Most. Arrogant. Blog. Ever.
Last Monday I got to meet God. Well, not really, not like [the time I ate all that Depakote and Tylenol and woke up on a respirator]. This was much more fun.[!] I attended [Rainy Day Books'] signing-and-reading event with Chuck Palahniuk, and it was divine. Imagine being a Catholic and having the Pope officiate at your wedding. Imagine being a fifteen-year-old boy and getting to stick your thumb up Jenna Jameson's ass. Yeah. It was that great.For one thing, it was encouraging to hear him talk about his first real writing group, the one where his mentor took him aside one night, after a bout of heavy drinking, and said, "Chuck, you can't write worth shit, but you tell a hell of a story. If you could just write like you talk. . . ." and the rest is history. Because I can't make up a good story to save my life. Oh, I can tell one, and tell it masterfully, but it has to be something that I or someone else lived through. Hearing Chuck (and after meeting this mellow, infinitely friendly and patient guy, you really can't refer to him as "Mr. Palahniuk") talk about how almost all of his writing is drawn from the true, funny, revolting, entertaining stories people have related to him gave me hope that I can, indeed, be a successful writer without being able to weave a plot out of whole cloth.On the other hand, it was discouraging as shit. Because I realized that writing in a vacuum is like masturbation compared to sex. Trying to create a quality, marketable product without feedback is lonely and frustrating, to say the least.I seriously considered ponying up the 65 bucks to join the writing group at [chuckpalahniuk.net], which looks to be a legitimate and infinitely informative endeavor. But it's focused on the Minimalist style of writing, and although I love reading that style, it isn't my bag. As any of you who have read this blog for any length of time know full well. I've been a member of [CritiqueCircle.com] and a few other online critique groups for about a year now. And they're about as helpful as teeth in your asshole. Oh, I've learned a shitload about being sensitive and democratic, as hard as that might be to believe. The way CritiqueCircle works, you earn points through giving critiques, and use those points to "buy" your work a space in the critique queue. And it's a great system, for everyone but me.For one thing, the vast majority of the writing on these sites is either romance, fantasy, or young adult/children's lit. And I use "lit" generously. Aside from the fact that I don't enjoy reading any of these genres, 99% of the writing genuinely SUCKS. I'm not talking your general grammatical errors, I'm talking stories set in Denmark where the main character robs old ladies behind Wal-Mart, walks down Mississippi street, eats at Wendy's, buys fifty hits of Ecstacy for eighteen bucks, takes them all, and then burns down a church. (If I could make this shit up, I wouldn't be wasting my time writing a memoir right now.) How am I supposed to get critiques that improve my writing from these hacks?The critiques I do get on these sites fall into two categories. The first is, "OMG, you're such an awesome writer, this was amazing, I loved reading it. . . . ." Which is great, don't get me wrong. I love ego-stroking as much as the next guy. But that's not what I need. The second is, "I read three sentences and couldn't go on." Which is to be expected from someone who's writing about a single mother of five bi-racial children finding true love in line at the grocery store. I've gotten a grand total of TWO critiques that offered helpful advice, and those were technical-when to spell out numbers and when to write them out, mostly. They both pointed out my tendency toward run-on sentences, but they also conceded that this "error" fits well with the narrative voice.!So lately I've been looking for a real, actual, physical, local writer's group. Know what I found? These fruits ----------> Like I'm seriously going to walk in and plop down [Bub And His Big Gun] on their desks. I'm feeling quite discouraged right now. I have very little formal training in the "art" of writing. I know damn good and well that I'm a brilliant natural writer. But what I want, what I need at this point, as I try and prepare a manuscript worth pimping out to agents, is someone who will sit down and rip my writing to shreds. I need someone to say, "This sucks, and this is exactly WHY it sucks". And I need that someone to be a person, or a group of persons, who isn't a writer of chick-lit romance, or sword-and-sorcery fantasy, or deep and brooding "I can't find a meaningful relationship and this thirty-page description of me boiling pasta and staring out my loft apartment window at the dirty gray clouds explains, obliquely, exactly why" modern literature. What I need, in other words, is a community-center common room filled with a dozen clones of [Rob Gillaspie]. I have the feeling I'm not going to find it. : http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/nuckolls/2005/oct/18/suicide/ : http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/napalm/me_n_chuck-sm.jpg : http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/napalm/me_n_chuck-lg.jpg : http://entropicdoom.blogdrive.com/archive/cm-6_cy-2006_m-6_d-20_y-2006_o-30.html : http://chuckpalahniuk.net : http://CritiqueCircle.com : http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/napalm/fruits-sm.jpg : http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/sinemaparasito/