which is not to say i’m in pain, but that last week i joined the Online Writer’s Workshop (OWW) for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror writing.

i’ve been on the fence about this for years, amazingly. why? hubris, basically.

the idea is laughable to me, now, but it felt no less solid before. i know good writing when i see it, right? i know when my writing makes sense or is effective or ‘works’, don’t i? i regularly make tough decisions about my work. i go through 6-10 drafts for an average piece before i put it out for submission. i know the rules of grammar and the rules of the genres. what else do i need?

a reality check, to be blunt.

while the above statements are all true, i’ve been at this for several years and not a single paid sale. yes, i’ve had a micro fiction piece published, but cool as that is, it doesn’t seem to validate the years’ worth of concentrated effort, does it? yes, i’ve written a lot of material, and i think much of it is quite good with similar feedback from my beta readers, but there are two inherent flaws in that last statement:

  1. i think it’s good
  2. my beta readers all know me personally and well

now, i don’t mean i’m entirely blind to my own faults (see any of my marked up revisions for proof), or that my friends and family can’t be objective and provide great feedback (both of which they certainly have been/done), but i need to push myself harder. yes, there’s the networking thing, and many agents make a point of asking about major writing workshops (like OWW for genre work), and this will be great to add to my query letters, but that’s really the least of it, for me. i’ve only just started, but i’ve already been challenged to bring my best game to the table with each and every submission and review.

and that’s the real thing. i submit the latest version of Uncle Deppo and i’ve received one largely positive review (with some very good points to consider), but the majority of the process is in reviewing and critiquing others’ works, and that may well be where the real value is. no matter whether i personally like the material or not, i have found something to be jealous of in each of the pieces i’ve reviewed so far. whether it’s plot construction, pacing, tightness of language, powerful imagery, dynamic characters, humor, or any of a thousand other things, reading this work has been opening my mind and, hopefully, expanding my own skill set, and that’s what this is all about, for me.

as an example, there was a piece that put me off because of some of the subject matter, but in the process of thinking it over and forming my review, i discovered that the core device the author used was something i wished i’d come up with, and it immediately sparked a series of expanding thoughts about how to use that device in other ways. obviously, i can’t use the same device, but by formulating and presenting these ideas in the critique, i hopefully gave the author insight into some other possibilities, while pushing my own mind to reconsider how i use some of my own devices. if i hadn’t critiqued this piece, i likely would never have had this little discovery.

how cool is that?

stupid hubris.


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