Well, this is embarrassing…

Remember when you were young, and everything was new? When life seemed full of possibilities, and you wanted to experience everything life had to offer? Everyday was Christmas, and life was Santa. Well, when it came to writing it was, anyway.

 (I nearly put ‘the joy of writing’ into Google, but was terrified of the potential for scary, hairy men doing inappropriate things to words. It’s the internet. It could happen.)

During those heady days of my writing youth, adverbs were things to be liberally sprinkled. Adjectives were faithful friends, so no one could misunderstand the minutiae of the emotion I was trying so hard to convey. Metaphors were delicious, rich puddings to share with the world, and similes were like the chocolate sauce atop them. Alliteration, always an appreciated addition, was added to… yeah, okay, I’ll stop now. Promise.

After finding out Dark Moon  have so kindly decided to publish my short story ‘When the Moon Hangs Fat’, I decided to dust off another old short story I wrote a few years ago, to see if I could possibly polish that one up and send it out. I knew I liked the premise (it has all my favourite things in it: caves; alternate dimensions; ancient, forbidden knowledge; mad stuff), but upon reading it, all I can do is cringe.

Why? It’s simple. Overwriting.

Once upon a time, I was an advocate of the overwriter. Still am, in a way – I’m not a fan of those austere pieces where any kind of emotion has been leached out by the writer’s strict adherence to the ‘no adjective/adverb/metaphor/simile rule (I’m sure you know the type. They tend to write sentences of no more than 6 words, and hang around looking superior, trying to make other people do the same thing). I like a good bit of flaky description. But bloody hell, I’d forgotten just how much flaky description I used to enjoy.

But it’s not that I’m embarrassed about. I mean, I used to be a goth (and a chubby one at that – not so much pale and interesting as pink and giggly), and you’ve got to have a pretty high tolerance for silliness if you’re going to do that right (still do – whilst I fear I am too old for the hardcore stuff, the love is still there).  No, what embarrassed me is that I not only wrote this baroque pile  of nonsense, but I also posted it up for critique. And then argued with people who told me it was a baroque pile of nonsense.

So here’s the lesson, kiddiwinks – you might think it’s cool now, but a few years down the line, you’re going to realise that the liberal use of adjectives (and excessive use of parma violet lipstick) is not quite as edgy or as cool as once you thought, and that those people who critted you so kindly were actually right… so don’t flounce about and make a complete and utter tit of yourself. It’ll save you much cringing in the long run!

Off to continue re-writing – it’s painful, but like a little bit of self-flagellation, it’s good for the soul (or so I hope!).

5 thoughts on “Well, this is embarrassing…

  1. Tony says:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, Claire. I expect in two or three years time, when you come across an old copy of your about-to-be-published short story, you’ll still cringe and want to chage bits. Once we get over our first flush of enthusiasm we writers can be our own worst criticis in one sense; we’ll never be entirely satisfied with what we’ve done (yet, at the same time, be over-protective of our ‘babies’.) Let’s just continue to strive to makes each piece of writing better than its predecessor.

    • Many a true word spoken here, Tony – thanks for replying. I know I have gone from someone who could once dash off 3000 words a day (I wrote 180000 words in just over 6 months for one of my fan fiction novels… I daren’t even log in an read it now, so sure I am that it is terrible!) to someone who agonises over everything and can barely push out 1000 on a good day. It almost seems cruel – the more we learn, the more we worry (and in my case, anyway), the more aware we become of our faults… and rather than emboldening us, it actually makes us more fearful. Usually, we fear the dark, but with writing, I think I fear the light more… ‘cos the light shows up all those awful adverbial crutch phrases I sometimes fall back on! :-/

  2. Just 2 things… One: Congrats on getting published, yes are now a published author!
    Two: And I thought I was the only one who used far too many words…
    um, you are not alone.
    It’s amazing how time can take something you thought was so precise and turn it into: “What was I thinking?” Even now I’m searching for free tutorials on how to “show instead of tell” a story. Nice blog!

    • Thanks, Alex – sorry for the late reply, but real life has been kicking my arse something rotten recently, and so I’m behind in absolutely everything right now!

      I am a terrible overwriter – maybe I should form an Overwriter’s Anonymous group for people who like words just that little bit to much… ^^D

      • Hey, I’d join!
        I’m on the third installment of my series and my auto crit is kicking my a$$!
        I’m like, what do you mean I have fifteen too many “had’s”? How can I write without “he’d, had and they’d?”
        …Must find new word, must find new word… : )

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