Toad’s Weekly Assessment #44

I didn’t complete a mood tracker this week but I do feel the need to document a few things.

Something I noticed this week is the return of my appetite. I know this is because the meds are most likely completely out of my system at this point. Once again, I’m feeling hungry even when I first wake up. But it’s not like the Abilifiy where everything in me kept screaming I was starving even when my stomach was full. So it’s been nice to enjoy food again without all the stress behind it.

Not that isn’t obvious, but I’ll state it here anyway: I’m still out of Topamax.

I know that it wasn’t until about Thursday that I wasn’t able to fall asleep until about 4am. As of Thursday night, I’ve been hard pressed to make it to midnight. All week long I’ve snagged whatever little bit of sleep I could during the day, which caught up with me on Thursday morning when I slept through all the alarms I have set.

It’s 6:30am right now and a part of me wants to crawl back into bed even though I went to bed at 12am.

I had three days in a row this week of appointments. It’s weeks like that where I feel like I live at the hospital. It’s exhausting to drive that much – it’s an hour drive one way. I haven’t been a big fan of driving since 2008 when my Ford Escort was totaled because a guy ran a stop sign. The boys and I weren’t hurt but it destroyed the undercarriage of the car. So yeah, I tend to not go anywhere unless I have to.

Dreams are coming back. Or rather, I’m able to remember them somewhat upon waking up. The last one involved reflections and every where I turned they showed my face mutating. I woke up when I sprouted bunny teeth. I’m not even going to begin to try to interpret that.

I’ve done no critiques (maybe one?) on Scribophile this week. My reading list over there feels overwhelming long right now. I get tired of the random fly by people that spend their entire time telling me to strip out my voice from the work. So you can’t find anything grammatically correct and therefore you need to tell me I have to write my story like a damn newspaper? If I wanted to write like that, why the hell would I leave the newspaper job I had back in high school? Trust me, if I had really loved writing for them it wouldn’t have mattered what my dad said back then.

Some days the elitists’ attitude on the forums over there really gets to me. It makes me wonder who their readers are. Not everyone who loves and reads books are literary students or scholars. Not every one that reads does so with the intent to write a review. Hell, I know I’m not any of those. What I do know is that I love a good story and I know it when I’m reading it.

There is a reason that the 50 Shades series took off the way that it did. I haven’t read the books, but I grow tired of hearing other writers complain about the author’s use of language in those books. The author used a style of language that the current population is comfortable with. Why is this a crime? Most people sit down for a story to relax, chill, and be entertained. They do not sit down to read a book that they have to dissect just to understand what was said.

I have seen writers snark and put down other writers, published authors, for catering to mainstream fiction. Claiming it’s mediocre at best. My only response to that is, which writer is making trips to the bank here? Obviously people like their work, buy it, and read it. Otherwise… it wouldn’t be in the mainstream.

The average reading level in the US is the 8th grade. I don’t know what it is for other countries, but I assume it’s around the same. I know Dad was appalled when I said that while in college I was taught to aim for half the reading level to hit the widest audience. I seem to recall being taught that in high school too. I also learned in college that there are ways to convey high cerebral content at the fourth grade reading level – like writing nutrition education materials for people that have never taken the courses you have.

Writing something at the fourth grade reading level doesn’t make the manuscript stupid. Nor does it mean the readers are stupid either. What it does mean is that fewer people need to struggle to understand what was written.

Now does every story need to be written this way? No. There are all kinds of readers out there. Thousands to every one writer. People flock to a story because it captures their imagination. I didn’t think the Twilight Series was written in a fancy, high end way. I read the entire series in a single week. Do I agree with all the concepts presented in that series? No, but it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed the story.

The elite writers of the world can sit there and bitch all they want about that series, and the 50 Shades series, but the fact remains that they sold. Big time. Why the fuck are we as writers bashing their success? Isn’t the whole point of being a writer is to capture the imaginations of thousands and sell lots of books? These two authors gave the world what they wanted but all I see is writers bitching about mediocrity.

I don’t think the reader population has suddenly become stupid. I think that traditional publishing supported this elite mindset and controlled the content readers got. Readers can only read what’s available. Now we have a myriad of methods to get our work out there. Readers will vote with their dollars and their time like they have always done, but now they have a much broader scope of content to choose from. It will be the readers that will decide which writers are good and which writers suck. That has never changed.

The only thing that has changed is one set of gate keeping has weakened. Personally in the name of Free Speech and Freedom of the Press, I think it’s a good thing. Back in history, the Nazis controlled the public by controlling the information they received.

As writers why are some of us calling for those controls? As writers we should be thrilled with the advent of self publishing. It means there is less control. Survival of the fittest still applies though. If you self publish and then fail to market, then your genius work won’t make it. But let say you wrote crap but were brilliant with marketing. The brilliant marketing will do better in sales than the one not being marketed. But if you happened to write something brilliant AND also rock the marketing scene… what right should any of us have to stop you? Absolutely none.

So no, I don’t appreciate being told to rewrite a sentence that is grammatically correct. Nothing pisses off this word nerd more than to read over someone quibbling – incorrectly I might add – over the definition of a word. If that’s all you’ve got to nitpick about with someone’s story then maybe it’s best if you moved on. Allow your fellow writers to have their voice. They do not need to write exactly like you do. I don’t give a fuck what your writing preferences are, they are entitled to have their voice.

I had meant for this to be an assessment of my mood for this week, yet here I am on my soap box preaching the value of being allowed the freedom to write. Maybe I was spoiled by the creative writing instructors I’ve had in the past that never once commented on the style of my writing. In those classes it was always a question of “Is it grammatically correct?” If yes, then leave it alone. If no, then ask how does breaking this rule enhance the story? If it does, then leave it alone. If it doesn’t, then change it. The next question was always, “Does the story make sense?” If yes, then leave it alone. If not, where is it not making sense and why? Fix it.

But most of all…. don’t tell me how to fix something in my story. Just tell me what isn’t working and why it isn’t working. I will figure out how to fix it. I know the nuances of the plot, the characters, and the intent of the story. Not you.

It’s weird but I’ve been noticing a trend. If I ask for a critique on the content of the work, I’m overwhelmed with line edits from people. If I ask for someone to just check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation then I’m suddenly receiving comments about the content of the story – some times it’s to the point where it feels like in order to meet those suggestions I would need to write a completely different story. It boggles the mind.

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