Friday, January 19, 2007

middle thoughts

I like the fact that Philippine Genre Stories encourages feedback from its readers. My story, "The Middle Prince" was the feature story of the first issue. As a result, I've been getting opinions on my work. Now all feedback, good or bad, is good. It means people took time to read and think about my story. They bought the magazine and deserve to be heard. I may not necessarily agree with the comments but I respect the readers' right to have them. I particularly enjoyed Sean's thoughts on all the stories that appeared in the maiden issue - these are well-reasoned and articulated.

Any writer worth his salt needs to be able to balance the need for worthwhile critique with the artistic necessity of putting on earplugs and just writing. There is value to what others say, yes, but of more value to me is what I'll write next. I'm glad that the story seems to have worked for a lot of people (and of course there will always be people for whom a story simply does not work: it can be because of any reason - choice of theme, characterization, tone, structure, reading preference, authorial bias, or my story is truly dismal). I'm also happy that it provoked some discussions on a structural or meta level (one of the person's assumptions about my 'intentions' made me smile).

One of the readers wrote that my story was "just well-written", nothing more, did not leave a mark. I am suddenly reminded of mother who, when I was growing up, always reminded me to wear clean underwear and to make sure that none of them had holes in them . I assume she did not want me to offend the paramedics or the emergency room people when I'm rushed there after an accident. Snip-snip. OMG his underwear is unclean AND has holes in it! In storywriting terms, I have pristine hole-free undies, though DOA in that reader's hospital haha.

I must admit that I do feel distant from the story from this point in time (I feel like I wrote it a lifetime ago), especially since the ones I'm working on now are very different from it. I guess what a lot of casual readers don't know is that the stories they read in the latest issue of whatever magazine isn't fresh, wasn't written yesterday. In many cases, these stories were written months, if not years, before the issue was published. From the time it was submitted for publication, the author has moved on to other stories - so these stories are like timestamps of authors (and their mindscapes) at a prior point in time. For me, it's like looking back at photograph of myself years ago. I read my story again and my critical eye was not kind (I truly dislike a lot of what I write - there are so many places for improvement).

It's a cycle of me celebrating the present (enjoying the act of writing whatever it is I'm writing now) and wrinkling my nose at the past (reading my previous stories and publications and going "OMG, why did I write this?") and projecting the future (planning the impossible stories in my mind) ; all part of my writing process.



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