Making Mud Angels with Poe

I’ve learned a few things via my critiquing group. As a semi-professional ranter, I’m use to digging my heels in and fighting the fight BUT that doesn’t mean I can’t/won’t accept when I’m wrong or see the flaw in my argument.

Writing – mine, yours, anybody’s – matures as you travel down the literary path. It’s not set in stone, in fact it is, for most, an experiment. A trying on of different styles or methods. It’s like… well the best description I can think of is that it is like a cat settling down for a nap. It circles it’s intended sleep place, it kneads the fabric into the desired fluffiness and then it settles down. This process can take several minutes. That is what writing is like. You feel your way until you settle into that writing chair. You stop trying to use mechanics and you write.

What brought me to this revelation? A series of ‘a-ha’ moments.

First, Monday night I attended my critiquing group meeting (Ya, writers anonymous). I wasn’t having anything critiqued, I had to participate in the group critiquing. Now I hardly feel qualified to do this. Hell, I can’t get the grammar and punctuation correct in my own work, who am I then to tell someone else how they’re doing? What I do enjoy is pointing out word use, suggesting additional descriptions, reading beyond the words and just falling into the stories of excellent writers. Over the course these critiques, I’ve seen their writing improve. I was shocked. Afterall, writing is writing, isn’t it? Apparently not.

Secondly, the other day I wrote a section for my second novel Appetites and as always I gave it to my wife Sue to read. She may not be ‘into’ horror or thrillers, but she does appreciate good writing (I hope I fall into that category). When she was done, she said that my writing is maturing. Hunh… so it’s happening to me too.

And finally, I`ve started to read a collection of ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination‘ by Edgar Allan Poe. While the stories themselves are masterpieces, it was the forewords by Kevin J Hayes, Scott Peeples and Louis A Renza. More precisely, the introduction by Kevin J Hayes. In it he spoke about Poe’s various writing styles and the fact that he constantly experimented with new techniques and crossed genre lines. Ultimately it was his first person point of view and how he manipulated that and through it, the reader that struck a chord with me.

I’ve spent way too much time trying to wedge Echoes into some cookie cutter mold for my query letters. Is it Literary fiction, horror, thriller, mystery or gothic? I just wrote it. I wasn’t concerned with how it fit anywhere, I enjoyed mucking about in my protagonist’s head and by extension, the reader. I gave no thought as to how to categorize it.

Well, no more. I’m going to say it is a gothic thriller and leave it be. It won’t stand in my way anymore. Time to push it aside and concentrate on Appetites. I feel like a weight has been lifted. I’m no longer mired in the mud of self-doubt, spinning my wheels or, more poetically, making mud angels while Appetites suffers.

Don’t worry, I am going to work with an editor on Echoes but as Sue said, maybe Echoes is just the book I cut my teeth on or rather, sharpened my fangs with.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite actors, Vincent Price.;

I sometimes feel that I`m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know it sounds sick, but I love it.”


About Dale Long

Writing ambushed me from the shadows. At first I pushed it aside as nonsense, but luckily my wife and two girls saw the potential. Since then I have had an article published by Metroland, placed as runner-up and in the top ten in humour writing contests and various other contests. The icing on the cake was placing as runner-up in the WCDR's Wicked Words contest (130 entries) and having my entry published in the contests anthology of the same name. My entry was an exerpt from my upcoming novel, Echoes.
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6 Responses to Making Mud Angels with Poe

  1. Your blog is so timely. I just said the same thing myself to Sue and James last week. I love Debris, and I have high hopes that it will be published, but, it’s done now and I have to spend my energy writing Teenage Mutant instead of worrying about what will become of the first one.

    I remember hearing authors say the first book they wrote was practice, and I always thought – no way! I’m not writing a whole book for nothing! But as you pointed out, it wasn’t for nothing. I was cutting my writers teeth (love that you were sharpening your fangs!).

    I think if we’ve come to a place of acceptance regardless of what happens to the first novel – our “babies”, then we have reached another level in our writing skill. It may mean we aren’t beginners anymore…yippee! I never liked being a newbie anyway.

    • Dale Long says:

      I never like trying something and not succeeding. Echoes not getting published doesn’t mean I haven’t succeeded. I wrote a novel and recieve glowing feedback from my peers. That is success. That is what I failed to see.

      Nope, we aren’t beginners anymore. kinda exciting, isn’t it?

  2. Dave says:

    Dale, ya gotta good point. We write and are told how good it is then we are told one day that we have improved! I guess the only thing to do is to keep writing, and writing. Maybe it’s like playing an instrument. We start off with a pretty good grasp and are told we’re good, but the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice…

  3. Lisa Llamrei says:

    You’re absolutely right. I spent most of the last year trying to work on two novels and not doing well with either one. I consider “Lifetimes” a success because I finished it – after 25 years of wanting to write a novel, I finally finished one. Anything else is gravy.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that you will be a published author. You can’t expect it to happen right away – none of us can – but it will happen.

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