a blind spot.

Story. The last two years I have been solely focussed on story. I'm gradually learning enough about story to be able to create more compelling fiction. If I learn enough, and if there's enough time left, I might even write something halfway decent. That's my ambition, anyway.

I also define myself as an out of date writer. Most of the stuff I like, and many of the techniques I employ, are thirty years out of date. The novel I'm currently working on is the antithesis of what's out there now. It's more like the stuff I read when I was a kid. It may mean it'll never be published. But I'm loving it, and I suspect there are other people with a fondness for the slow build up, for the gentle approach, to make the exercise at least a little worthwhile. I also know that I could never invest this much time and energy in writing something I didn't care for.

So, on the whole, uneducated, out-of-date, and probably unrealistic in my dreams.

But I love stories. Have done since I first walked into the corner of my very first classroom at infants school, the corner where the 'library' was, and picked up books featuring pictures of knights in armour and pirates and highwaymen. To be able to indulge in that passion all these years later is quite an achievement, and a quite an honour.

Derek
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"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 08:12:55 AM »

I just muddle along. I'm rubbish at plot, average at characters and rubbish at description.
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2010, 08:24:41 AM »

Yeah, right...

signed, one of the legion of muddle-heads who read and thoroughly enjoy your 'rubbish' writing daily.
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JonP
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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2010, 11:36:18 AM »

Yeah, right...

signed, one of the legion of muddle-heads who read and thoroughly enjoy your 'rubbish' writing daily.

Wot she said ^

Signed, another muddle-head smiley
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Caz
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2010, 01:41:26 PM »

I consider myself to be a total amateur. I've been bashing away at this old keyboard for four or five years now and occasional manage to put a coherent sentence together, so I'm getting better. afro   
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JonP
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2010, 02:24:19 PM »

I think I'm going to go with "haven't a bleeding clue". I'm still at the stage where I'm experimenting (actually, I think I'd like to stay at that stage), and I like to try to emphasise different aspects in each piece to try to find out what works and what doesn't. Sometimes the form will drive me, sometimes a character, sometimes the plot, sometimes dialogue.
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Geoff_N
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 06:30:17 PM »

Yeah, right...

signed, one of the legion of muddle-heads who read and thoroughly enjoy your 'rubbish' writing daily.

Wot she said ^

Signed, another muddle-head smiley
ditto.

Lately, story is not so important as voice, which isn't one of the three elements.  hey ho

Geoff
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delboy
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« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2010, 03:34:49 AM »

Either everyone is being understandably super-modest, or my opinions are waaaaay off the mark. I reckon you're all far more than muddle-heads, the whole lot of you  afro

Still, we now have a collective noun for Cafe-Doom writers.

Derek
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"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker
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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2010, 07:05:31 PM »

An interesting question. I guess I'd have to say I don't define myself as a writer. I would tend toward something like, "I'm an average guy who happens to like to write stories."
On the one hand, I've taken the literature and writing classes in college, on the other hand I have a horrible time with basic punctuation and sentence structure (As Ed, Pharosian and a few others can attest to).
Plot and character are not nearly so important to me as the story itself and the pacing. If the story is good and the pacing is good I am likely to let a weaker character or a straight forward plot line pass. I agree with delboy that I need to feel like the story could happen.
I've been writing for years off and on but I would consider myself an amatuer. My publications have been few and far between and my "style" seems to be one where I either hit the bullseye (which is rare) or I provide the crit group with a suitable piece for sharpening their red pens.
I've learned a lot in my time here, however. If you ask me this question again in ten years maybe I will have a different answer.
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