Posts Tagged writers life
I know I’m a couple of days late in submitting this post. My brain drew a complete blank this week when it came around to writing about… my writing experiences and learnings. This is probably due to not having written much over the last couple of weeks besides what you will find on this blog. There were few fresh experiences for me to draw from. As I waited for inspiration to hit me, I caught up on my Watchlist and, sure enough, my standard researching go-to pulled through.
I saw The Breadwinner last night and, during Act I of the movie, the father kept insisting the protagonist retell the stories he had taught her. She was wary of the task and lacked confidence in her ability to remember the details or add spirit to her recitations that her father so naturally exhibited. I understood her anxiety; it is an anxiety we, all authors, become consumed by every once in a while. Will our stories be relevant, will they create an impact? Will we connect?
As the father continued to reiterate to the daughter that telling stories was their tradition and why it was important that she continue the tradition, I began to re-appreciate how selfless an act storytelling can be. Amidst the terror and oppression of the Taliban regime, it was the one tradition that they could uphold because it did not cost anything more than a conversation between two persons – however secret. It was the one way that the truth of a time before the Taliban reign could stay alive for future generations to look back on. As long as there were people telling the stories of their pasts, the Taliban couldn’t obliterate their identity. Storytelling was a risk they would just have to take.
But storytelling isn’t just the tradition of the people of Afghanistan; it is the one tradition that all of mankind has had in common since languages were invented. In Genius, Colin Firth’s enactment of the legendary book editor Max Perkins describes to the self-absorbed Tom Wolfe (Jude Law) in the movie how ancient a form of communication storytelling is. That when the cavemen sat around the campfire at night with nothing to do but worry about all the dangers lurking in the dark, they told each other stories. Stories kept the dread of the dark at bay while campfires became more than sanctuaries, they became a symbol of communion.
Today, we discover scratch marks on cave walls and marvel at the presence of mind and resourcefulness of our ancestors to have preserved the evidence of their existence at a time when they didn’t have the comfort of the knowledge that archeologists would one day unearth their fossils and fittings even without the tips they thought to leave behind. But archeological findings only tell us what we may surmise ourselves; while cave arts communicate the rendition of the stories the Neanderthal themselves wanted to share with us. How much more personal the communication then becomes, how much more generous the act?
In junior high, we didn’t study English, we had Language Art classes. Because that is the form storytelling eventually took. It became more than a means of preserving history. It became methods of imparting ethics and morals, life lessons and standards. It made learning pleasurable and it glued those learnings to our memories. Go online and you will discover a hundred reasons why storytelling is important in everything from early childhood development to cultural constructs to the field of marketing. From reiterating facts of our past to inventing fictions based on our present or somewhere in between, storytelling can take on many forms and shapes from using words and symbols to threads and paints.
But, returning back to the lesson the father was trying to impart to our protagonist in The Breadwinner, the one thing we, authors, must remember is that storytelling is meant for more than our self-gratification in the ability to tell a story well, to impress; the true reason for telling stories lies in the “why”. Realize why you must tell a story and the hesitation will resolve itself.
Why do you tell your stories?
Those who visited my blog in the spring of last year may remember how I came about to publish my ebook Bad Daughter; since, in the greater scheme of things, this is rather a trifling detail, I can’t hold it against you if you do not. Still, for the purpose of this post, allow me to briefly recap the event that led to this mismanaged milestone in my writing career.
Around mid-April 2017, I came to learn about a fiction writing contest being hosted by Amazon UK for international authors old and new to win large in distinction as well as cash. The contest had been open for some time and there was just over a month left to the deadline, after which, the entered stories would be reviewed by a panel of renowned authors and publishing wizards assembled under the banner of, what is basically, the most influential book distributor of our time. A challenging feat, especially given the time constraint, but since the rules were fairly simple, I decided to give it a go. All I had to do was publish a story of above 5,000 words via KDP Select that was never before circulated in any form or medium. Right? Wrong.
My genius plan was that, even if I didn’t win first prize but my story was shortlisted, I could make some very important people in the industry sit up and take notice of my writing. Talk about being jacked up on confidence. What I missed was the inferred rule, i.e. the competition wouldn’t simply be on the storytelling aspect of each entry but will also factor in how much sales and positive reviews they generated before judges even took notice (because, obviously, any competition that commits £20,000 for the first prize would probably attract a hell lot of authors). But misconstruing the fine prints wasn’t my true inadequacy; it was my lack of vision and the inability to set my priorities in the correct order.
I had been toying with a story idea for some time for which I had just enough research materials to concoct a simplified plot with a justifiable character arc to produce a sizeable novella. At the time, I was convinced it was the perfect solution for this short order. Since the premise, too, was a notable departure from what I was used to writing, I felt this was a good opportunity to embark on something new without compromising too much of my time for the novel I was already working on.
It was still women’s literature but I knew even before I began writing that, for the sake of the central theme, the tone and style would have to differ substantially from my previous fictions. While I generally write contemporary romances with elements of chick lit for adults, the story I was planning to write was literary fiction banked on own voices appealing more to YAs and NAs. Yes, I was as confused about how to categorize my novella as this sounds. Already, I was beginning to wrinkle the fabric of my potential success. But I allayed my worries with the knowledge that this story would be published under a new pen name using my first and middle initials instead of the full name [not very original, I know].
As the first draft practically wrote itself, I finally began to comprehend how important a story I had to tell – one that was truly worthy of the public’s attention. Using fear of social stigma to silence victims of child sexual abuse too often begin from home and it needs to stop regardless of the source! Though my grasp of the subject was still not as extensive as my growing interest would have it, my opinion on the matter was decided. The route to fighting back abuse is through discussion, not silence, I felt. So I began to want to use my novella to get that discussion rolling. Perhaps, some vain part of me also egged me on with the notion that the subject may indeed get me past those thousands of entries into the top ten list, but I was also becoming uncomfortably aware that I could no longer play fast and loose with such a fundamental subject as this if I were to succeed.
Perhaps I should have stopped myself from publishing the novella then. Perhaps I should have forgone the contest and strived to write a full-sized novel with a stronger structure and clearer moral before making the ebook available to the public. Alas, I was too myopic to realize that stoking my pride because I had publically committed to entering the contest now could come back to bite my fulsome behind if my story was too inconsequential to impress the readers.
I pushed through and I was actually satisfied with what I had accomplished – over 37,000 words drafted and edited and compiled for publishing in less than a month! And the contest, too, was such a platform to get this story out on. It was like a fire had been lit under me and I had become desperate to get a book published under my name [albeit with only my initials]. The result? In my haste, I wrote my choppiest story to date and put it up for sale. What a stellar beginning to my career as a professional author.
If you are sneering at me, you are welcome to. Heaven knows I have directed enough sermons at me on the detriments of using shortcuts to achieve success. No sooner did I publish the ebook, I decided to rewrite it, to be shuffled entirely back to front. I thank my stars now that I didn’t go for print simultaneously and could sell only four copies of the ebook. Two of them were purchased by friends so I can always tell them when I upload the revised content but I feel sorry for the two schmucks who thought to give an unknown author an opportunity to prove herself. Hopefully, they will get the update notice that Amazon promises whenever an ebook content is updated.
You must be wondering why I have gone off the hinge berating myself on the eve of Valentine’s Day, confessing my most shamefully shoddy undertaking. Well, I know how authors are always chasing due dates; it is entirely easy to break down under pressure or be enticed by the opportunity of a publication, but don’t do it until you are absolutely sure your story is ready to be read by your audience. Not only will you be hampering the opportunity to write that compelling story within you, you will be doing your author self a disservice.
In other words, don’t be an impatient fool like me.
author advice, author confession, Creative Writing, daily post, Daily Prompt, novel writing, publishing tip, self-publishing, writers life, Writing, writing career, writing fiction, writing struggles, writing tips
Via: Daily Prompt – Inkling
Remember this moment in cinema?I recently had a moment like this. Not that it suddenly dawned on me that I have been unwittingly in love with a person who has always been in my life. It was something much more worrisome.
I was discussing the love of Mr. Darcy with a former work associate when I found myself mentally sneering, “Yeah, everyone wants to be Elizabeth Bennet and find their own Mr. Darcy. What they don’t realize is that they are all Marianne Dashwood chasing after Willoughby.” Then I further added to myself, “Lately, it’s been an endless parade of Lydia Bennets complaining about how they have been completely had by Wickham. Well, what can I expect from a Millennial*?”
And then I became wholly ashamed of my less than charitable feelings towards others. Here was a young woman who has always looked up to me for advice like one does a sister and I was abusing her for her romantic aspirations instead of encouraging her to develop the kind of consistency shown by Austen’s heroines. Even the mild-mannered Jane Bennet would be disappointed in me. Shouldn’t the fact that the younger generation is once again picking up authors like Austen be a source of hope? So I proceeded to correct my stance and discuss with my friend all the reasons why the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship prospered.
Later that day, I was thinking about why everyone loved Mr. Darcy so much; why I loved him, actually. And I came up with the following list of traits:And also:
At heart, he is a noble beast though his pride hides it well
He does not love universally but when he loves, he is ardent and steadfast
He has difficulty delegating and whatever is to be done must be done by him so obviously very capable
He feels deeply, reflects greatly, and holds his own opinions at the highest esteem
He is honest and has no need to deny his feelings or actions
Though he is ill at ease in a crowd or among strangers, he feels no compunction in speaking his mind
He makes short order of assessing people and situations nor does he forgive easily when they fall short of his expectations
He has a superiority complex but only because his mind is so improved
His speech is eloquent, his manners are without art
His actions are made with conviction and confidence
He knows how to handle information with discretion, he approaches life with consistent gravitas
As I added more and more attributes to the list, I became struck by my own reality…
OH MY GOD! I AM MR. DARCY!
[Someone needs to write a fanfiction with that title, by the way]
Apart from the tall, dark, and sexy man thing, of course. But does this mean that all these years I have been in love with myself? Who would’ve thought? If so, how narcissistic is that? The more I mulled it over, the more convinced I became that I might be a borderline egomaniac in my appreciation of the characteristics attributed to Mr. Darcy. If I am ever dissatisfied with myself, I can will away whatever unease I feel with the self-possessed knowledge that should I apply myself to the task at hand, I will succeed.
In fact, the only thing I have truly ever feared in my life is failing to become a revered author. It is the one place where I am not absolutely convinced that were I to practice and push, I would become a best-selling novelist. No matter how much effort I put into the craft or to the purpose of building my author platform, it may all still come to naught. Writing keeps me grounded. It probably even prevents me from using means of manipulation and coercion on others to create little replicas of my personality.
WHEW! Close call, huh?
*Dear Millennial, I don’t really think I’m superior to you. Any harsh feelings I may harbor towards you probably stems from a jealous resentment that you have greater social stamina and enthusiasm for life than I do – and so, the fault is actually mine. With all candor, I actually admire your pluck and ability to discover adventure and entertainment in every task that you set yourself to. XOXO
Back to the topic at hand, why do you love Mr. Darcy?
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