Today’s particular issue has plagued me off and on for a while now. It’s an issue I’m sure any writer can attest to. I’d like to title it ‘Unfortunate Writer’s Response’ or UWR.
Tell me if this sounds familiar, you just finished a round of novel writing during NaNoWriMo and have sat down to read your most recent book purchase. You start the first chapter only to realize you are now analyzing every plot point, how the writer sets up a scene, are they showing or telling…and now you’ve put down your book. So you flip on the television to watch your favorite made for TV movie. Only now you notice that the dialogue is stilted and there is a crap storyline. Now the TV is off as well.
Yep, sometimes being a writer sucks, and it’s not just you! After long hours of writing and trying to utilize all of the tricks and rules given to you it can be very difficult to shut down that part of your brain. If you’re lucky then all that is still active is your creative brain. Here’s the thing, you do need to know a bit about writing in order to properly execute a novel, that’s just life. I honestly believe, for your benefit, that once you’ve gotten the rules and such down that it becomes a part of you.
Think of it like this: first you learn the alphabet. Each individual letter. Next you learn sounds. Later you learn words. By the end of it you know loads of words and are so well versed in the basics that any word you are unfamiliar with is easily deciphered. Heck, you can even learn another similar language! It’s the same with writing. First you learn the rules, then the way to use them, later you’ve been (hopefully) published.
I think another problem is that since we as writers do this subconsciously we are a bit harder to impress. I can look back at some of my early reviews and see that while I enjoyed a novel I didn’t exactly have the best knowledge of what makes a “good” story. Now I am not so easily swayed. I do tend to notice areas that could use a bit more thought. In a way that pleases me because it shows the growth I’ve experienced in my journey.
What really makes me, and I’m sure many others, thrilled are the sneaky writers. The ones who take you not only on a fantastic journey, but the ones who can hide their writing techniques from even other writers. Which, I must admit, sometimes requires bending/breaking the rules. I get a kick out of reading all the way through a novel/series and not seeing the end until it has happened. That moment when you look back and while you watched and read it flew by.
All writers steal. It is a fact of life. No one has an idea that is entirely their own. Maybe its initial inception was but the story as a whole has bits from various others thrown in. Who hasn’t heard someone say “I was going for a Such-and-such style of writing”? It happens. James Bell once came across such an instance in Dean Koontz’ novel Midnight. He says while reading he stopped and thought ‘this is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and later ‘now it’s like H.G. Wells’ The Isle of Doctor Moreau’. He later found that the main character made the same comparison as he, the reader, did. He said it was Dean Koontz’ wink to the audience. That is what entertains the writer.
It takes a certain cleverness to catch a writer off guard. For myself, at least, this is why I must sometimes pick and choose what I want to do for a few weeks at a time. Do I want to read or do I want to write? Because, you see, when your writer brain is working on your reading it kind of loses its fun.
Do you suffer from UWR? Have you found yourself picking apart your favorite movies or books? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Have a good one!