Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On (Not) Daring to be Different

I'm sure most writers have that one story that's Different. It's told in an unusual style, or has unique quirks that set it apart from the rest. You show a few pages of it around, proud of yourself for bucking the trends and breaking the rules; they're more like guidelines, anyway.

Then you get the feedback.

And you tell yourself well, they just don't understand. It's a stylistic difference. They must not like slow openings. But they don't know why this is important, or that my character is acting that way on purpose. It's his voice.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I bet it does, because that's been my thoughts for the past 24 hours or so after sharing the first page of Song of the Wolf. Thank the gods I asked for no line-by-lines, knowing that it wasn't ready for that yet. What I didn't realize was just how many cracks are in the foundation of the story, and in the name of style I've just been slapping paint on it and hoping no one would notice.

Spoilers: they did.

At first I was disappointed. Then I started to get angry. I made a few overly snarky/whiny comments in reply, which I fortunately came to my senses about and edited before anyone saw them (I hope).

No two crits were the same, but they were all telling me the same things. The turning point was when someone asked me to justify (not to them necessarily) my reason for doing the unique thing that made my work Different. I already knew why and was happy to write it out...and then I realized how stupid it sounded. Dammit.

I'll tell you, that was one big piece of humble pie I had to eat. Because they were right. What I thought was bringing a new perspective to the table just ended up drawing attention to itself and away from the story.

Do you know what Rule #1 actually is?

Story trumps all.

Don't be like me, the idiot who now has to rewrite an entire 23-page short story so it's actually readable.

Don't reinvent the wheel, because people a lot more skilled than you already did and they all have that shit patented.

Lesson learned.


  1. That's a hard lesson to learn, that's for sure. Especially when you are still close to your work.

  2. Congrats on learning that lesson. It's not easy, but it's totally worth it.