Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reviewing the Truth

Dear Dead Beat,

I am a recently newly published writer. That bit I like. However, I got some reviews that were very disappointing. What do you do in situations like that?

Not So Tough.

Dear Not So Tough,

What do I do in situations like that? Dead Beat will have you know he has never had a disappointing review in his life. He's perfect, goddamn it, don't you know? The cheek.

Okay, okay, so bad reviews are par for the course (old golfer that Dead Beat is). But here, take some advice from William Faulkner, a well known practitioner of writing that invited bad reviews. And lest you think I am dissing Faulkner, nothing could be further from the truth. The reviewers didn't know what to do with him. More of that anon.

Speak to us William: “The artist doesn't have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don't have the time to read reviews.”

The thing is, the review is only as good as the reviewer, and there are some pretty poor reviewers out there. If you trust the reviewer, then by all means learn something from it - improve your craft. If they are not worthy of your trust, water off a duck's back.

But hey, do not... Dead Beat says, do not... confuse anger with lack of trust.

In any case, listen to the old man - get to your desk. You don't have time to read reviews.

As for Faulkner, he was too far in the future for any 'reviewer' to grasp.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Peter Carey Interview, Pt. 3

Dear Dead Beat,
I find it easy to create a story but hard to find a voice to tell it. Have you any suggestions?

Dear Voiceless,
my own voice is going just now, so I thought I'd hand you over to the master of voices - Peter Carey.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Write About What You Know You Don't Know

Dear Dead Beat,

I am not sure how to say this, but I want fictionalize something from my life that I think would make an interesting story. Do you have any tips on how to approach something like this?

Dear Unsure,

For someone uncertain how to say something, you sure did say it with certainty (the mark of a good writer, Dead Beat supposes).

Write about something we know, we are constantly told. Although Grace Paley said it better in Trinity College Dublin all those years ago, "write about what you know you don't know."

Fictionalising something from our life is in itself not a bad thing. The danger is that we stick too close to the 'real' events. "Well that's what happened," my students of writing insist. Their fellow students nod their heads in agreement. They've won, I've lost.
"Thing is," I tell them, "this is fiction. We are not interested in what actually happened in terms of the events. We are interested in the 'truth' of what happened. And that is never dependent on facts."

Remember, the moment you put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, nothing is 'real' anymore. People become characters, dialogue becomes heightened, actions prompt reactions. So to answer the question above, my main advice is to take the real events as aspiration for whatever story then unfolds. The details do not matter. The real truth of the experience is what we are after. Create characters, allow them to determine where the action should go. Then as writer, come back and put some manners on them in the rewrite, but always, always, travel into those unfamiliar areas and discover something you did not previously know.
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