Friday, April 5, 2013

Why I Write Fiction

Our writers' group met last night. We do group critiques, up to three pages. No empty, feel-good, back patting here - just good, solid, rip-it-apart critiques. I usually come away with great information I can use to improve my work.

I write fiction. Mystery, suspense, sometimes a little sci fi.  Usually, I only write non-fiction when I do humor because, let's face it, sometimes you can't make this stuff up. But last night I took in a piece I had written about losing my mom. It was purely non-fiction, just as it happened, and it had been hard to write.

It was the first time I've ever felt defensive receiving critiques.  One person suggestive I change a location and I thought,"But that's where it happened." Another argued a reaction and I thought, "But that's how I felt." Someone suggested I inject a little humor and I thought, "My mother was dying. I don't remember laughing at all that month."  I even resented it when someone referred to the first person POV character as "she". That was me, damn it.

I know my reactions weren't exactly rational. The others were doing what they're supposed to do. They were critiquing the writing, not the events being written about. But for me, it was just too personal. I think I need to stick to fiction.

* * *

Last week, blog friend Maryann Miller presented me with this lovely award.

Thank you, Maryann, and I hope you'll forgive me but I'm going to play fast and loose with the rules on this.

First, I'm going to answer the questions you gave me: 

1. How long do you spend putting together a blog? - I'm a slow blogger. Even on a short post I've probably spend hours hunting for just the right a picture or joke to include.

 2. What other writing do you do? - Besides blogging? For years I only wrote book length fiction with the occasional short humor piece mixed in but I've started trying my hand at short fiction.  In fact, I've got an announcement coming on Monday.

3. Do you blog because you like to, or because you were told you have to by a publisher? - Honestly, some of each. I got started because I was told to. Most of the time I enjoy it but there are days when it feels like a time consuming chore.

 4. What is a story your family likes to tell about you? - Um, I really can't think of any. Maybe the stories they tell about me have to be told out of my hearing.

 5. When you visit another blog, do you promote it on social media?- Not often. I'm really not into the full social media thing. I don't even Tweet. Guess I'm going to have to get better at that.

Now I'm going to pass this award along to a few other bloggers but I'm awarding it N.S.A. No strings attached. No rules. No questions to answer. No pass-along requirements. I'm just going to let them know their blog provides a bright spot in my day.

If they want to post the award on their blog and mention my name, that would be great. If they want to pass it along, that's great, too. But neither are required. N.S.A - just enjoy.

So, here are the bloggers I'd like to share this N.S.A. award with (OMG, I ended that sentence with a preposition!):

DL Hammons
Linda Grimes
Liz Fichera
Arlee Bird 
Carol Kilgore

Okay, I hope Maryann forgives me for changing the rules and I hope those I've passed this award along to enjoy receiving it.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Joke of the Day:

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Johnny received his plate, he began eating.
"Johnny," said his mother, "please wait until we say grace."
"I don't have to," he replied.
"Of course, you do," his mother insisted. "We always say a prayer before eating at home."
"That's at our house," Johnny explained. "But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook."


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That still wasn't fair they shredded it.
With all the links in my posts, it takes one to two hours sometimes to put them together.

DL Hammons said...

Awwwww...that is so kind of you! I think I will actually use this as my "S" post for the Challenge!

Congrats on being recognized! Richly deserved! :)

Al Diaz said...

I take sometimes around 3-4 hours for a post. That's a lot of time. Highly Powers, I'm slow.
I do not agree with your critiquing group as I don't see the transcendence on changing location or point of view. And humor, who would look at the death of a mother with humor even in fiction? Doesn't sound logic to me but then again, I'm just a dragon.
Your joke did make me laugh. :)

Julie Flanders said...

I know I would have had a very hard time with that critique. I don't really think it was appropriate, but that may be because I am still struggling with the loss of my dad last year. The idea of injecting humor into that really hit a nerve. I think perhaps I am better sticking to fiction too!

Love the joke and congrats on your well-deserved award. :)

mooderino said...

I think non-fiction requires a different approach when critiquing and it sounds like your group weren't really sure of how to help, so just threw out suggestions in a kind of "how about trying this?" fashion. I'm sure they were trying to be helpful, just missed the mark.

Thanks for the award, will put it up on my site and link it back to you.


LD Masterson said...

Alex - They didn't really shred it. It wasn't a bad critique. I just couldn't help taking everything they send personally.

I think it would take me all day to put together one of your posts.

DL - Thanks, and I think it would be a perfect "S" post.

Al - I think thins morning's post took me about four hours. I guess we're both slow.

In all fairness, from a purely writing standpoint, some of the suggestions made sense, but I couldn't be objective.

Julie - It's been seven years since I lost my mom but maybe it's still too soon.

Mood - Perhaps fiction is easier to critique. It's sure easier to have critiqued, at least for me.

And you're very welcome.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Yeah, I would much rather critique fiction. Non-fiction is hard to critique, especially when it's personal.

Last month a girl brought in something she wrote about her abusive relationship with her husband. How can you critique something like that? I guess the thing you have to do is ask the writer, what kind of feedback they're looking for.

So, Linda, what kind of feedback WERE you looking for (especially when you knew the dynamics of that group)? :)

Mark Means said... that joke and congrats on the award!

I think some stories get more benefit from critique than others.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's rough. It's hard enough with critiques when it's fiction, but you wrote something personal. I wouldn't want to share with them anymore either.

PK HREZO said...

LOL... love the joke!

You know, sometimes I think writers feel like they HAVE to pick out something wrong. Something so personal would be very hard to have shredded. Just remember a typical reader will feel differently than another writer.

Jemi Fraser said...

LOVE the joke!! :)

Sharing something so personal would be tough - and I would totally take every crit personally too! I'll stick to fiction as well.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy - It wasn't the groups fault. I thought I wanted the piece critiqued, regular old critique. But I was wrong.

Mark - Thanks. And I'm glad you liked the joke.

Diane - I really like the critiques from this group when it's fiction. Guess I didn't allow for my own sensitivity on the topic.

Pk - I feel like I have to stop and clarify, this post wasn't meant to me about a bunch of mean old critiquers. Really, they were giving me good honest feedback. I just didn't realize how much different it would feel on something so close to my heart.

Jemi - And I love giving people a laugh so we're even. :-)

Yes, I think I'll do much better with fiction.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thank you, Linda! You're so sweet. I'll do something with this after A-Z. I already made a note on my calendar.

Anonymous said...

Dear Linda's Critique Group,

You can't critique nonfiction and ask the author to change the facts to make the story more interesting. That's what politicians are for.

The Other Linda

Arlee Bird said...

Why thank you! It will be after April when I use this since it doesn't fit as a movie genre. I'll be needing some subject matter for May anyway and it will link to you down the road.

A Faraway View
An A to Z Co-host blog

Linda G. said...

Awww, thank you so much! Your blog is a bright spot in my day, too--your jokes, stories, and "aw" pics always make me smile. :)

Robin said...

I can understand why you had such a hard time with your non-fiction piece: it was very sensitive subject matter. I think if the subject matter weren't so close to your heart, you might have felt differently about the critique. I am not sure I would give up on non-fiction altogether, but you might think about backburnering this piece until it isn't so "hot" for you.

Loved the joke.

LuAnn @ BackPorchervations said...

LOL. Little Johnny sounds like one of my boys. My husband is far superior to me as a cook.

I think I can understand how hard a piece like that is to write. For a college English class, I wrote something in 1st person, present tense about the day my father passed away. The more I wrote, the more the anxiety and sadness came back.

Cool points to you today for passing along your award and letting people whose writing you enjoy know it. Bet it helped make their days!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the blog award!!*hugs you* :) Your blog brightens my day too.

Regarding the feedback on your personal piece, if you ask 7 people feedback on the same thing, you'll get 7 different points of view. Can't please everybody but you have to please yourself or the story won't get written. If that's the story in your heart, go for it.

broken biro said...

The trouble with the truth is that things don't always happen n the 'right' place and we don't necessarily feel how other people would feel - or think they would feel - in certain circumstances. Maybe as writers we're usually trying to create good stories from (amended) true feelings, but sometimes the truth needs telling even if it doesn't conform to 'good' fiction rules. Did you tell the group it wasn't fiction?

mshatch said...

Writing your own 'truth' can be harder than fiction. It's just so dang personal!

Loved the joke, lol.

Maryannwrites said...

No problem on playing fast and loose with the rules... er, guidelines for the award, LD. It has been neat reading your answers and the responses in the comments. I had no idea people spent that much time on their blogs, but I guess that is why they are more popular than mine. (smile) If I spent more than two hours on mine every day, I would not have time for my other writing, or any of the other demands of the business. Sigh....

Margo Kelly said...

The second ms I wrote was based on an actual event that happened to my daughter. I wrote it as FICTION because I wanted to take liberties with the story. But when the critiques came back (similiar to your experience) I struggled. When someone said, "This would never happen." I felt defensive. It did happen. And that scene happened exactly like THAT in REAL life! Or that copy actually said THOSE words! Or this or that. The lesson I learned: Truth, in fact, is stranger than fiction, and therefore it can be harder to swallow. I distanced myself from the writing. And then I reconsidered their advice. I made the cop nicer. I made the scenes more believable. I with that, I snagged myself an agent. :) Now I'm writing a ms that is 100% fiction, and it is so much fun. Bring on the harsh critiques! :)

Margo Kelly said...

Sorry - I should have proof read my comment before posting. ;)

LD Masterson said...

Carol - You're welcome. I always enjoy visiting the Tiki Hut.

Linda Jackson - Love that.

Lee - I knew you A to Z'ers would have to wait until after April but I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

Linda G - You're welcome and thank you.

Robin - Yeah, I think I just need to stay away from the sensitive stuff. Normally, I enjoy critiques, even harsh ones (which this wasn't).

LuAnn - Hey, my hubby does most of the cooking around here, too. And I can imagine writing about you Dad was really hard.

Liz - You're welcome. *hugs back* I think maybe it just wasn't time yet for that story.

LD Masterson said...

broken brio - That's a good question. I sort of told them it was about my own mom but maybe I should have been clearer that I had written it just the way it happened.

mshutch - Ain't it the truth.

Maryann - I wish I could figure out how to streamline the process. Between writing my post and visiting everyone I want to visit, sometimes the whole day is gone.

Margo - You understand what I mean. Pure ficture is fun to write and the critiques are easier to take. (Oh pooh, we can all translate typos.)

Tammy Theriault said...

Getting defensive of your masterpiece is only natural! don't sweat it! :D

E. M. Prokop said...

Hey LD, I would love to join a writer's group but I don't know of any in my area...maybe I should start one! It sounds hard to listen to people rip apart your work, but in the end it must be beneficial, and like you said, I think they were critiquing the writing, not the subject matter..still though, I think you are a very good writer, and maybe it's like another commenter said, they weren't sure what to critique but felt they had to say something. If one is going to be part of a critique group, I would far rather it be a real one filled with people who actually know what they're talking about, than a bunch of friends that just dole out empty pats on the back...(that's the equivalent of getting a 'Participant' ribbon at sports day!)it would be the only real way to learn anything.
Love your blog and thanks for spending the time making it so enjoyable for all of us!

Tara Tyler said...

critting non fiction is different than fiction
imho, you dont crit the story but the style & form. if you change ths story, it turns into fiction.

nice award, i like those questions.
and j am sending the joke to my mom!

LD Masterson said...

Tammy - Yeah, I'll get over it.

Eve - I really like this group's honesty. Well, most of the time. Hope you can find one for yourself.

Tara - I hope you mom likes the joke. If not, don't mention my name. :-)

Patricia Stoltey said...

I've never been able to write something that's true about myself and then submit it to my critique group. Too scary.

LD Masterson said...

Patricia - I've done light hearted personal non-fiction before and I was pretty comfortable with the critques but I guess this was too close to my heart.