I’ve done a lot of self-reflection lately, possibly a by-product of being trapped in the hospital for three days with no food or water (that’s right, I said hospital, not prison), on the reasons for writing. As I wrote in the mission statement on the front page of this site, my own reason for writing is that I dream of a day when I can see Threads of Fate on bookshelves, in the hands of young adults, and maybe even on the big screen.
In the course of trying to get my book to as many readers’ eyes as possible, I have signed up for various writer social networks. Think of these as Facebook for writers; places where you can share your work amongst like-minded people and get feedback from them. Like the different social networks, each of these is subtly different. The three main ones I work from are Writers Cafe, Author’s Den, and Book Country.
Of the three, I find myself most often on Writers Cafe (under TOF_Matt), which is the most active and most Facebook-ish of all. Writers Cafe definitely skews to the younger side; the base user group appears to be mostly teenagers (good for me since Threads of Fate is positioned as a YA novel). The community is immensely supportive, but I always found it so conspicuous the way so many of the users say things like “please ignore the grammar,” or give one sentence “reviews” that just say “great job” or “I loved this,” even in cases where they’re reviewing something that is obviously very raw (even by strictly objective standards – misplaced modifiers, high repetition, passive voice, etc). At first I found it maddening the way many of the writers/reviewers seemed to completely ignore the fundamental “rules” of good writing. Then it dawned on me that many of these writers are simply inexperienced. Many of them probably haven’t even heard of these “rules” before, let alone put them into practice. They haven’t had the education or experience necessary to build those skills yet.
That got me wondering about their reason for writing. For me, writing has always been about the grandiose: aim big, write about sprawling lands, adventurous characters, twisting plot lines. I always thought the greatest joy in writing came from how skillfully you can balance and interplay these things – how intricately you construct the work. It’s been a long time since I stopped to consider that writing can just be raw ideas or emotion, spilled onto a page, with little heed nor care for the technical glue to hold it together. I know this may seem like a back-handed compliment, but it’s not. For those who are interested in the mechanics, they will naturally learn them in time, but just the ability… no not even the ability, but just the drive… to capture one’s raw thoughts into tangible form and make it public is already something worth respecting.
A month ago I’d put on a sour face upon seeing a one sentence review, or seeing my own “respectful but honest” reviews get down-voted or defensively lambasted by the author for being “too picky.” Now I try to first consider the reason the author put the work up to begin with. Maybe all those technical bits like flow and pace are beside the point. Not everyone writes to sell a book; some people just write to share their thoughts. In the end, is this any less valid a reason to write?