Tolkien, artist

Writing Woes

 So I belong to this great writers board, a group of slightly less than 100 of us in the Tolkien fanfic realm who read and critique each other's works before we release them to the wider reading world.  And I love my writers group - I truly don't know what I would do without them. 

Their eagle eyes have helped me improve my writing in so many ways, they encourage me, they prod me, and they have allowed me to feel more confident in my writing skills.  Sometimes I can sit down with an idea and it will just flow - beautiful, succinct, and with prose-like clarity.  Other times it is slogging through a swamp to get the words onto paper.  I always revise numerous times before I release my work for critique, but there are rare times when I can't do that and it causes problems. 

The current story I'm working on which is due on Monday is one of those times.  I can't post it for critique because one of my best friends on the crit board is also a moderator of this particular monthly contest.  Usually my DH looks at my work and scratches his head - it makes no sense to him because he doesn't understand the framework that I used for the background history.  But this latest story has piqued his imagination and he volunteered to beta the piece for me.  I haven't looked through what he did yet, but he did spend a good amount of time on it and he wants to take my idea and rewrite it in his own words also.  I'll take a look through his suggestions/corrections this morning, apply many of them and ignore a few others, and I'll submit the story on time.  I won't do this very often, though.  All I got from him was "I wouldn't do it this way..." stuff.  When I beta I am very careful to allow the author's voice to come through.  I'm not so sure he is doing that, so I'll have to be careful that my voice still rings out through the story. 


And Vive Le Tour de France!  What a race it has been.  It will all end tomorrow on the streets of Paris, but I've been glued to the TV every day watching everything I could.  Congratulations to Tommy Voeckler, Frank and Andy Schleck, and Cadel Evans.  You've made this year's race outstanding!  

Every so often I fall across a piece of music that is perfect for a particular story or character.  Last night I heard EMI 64123, a six-disc compilation of the violin works of Michael Rabin, a prodigy who died when he was 36 years old.  He was playing Niccolo Paganini's Violin Concerto #1.  It wasn't the composition as much as the delivery that reminded me of Richard St Vier.  And all I could see while listening to this was the incomparable swordsman practicing in the old rooms in Riverside with Alec reading in a corner.  The economy of movement, the precision of each stroke were played through the music.  If you love Swordspoint and love Richard St Vier, you might want to consider listening to Michael Rabin's interpretation of Paganini - it's brilliant!  
I can just imagine Kev looking through something of mine. The idea makes me giggle.

I've never been into the idea of writers groups or workshops. I like writing alone, and going back and editing later on, (alone) realizing that I can phrase something differently or delete it entirely, and from that, knowing that the interim period has been a learning process for me, because I can see the things I want to edit. But groups, no. Writing took me away from people, and still does; I don't want to make writing a group activity (unless I am role-playing, which can be a lot of fun!). I am a definite loner when it comes to writing, and just about everything else, come to think of it! But writing, especially.

DH wants to read all of my writing, so I print each story out for him as I finish it. But he has never read the Silm, and only has a cursory knowledge of LOTR (only read it a couple of times and saw the movies - those we've watched many times) so since I write in a Silm framework, things are a mystery to him. Additionally, I write about the elves (mostly) and he is a supporter of the dwarves. So there are some issues - LOL.

He is an excellent writer with a wide vocabulary. He can be overly florid, so the issue is toning him down a bit. I read through his suggestions, and most of them are actually quite good.

I love my LC board. They help catch things that I should have caught but didn't for some obscure reason or another. I don't have to take their suggestions, but usually they are very well made and worth serious consideration. I really don't have the time to go back and change things once I've published them. I've been trying since April to edit my B2ME pieces and it still hasn't happened.

- Erulisse (one L)
I really don't have the time to go back and change things once I've published them.

I'm glad I can do it, as I like it, everything is a WIP for me really, as most is within the same AU, so it is one ongoing story to me.
For me (and since I share the same workshop with erulisse) it is like having knowing eyes look over my scribblings. We are a very eclectic group, each of us has our own strengths, an area of expertise that we lend to the whole, and way of writing. Submitting to grooming at the workshop is like letting a bunch of REALLY GOOD betas have at the story. In my experience, even when it takes time to address all the issues pointed out, the conversation/concrit is very positive and supportive.

Like erulisse, I feel like I'm running naked if I haven't let the workshop "do its thing" on a piece, and usually I'll PM one or the other of them to do a "regular" beta job on a one-shot basis for me.

But, like you say, each person approaches writing in their own fashion. For me, it isn't so much that it's a group activity as it is that I like having quality feedback prior to putting my stuff out "in public." While I enjoy the reviews I get at FFN or HASA or elsewhere, I gotta admit I sit on pins and needles waiting to hear what my fellow Lizards think.
I agree 100%, Aearwen. I really need the feedback of my LC friends and betas. Reviews are wonderful and I love to get them. But getting a "well done" from my LC's...that means SO much to me. It means I've worked through the rough spots and I'll be putting quality out there for people to read. I get nervous writing without that feedback and I have been known to ask for individual betas occasionally. This weekend was just the perfect storm for those people I would normally ask, and I had to work things in-house, so to speak.

- Erulisse (one L)
like you say, each person approaches writing in their own fashion

Definitely. I never consciously imagine any-one reading my work but me, because for about 25 years no-one did. And in the end, I really write for myself, tell a story to (and for) myself, as I always did. At the end of the day, I am not serious enough about it to put it on a writer's group. Once I take writing seriously it would feel like work, and that would be deadly.
I'll probably go back to complete privacy within a few years, and just leave the fandom, (it was only a spur of the moment challenge to myself.) but I would still write as much as ever, and enjoy it.
It always cracks me up when you say if you took writing seriously it feel like work. One of the things about your writing which always strikes me, is it seems like it must be such hard work, it is complicated and long and carefully written. I don't review it as much as I should because I almost feel like I am intruding at first read and my intent is to absorb it and go back and write a review and then, distractible as I am, I usually don't. I wonder if that is some psychic sense on my part of entering into a private world? Plenty of other people seem able to write a lot about what you write. I definitely write for an audience, but not necessarily a big one at all. I want to write what I want to write and not what a lot of people would like to read.

I am laughing at myself at the moment for writing a Harry/Draco story, which is probably the most popular pairing in all of fandom, with the largest audience, and nobody is going to read mine but my friends! There is something profoundly odd about that picture. Whatever. I think it all boils down to writing for oneself in fanfiction. One's audience is an extension of oneself. But there is no amorphous Public for the work like there is in commercial fiction.

Edited at 2011-07-24 01:56 am (UTC)
Haha. I am just an older version of Baby Fingon making up stories with his toys and being completely absorbed. I do get completely absorbed, and always did as a child. And it's not that I just dump it and allow it to sit there all scraggy with mistakes. I see it like one of those long pictures rolled across a wall, and I move back and forth rubbing something out, drawing something in, then stepping back and looking at the whole thing, then moving back to one frame of the picture again to faff around some more. But it's still only a 'making up stories' to me, really, which I need to do, because I have always done it, (and can't stop, because I get vile-tempered with frustration) but which is an selfish and indulgent way of getting me through life. So when it comes to things like the LC or the MEFA's, I think, 'Umm, people, this is just me wasting time. It does not warrant this seriousness.'

I think it all boils down to writing for oneself in fanfiction.

Yes. If I wanted a huge audience I wouldn't write what I write.
I have to agree with Oshun on this. Your writing is amazing, complex but highly structured, and intertwined to the max. I adore your writing and would read you on a desert island with only two choices of what to read. If you ever to drop out and back to solitude, I hope you'll allow a select few of us to accompany you. Your writing is too marvelous to be hidden in a dark room forever, it needs the sunlight of others to bring out the shine.

- Erulisse (one L)
Well, you are very kind as always, Erulisse.
I think it is the writing process that is important to me mainly. To be completely involved in writing puts me somewhere else in my mind, blanks out the world. If people read, and comment I kind of come out with this startled rabbit look, realizing that other people are looking at it. But I don't think about that until it happens, and I know perfectly well that as I mentioned to Oshun, I am an adult version of Baby Fingon, thoroughly absorbed in my world of 'make-believe'. So when people talk of my writing in a serious manner, as if it was even important enough to spend two minutes on! I half-laugh and shake my head.
Well, you are very kind as always, Erulisse.

Now you've got me laughing. I didn't get the name of dragonlady in vain, I can be a total b___ch when necessary. Your writing, however, does not require me to be mean, nasty and cruel - LOL.

- Erulisse (one L)
Lol, well I am sure we all can. When it comes to reading though, I just look for and read stories I like. Fanfic has given me so much joy.
Well, without a doubt YOUR fanfic has given me a great deal of joy (and is continuing through Magnificat, which I am totally adoring). Esteliel and others also have given me a great deal of joy. And I am hopeful that my own small efforts have also given joy to some, although they don't come close to your magnificant saga and Vanimore, the OMC against who I will measure all original characters, including my own Helyanwe.

- Erulisse (one L)
I forgot to add, and tears! And rage, and in fact the whole kit and kaboodle of emotions.

Any-one can write a good OC/OFC.
I think in Tolkien fanfic, the question is does any-one really want to, when so many canon characters were written with very little in-depth characterization. The Silm characters especially, are virtually OC's as it is, and as some-one said in an essay, original male characters are superfluous, as there are so many interesting canon ones. Shame I never read that before I started writing d;-)

I think some people notice Van just because not many stories are written around (as opposed to including) OMC's.
I adore the canon characters in Silm-fic, but in order to really understand them, I add my own OFC to the mix. It makes me happy - LOL. What makes Van unique is not that he is an OMC, but his history and heritage. He's pretty amazing :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
I'm also not a writer's group person, though I know several of my friends gain tremendously from being a part of the LC. I'm lucky to have a regular beta who knows my (many) weak points by now and is used to how I approach a story.

Good luck with the beta suggestions - probably safest to be deeply suspicious of anything that starts with 'I would rather...' or words to that effect *g* (been there, sooo been there)

And oh yes, Viva le Tour indeed.

LC totally rocks for me, I've gained several firm friends through that group and did beta only for them for well over a year before I started writing on my own. For me, it works. For others, maybe not. We all have our own ways to work.

I beta for a lovely German writer as a secondary beta and love it. That arrangement seems to work very well for us since we've been doing it for almost two years now.

Time trials...squee....

- Erulisse (one L)
I think how you start out can really set the pattern *g* - I was writing Gil-galad/Glorfindel in my own little corner of the sandpit back when the main focus was on Glorfindel/Erestor, so I don't think it occurred to me to share much of what I was doing.
Ooooh, nice icon of Gildor. Very nice indeed.

And I agree, how you start out can make a huge difference. I am a small toe in the water first kind of person and may still not have published anything without B2ME having inspired me to put my work out there.

- Erulisse (one L)
Red made me a set of character icons a while back, and I think Gildor is my favourite :)

Like Spiced_wine and Keiliss I am a lone writer - to me it is a very personal process and no one sees it until it is posted, unless it is being betad. Perhaps DH could write his own version because it sounds quite different to what you have actually written.

I've given DH permission to write his own version of my story. He fully admits I am the person with the imagination, he is more grounded. But the revisions and substitutions he recommended for my story were good and I incorporated most of them. We'll see what happens, I'll work up the final version tonight and send it on to the contest tomorrow.

- Erulisse (one L)
My husband is my beta - but then he also writes fic. I've never really understood how groups like the Lizards' Council work - they seem extremely intimidating to anyone who isn't already a member - as do all the forums etc., I have found.

I also got the impression, fairly early on, that most of the 'established experts groups' wouldn't touch me with a bargepole as 'crossover' or 'girl fell into ME' stories are regarded as totally unacceptable. So I potter around on LJ - and post, because it's where my husband posts, at Twisting the Hellmouth.

So, in some ways, I am quite envious of people who seem to have become members of one of these 'magic circles'.

Although having my husband as my beta is actually very useful. Usually his main role is simply as grammar checker - I do not need him to help me write the stories - they already exist in my head. But in my original ventures into fanfic, the Buffyverse, he was always useful as a source of canon - and, as luck would have it, he was also a member of the Newcastle Branch of the Tolkien Society back in the 1970s so he does understand what's going on in the Tolkienverse ones!

I don't need to ask his opinion on storylines etc. after I've written anything - if I need to talk it over I do it over dinner before I write that scene...
The nice thing about the LC is there are few if any prejudices. I don't think any kind of writing or subject matter is unwelcome. I suppose carelessly throw together, thoughtless stuff would be. The original core of writers had a strong leaning toward Silmarillion-informed Tolkien fanfic. Some wrote largely LotR, but even in those cases with a heavy back story based in the Silmarillion, that was quite different at the time from other groupings around and from the writers group that most of the originals came from. I think in the last couple of waves there has been a broadening of influences and taste.

I do find it intimidating to post there. I worry I will bore people or waste their time. When it was smaller I felt easier--can't explain that exactly, because the objectively scarier writers are the original members. I think writing groups do well as intimate settings--no 100-of-my-closest-friends formula is going to work.

I suppose there are self-selecting clots of writers within the LC which routinely read one another's work and that is why it works?

As far as always using a writers group or even a Beta, sometimes I just want to finish a story and move on and not defend it to others if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, I ALWAYS yearn for a good copy checker. I try to self-select and only give the LC board of writers stories I think they would want to read also. But it is usually the other stories that I need the most help with.

I made my personal friends and family copy check my early fanfic efforts, but that got old fast. I wrote too much and they could give a flying f*ck about most of it.
It does seem to shake out on LC. There are readers, there are people who will crit, and there are a few who will just pop in when something is firmly within their knowledge base and they want to put their help forward (like the Supreme Lizard and the Janitor - love them both).

I tell you truly, Oshun, any time you need a beta or just someone to read something over for you, I'd be delighted to help you out. The universe doesn't matter. I might focus on Tolkien for my own writing, but I am comfortable with a lot of different universes. Just saying.....'ya know?

- Erulisse (one L)
I've 3 people I can call on as beta readers who know their Tolkien and I often ask my LJ friends for help with plots and things I don't know about ect.

I did try a writers' group once and it made my head spin!
It's great that you have people you can call on. I love to beta, but I know that I should always get my own stories looked at - that there is always room for improvement. LC fills that need for me, except for this one contest that I enjoy writing for :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
I need my stories looking at too.I had Aragorn nibbling his coast and telling Faramir "Our wives are waiting for use." Blushes.