[process] The long, dark drive-through of the soul

I spent part of today working on Tourbillon and much of today critiquing workshop stories for my upcoming FenCon excursion. The novel went a little more slowly and with more difficulty than it has so far, though in fairness I was both doing some on-the-fly research and in the same room as the_child as she watched videos.

But let me tell you, there’s nothing like critiquing a substantial batch of stories to really make one reflect on the state one’s auctorial soul. As with any convention workshop, the quality varied widely from “oh cool!” to “here, let me help you.”

I can remember sitting through critique of my work back in 1990 or 1991 and being frustrated because I just couldn’t ever see how the tense shifted within a story. So many elements of craft were utterly invisible to me, even on what I then thought of as careful proofreading. I can remember struggling mightily with dialog tags later in that decade. Even now, I still enjoy, an uneasy armistice, with our humble friend, the comma.

I’ve been swimming with serious intent in this water of critique and craft and writing for publication for almost twenty years, since the summer of 1990. It took me the first eleven years of that period to grow far enough to publish word one. So when I see a manuscript that makes me weep, or giggle, I look back to where I was standing in those years, and try to remember how frustrating it was that no one else saw how good my stories were, no one else saw my vision, no one else got what I was doing.

Because I wasn’t, until I learned better.

So today I spent some time practicing my own craft. Then I spent some time trying to help other people learn better, so they could have a shot at their success. Like being on the autobahn and the drive-through lane at the same time. Except instead of whiplash, I have renewed my sense of perspective.