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The Best Kind of Savaging

First writer's group meeting after the Really  Big Awesome Thing two weeks ago. I've been a diligent writer, and have made great progress - sketching out my characters, story, structure, the whole thing. Well, I thought I had, anyway. And then I showed it to the two writers who showed up last night. We spent a long time going over it in real detail, and they had a lot of hard questions, a lot of criticisms.

Important to note - all of that criticism was constructive, and all of the questions were exactly the sort of questions you HAVE to answer to have a tight script. It's amazing how much work goes on beneath the surface; frankly dialogue is the easiest part. If dialogue was all you needed, you'd be writing for the radio, as David Mamet famously suggested. (He comes across as an utter asshole, but he is sometimes [but not always] right.) So I got raked over the coals on what was weak, what was too lose, what didn't serve the tightest possible structure.

In the past, I worried that the group's feedback was all positive. I went home feeling kind of bruised and grumpy, but after I slept on it, I realized it was incredibly useful and constructive; it hurts the way a Drill Sergeant's physical training hurts - it makes you stronger if you can gut it out. I can definitely gut it out, and unlike past writer's group, I know this criticism is coming from a very positive intention, of being helpful, of hammering the story into shape, of doing the hard work.

So much like the day after a hard workout, when one is sore but feels virtuous, I feel like I got the kind of savaging I needed, the kind that says I can't screw this up, that I have to pay attention to every nuance and every detail, and to above all be very honest.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
elanya
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
That is awesome, I envy your writing group and wish you luck with the project! I do love writing as a craft, for the kind of hard thinking it requires to evoke and storytell...
aghrivaine
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
People do creative things better when they have to abide by rules.
elanya
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I'm not sure if I completely agree with that or not. I will grant - they do creative things better when they understand what the rules are, and why.
aghrivaine
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:38 pm (UTC)
Well, by "rules" i mean - structures or restrictions. Not censorship, but rather; a convention.
elanya
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know, but there have been some pretty amazing artists who turned the rules on their heads, like Dali and Picasso, to name some big ones. I do think a lot of great art comes from knowing why things are done a certain way enough to play with the conventions. It drives innovation - building upwards and outwards from what's come before.

I do like the tightness of writing though, especially forms like short fiction and stuff that really *really* demands it. I don't have much experience with scripts outside of one university class I took a million years ago, though.
aghrivaine
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Dali and Picasso just created new rules, and then stuck to them. Self-imposed restrictions totally count.
elanya
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:06 am (UTC)
Well, alright, fair enough then :)
pyr8queen
Apr. 25th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
I agree! Working within parameters, restrictions, or rules - whether they are imposed by a genre, an audience, a director, a script (speaking from the design standpoint) or mere rules of reality & physics help with keeping a creation grounded and relate-able, yet can also force new perspective and innovation. I run into this a lot while doing costume design.
aghrivaine
Apr. 25th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you agree. Now make me an owlbear.
silvertongue1
Apr. 25th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
I know just what you mean! I feel the same tough-love appreciation for peer review of journal manuscripts.
~A
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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