I’m in online writing groups. They are peopled mainly by novelists, and mainly those who self-publish. What’s interesting is a proportion of novice writers seem more concerned with publication theory than writing practice. For example, when posting working drafts, this cohort worry about how to define it for Amazon. Some sling single chapters or incomplete drafts on Wattpad or Kik or other online fora. I wonder why. It’s not a generational thing. Young and old are doing this. Maybe I’m being precious, but before I make my work public, it’s been through a lot, a lot of time, much editing, rewriting and, a few spell checks. It’s still not perfect, but it’s closer to cooked than an early draft.
Posting something so raw online feels too fraught with risk. New writing is fresh. Ideas haven’t coalesced and for me, I’m too close to it and too vulnerable to criticism. Secondary readers going over something so early could kill an idea before it’s born into a full story or complete draft.
It’s not that there isn’t good stuff on the likes of Reddit. I’ve been reading one Doctor Who fan fiction novel on Wattpad and it’s more compelling and better written than the sole official novel I read, whose title escapes me. There’s space for fan fiction online; it makes sense to share enthusiasms and responsive creativity. It also makes sense that it’s free. Fan fiction isn’t my beef.
Self-publishing seems to skew the focus of too many new writers. Instead of honing their craft, reading and rewriting and editing, they worry about rules. They’re obsessed by abstractions that distance themselves from the work of creating a narrative. Instead of putting words down in sequence for a story, they worry about how long their stories should be. It’s very arcane. Of course these things will be important, but finish the story first. Then look up formatting rules.
I’ve seen writers launch works too early, before they’ve absorbed all the lessons they espouse and post over their time lines. Thus, few demonstrate, for example, how to tell rather than show.
As my previous post demonstrates, good advice changes my writing and my behaviour. Before I recommend it others, I try it on first. Like that from Chuck Palahnuik. I do this because I reflect on what I write to then eliminate go-to filler expressions, tired tropes and errors.
All this is about my insecurities, but also my prejudices. I could collate my stories and put them online, but that’s nowhere as helpful to my writing as an editor reading them. It’s through editors that writing skills improve, and writers learn about what readers require, and note what they are doing right, and wrong.
As a reader, I love a debate about literary theory as much as the next person, but for my practice, I’m less concerned with what genre my work is than getting it done. Of course I want people to read it and editors to accept it, but demanding reviews for unfinished drafts is premature when the work, and the work of learning isn’t complete.
Such abstractions are procrastination. It lures me in and I end up writing this as a procrastinating exercise on procrastination.
Best I get back to some writing.