Saturday, June 30, 2012

No Man (or Woman) is an Island

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."  C.S. Lewis

In my last post I indicated that writing is something I do alone. It is. Though I have tried collaborating with another writer, it wound up not working because he was a headstrong, inflexible knothead. And so was I.

Does that mean I'd rather go it alone? Nope.

Does that mean I don't play well with others? Again, nope.

Nobody can go it alone, and especially not in publishing. Ah, ha! But that move the peg a bit, doesn't it? Maybe.

I count myself lucky to have quite a few friends. Some are writers, some editors, some readers, some just plain people. That those "plain people" consider me -- a person who makes excuses to write rather than participate and even if I do show up is sometimes mentally adrift while working out some scene in my head -- also a friend makes me feel extremely lucky.

As for "playing well with others," I find myself not only a joiner, but a person who is unable to not volunteer. I've been a member of the Horror Writers Association since late 1999. In that time I've served as VP, secretary, trustee, Internet Mailer editor, postmistress, and convention hostess. Currently I serve on the membership committee.

I've proofed and edited a number of anthologies and novels and even short stories for friends. All without pay.

In my private life, I've served in a number of volunteer positions where I've cooked in community kitchens and at Sunday dinners, funeral luncheons, and Fish Frys, chaired committees, babysat, washed dishes, set up for weddings, sang at special events, and baked a ton of cookies and cakes and pies. (Though, honestly, my cakes are awful!)

But when it comes to my writing, I trust very few people. The reason is everybody wants to be a writer. Or more correctly, everybody wants to have written. It's the work part, the hours and hours of rubbing two words together and making a story make sense that too few can endure.

Writing is hard work. Besides the initial storytelling, there's the revision process which for me calls for running my stories through my wringers. I have several: 1) Strunk and White; 2) Jean Rabe; 3) John Dufresne; 4) misc. (a hodgepodge of various suggestions I've latched onto over the years).

[Strunk and White: The Elements of Style

Jean Rabe: a list of standard things she looks for as an editor and writer

John Dufresne: The Lie That Tells the Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction]

Then my work is off to my first readers. These are people I have come to trust over the years for their sound "suggestions." They don't pull punches or pander. They also never try to insinuate themselves into my writing process. I am the storyteller and they respect that.

I have had a few reviews written about my stories, and I have appreciated the kind nice words as well as the constructive criticisms. But I have a rule: Since there is no way I can explain anything about any of my writings to the individual reader, I won't explain myself to a reviewer either. Preferences differ. Vary.And some of them are just plain wrong. Some of them want to have written. Sorry. They need to sit down and put in all those hours, read all those books, hunt for the absolutely right word for two weeks, wrestle with a computer who loses files, and then get back to me.

In the end writing is hardly different from any other creative process. Some parts the artist does alone, some with others.

Besides, having a drink in the bar at a convention is so much more fun with another idiot who hears voices in his/her head.

Books I've enjoyed recently:

Karen Harper's Mistress Shakespeare

Kimberley Cutter's The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus

James W. Hall's Hit List

Okay, back to the story I'm working on . . .

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