Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Writing Means Not Holding Back

Writer's Digest blog has a good piece entitled "Transforming fear and breaking through the writing wall." It explains how good writing is less about "bells and whistles" and more about taking risks and leaving your emotional comfort zone. It can be read by clicking here.


Kay Hafner said...

Wow. Very powerful, Brian. Thanks so much for sharing that. A message I know I needed to hear.

John Briggs said...

A lot of writers have made that point over the years, perhaps none more colorfully than the late Norman Mailer, who said that a writer's "got to have balls." He was reminded of that in the '70s when a woman asked him, "When you write, what color ink to you dip your balls into?" Mailer laughed along with the crowd. Ahh, the confidence of one's convictions. He, of course, remained a gifted, if somewhat odd writer (see his The Gospel According to the Son)and she did not. But at least she had the courage to take him down!

I nominate Brian for doing a presentation on ovrcoming your fears as a writer. Anyone else? Anyone?

Kay Hafner said...

How about a general "What's Holding Us Back" topic, moderated by Brian or anyone else interested, where we discuss the gamut of things that are getting in our way from reaching full potential? Or is that too touchy-feely for our group?

John Briggs said...

An open forum would be interesting. Wonder who would volunteer such information and what would they say? Is it like therapy? Does one person lead and watch the others follow? And is fear in writing the same as fear in publishing? Two distinct topics in my mind, which makes "What's Holding Us Back?" perhaps a bit broad, a possible two-part discussion. That said, a presentation on tricks to overcome fears could be useful. Writer's suggestions over the years, etc.

Either one (or both) is worth putting on the calendar.

Brian F said...

I think it's a topic worth exploring in some fashion. There's one writer in particular who clearly (in my mind) has a fairly compelling story to tell but who is just as clearly holding back to the extent that it renders the story completely devoid of emotion. I think this often happens when a story is too close to a writer's own personal experience. I think a way to get around it is to fictionalize enough of the details that you don't feel it's "the story of you" but in such a way that the broader story you're trying to tell remains. At the end of the day, you want to have something that others actually want to read and holding back doesn't serve that purpose.

I know in something I'm working on, my "holding back" is related to not releasing a certain piece of information in order to prolong the tension. Releasing that information too early basically ruins the story. But I also feel I feel like I'm not adequately conveying the desperation of the main protagonist. So I'm struggling technically to reconcile the two. (I'm mentioning this here because I'm not allowed to ask about it before submitting or during critiques)

John Briggs said...

I think you're allowed to mention it before submitting or at the time of the critique if it's along the lines of, "Did I succeed in conveying that tension?" or "...capturing the main character's desperation?" I'm against doing it when submitting the piece only because it taints the critique, leads readers to consider it when they should do so on their own. I think it's fine to ask it of us at the meeting. At least it used to be once upon a time. That should help the author get more of the review process.

Of course, our rule changes are a work in process. Another item to be put to the vote?