Monday, 10 September 2012


What use are colleagues, to someone who writes alone? I write alone, though publish as part of a community. The blog posts you’ve been reading reflect that. Some of my musing to colleagues was recycled for use in these blog posts.
   Other thoughts come to me in the night, and I fictionalise those by turning to characters Darth Sinister or Sergeant Jock MacBastard. I should have another character do that in the COLD WAR struggle with social networking, but nothing springs to mind. Hmm.
   I don’t look for consensus, and I’m not here to set down the law. Blogging is part of writing, and writing is about learning. In chatting to other authors, I bump into contrary views rather than consensual ones. These interest me greatly. The best example being that provided by…
   Kacey Vanderkarr. Coach Vanderkarr. Baby Seal. Young Vanderkarr. Potentially, Darth Vanderkarr. Crippled by writing fear. An alien specimen, this one. Studied under the microscope, she displayed unusual behaviour. I treated her as though a baby seal, ready for bludgeoning on the ice.
   Yes, I was a bit rough on Kacey. For those of you who don’t know the story, I’ll repeat it here with some amplification. I spent months researching Amazon Kindle in 2011. Self-publishing was for me. During the summer of 2011, I discovered there were writers out there scared of publishing anything. Yes, publishing anything. Ever. Aliens. These people were aliens, to me. I never found any of them. Kept reading about people who used to be like that. Not quite the same thing.
   Cut to early 2012, and one of these aliens follows me on Twitter. I’ve published twice, and am set to publish a third time. Anyway, I hike back to her blog where I discover she is an inspirational person in several areas of her life – just, not in her writing. She can write. But she is scared. Wife, mom, hospital worker, High School coach. Scared writer.
   I take the night off editing a book, and I write 5,000 words to her. To me, that’s a medium-sized e-mail. I try to get her to see that she should be scared of NEVER being published. She takes the advice and faces her fear. This is beyond odd, as I NEVER give major advice and she has a problem TAKING major advice from anyone. On top of that, I NEVER give major advice on WRITING.
   Somehow, the universe aligns and we put up with each other. She describes me as having given her the biggest lecture of her life. One she sadly needed. That’s how Kacey Vanderkarr and I started chatting about writing.
   You can’t mix those two views in a flask! There’ll be an explosion! A universe-shattering detonation. He doesn’t give advice. She won’t take it. He treats writing as an arcane alchemical art. She’s scared to go near the unexploded bomb of her own work.
   Tape off the area and mark the scene DOES NOT BODE WELL.
   I had the courage to send her that e-mail. She had the courage to act on it. Kacey faced her fear. What was I going to face? For my part, I felt that I couldn’t use critique groups, groups for writers, or Beta-readers. In all my time writing, I hadn’t even heard the term Beta-reader or the phrase critique group until I did my research last year.
   Now, come on. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I just didn’t move in that world. Kacey dragged me along to the BLOGVEL so that I could meet other writers and join in writing a story by committee. Viewpoint? I don’t write stories by committee. But if I can make Kacey face her fear, she can make me face mine.
   First, I have to find out what BLOGVEL means. A BLOG NOVEL. I turn up. The list is handed out. I see that this is about writing a story and about blog-exposure. Social networking. So this is what I do. I look at every single blog on the list. If a contributor is on Twitter, I follow that writer. That’s what BLOGVEL is about, surely. Not just writing the story.
   This is also about writing a story, based on a theme beyond my control, to a deadline, and with a word-limit. I act as caretaker during the assignment, and have the responsibility of handing the tale to the next writer in line without utterly screwing the whole thing into the dirt at the speed of sound.
   My personal carer, Dr Anton Phibes, wouldn’t hear of this social networking nonsense. Which is why he was put off the trail. It’s quite clear to Dr Phibes that the transitory distraction of Nazi shark documentaries was a vicious ploy allowing my artistic freedom to flourish unchecked. Once he realised I’d been collaborating with authors behind his back, the equipment was deployed.
   I am writing this by the old pen-to-mouth technique which bypasses even the strictest straitjackets. The finished text will be typed up by my unseen accomplice. Dr Phibes has administered a jumbo-sized syringe of the green liquid, and I feel the effects hitting my kidneys as I scribble.
   His job is to bar my discussion of unpublished plots. To that, he has now added the function of preventing further communal silliness in the form of BLOGVELS, Beta-readers, and critique groups. There’ll be no more handing out pre-edited slices of fiction to people on the far side of the globe. Not on his watch.
   It may be some time before I venture near that territory again. If there were a way to bump Dr Phibes off without serious injury to myself, he’d be gone. Alas, given his penchant for spooky biological experiments, he has radio-linked his heartbeat to mine.
   The BLOGVEL experiment was for the benefit of others. After offering to compile short stories with several writers, I couldn’t then turn Kacey down in a stunning act of hypocrisy when she made the counter-offer. She was right. I had to participate in the BLOGVEL. Even if only to discover that awful thing…
   I worked out my part of the story in my head, based on a photo I took. This, I considered research. The whole idea was to read chapter one and build my thoughts on whatever I found. Plants. The woods. An evil brother. Right. I’ll look at that park I went through on a mock-train.
   The photo jumped out at me. I’m going to invent a story based around that. All I have to do is wait for the first few participants to do their chapters. Provided no one introduces the brother, I’m set for action. After reading chapter four, I slapped my attempt down on the night and seized the introduction of the evil brother for myself.
   Yes, it was great to write. I distracted Dr Phibes and sent the initial copy to the next author, Cat Woods. And I sent a copy to Kacey in advance. To let her see the initial piece. After that, I edited. So that Kacey would gain something from seeing the published version. Almost the same as the one I wrote on the night. Well I did that for Kacey, as she has problems with editing.
   Write your story. Edit your story. Publish your story. Sending the unedited work to a relative stranger was a way of giving added warning to the next person in line. Cat Woods might have found my stint as storyteller jarring. Or events could have conspired against her, with life taking over. So, I gave her as much time as possible to write her own piece.
   Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t do that. If I wrote a piece of fiction for my blog, I’d read it. Edit it. And then my blog’s readers would be the next to see it. I wouldn’t usually hand over the goods to colleagues.
   (I have done so with some blog entries, as I had to clear permission on a few points. Also, I’ve written e-mails that I later plundered for blog entries. Generally, though, I won’t preview a blog posting by touting it around fellow-scribblers first.)
   Yes, I could use critique groups and alter my writing. But then I wouldn’t be me. It’s still one step too far for me. Only one step. But a giant leap, where I’m standing. I hope that my 0.75 readers won’t be disappointed by the sense of failure that I’ve taken away from the BLOGVEL.
   Part of me, open-minded, says that I tried – and that doesn’t count as failure at all. The same part of me says…maybe next time there’ll be a sense of achievement. There could be a next time. And one day, there might be a critique group too – especially after all the plans I made in that direction. I just didn’t flip the switch. The circuits are still in place.
   I feel my writing is floating somewhere in the 19th century, where I’m not chasing after the latest fad. History has passed me by, but the passing of it is of little import. I just do what I do, and try my best to be me.
   BLOGVEL verdict. I think there was a sense of a letdown. Of letting my colleagues down. That awful thing…I’m here to learn, yet the BLOGVEL didn’t teach me anything. It’s shocking to feel that I didn’t learn anything from participating. But that’s what I carried away from it.
   Kacey would have been more disappointed had I not tried something different. Yes, better to try, to fail, than not try…never know. I’m left feeling unsure. As though, perhaps, I had to move a little way forward in a new direction this time out. And that I might make it that way once I’ve had time to get used to it. Even though I feel I did little more than tread water.
   Tennyson comes to mind. Ulysses. The closing lines of his poem.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

   This stirs in the wake of the sentiment that it isn’t too late to seek a newer world. So I’ll strive to seek, and hope to find. Convinced I’d learn something from the BLOGVEL, I walked away from it surprised to learn that I hadn’t learned a thing. If you call that learning. We’ll see if I can ditch Dr Phibes one day. Not today. But, even so, take this from my musing. Failure to learn doesn’t halt you in your tracks. Don’t give up. I’ll do my best not to yield. You should do your best not to, too.


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