Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Story is Not About Us

Apologies. A bit scattered today. Application for writers is a bit down the post, so bear with me.

Yesterday, the wonderful Nate Caldwell – creator of the wonderful young writers’ site I love – announced he would no longer be managing Young Writers Society. He’ll still pay the bills, the site will still be there, and he’s trained the mods to run the site smoothly in his absence.

                Young Writers Society will stay active. Nate will not.

                And while I understand his reasons, it was still like a thud to the chest. He’s leaving? So suddenly? Was it something I did? Has my presence somehow made the site unpleasant to be around? Maybe if I’d bought more YWS Literary Journals, or called in on the radio shows, or… or… or…

                As I said, I understand his reasons. I’m not going to chain him to the site for the rest of eternity, and if he feels that it’s time for him to move on… I understand. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his next project, Writer Feed, and I’m not going to stop going to YWS. Neither will many others who won’t let the site slip away without a fight. Neither will many new members who haven’t even joined yet.

                I think the whole site is a bit stunned at the moment, trying to figure out what will happen next… But hopefully, the answer is “Something.” Or, “Everything.”

                I’ll keep logging on. So will hundreds of other young writers who’ve found a supportive community on YWS where things aren’t just, “READ MY STORY NAO AND I’LL FAVE YOURS SO IT LOOKS LIKE I RETURNED THE READ, OKAY? LOLOLOL.”

                Young Writers Society is probably the best young writers’ site I’ve ever been on, and that’s thanks to all the work Nate has put into it. We. Will. Miss him. But we’ll keep logging on.


                So, in relation to writing:
 Nate’s announcement made me think of our stories. The ones that never get off the ground, and the ones that just keep circling above a busy airfield, waiting for us to help them make a landing.

                We writers hit a block. We move on to the next Shiny New Idea, telling ourselves we’ll return eventually. And sometimes, we just get distracted, or busy, or tired of this story that takes so much out of us and doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to give anything back.

                How often do those stories get the courtesy of an explanation why?

                They sit at the bottom of a fictional landfill, lost in the depths of a drawer or a computer hard drive, waiting. Our writer left us? Was it something we did? Should I have started more grippingly? Were my characters that unsalvageable? Should I have skipped the giant squid attack and gone straight to the swirling whirlwinds of death?

                Except maybe, they don’t think like that. Maybe the crinkled, ink-stained papers or the endless pages of a Word Document ask themselves those questions, but I think our characters just… go on living. They pick up their palaces and spaceships, their heroes and their villains, their plot twists and climaxes and their clunky dialogue, and they make the migration to the back of our skulls.

                They settle down, and they go on with their story. To be honest, they’re grateful for the time they can spend practicing without the evil red pen of the author bearing down on them. They get more comfortable with each other. They spend their sudden abundance of free time exploring the twists and turns that resulted from the chaos of their hurried move. They take a turn that we never would’ve picked out. They polish up their personalities. They watch from afar as we torture our latest stories and laugh about how easy they really had it, back in the old days.

                Then, maybe at some point, Moving Day arrives. They pack up their things and move back into their old station at the forefront of our thoughts, except this time they’ve got some ideas of their own to run past us.

                Their stories aren’t about us. They don’t care about making it easy for us, or about making it hard. They have their story. And even though we talk about target audiences and things like that, maybe deep down we’re really just figuring out the story they lived through when they were killing time in the back of our minds.

                Even when we don’t think of a story for months at a time, that doesn’t necessarily mean their story is dead. Even if some things get lost in the moves, certain things – characters, scraps of dialogue, pieces of description – will keep living. Just like young writers at YWS will keep logging on.

                At YWS, we’ll miss Nate. Just like our characters might miss us (or at least miss their extended time on the computer screen).

                But we’ll keep going, and we’ll figure things out for ourselves, just like our characters will figure things out for themselves whenever we need a break.

                How many of your stories have ‘died’? Have any resurrected themselves, bigger and better than before? Are you on any amazing websites for writers, or is there a single person/organization/etc. that's had a huge impact on your writing?


  1. I hear you about Nate. I read it on the blog like everyone else.

    I felt hurt, betrayed. Angry. Guilty. Wondered if I'd done more, tried to alleviate some of his work, would he have stayed.

    Truth is, he just needs a break. And we can't blame him. Your mind would be blown if you knew what he has to put up with every day. Our JM forums are littered with questions and reports and that's just the juniors. I don't know about the Global moderators, but it can't be easy.

    He's trained us well. All we can do is continue review, be role models for the younger members and hope for the best.

    As for the second part. I've actually written 4 1/2 novels. One...I'm pretty proud of. Two actually. But all of them need major editing.

    At first, I would plug away at it all the time, knocking myself against a brick wall, getting up and doing it over again. Until, I let them pack up their stuff and move to the back of my brain.

    We both needed it. Sometimes I get and idea, write it down, and get excited about it all over again. But, I let the excitement die down.

    I know this isn't the right time to start it or I'll ended up ramming my brain against a wall, again.

    Great blog post, my friend!

  2. Thanks. :]

    I've written quite a few 1/2 things (either novels or short stories) and I've also written rough drafts of novels that I never even touch again. But another part of what brought this post up is that lately one half-finished novel I really like has been trying to move back in... during a time when there is no available living space for them. XD

    That said, even the rough drafts I have done still need a lot of work, so I know what you mean. Revision... -_-

    If I get a very specific idea, I'll write it down to come back to it later. And then I try to focus on my current stuff. :]