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The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Writers Stigmata

(Iposted this on my website, some of it's redundant with y'all but thought I'd share anyway, with a few revisions!)

I am such a mess! I have some serious stigmata stuff going on! No, I do not have blood oozing out of my palms and feet. I have writer's stigmata, a whole 'nother condition.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood formon your forehead. ~Gene Fowler (1890-1960)There you have it, a condition that I have contracted. Writers stigmata.

I joked with my writing group that I taped a nail, pointy side up on my keyboard so I could self-flagellate during the writing process to manifest drops of blood. See, in Gene Fowlers era, pen and quill or manual typewriter drew blood easier when the urge to bang your head on something during the process set in. Today's surfaces are more rounded and forgiving causing only minor discomfort when head bashing ensues, hence, the nail.

See? I really thought the whole writer's stigmata thing required actual rending of skin to be legitimate. I have since learned, that's not the case. It's a mythical, spiritual rending that must be experienced if you want to hear the Heavenly Tabernacle Choir break out in refrains of "Hallelujah" while the men in little white coats are carting your slobbering self off to the loony bin during your burst of creative genius.This condition is sneaky and can hit you at the most mundane moment. One minute you think you're fine, happily typing along while patting yourself on the back for being the possible next "it" writer and then WHAM! You realize you're done. You're shit. You suck and you by God, better not quit your day job.

My name is Robin and my stigmata set in about 14 hours ago. I have a wonderful, supportive, amazing writer's group here and I was so excited that it was "my turn" to submit a couple of chapters of my WIP for critique! So, my "other" job has wound down so I had a whole day to dig out my story, polish chapters 1 and 2 and give it to my new best friends.

I was elated! Humming like a fairy tale worker bee, I opened the file...giggled and sighed over my masterpiece...printed both chapters and sat at the table with an actual pen and began to edit (again). I applied a lot of the things I've learned over the last year from the Writer's Conference in Amarillo to the "how-to" books I've purchased from the speakers there and elsewhere. I slashed scenes I liked but that did not "move the story forward", I checked spelling, punctuation....I looked at tone and tense...I questioned using first person narrative and stayed with it. I was on a roll!

By 7:00 pm I was convinced that chapters 1 and 2 would be winging their way to my loving group for their enjoyment and fantastic idea's on how to make it better! SO! I went back to the keyboard...literally typed the whole thing over from my handwritten notes...spell checked, grammar checked...and then did the unforgivable.

I checked for passive verbs (a very common rookie mistake). We speak in passive voice so it's very easy to write in passive voice. However, when we speak we have the luxury of voice inflection, facial expressions, body language and other visual signals to make our point. We don't have that with words on paper so we have to use the strongest words we can...right? So I did the "check" for passive verbs function.

This function highlights every passive verb in your masterpiece. This function is an unforgivable bastard. I am convinced this function is the germ that weaseled into my mid-brain and set the writers stigmata into end-stage.

I hit, "find" and my masterpiece came back into view....murdered. It's blood was yellow highlights. Humans have red blood (okay, it's blue without the addition of oxygen but stay with me). A manuscript has yellow blood. Mine was pricked by the passive verb function and was in danger of bleeding out.I used "was" 42 times in 2,000 words!

I became convinced that my story did not have the necessary anticoagulant so it was up to me to go in for emergency surgery and purge the passive voice...post haste. So I scrubbed up and went in. I tried to get every last tendril of the passive verb so that it would not cause any problems down the road for my precious manuscript. I sutured it up and then did a patient evaluation post op.

Sadly, my patient was sorely diminished by my radical surgery. A shell of the story she once was. (see? that damn word "was" is my demon!)In despair I railed at fate and realized I was not God, I couldn't save this manuscript from it's true nature.

I called a fellow writer moaning about the vagaries of writers stigmata. Solard had sympathy for like, one second. Then she blasted me with the complete truth. Writing is art and your voice is your voice. I told her about what I learned at the conference about passive voice and how it was a rookie mistake and about how I had fallen prey and she stated, "Robin, I am not a writers' conference veteran, but I'll tell you one thing, if a conference took the 'soul' out of my writing?....I'd never go to another one." God bless her!

I was like a surgeon who'd lost a patient and stumbled into a church with a benevolent priest. While I am wailing about my inability to save a life I was gently reminded that there is a power greater than myself. That the "creator" was almighty and the surgeon was educated, but flawed.So, I am going to give my manuscript over completely to the creator and shove the surgeon back into pre-op until it's necessary to do some minor cosmetic surgery.

But for now, I'm going to trust that the Writing Goddess (me!) knows what she's doing and trust my wonderful group.I'm kicking this out to my critique group...a first...and it sent me on this rant. If anyone out there wants to tell me that writer's are not hypersensitive and actually WANT critique...call me up and I'll call you a liar to your face.

No, I don't want critique, I want accolades and refrains of "you're a genius! This is better than War and Peace!" Hey, at least I'm honest.

I'm a writer who has never received a rejection letter...ever. That's a major point in my favor. Shadowed by the fact that I've never submitted anything for rejection kinda makes the previous statement passe.

See, right now I think I'm a good writer, maybe even excellent. If I put it out there and get shot down then I can't hold that thought and then....the men in little white coats.

That's a somewhat amended version of what I put on my blog, and I do not have an ulterior motive for posting it right before my critique session! Unless it's subconcious and then, who knows!? I just want you to know how much you all mean to me before I kick you all out of my house for not loving my writing and swooning over my brilliance! LOL!

Tough business, wonderful pursuit and I love all of you that punched your ticket and boarded this train with me! ONWARD!
Posted by Robin at 8:42 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

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