I fear I may be testing my readers' patience, talking once again about my questionable experiences in the writer exercises I've been participating in this summer, but here we go again...
WRiTE CLUB is turning out to be something of a chore, and not a happy one. Because there are so darn many participants, DL has opted to run three rounds per week, so that we get to read two writing samples three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays), and hopefully voting for a favorite each day. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to vote for either option. Some of these samples are abysmal, and what makes it worse is that the participants/voters invariably gush over them, which continually baffles me. This is exactly my greatest fear of the blogosphere community, especially those who band together. Are they supporting the ability to write, or simply someone who wants to write? I get that we all love and need support, but it only hurts everyone when we're supporting people who would be better off knowing that they either need drastic improvement or shouldn't be writing at all.
I guess it's always been my delusion that people who write are doing it because they have a legitimate calling. Increasingly, I believe with virtual certainty that most of the people who write do it because they like the idea of it, and they've probably received a certain amount of encouragement over the years, whether early on, or perhaps the very kind that they've since gone online to receive more of as they look to be a success and make a living off their efforts.
The disingenuous nature of this support comes off whenever you go to someone Amazon link (or whatever) for the book they've published and you see glowing reviews, I mean full-star reviews. Call me crazy, but it's probably more rare than these small-publishers are capable of matching so regularly to create a work of genius. Are all these writers really coming up with the best books ever, or are the people giving these reviews simply encouraging those who are doing the same things they are, and if they give a good review, then they will get one back in return? That's what it seems like to me.
I'm not saying these things out of jealousy. Yeah, I see blogs with a lot of readers and a lot of comments and wish I could get that sort of following, but it's just hard to know where the interest begins and where the networking ends. Yes, you want connections. Yes, you want people interested in you. But you also want to be doing something that will actually amount to something. A house of cards will always fall down. The big bad wolf will always huff and puff. We seem to be taking the lesson that Goldilocks was the hero. No, she wasn't.
So that's what I get when I read WRiTE CLUB entries. It's not because there's just so gosh darn many stories to read and they're unrelenting and there's still three months to go (!), it's literally the quality of the pieces and the absurdity of everyone saying everything is so wonderful! I'm not crazy. David List had me tested. (But he should have gone to Houston.)
There's also Martin Ingham's Shootout. Maybe I was a little fuzzy on the math, but I guess there are four rounds on this one. I just read some stories from the third round, and for all the brevity that goes on forever in WRiTE CLUB, the writers in the Shootout think they have to write ten-page stories. I'm here to tell anyone from that exercise that you don't. In fact, please don't, if you can at all help it. Without exception, even the best stories would be better if they were missing a few of those pages. I don't object to long short stories. I was just saying that mine need to be longer. But as I said, even the best writers in this one could be better if they wrote shorter. I don't know what it is. I know that most people seem to be under the impression that a short story should be a quarter of a hundred pages long (many famous dead writers, in fact), and that may be so, but if you're looking to see how good a writer you really are, maybe you ought to consider writing shorter, so those who are providing you feedback can point out your strengths, rather than figure out that one of them is that the more you write the more control you lose of your own story.
Some of this is a product of writing a story in a week. If you're at all reluctant to edit when you're completely in control of your timeframe, then chances are you're going to suck that much more if you don't really edit at all. The best stories in the Shootout could still use a little editing, which is only natural, considering the average participant should seriously be reconsidering whether they ought to be making a future as a writer. (The worst of them should not even be writing, and of course they're the most visibly neurotic.)
(And yes, the fact that I'm currently very low on the totem pole does seem to suggest that I'm one of those people. Perhaps the difference is that I know my efforts in the Shootout haven't been what they should be. I'm using this thing for what it should be. I seriously doubt everyone is.)
As for WRiTE CLUB, I believe in this instance, too, that many of the participants will only end up believing that they're Swiss cheese (and metaphorically they are, because they're full of holes), when the nakedness of the competition ought to be revealing something else entirely, probably bleu cheese.
So there you go. You can either be Swiss cheese or bleu cheese. Or perhaps we're all aiming for good 'ol American cheese. I guess that's an accurate representation of the middle ground...