Those Writers and The Legend Of Mary Sue

I did something with my life this week. I joined the local college’s writing club, and got to participate in critiquing other club members’ stories. As a natural-born proofreader with sharp, pointy teeth filed to perfection, I was roaring and ready to go!

Before going to the meeting, I got the opportunity to read one of the two pieces up for the workshop. And boy, did I tear into it, mocking it aloud to my roommates at every opportunity. I’ve eviscerated their work, as fellow writers, plenty of times, so they’re used to it, and beginning to learn like good little minions.

Anyway, this piece. . . it was a high school vampire story. Overly dramatic, rushed, awkward and dull. Something all too easy to mock. And I delighted in it.

Then, of course, I got to the meeting. Met the other writers and critics. Got to taste some writer blood. And begin a friendship with another Grammar Nazi.

That, of course, is when the vampire author is brought into the spotlight, and it is this so-called Grammar Nazi. And I began to fear for the future of humanity. Again.

This girl is in college, but the story is based on her and her friends. And even as I—heavily biting my tongue—gave few well-placed comments, she looked like she was about to cry. Even though we were giving her the kid gloves, and giving her praise that she really didn’t deserve, and that we’d had to fight like hell to dredge up. It was poorly written. Plain and simple.

So, to all the aspiring writers out there who haven’t heard it, I have a few words to say. Not everyone’s going to like your work. Ever. Fact of life. Deal with it, pin up another rejection, and keep trying until you get it right. The big bad world doesn’t care about your feelings. It’s about what you can give them. There’s always going to be someone who thinks it’s a stupid story. There are always going to be critics. They keep you in perspective,

Also, some of you just weren’t meant to be writers. If you’re not a reader, first of all, just go ahead and rule yourself out. Writers are a strict, snotty club, and require you to know your medium. If you can’t get beyond the stuff that sounds like the regular Internet drudgery, rule yourself out again. Go for the exceptional, not what’s been done a thousand times under a thousand different names and descriptions—here mostly meaning our good old friend, Mary Sue, and the hackneyed plots that follow her around because they have no will to stand on their own. Besides, don’t you think you’d be better suited putting your talents to use elsewhere? Maybe your writing is depriving the world of future leaders. Doctors. Teachers. Techs. Dictators. Expand your horizons!

To those of you adding to The Legend Of Mary Sue, us who are criticizing you have been there. We got smart. We’re just trying to keep you from making our mistakes.

And, let me just point out, there’s a good reason I don’t often show any of my own stuff. I’m not a bad writer, says me, but I’m a better proofreader.


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