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Mar 13

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The Fighting Writing…Fish?

The Origins of the Fighting Writing Fish…

The following was one of the very first posts I made on the Two Kinds Story Board.  You can find the original thread here.

ButterBall wrote:
I guess the Story Board ain’t what it used to be.

Well, having just arrived on the scene here, and not knowing what it used to be, ButterBall, I’ll hope you forgive me when I say…stop complaining, and do something about it.

The only way for this place to improve, is for everyone to stop waiting for somebody to do something about it, get off their tails, and do something about it!

I’m sorry for the tough love, ButterBall, but as a writer, I cannot stand to see people with talent piss it away because they are feeling sorry for themselves…or for a forum that no longer meets with their nostalgic expectations.

MeaCulpa, S.C.M. wrote:
Could anyone give me some feedback on, well, how to get more feedback? That’s why I put my stories up here.

MeaCulpa, really, what are you expecting? Are you asking for readers to give you feedback? Sure, some of them might be polite enough to send you a message if they liked your work or not; but, as a writer, is that really what you are asking for?

Readers have one job to do: read. They do it very well. When you start expecting them to write you back, you’re going to start running into problems.

After all, readers don’t write. Writer’s write! Right?

And as a writer, personally, I don’t want readers telling me if they liked my writing, or if they didn’t.

Really!

I don’t want criticism. Unless they tell me in extreme, and specific detail what they liked or didn’t like about my fiction–and tell me exactly why they felt that way–I couldn’t care less what they think of my writing.

And you shouldn’t either.

That’s the difference between criticizing a piece of fiction, and critiquing it. One will actually improve your writing. The other isn’t good for anything but window dressing.

I’m not saying feedback isn’t important. But from your post, you seem to be more concerned with the quantity you receive, and it’s truly the quality you should concern yourself with.

MeaCulpa, if you are serious about getting feedback, you need to find some writers–or at least a group of readers advanced enough to understand what you’re really asking them when you say: “What do you think of my fiction?”

Posting your story on a forum for all to read isn’t how you should go about doing that. You need to surround yourself in a circle of other writers who share the same interests as you, and have a similar level of talent.

And no, I’m not talking about a writing workshop, which already has its own thread here, and its own issues.

FastChapter, if he’s still following this forum, has a good understanding of what I’m talking about. I won’t go into it in detail–this thing is going to be long enough as it is. But if you’re interested, know that eventually, I’ll probably start another thread about it.

MeaCulpa, you need to realize what you are asking from your audience–this forum, is unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong. Writing isn’t easy. And just knowing that there are people out there reading what you write–and telling you they enjoy it–might be exactly what you need when your motivation to write is flagging.

And this place might be a great one to do that in…

However, I’m telling you, as a writer, you’re really going to get yourself into a bind if that is all you ever do!

Readers only want to read fiction that is well written. While I don’t know your motivations for posting your work here–if the only reason you share your work is to seek praise for it, your writing will never improve. I don’t know about you, but I value a comment about where my writing has become sloppy, or confusing, ten times more than someone’s comment simply stating that I’m a good writer.

And if you are any kind of self-respecting writer, you should as well.

Once you start working out your writing muscles, strengthen them, you’ll be able to carry the interest of more fans. The easiest way for you to improve your audience, isn’t waving your story over your head and asking everyone to read it.

Trust me, you really want to stop doing that…

Everyone is just going to ignore you. And the few people you do eventually manage to pressure to read your writing, will only do it grudgingly; they’ll see it as a chore taking up their valuable time. And that’s going to color their opinion of the story you want them to read.

But most importantly, don’t worry about whether people are reading your work or not in the first place! You are just wasting your time when you do that. And for a writer, time is a valuable resource you can’t afford to spend frivolously. Spend that time writing…

Go sit down!

Go back to your computer, or your notebook, or what ever it is you write on–and go over your story with a fine tooth comb; and straighten out all the knots in your prose. Do everything you can to give it a makeover. Put some polish on the descriptions of your settings. Wash out all the unnecessary words. Cut out unnecessary scenes. Do everything in your power to make your story read well for your readers.

And eventually, readers will notice your story. Not because your story shouted in their face saying “look at me!” But because it’s attractive, and turn’s people’s heads; because it is well written.

Eventually, an agent, or publisher is going to take notice of you, and ask you to dress your story in a hardback cover, and show it off at the runway at Barns and Noble.

Don’t be fooled by all the writers who have already been successfully published. No matter what the big publishing companies and agents want you to believe, a writer doesn’t gain their audience by using flashy billboards, and ads on TV, and the radio.

They acquire it through word of mouth. People read books because their friends tell them “Hey dude, you should read this, it’s a good book!”

Even professional book reviewers, are an example of this phenomenon. You may not know them personally, but you trust them enough to tell you what is worth reading, and what is a waste of your time.

In our modern world, reading is no longer people’s preferred medium for entertainment. Television, the internet, and video games have horned in on its territory. Every year, people are reading less, and your pool of potential readers gets smaller. And just like acting, there are a tons of people who want to be writers–the pond is shrinking, and the fish in it are multiplying.

But you don’t have to worry about that. A lot of people just call themselves writers. They want to hang that label around their necks and show it off. But most of them never get around to doing the hard work that is required to make that label worth wearing.

When people go into a pet shop to buy a fish, most people don’t want a goldfish. The same thing goes for writing. There are a lot of goldfish in our pond now: mediocre writers who never do what it takes for them to be successful.

You should know, you don’t have to be like them! Dedicate yourself to improving your craft, and put everything else on the back burner.

Excuses are easy. Writing is hard.

Think about it. Why do your readers a disservice? Why ask them to waste their time reading a story you know needs more work? Put yourself in your readers shoes.

Go to the gym. Workout your fingers on that keyboard! Read some more books, and study how other writers solve the same problems in their writing that you are having. Do what it takes!

Make your writing kung-fu strong…

After all, when it’s all said and done, and you write that last sentence, what do you want in your fish tank?

A goldfish…or a Japanese fighting fish?

Nuff wrote:
It takes a deal of effort to read someones writing and then comment, often far too much work for anyone to want to bother with it. Especially when  a lot of half-baked idea’s and supposed fan fiction that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Nuff, I couldn’t agree with you more. Writing is difficult, even when it is just writing about other people’s writing.

But, if it was easy, would it really feel like you accomplished anything when you finished writing that story? How could anyone feel proud of anything they created if all they had to do was think about what they wanted, and snap their fingers?

And you are absolutely right. There is a lot of bad fiction out there. A lot of goldfish! But you sure as hell won’t see me swimming with them! Heck, I don’t even see em’.

Oh, they’ll puff their gills out, and boast about how great they are (and how many other gold-fish follow them around); but I know they aren’t worth my time.

They ain’t got the stamina; the drive to do what it takes. They can’t keep up.

I know their fiction won’t put up a good fight.

Oh, we’ll run across them now and then. Huge goldfish, who have thousands of others following them around. But am I jealous? Heck, no! After all, why should I care?

I’m not a goldfish…I’m a Japanese fighting fish!

And I hang out with a school of other fish you don’t wanna mess with. We’re all writers who have the drive and dedication to do what it takes to kick a short story’s tail. And we don’t hang out at the coffee shops, or internet forums, like gold-fish do.

Nope; we stay up late at night, practicing our writing kung-fu in the moon light. We don’t accept any weakness in each other, and we don’t make excuses. All we do is train…all we do is fight!

And when my writing is an unconscious and broken sack of words, I’ll take on one of my pal’s stories–and critique it to death!

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve killed plenty of my friend’s story’s–and they’ve killed plenty of mine. But we never hold it against each other. How could we? None of us have respect for bad fiction–or for goldfish who write it. A story that can’t survive isn’t worth writing. But every one of the goldfish-like stories I’ve written and my pals have killed, has made me a stronger, and better writer.

"Who wants to spar?"

My school of fighting fish–my circle of writers–we watch out for each other; and we always have each others back. We’re a single cohesive fighting team.

Yeah, it’s true the gold-fish out there outnumber us by the thousands, but do we care?

Heh.

Heck no…

We’re Japanese, and we know we can kick their ass, no matter how many of them are out there on the internet–and they know it! They leave us alone, and we leave them alone. They may think we’re elitist, that we’re better than them. But you know what?

We are.

But we don’t hold it against them. How could we? Any of us? After all…at one time, we were all once just like them.

Years ago we were goldfish too…

Each of us has a different origin story. A different reason how, and why we got serious. But each of us started training, and learning the secret writing arts. We distanced ourselves from other goldfish, stopped wasting our valuable time drinking coffee with them. We studied the great writers, and searched for those who could teach us, and hone our skills even further.

During our travels, and our quests around the world to become the best at what we did, we met each other…

No, we aren’t like some secrecy society, or anything–some kind of writing workshop. Nope, we’re just a bunch of friends…talented writers who appreciate good fiction when we see it.

Every now and then, while we’re swimming on the internet, we’ll see a goldfish with potential. Sometimes we’ll swim on over, and separate them from the pals they hang out with.

We size up their fiction. Check out their writing muscles–see if they can hang with us. Eventually, we tell them our secret, that we were once like them.

And then we ask them:

“Hey goldfish, do you think you’ve got what it takes? Do you think you can fight? Do you think you’ve got what it takes to be one of us?”

“Yeah!” They say.

“Then prove it,” We tell them.

Most get scared, and swim away. A few actually try to train with us, until their stamina fails and they can’t keep up. Very few have what it takes; to be a fighting fish. A writer who won’t back down when the going gets tough, who finds the time to practice their craft…instead of finding excuses.

Do you have what it takes?

Me and my gang, we don’t usually hang out with goldfish. You won’t see much of us out here on the internet–we keep a low profile. But after reading some of the posts in this forum, I’ve come to realize there are too many goldfish with talent swimming through these threads; too many to simply ignore.

I wanted to let all of you know that we’re out here…watching you. If you have the writing talent, and the drive, we’ll find you. We’ll ask you if you’re tired of swimming around in circles, in the fish bowls of writing forums like this one.

In fact, it’s already happened, right here on this forum. One of your friends is swimming with us now. It’s too soon to tell if he has what it takes…the drive, and stamina to keep training, even when it hurts.

No, we still don’t know if he can hang with us…but by God we hope so. Good fiction is hard to find; but the people who have what it take to write it…let’s just say, me and my friends are swimming around in this big ocean of the internet for a reason…it’s extremely rare when we find a potential recruit.

And after we tell them all the rigorous training that will be in store for them, how much time it will need; hardly any of them have the courage to raise their hand, and step forward to start the fight.

Fastchapter, you had that courage; in fact you had a hard time keeping you hand down, didn’t you? And I know there may be more of you, out there in this forum.

But you should know this, we’re an exclusive group. Invitation only. The RSVP?

Good writing, and the drive to make it even better.

We’re out here goldfish…watching you.

Writing IS hard.

It’s OK to complain. It’s fine to tell your friends how tough it is. It’s fine to complain on this forum. As long as eventually, you get up off your tail, and do the work you’ve complained about doing…as long as you write.

Your story isn’t going to write itself, is it?

In closing, I would just like to urge all you goldfish out there to stop reading this post…right, now.

And get back to writing, already!

Before me and my friends come and kick your tail! And when we’re all done kicking your tail, and piles of goldfish fan-fiction lay flopping at our feet, we’ll pull out our chopsticks and wasabi…

I did mention we were Japanese, right?

Well, let’s just say…we love our sushi.

And writing makes us really hungry…

_________________
Sincerely,

Peter Usagi
(The Writing Rabbit)

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Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/03/13/the-fighting-writing-fish/

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