I've perused over a dozen writing forums now, not to mention various sites where people can post their work and receive awards and feedback, ostensibly with the intention of improving their writing. What I've seen out there is so ridiculous that it is now a toss up whether I watch comedy bits on You Tube or read these forums when I need a good laugh.
There's nothing wrong with the forums intrinsically. They are, for the most part, well run, organized, and honest places for tentative artists to land. And there's nothing wrong with the writing--there can't possibly be. More on that later. No, what's hilarious to me are the editing comments people post.
One writer posted a paragraph of fiction and asked for a critique. The writing was devoid of grammatical or spelling errors, yet received such a thorough and merciless lashing from one woman that I thought she must be adjusting to a lower dose of Prozac. The electronic editing marks were so thick, you could barely make out the original sentences. And what were her concerns? Merely style. It wasn't how she would have written the paragraph, so she surgically mangled this poor person's work to make it her own, then announced it "fixed." I laughed my ass off until I saw the replies: everyone agreed with her wholeheartedly.
Thinking it was a fluke, I moved on to a few other sites. It was no fluke. I found free verse poets slapped on the wrist for not using proper punctuation or capitalization, stream of conscious-style fiction writers cuffed across the cheek for same, fantasy writers told they weren't being real, family biographers accused of lying (If you're not in their family, what's the basis of your accusation?), long paragraphs sliced up like hot bread and short paragraphs bullied for being short. It was a comedy of errors...but not on the side of the writers.
Point is, these days, pretty much anything goes in writing. If you can barely read it--and sometimes even when you can't--you can get it published. I've seen it. Perusing the fiction aisles in my local library is the most frustrating act of self-abuse I've ever survived. I can pull out a book at random and find...Lo, and behold!...improper punctuation both intentionally and unintentionally used, fantasy fiction so far down the rabbit hole that you would have to attend a minimum of ten college courses taught by the writer himself to comprehend the plot, characters, and skewed laws of physics that you are expected to accept, biographies that are written as humorous fiction, biographies that are written as fact, and biographies that admit to being a thick gumbo of both, paragraphs so long that I had to take a bathroom break in the middle of one and grab a bagel, and paragraphs so short that they moonlighted as bumperstickers.
All these books had been published, they were on the library shelf. Many of the worst ones, in my opinion, seemed to be the most well-loved or at the very least the most checked out, judging by their dogeared disintegration. But that's the point: it's my opinion. Writing is art, and all art is in the eye of the beholder. In the early days (read: before desktop publishing, pay-to-view blogs, and Amazon.com) you had to convince one of the guardians at the gate at a publishing house to believe your stuff was art, or at the very least that it would sell. They were risking their own dime if they churned out ten thousand copies and couldn't hawk them at Barnes and Noble. Now, the middle man is virtually gone. You write it, you publish it online, it's out. You're on your own with intellectual property rights, etc., but you're free to let your freak flag fly, punctuation or no punctuation.
I loathe Picasso, I think Melville could use a good enema, and Harry Potter makes my teeth itch. Yet, all these artists have been embraced by the public at one time or another, praised as gods by the most clenched sphincters you'd ever hope to meet in a critics circle, and their original works and manuscripts have fetched amounts of money bordering on the obscene. Why? I have a few lemming theories about the human race and all it's myopic social mores but hopefully, it's because their stuff spoke to people and fulfilled an emotional need. And that's why most of us write--to communicate something we feel.
How you do it, folks, is apparently up to you. I haven't located a single essential rule of writing that absolutely every published writer conforms to. All you really gotta do is pour out of you in your own language what feels right and true and good. I guarantee there are people out there who will think you are a genius, and others who will attempt to get to excommunicated from the church. (Salman Rushdie has a new one out. Have you seen it?) The only real goal is to get them to purchase your stuff while you're still alive....
You are living the life you think most about.
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Last edited by Adrenaline; 09-20-2012 at 09:25 AM..