Friday, July 3, 2009

Afraid to Tell the Story

While on vacation, my great-uncle handed me a portfolio.

"You should read these," he said. "They're short stories. My buddy writes them."

So, I read them.


Look, the story was good. Really--a man and his dog whether a storm on the ocean. A good story!

But the writing... Oh, the writing.

Y'all know I'm a grammar queen. I wanted to rip out my red pen RIGHT THERE and make corrections on the text.

But it wasn't just that. It was the characterization, the structure, the plot holes, the oh-wait-and-this-happened-to, the dues ex machina, the dialog... the writing.

The story was there--the writing wasn't.

That made me realize: this is, at least at some level, probably every writer's greatest fear. We know our stories are good! We know the plot twists rock, the characters are cool! If the story fails, it's not because of the story--it's because of our ability to write it.

While the above statement may not be true--this story, for example, is both a horrible story and horribly written--I do think that's many writers' fear.

It is mine. I know that this WIP I've got going on is probably the best story I've ever come up with. But does my writing live up to the story in my mind?

No. Not yet.

But it will.

So, how about you? Do you have a great story, but are afraid that your writing won't live up to it...or are you the opposite, with great writing, but worried about the nature of the story?


PJ Hoover said...

Oy. You put this so truthfully it's painful.
I'm trying not to worry :)

Captain Hook said...


I worry about both. Critters tell me I don't need to but . . .

Shannon Morgan said...

Ack. That scanned page made me twitch. :)

I'm the second type -- I'm confident in my writing (use of language, imagery, etc), but worry about pacing and characterization. And world-building gaps. *YAY* for betas!

Elana Johnson said...

Hmmm, I think if we didn't worry, that would be a problem. However, that said, I think you can improve and improve the writing aspect of things. I know my fist novel wasn't nearly as well-written as my second. So the writing will come with practice and crit buddies and the will and drive to get better.

As for the ideas, that's what I worry about the most. How is my book different? What makes it different? Is is a good kind of different or a suck kind? Is it high concept or am I just another hack? Yeah, those are my worries.

Casey Something said...

This is my EXACT fear. Before I started my current WIP, I whined to my CP that I wasn't good enough to write it. In fact, I still whine about that. I know the idea/concept is brilliant but I'm afraid I can't do it justice.


It may take five rewrites, but I'll get it there eventually (I hope!)

About Me said...

I struggle with both. Ah, the fear! the fear! Particularly though, I worry that my writing isn't good enough more often than I worry about the story.

Unknown said...

PJ: My reaction exactly. When I thought that originally, I was a little sick to my stomach. It's like an epiphany that makes you want to throw up. :)

Hook: Don't worry! Honestly, from what I can tell, the people who are worst at it, don't know they're bad at it--but the people who worry are really OK.

Nomadshan: Yes! Thank goodness for betas! It seems like everyone has difficulty in spotting their own weakness!!

Elana: For real? Judging from your ABNA piece, I really don't think you've got to worry about that AT ALL.

Casey: That has actually never been a fear of mine before now. I think I must just be big-headed. Now that I DO worry about it, though, I'm finding it very easy to obsess about!

Crimey: That's usually my way of thinking, too... *sigh*

Danyelle L. said...

To make it easy, I worry about both. >.< I know that I love my story, but worry that--excepting Beloved Spouse Creature--I might be the only one.

Trisha Pearson said...

I worry about both, although on my WIP I fear I'm not good enough to do my story justice. But we're all working on it, practicing to get better and better. So I think we'll all be okay!