Feeling Ranty About Writing (Again)

The next person who tells me The Best Way To Write That First Draft is to “just keep writing, don’t edit, don’t worry about changing anything until you’re done all the way to The End” will be figuratively hit over the head with all seven completed novels I successfully wrote while self-editing like a mad fiend.  I will grant two of those novels were hopeless dreck, but I got better. I know  how to finish. I know what the fuck I am doing.

Yah, sure, I sometimes piss and moan about my struggles with this writing gig, but I’m sick and tired of getting chirpy-happy brightsiding advice in reply. Gaps in my happiness are not openings through which to insert boilerplate one-size-fits-all Writing Advice. Do not poke my process. I will bite those fucking fingers off.

<deep breath>

I am not pissing on other ways of doing. I adore reading “How I Did It” stories. I enjoy peering down the roads not taken and trying new tricks and stretching my skills–at my on speed, and in my own oddball way. That’s discovery and exploration.

But slapping the same information into my online space as responsive commentary (or throwing it unasked in my face in person) is like reaching for a tissue and getting sandpaper instead.

Suggestions to “Try X, it works for me/my friend/this famous person” erode my emotional defenses. Those offhand remarks, however kindly intended,  carry implicit messages of disapproval of whatever I’m doing now. They scrape me raw.

When I gripe, I need comfort, not Perky Writing 101. Gnashing my teeth over uncooperative prose indicates desire for commiseration, empathy, and/or demands for productivity. It is NOT an invitation for correction of the many, many, flaws in my writing craft.

I already know the way I write best is not what’s recommended by successful/ commercial/ profitable writers or taught in any workshop. I have been to workshops. I have taken classes.  I’ve tried the tried&true. It. Doen’t. Work. For. Me.

And yet, hard as I march to my own rhythm, the drumbeat never drowns out Common Wisdom.  Why so stubborn?  My brain whispers in this annoying little voice it uses when it’s being a shit. Try it that other way. Do that other thingYes, last time changing up your writing stopped you cold and killed your spirit, but maybe this time it’ll be different. Why do you keep pretending you know better than all the experts and teachers, you egotistical hack?

That annoying whisper is hard enough to silence without unsolicited advice giving it a megaphone and amplifier.

I self-edit constantly, I don’t outline in detail or make character sheets or do ANYthing I’m “supposed” to do, and yet left to myself I can produce a clean, editable novel manuscript in as little as few months…

…or as long as several years. Why such a range? Here’s a confession:  I write only when I can delude myself into thinking that someone else actually-really-truly wants to pick up what I’m laying down and wants it RIGHT NOW.

The right now part is critical. I’ll likely miss every deadline laid down, but having them does motivate me. But I can’t set my own deadlines.  I’m good at deluding myself, but the idea that anyone else (in the larger sense of The General Public, not in the sense of my loyal couple dozen fans…) wants my writing NOW? That’s too big a bouncer for me to swallow.

So. I stop writing when being constantly hounded about process AND when I think nobody else really cares if I ever finish or not. Fragile, frail flower, that’s me. Piss, moan, stomp, stomp. Oh, look. I’m griping again. Life as usual.


NO I AM NOT ASKING FOR ADVICE. I am just sulking here in my internet corner, much the same way my cat grumbles to himself when he’s settling into his blanket for a nap.

This isn’t my first rodeo. When I’m bucking and and growling all over the ring to work off my temper, don’t step in there with advice. You’ll get stomped on like a baby chick. If I want advice on how to ride the bronco, I promise I will ask for it. I will even use interrogative phrasing and proper punctuation to make abundantly clear that I am making questions.

Otherwise cheers and hollering and applause from the sidelines is what I actually need. In case anyone was wondering.

Serious Talk about Being Serious

I’m making a list of all the Random Internet Life Experts whose advice is based on the bitter chestnut, “no one will take you seriously unless you take yourself seriously first,” so I can fictionally murder them in my next book.

I may have to engineer some kind of mass extinction event.

First, it’s a violation of simple logic. I can take myself seriously. Others can take me seriously. To connect the one with the other requires a fallacy of composition. There is no conjunction. Second, seriousness as an internal attitude does not show.  Third, the whole idea of seriousness is a moving target to which Xeno’s postulate applies in spades. It’s an unwinnable race with ridiculous rules.

Seriousness depends on who’s doing the measuring and what metrics they’re using. I can be as “serious” about my craft as any artist in history, but how do I prove that to others? Only by actions others can measure.  So to take my art seriously myself, I must meet a given observer’s standards? Wait. That means taking myself seriously means I am trying to affect other people’s opinions of my seriousness? What? Circular logic is circular.

A certain accent, a particular hair style, even presence or absence of body art can lead to immediate dismissal as Not A Serious__________________ <fill the blank with profession.>  The next circle of serious: subject matter. Am I taking my art seriously if I choose to write humor?  What about romance? Answer that one, and the question become how much time is spent on The Discipline. What’s enough? Jump that hoop, and the subject of finances comes up.

Soooooo…yeah. Not a single damned one of those things has anything to do with how serious my dedication to creating art actually is.

Appearances show. I can aim for a conservative, middle-of-the-road, and “business-like” behavior and clothing to impress those who have those cultural blinkers. As for the rest?  I can work my fingers to the bone and stress myself to a standstill so I can demonstrate to others I am taking myself seriously according to someone else’s measure of discipline.

Or you know, I can “take myself seriously” in ways (possibly) no one else would accept as “serious enough.”

Wearing certain clothes, earning a certain amount, acting in specific ways, or conforming to certain expectations will not make me more or less serious. They only make me more or less sub-culturally acceptable. On a sliding scale. One that varies person to person, place to place.

Nope.  Ain’t got the time for that nonsense. I don’t to prove I have to take myself seriously to anyone but myself.

No matter what it looks like from the outside.

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers. Handy link: https://books2read.com/ap/xqvlwR/K-M-Herkes

Breaking Rules pt 2: Wait. Don’t.

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

I did a rant post about rules last week. Premise: there no RULES to writing any more than there are rules for speaking. This is the rebuttal. Yes, I argue with myself.

Let’s start with the chorus: no one has to know any damned rules. There is only one imperative to writing–WRITE. The entire learning process is this and only this: write, (share) judge whether the results met your aims, repeat.

The parenthetical share applies to those who write to be understood by others. Many people don’t ever do that. Writing can be private. Much of it is never shared with other eyes. And that is why rules can be ignored. If you’re the only audience, do as you will, (an’ it harm none and all that.)

You can also ignore rules without consequence when you know with certainty that you and your audience share every possible communication preference and convention. Whole communities of happy writers and readers exist all over the interwebz, reveling in writing so bad it horrifies other audiences.  But how can it be bad if everyone involved in  community loves it? Only by comparison, and any comparison is inherently flawed by a lack of shared premises.

But there is a coda to the ‘there are no rules’ song: all knowledge exists for a reason.

See, the conventions and practices people call rules for writing exist for a damned good reason. Yes, they’re malleable, changeable, audience dependent, and inconsistently applied at best, yes, it’s absurd to call them rules,  but they exist because there’s a gap between reader and writer. That big ‘ol chasm of assumptions and expectations needs bridging.

Rules are meant to be gap-spanning bridges, not walls. They become fences between good and bad because humans divide everything that way. (There’s reasons for that, too. Again, good reasons and bad, but I’m not getting into philosophy.  I’m only talking about practicalities today.) Suffice that the reason we set fences around writing is that communication takes two. When two or three gather together, someone will start making judgments.

So, then.

Once you choose to share to a wider, unknown audience, you’d be wise to dig deeper than “what you mean to say” with your writing. Compare your words against the words of the widest possible audience,  judge for yourself whether your words meet the broadest, mostly widely-accepted conventions of communication–and then decide how or if you want your words to change.

Now, as I’ve discussed in many another rant, it’s always your choice to make. Not the choice of some expert rules arbiter saying writing  must be designed thusly to qualify as “acceptable.”

But your decisions will have consequences. The judgment of your audience may not be kind or accepting. When you defy convention, be braced for your readers’ appreciation of your writing to differ radically from your own.

When you write what you want, however you want, others are more likely to reject it because they don’t share your assumptions, they don’t like your departures from traditional approaches, or even because they can’t parse your elegant sentences. Those are the risks you take when you go to war with the rules.

And here’s another important fact: it’s far, far better to be prepared for war than to charge into battle unarmed and ignorant.

THAT’S why good people suggest knowing the rules first before you beak them. Not for the writing part at all. It’s all about weathering the process of sharing your non-standard writing with others.

In the final analysis there still. Are. No. RULES. Writing, like speaking, is learned in the doing, and the rest is naught but accepted conventions and shared preferences.

Insisting everyone write according to certain plot structures or obey specific grammar guidelines keeps a lot of writing advice columnists and self-proclaimed protectors of language employed, but it doesn’t make their advice true for writing.

It does make it useful for predicting how people will judge the completed written work.

My big conclusion: writing rules aren’t rules, they’re conventions, and those conventions apply to reaching the audience, not to writing as an act of creation.

Okay. I’m done.