Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers -- Week #16

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It's time to come clean: there are no Garden Variety Writers. I repeat, there are no Garden Variety Writers. No, my lawyer is not making me say this. I made it all up out of whole cloth. It was just an idea I had to present some information about writing, critiques and writing groups in a slightly more entertaining fashion than the monthly articles I have been posting elsewhere on this website. It was my Lake Wobegone, where I could present some truths about writing in a fictional setting. Only I didn't tell you it was fiction. You were supposed to figure it out somewhere along the way, which is why it got progressively weirder. It's your basic "unreliable narrator" story.

Some of you caught on to what I was doing, and e-mailed me. The blog just seemed too good, too well plotted to be real. Even in the early "mundane" weeks, the group always seemed to tackle some important topic every week. I also received other e-mail praising or condemning the blog, from people who still believed it was real. Perhaps some of you suspected that I was laying it on a bit too thick for it to be real, but you were too polite to say so. Despite the bizarre last few weeks, I think there are still plenty of people reading this who continue to believe. OK, you can stop now.

Will most of you smile and think this chronicle was a neat thing to do? I hope you were entertained, and maybe learned a thing or two about writing and critique groups. If you were thinking of joining or starting a group, I really hope I haven't scared you off. Honestly, most groups are a lot more business-oriented and helpful than the GVW, but hey, the blog wouldn't have been as interesting without all the soap-opera stuff, right?

And a few of you will be angry with me for having deceived you and wasted your time. But if you read it all the way to the end, there must have been some merit, else why did you keep reading? Perhaps this was a train wreck from which you just couldn't look away. Sorry if I offended.

So, what did I learn from doing the blog?

  • People like blogs. I think a lot more people read this blog than my regular monthly columns, and I know I got a lot more feedback. But I'll go back to doing the regular columns next month. I hope I can be nearly as entertaining as I apparently was with the blog, but it just won't be the same.
  • People do want to believe what they read. I tried to make things outrageous enough in the later entries that I thought you would all catch on, but some of you just clung on right to the bitter end. A couple of people suggested that I work some SF or fantasy elements into the blog, but I thought that would have been a bit too much, and I wanted to keep everything in the realm of possibility, if highly improbable. Call it an experiment in the willing suspension of disbelief -- that's why fiction works in the first place, isn't it?
  • A few of you recognized characters from your own real writing groups, and told me so. Well, although the GVW was fictional, I've been in a bunch of real groups and workshops over the years, so I do have an idea of what goes on in groups like this. There's usually not nearly as many pool-dunkings and spies in the closet, but a lot of the writing/critiquing situations do pop up in real life, and some of you let me know that I hit the nail squarely on the head a few times.
  • Not everyone liked the idea of the blog -- I was breaking a sacred trust by revealing my fellow writers' struggles. Many of you supported the idea, but not everyone was completely comfortable with it. If you are a member of a real writers' group and you feel the urge to blog, it would probably be a good idea to let the others in the group know what you're doing ahead of time, and see how they feel. It might be best to restrict the blog to your own writing experience and works, and not detail any critiques of other members' stories.
  • The people who did like this blog mostly seemed to like it a lot. I kept seeing references calling it addictive, and comparing it to a soap opera. Thanks folks. It was fun for me, too, when I wasn't catching flak from the group that hated the idea of it.
  • Writers are, by and large, a well-meaning and helpful bunch. A couple of you pointed out errors (which I fixed) that might have given things away. A lot of you sent encouragement. Even the folks that weren't comfortable with what I was doing were offering constructive criticism rather than just lobbing flames at me. Real writers are a lot less cutthroat than I may have made out in the blog. This was a good lesson to learn; we are a community.
Well that's all. It's done. Thank you to all who responded to my little experiment. Even if you didn't like it, your feedback was entertaining and enlightening. I enjoyed writing it, and reading your reactions. I probably had more fun than all of you.

So, why am I stopping? As with my more conventional fiction, I originally outlined this entire blog in advance, so there was always a planned ending. This was never intended to be an on-going thing, but just a temporary project. Just like all stories, it has a beginning, middle, and an end. This is the end.

Are there some of you out there who still think the Garden Variety Writers were real and I'm now lying through my teeth to let the guilty off the hook? How do I finally convince you? Say it with me now: There are no Garden Variety Writers. There, doesn't that feel better? Now get back to work and write something good.

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante Count=7067

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