The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is Not Done

As the title suggests, the roof of my apartment complex is still under construction. I have high hopes that they are nearing the end, as the tar-paper is on, and I believe they were blowing insulation into it last week. Hopefully that just means a few more days of getting the actual shingles on and they’ll be gone. I really hope so, because I’m tired of the generator immediately outside my primary window.

In writing news, I have gotten some done, though I am super unfocused, and bouncing from project to project like a ferret on crack. It’s not helping that all the current projects I am interested in are at about the same point: needing to sit down and timeline out the plot/iron out plot points. My process so far is pretty much: get an idea, bang down as much of the general arc as I can, figure the whole thing out, go back and fill the rest in. It has its good points, but it’s easy to get stuck at the “figure the whole thing out” stage.

I have done some reading this past week, though there is barely a dent in my “to be read” shelf. I liked most of the entries I’ve read from the “Make a Play” set Dreamspinner recently released.

Writing Craft

I also read a series (not related to Make A Play) that I liked and I didn’t. While I think it is a useful exercise to pick someone else’s work apart, doing so publicly can have repercussions, so I’m not going to explicitly do that here.

I had the same experience with that series as I did with Star Trek: Into Darkness: It was reasonably enjoyable to sit through as entertainment. However, if you start picking at it and examining it, it falls apart pretty quickly. There were points about this series that I liked, and I saw what the author was trying to do, but certain things just didn’t make sense. I read through some of the reviews for the books on Goodreads after I’d finished, and I think the more negative reviews had some valid points.

Does that mean that all the 4 & 5-star reviews were invalid? No. As I said, I enjoyed the series for the most part. It was an enjoyable couple evening’s worth of curling up on the couch with the cat and reading. (And as a side note: won’t be doing that THIS week because it’s supposed to hit the mid-90’s and there’s no central A/C here.)

The Point that this made for me is: There is a balance between entertainment value and what I’ll call technical proficiency (for current lack of a better term) and each reader is going to find a different combination of those things “acceptable.”

Technical proficiency would encompass 3d characters, believable relationships, cohesive plots, well-thought settings, and each of those things may be a metric in it’s own right, but for the moment, I’m just going to consider a 2-value system.

The technical problems were not absent in the version of the story that got the 4 & 5-star reviews. Perhaps the more technical aspects were not important to those readers, perhaps they’re used to the kind of situations that bothered the 1-star reviewers and didn’t find it odd, I don’t know. I know that I tend to read at a fairly high level, I’m not consciously picking out little details in the scene. If we were going to compare it to watching TV, I’m the guy who is mostly paying attention, but might be flicking through a magazine. I’m not the person pausing playback every so often to examine the items on the shelf in the background of the scene.1

If we consider that “entertainment value” is a constant, then for the 4 & 5 star review folks the tipping point of “desired technical proficiency” is low. But for the 1 & 2 star review folks, the scale of what they wanted needed more of the technical stuff for them to not get bothered by that. The problems with the writing pulled them out of the narrative and ruined the entertainment for them.

I (despite my lack thus far of a cohesive point) think that this is an important concept for a writer to grasp: Not everyone wants the same thing from a work of fiction. See Also: Your Kinks Are Not My Kinks.2 AND THAT’S TOTALLY OK.

Everyone is at a different place in their day/life/arousal cycle when they encounter your work. Everyone brings something different to the table when they read your book. It is totally understandable and expected that they will not all have the same experience and reaction to your work. Some of them will love it. Some of them will hate it.

My personal example for this is Tolkien. I have loved Lord of the Rings since I was in 8th grade (age 12.) One of my best friends cannot stand the books. (She did like the movies.) We are still best friends.

My take home point from this is: Write.

Write today, write tomorrow, just write. (See also: Read, and not just MM romance. Read Bronte, read Rice, read Michener, read Chrichton, read books on writing.) There is not some threshold, but everything you write makes you better at writing. Everything you read exposes you to language. The two of these things will help you improve, if you approach them consciously and thoughtfully.

Some people will love what you write. Some people will hate it. Because they are people, and every damn one of them is different.

And that is freaking awesome.

1: Which is why I edit backwards, a paragraph at a time, because otherwise I miss things in my own work.
2: I tried to find something suitable on TVTropes (WARNING: TV Tropes Link) but that threatened to eat my afternoon, so no link for you.