Friday, November 6, 2009

Corrupting Young Minds

It’s really no secret that one of the goals of my Naked World Domination Tour is to corrupt young minds. You see… some people haven’t had proper exposure to such joys as pudding wrestling, cross dressing, or innuendo. I feel there is a hole in their education that needs filling, and I am just the person to do it.

Oh, sure… what kind of role model encourages people to get naked and have a good time, you ask. The kind that knows life throws a gazillion responsibilities at people, and thinks balance is the only way to stay sane. Someone who knows fun can be fleeting if you take things too seriously, and life really ought to be fun.

Occasionally, I get some evidence that I’m doing exactly the right thing.

My Fan Fiction Home

I got my writing start in Fan Fiction, which most of you know. HPANA is an extremely friendly and interactive format for that. I post part of a story, people read, and give feedback, pester me for updates... It doesn’t take very many such interactions before people are friends. A couple YEARS of it and it is more than that—a family of sorts.

When I first started WRITING fan fiction, I had read very little of it. I asked for a few recommendations, which led to some very good reads. But I also started watching for things my readers were writing. It’s a reciprocity thing. Now when you read the work of friends, and you’ve been interacting for a while, you get a feel pretty quickly for who just needs encouragement, and who could use some friendly suggestions for improvement.

And you know what? In a family there grows a feeling of obligation to the fledglings. I especially feel an obligation to young writers (I'm not alone, eh, Tara?). I wish I’d had someone encourage me when I was in my early 20s… my entire career path might have been different, and though I like the path it’s taken for the most part, I would love to have been an established author by this point.

And some of these young writers are amazing. They have a fresh voice and can tap into parts of themselves that bring amazing stories forward.

A Recent Facebook Discussion Incident

I am part of a couple groups that occasionally hold discussions about this or that writing topic. I find browsing comments is a good way to choose new friends. People with insightful comments are fabulous. Occasionally though, someone can get full of himself. A young writer made a comment recently about genre flopping in both her reading and writing. A man, older, and I believe established, said something to the effect that her voice couldn’t be very good if she didn’t know what she wanted to write.

I promptly sent one of those itchy crotch curses at him and encouraged her to just write. Voice can come across in different genres and I think when a person is young, testing different waters is a better way to learn than pigeon-holing in just one thing. Sometimes we have strengths we don’t know we had.

I hope that man is STILL scratching. I commented of course, also, encouraging her to try a lot of different things. She has tons of time to worry about whether she wants to stick to one genre or not. And her voice can shine through even if she genre flops all over the place. He tried to back-pedal, of course. I’m happy to have shamed him.  He clearly is not used to thinking of ANYTHING but his own grandiose head size, much less acting as mentor to people who will carry the day when he is dead and buried.

All of us who are a little more mature and confident should be nurturing young people (heck, even old people who aren’t as far process-wise need a little nurturing--I adore the generous people who've been so helpful). When we write into a void it is hard to keep going, so the nurturing is important encouragement.


I convinced a posse of these people (some a little younger than me, most A LOT younger than me) to participate in NaNoWriMo, and as I watch their word counts soar I feel a little patter of pride. When these people reach my age they’ll have a dozen books published. They’ll be superstars. I can only hope they’re still naked.


M.J. Nicholls said...

Writers, being extremely doubtful creatures in constant need of critical validation, feed off the enthusiasm of others. It's SO much more important for younger ones to be spurred on from the older pros, me thinks.

Every single writer between 18-22 I've met so far thinks everything they write is crap, even the geniuses among them.

So I salute this! Enthusiasm, encouragement and gentle critical feedback are the key!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good for you! I can't imagine someone saying something so negative to someone he doesn't even know.

It's so easy to get crushed when you're young. I had a man tell me that I needed to live life for a while longer before I was seasoned enough to write. Bull dookey. I already had a book out by then, as I was happy to let him know. But he still worried me. I have plans to kill him in a future book. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Jan Morrison said...

Yay - good on ya! If someone wants criticism (and some do- want intelligent criticism that is) then they have to ask for it. Otherwise I pretend everyone (me included) is like a lawn trying to grow in Arizona - each little shoot deserving of praise.
I'm NaNoWriMoing it along with my step-dot - I belong to the Rebel crowd because I went into to it with four pages of my WIP! Oh, I'm a tricky one alright...I love my step-dot doing it. I'm trying not to encourage her too much though because I know that can have a negative effect.

Chary Johnson said...

Loved this post! Keep shining that light for fledgling writers. They all appreciate that gentle push in the right direction.

And thanks for the advice on putting the "paper grader" away. Nanowrimoing is coming along.


Marjorie said...

I'm part of the group that can like what I've written for about two seconds before I think it's crap. I appreciate any encouragement that I can get. I like constructive critism. I'm glad you put that dude in his place. It wasn't nice of him to discourage that young writer. I still haven't found my voice though I think it's mostly poetic with some strories waiting to spring out in the future. Glad there are people out there like you, Tam. You really are one of the kindest and most fun people I know.

Watery Tart said...

Thank you all! Sorry I was so negligent on comments this weekend... between NaNo and life, pretty much everything else escaped me, but I really appreciate the support and feedback, and offer back a huge JUST WRITE! to more timid souls...

Jan--love the idea of you and your step daughter writing together!

And Marjorie--I'd love to see some of your stuff--I can imagine poetry being a stong point for you--you are so good with the aesthetics (your photography comes to mind) and that seems to go with poetry to me.