1. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    Too reader focused...I can't write honestly

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GoldenFeather, Mar 16, 2015.

    I'm not sure if this applies to anyone else, but recently I've been realizing that I'm not 100% honest in my work. In other words, when I write, I'm too self-conscious about my style etc and whether or not others will like it when they read it. I'm too reader focused, and I'm having trouble focusing 100% on my work and not how it will be perceived when read.

    Wondering if anyone else struggles with this?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not like you are describing, no. But I do have the reader in mind in my editing. For example where a small problem would be resolved in the same chapter it arose in, the critics in my group suggested not making it that easy. So I've changed it to leave the problem unresolved.

    But I don't consider that changing the story, just changing the pace.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I find this can happen when a writer is looking more for approval than critiques that can help them progress. It's a dangerous mindframe to get into. I have seen writers totally alter their books based on readers reactions to the point where it feels like it was written by committee. I battle the feeling sometimes but I know that's when I'm not looking at the critique objectively. I know my weakness' my beginnings are rough, my prose choppy, and I'm so focused on theme that the story often doesn't have a point it's just a series of happenings. Some of this is style, some of it needs work.

    You have to discover what is your style and what are your flaws - what works and what doesn't. Plus, read what you want to emulate. Know also that some critiquers are used to reading certain things, unconsciously they could be trying to smooth you out into a style they are more comfortable with.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm.... From what you have described, there are two scenarios that may be in play, because it's not clear from your subjunctives :

    1. You haven't received critique yet, from outside sources, and you're your own worst critic.
    2. You have received critique and you're taking the word of your critics as the word of god.

    If it's the former, this sounds like simple insecurity. Maybe you haven't found a solid voice yet that belongs to you. Or maybe you have and you're comparing it to the voice of other writers and insecurity is making you feel that your voice is wanting...? Maybe?

    If it's the latter, remember that no two people come with the same history of self, which they then apply to the reading of your work. Take it all with a grain of salt. Pay more attention to the comment that gets repeated by different people than to the one that's said by just one person.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. This. It's why I always advocate using as many beta readers as you can. You don't want to be derailed by one person's preferences or prejudices. If lots of people spot the same problems, though, you might want to give the items some serious revamping.

    And also keep this in mind. Nobody is universally loved as an author. Not even the 'greats.'

    Just write a piece that satisfies you, and then see how many other people you can bring on board. I think that's probably the least problematic way to approach writing.
     
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  6. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    Let me suggest you not write for the reader. You are a story teller. There are many readers, and they fall into different classes. Some like horror, some western; others branch off into the many different types of stories. I am a story tell, but I am also a reader. I will never read a horror story. A story teller cannot write for all people. There will be those who will follow you, and those who will not.

    As to your style: That was set in stone before you started to write. Don’t try to change it, allow it to grow. If you write XX type of story, those who read that type will read you. If they like your style, and not all will, you will begin to gain a following.

    Here is the cross road all writers reach…one path leads off to a writer’s life, the other to that of a story teller. People like Dan Brown, Mart Twain, etc, these are not good writers…they are great story tellers. That is not to say their SPAG are not good, but they are not writers. A writer is one who can write things like, How to books, of Medical reports, etc.

    Your job as a story teller is to tickle the ear. I used to sit for hours with old men in parks, and listen to their tall tales…these were story tellers. Their BS was so high, one needed to stand on their toes to keep one’s lips above the BS. Try it sometime. You will find these tellers of tall tales speak in their own voice…that is what true style is. Read Will Rogers…he wrote as he talked…country style.

    Whatever your style is, you must first learn to love* it before it will grow.


    *COLOR.
     
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  7. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Perhaps you should write dishonestly?

    (not trying to be a smart ass, trying to get you to look at out of the box)
     
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  8. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    I suppose what some posters are saying is true: I have to stay true to my style. After all, trying to write in a different style that is not your own will surely be worse than writing in your own, true style even though it might be very different or even odd.

    Also, I've never had my work officially critiqued. I've had people read it though, and all comments vary (just like all people vary.) I don't know if I'm a writer or a storyteller... I suppose I would like to be both.
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Find a local writing critique group if you can (look on Meetup). Those people are going to be very different from just handing your book to friends and family because:

    1) They meet regularly to critique work, which means they actually know HOW to critique rather than just offering thoughts.
    2) They're there to have their own work critiqued, which means they understand what it feels like to be on the other end, and usually care enough to help other people improve.
    3) It's a broad enough group that you can start to sort out which "problems" are actual problems and which are the biases of the readers.
    4) Looking at a lot of other people's work will make you a better critic of your own work - because you learn what "good stuff" and "bad stuff" look like. You'll learn to realize when your writing isn't as bad as you think it is - and when it is bad, you'll have the know how to make it not-bad.
     
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  10. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Try writing something different if only for an exercise. I have the same issue with a project I am working on and I am just stuck. I no longer know what voice I have and what the story is even. So, I decided to write something completely different. The words just flowed and it is genuinely honest. It took the effort for me to realize that was the problem with the first project. I havent solved the problem with the first project yet but having the contrasting experience really highlighted the issue. And it stimulated the mind giving a perspective for when I do circle back. Good luck.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is very true. My WIP got completely messed up cus it was written by committee to the point where I'd forgotten what I was writing, why, and what I even wanted for my story. Now I have become very protective of it - I don't want to show it to anyone beyond 2-3 people I trust. I changed entire characters because some people didn't like them. Writing by committee SUCKS and does nothing for you or your story.

    Someone else trying to "smooth you out" into a style they prefer is equally true. There was a member on this forum a while ago - many of us will know who I'm referring to if I named her - who had a habit of pretty much destroying everyone's work. She seemed to have no regard for a writer's individual style or vision and would simply point at anything that's not literally as the words say as "bad writing", insisting it "doesn't make any sense". Went as far as telling me I'm wasting my time even bothering to write. Thank God I had the confidence to say, "No, actually, it's just that you don't like it. I like it, and I'm keeping it."

    Seriously, getting feedback from the wrong person can be worse than getting no feedback at all, imo.
     
  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Go on, do it. Name them, you know you want to.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure that "honesty" is a necessary trait for fiction. Is it?
     
  14. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    By honestly I mean writing with my true voice and not trying to shape my voice into what I imagine people would like. That's what I'm after anyways. I can write in a variety of formats -- we all can. Depends on what we are writing for such as academic, advertising, copyediting etc. I'm trying to write truly from my own written voice, but I'm struggling with that.

    Currently I'm not writing fiction either. I'm just trying to write as honestly as I can about my travels, certain experiences I'm having, people I have met etc. I feel like because I focus too much on what readers would think, I am "nicer" or "kinder" in what I say, that I'm not as honest or open about certain things because I fear the way I write it will be judged. In other words, "That was mean/stupid of her to say, she could have just written it in a more appropriate fashion." Something along those lines.
     
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  15. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    ^I'm beginning to think this is about me and not my writing lol What can I say, I can't separate the two! It goes hand in hand for me.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hahaha I guess I do want to, but don't wanna flame lol. Guess to say I was offended by her comments would be an understatement. I got so shaken up after a period of getting her comments that I was torn between being furious and basically crying a lot. And those who know me know I have thick skin and am not afraid of critique. She - and a few other people's critique (not on this forum) - were people who taught me that just because it's critique doesn't make it good, nor does someone offering critique mean you should automatically pursue or even listen to it. I'm not a believer of, "If one person doesn't like it, that means others wouldn't either, so it needs to be changed."

    The flip side few people seem to think of is: "If one person likes it, that means others would too, so I need to bloody keep it!!"
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you need to trust that whatever is true to you will be enjoyed just as it is. It's the same with making new friends - better to pretend so everyone likes you, or be yourself and risk the fact that some people aren't gonna like you? My logic has always been: if you're being yourself, you'll attract the right people - those who genuinely like you for you.

    If you're not yourself, those who would've liked you for you would never find you.

    I think it's pretty much the same with writing. Have some confidence in what you write. Let those who hate it hate away, who cares about them? But if you let your true voice shine, you'll attract those who really enjoy that voice. If you don't let it happen - well, you'll never know, will you? And isn't that a shame?
     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that many things with writing smooth out with practice, even if you don't see the improvement coming. So I would suggest writing a lot, and consciously looking for opportunities to take risks. It will feel awkward, and lumpy, and erratic, but with enough practice I think that you will find that things improve.

    I think I would also suggest a blog, because that's a space that's specifically supposed to be about you. Even if you don't have many readers, and even if you only rarely get even one comment, for me there's something about the fact that anyone in the world COULD read my writing. Now, for me that knowledge is a little bit exciting, and adds a little more to each risk I take with my writing. If, for you, that added risk means that you don't write at all, then forget the blog suggestion.
     
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  19. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    GoldenFeather,

    I used to drive across the country many times. Kids get bored very easy on long drives, so I started making up little stories about some of the things we passed. An old house sitting in the middle of nowhere, became Miss Quiklies school house...and I'd make up a story about Miss Quikly, and how she had to ride her sway back horse ten miles to school. Often her chickens would follow her, and during playtime, the children would play with the chickens...etc. It was fun, and my kids when they grew up, and had kids of their own, took to the habit of telling stories about Miss Quikly. My oldest girl asked me once, "Dad, did I ever have a teacher named Miss Quikly?" I told her yeah.
    As a child my grandfather took me to Cap Cod. He sat on a bench watching the girls, and I followed the Town Crier from mid morning to late noon. He was a big fellow, dressed in a costume of the 1700's. He would clang his bell, take a drink from his bottle, and shout out the news of the day. Take 100 steps, drink from his bottle, clang his bell again, and shout the news...each time he added more, and more color to his words. I told my grand father, "I too want to be a Town Crier. Will you buy me a big bell, and a bottle of moon water?"

    Rather than write stories, start telling stories. Make em up as you go along. Whatever comes to mind is the right path to carry them. After a time, like that old drunken Town Crier you will find your voice...when you do, shout it out on paper. But never put aside the chance to make up a story while your waiting for the rain to let up, or the strangers on a bus seem bored.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a feeling I'd read your books. This was so pretty and cute. I could see everything like in a story!

    See, there's value in writing with your true voice! :D
     
  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, did I pick you up wrongly before? Are you writing nonfiction? In other words, are you worried about hurting people's feelings because you've written something directly about them?

    Oh, that's a different kettle of fish altogether. Yes, I think you do need to watch what you say, if you risk hurting real people. That's outwith my own experience, so I'll just back off. I thought you were worried about offending readers in general ...readers who don't like colourful language, sex scenes, violence, whatever. If that's not what you were worrying about at all, well, ignore anything I said! :oops:
     
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  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I'm slightly the other way round. I'm now so writer focused that I don't enjoy reading anymore. It's like I constantly have my editor head on. I'm hoping it's because I'm in the middle of a WIP and as soon as I get it finished, my reader head will come back.
     
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