I’ve posted a new html Warbreaker Chapter. Chapter Fourteen.
Also, here’s a reader mail item that some of you may find interesting. John asks:
I recently joined a fiction writers group. I personally have not done much writing, but have always wanted to give it a shot, and this seems like a good place for me to learn. Our group is in its infancy. It turns out that roughly 2/3s of the members are writing fantasy. I was curious if you have any general advice for a group such as this. Or any writing advice you would be willing to share at all. Any sort of insight you could share would be fantastic.
I get this one on occasion, so I wrote up an official answer:
I’d love to give give you a few pointers for the writing group. I’ve been in a number of them myself, and there are a few things that seem to work really well.
First off, when you are being critiqued, resist the urge to respond to comments people make. It’s tough, but stay silent! Don’t defend what you did, don’t even clarify.
Why do this? Well, the LAST thing you want to do is start an argument between yourself and your readers over the story. The readers are responding with their reactions, and you can’t change how they felt when they read the story. Arguing, explaining, and all of that is meaningless because their reaction to the art has already happened. All you will do is make things more contentious and encourage people to stop giving you honest feedback.
Again, it’s tough, but try not to say ANYTHING. Just write down what people are saying, and try to interpret it. Why did they misunderstand that character? Why were they confused? What were the problems?
Secondly, if you are GIVING criticism, try to be as descriptive as possible. Talk about how you felt, what confused you, and things like that. RESIST trying to fix the problems or give suggestions.
This is hard too. We want to fix the books we read. But that will only turn them into our own books, and make them turn out how we would write them. What you want to do is act as a ‘test audience’ and describe your emotions, thoughts, and feelings about the chapter or short story as accurately as you can.
You can give suggestions, sometimes, but try to keep them to a minimum and only in very rare circumstances.
Third, have a discussion (except the person being critiqued) about the chapter. It’s okay for the people who haven’t written the piece to argue about it–that gives the author more information. It tells him/her that various people had different reactions. When someone says something about the chapter you disagree with, let the author know. Then, see how many others felt like you.
Finally, remember that NOBODY can write your story better than you can. Others might write a different story, and might write a really good one, but only you can write YOUR story. So, if you disagree with what the group says, it’s okay to not change the piece. (Of course, if they all say the same thing, you should really think about it.)
I suggest workshopping pieces and NOT rewriting them until after a few months have passed. Write down the feedback, then set it aside. Come back to the piece in several months fresh, read through the piece again, and then look at the feedback and see which things sound like good ideas to you.
If you aren’t careful, you can rewrite your story over and over to everything a writing group says, and that can ruin it. Nothing is more sad to me than seeing someone who is too easily influenced by what others think of their story. They often will take a book and try to make it something else, just because the group might like that better.
Also, a new Elantris Aon explanation is coming. I haven’t forgotten about those!