Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing Vulnerably

Image mine, edited on Picnik
I tell people that sharing your work gets easier. That's partially true. I need to start telling them that it gets easier, but not really. You get used to it, not immune to it. That would be the real truth.

Even with that, though, I was surprised at a nigh-on panic attack I had when about to read something to my very awesome critique group, the Rivendell Platypi (yes, it's a long story).

I've mostly shared Quintessence with the Platypi. Actually, that's where my first scenes aired, before I had even officially started the book I was sharing it with them. It was also with them that I first did the horrifying read-aloud sharing, and, surprisingly, lived to tell about it.

Point being: I love these people. I trust these people. I know these people aren't going to rip me to shreds, though I expect them to give me advice on my work. Not only that, but I have given them my work before and received that advice.

And yet, I was shaking. I had to hold my knees down, one of my legs was doing that weird, very bobbly (that's not a word...hmm...) shaking movement, my heart was thudding, and it took me about thirty seconds before I could make myself start reading it.

One thing I said in those thirty seconds was: "This book is terrible!" which I quickly followed with: "that's not what I mean. It's just, so much about it."

My awesome peers assured me that that was exactly what the deal was. (They also then didn't critique hardly anything about the excerpt, so apparently I went through that agony for nothing...)

Not surprisingly, the excerpt was from Forest of Lies.

I had said something the day before on Facebook about trying to pick an excerpt. After some discussion, I said this:

It's not that I was looking for the most polished or worried that it was all bad. You guys have convinced me to go with the more emotionally vulnerable, however. ‎(Like all of FoL isn't emotionally vulnerable. *eye roll*)

Aha! Bingo. There it is. VULNERABLE.

There are few things closer to my heart than Forest of Lies, if ANYTHING is.

I think that is what has made it so resonate with readers. Reading draft III, you see a lot of my heart as a 15 and 16-year-old. Reading draft IV, you're going to see my heart as an eighteen-year-old. Forest of Lies is my heart story.

Awhile back, I posted a link to a blog post called The Honest Stain of Truth. Though in a slightly different vein, it also talks about honest writing--vulnerable writing.

There's a quote by someone (sorry, someone), that goes something like this: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

What am I trying to say with this long and rambling post?

You can write well without bearing your heart. But I think your readers will know. They'll also know when you're being honest with them--and I think those kind of stories are the ones that stay in your heart--because they came from the heart of another.


Anonymous said...

I have a similar story. I have, in the past, considered it being so close to my heart one of its main failures. Its encouraging to hear someone besides friends and family say "if it matters to you, then it will matter to them". It means I know I'm doing at least /one/ thing right.
*Sighs in contentment and feels encouraged* Thanks, Nai.

Madcow said...

Very interesting post. For years I've struggled to write "vulnerably" as you say. I still don't know if I quite do it yet. But you are right, that's what makes for the best stories. I need to try harder to do this I think.
Thanks for posting!

Hannah Mills said...

Oh goodness, you are right--"you get used to it, not immune to it."
I was so scared the first time I read an excerpt to the Platypi. My heart was thundering, my palms were sweaty, and my hands/arms were shaking.
Even now it still makes me nervous to share my writing with certain people...

Nairam said...

@KV: I'm glad to encourage you! I don't think stuff close to your heart is a bad thing at all...just makes it harder to share, but also more rewarding, I think.

@Madcow: You're welcome!

@Hannah: Yeah, the first Platypi meeting was hard. That week got a lot easier, though. It seems there's also a thing about doing it *regularly* that makes it a bit easier. It'd been a long time since I'd read anything out loud.

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