sodgers at hotnet.net.au
Tue Apr 17 22:32:15 EDT 2001
>>I still feel like authors who discourage others (beginning writers
>>especially) from entering their world(s) is problematic.
Speaking as one who does just this - it's not done with cruelty
aforethought, but more to *save* the beginners from a really nasty slap in
the face down the track. Derivative stories are banned from competitions
(often publically disqualified) and kids who write them have been stripped
of prizes and never known, until that moment, that they've done anything
wrong. Now that would *really* hurt. I teach creative writing and it really
bothers me to find previous teachers have actually confined themselves to
having kids (or adult beginners) "continue" or "rewrite" existing stories.
At the very most I would use an existing story as a plotting model to teach
pace and structure.
Whoever pointed out that this kind of writing is a flair all on its own is
perfectly correct. It is a special and separate talent. However, so is being
an art copyist. My brother-in-law can draw the most beautiful copies of "The
Dog" cartoon figures, but as far as I know he has never attempted to draw
any original figures at all. Since he's infringing copyright if he offers
his pictures for public display, his talent is almost unused.
As a child, I never saw the point of painting-by-numbers. I always wanted to
choose my own colours.
As a teen I never saw the point of embroidering from a tapestry kit, with
preselected pictures and preselected yarns. That is definitely a skill - my
great aunt has it - and I love to see the results, but I can't see the point
of doing it myself. I wouldn't do it very well, as I'm poorly coordinated,
and anyway, someone else created the picture, so whatever I did would be no
more than a form of colouring-in.
I do embroider by the way, free-form, and badly. "A poor thing but my own".
I seem to be in the minority with this peculiar attitude (aside from other
writers), so I'm not surprised that some people take what is meant as a
safety net as a snub.
I take the point that fan-fic isn't meant to be commercially pubbed, but
most writers do eventually want to publish their work and I know far too
many disappointed people who simply don't understand why they're being
rejected. It's not only fan-fic type work that causes problems, but also
what I call Grandparent-fiction. What happens is that an older writer,
perhaps a grandparent, writes a cosy story for his/her g'children. The kids
love it to bits, because, (a) a loved person "made" it, (b) it's associated
with attention anhd story-time and (c) it often contains the child's own
name, or that of a pet, or derives from something the child has done.
The delight in this story is genuine, so the poor writer can't understand
why publishers don't love it too. I've heard so many "reasons" from these
authors; "I'm not a Name", "They only want violent stuff", "They didn't even
read it", "They have no idea what kids like" etc, but none of them ever hits
on the actual reason which is probably just that the story is old-fashioned
and pedestrian when shorn of its family connotations.
Other children might well like it, but reviewers probably won't, and
children's fiction has to get through adult barriers before it ever gets to
Now if only publishers would come out and say this, clearly and
unmistakably, the writers would understand. It's the "thanks but no thanks"
form letter that upsets them and leads them to continue on the same path to
Same thing with fan-fic, I suspect. Write it if you like, share it with
"family" (i.e. other devotees) but never confuse it with the kind of writing
you send to publishers or competitions. And don't think you can necessarily
use it as a "learning tool" for later original writing, because it's
teaching you a totally different skill. You'll learn structure and pacing,
and maybe plotting, but tere will be a whole series of elements missing and
you'll have to unlearn a lot as well.
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