Wednesday, March 4, 2009

ABNA: Oh, the Drama!

So, being the middle of the week, I have nothing specific in my mind to blog about again. I suppose I should plan these things a little better but, at the same time, the randomness of just writing is actually quite fun. Thus, as long as you don't mind, I'll continue to muse about whatever strikes me.

Not too much is going on with me at the moment which is probably for the best. I did get one more rejection since the crippling one from last week but the generic language was actually a comfort when I compared it to the specific critique/criticism from the previous rejection. In a little under two weeks, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) will move onto the next stage and up to 9,500 of us will be rejected. I'm trying to be an optimist and hope that I did, at least, make it to the top 2,000 contestants. This year, the quarterfinalists aren't notified the way they were last year; Amazon won't notify anyone until the top 500 semi-finalists have been selected. If we made the first cut, we'll have access to our message box or something on Createspace, the print-on-demand company that co-sponsors the contest. I'd like to make that cut at least but having read a few of the excerpts, this year there are a lot of good writers in there and there's a lot of competiton.

However, even if I don't make it through, it's been an interesting experience this year just lurking and occasionally posting in the forums. Over the past week, it has been a little less civilized and a little more "America's Next Top Writer". For anyone who's never watched "America's Next Top Model" or the UK version, the show takes twelve somewhat plain girls and turns them into Tyra Banks' version of supermodels. In the beginning, the contestants get along, sweetly attempting to be friends and playing nice for the cameras. There is always one girl who doesn't want to play nice with others because she's "In it to win it!" As the show progresses and the number of models gets narrowed down after a weekly elimination, the true colours of the girls start coming out. I know it's all made far more dramatic for the camera but, trust me, you cannot put a bunch of competitive girls in a house and expect them to play nice forever. I've had roommates, good ones and bad ones. No matter how much you love them, you will fight.

The Amazon Breakthough Novel Award message boards (or forums, whichever term you prefer) have started to deteriorate into catfights. I must confess, it's actually quite interesting to lurk. After all, these are writers and the way they fight/verbally spar/insult each other is always rather clever. It makes for good reading.

I'm not sure I know exactly what happened on the boards but I've managed to figure out that someone posted about the cliques on the board. I must confess, I, too, have been board to tears with these cliques. I won't name names but there's a group of about 10-15 posters who know each other from last year. I admire their camraderie but it gets to be rather obnoxious. For example, I posted in a forum that was discussing the hard process of getting published and how it sometimes makes you doubt yourself. It was a good discussion. Then one of the 'clique' joined in and it became a series of about 30 posts where they were all going to get "Nekkid" with one another. I'm sure it was hilarious but it pretty much ended the discussion. I've seen it happen on countless other forums. I'm not jealous of the camraderie but part of me wishes they'd just stick to the countless discussion threads they've created that are inside jokes to the clique and stay off the serious discussion unless they have something of value to say.

The clique isn't unwelcoming but they are hard to interrupt. Once the group starts a series of 'sillyness' in the thread, the thread loses its luster and few people get to contribute. There are some brave souls who push through but I can't be bothered. Now I just scan the thread headings, see if there's anything of interest and leave.

Back to the drama of the forums. After this initial discussion of the clique, it started to get a little bitter. Sides were defined. The side that favoured the "cliques" and the side that was anti-clique. Needless to say, it got a little heated. It was almost a war. I haven't looked this morning but it was still going on last night. Writers can be rather sarcastic. They can be rather mean. Several regular posters have attempted to make peace, to start new discussions that are not snarky exchanges about secret identities and what-not. Unfortunately, these discussions are being replaced by flaming posts that are the equivalent of using rocket-launchers during hand-to-hand combat. I'm all for freedom of speech but I think maybe it would be good to have a moderator on the boards once in a while, not a just kindly poster whose peacemaking attempts are flattened by by a train of defensive attempts to state 'the truth'.

However, from an outsider's point of view, it's the literary equivelent of watching the Jerry Springer show only with far better grammer and less chairs being thrown. Though given some of the barbs I've read, these are the verbal equivelent of chairs being thrown.

I admire the creativity I'm seeing here. I can't help but wonder if it could possibly be channeled into something a little more useful like, say, a new novel but, at the same time, people are getting a little antsy about the upcoming eliminations and this is the manifestation of their stress. As a lurker, I'm not going to choose sides but I will say it's not black and white. I do find it fascinating that the proxy ringleader of the 'anti-clique' side is making such a huge deal about his identity. He/she goes by the name R.E.Cluse and is adamant that he wants anonymity. It's started a guessing game as to whether this R.E.Cluse is actually someone well known. Personally, I think he/she is just another hopeful like us, a decent writer but someone who is loving the attention and the chance to grandstand in the forums. He/she even posted an excert for everyone to read about someone who's having a bad experience in an online forum. It's decently written but it's a little too personal. As writers, it's extremely tempting to want to eviscerate our enemies, those who've wronged us in fiction. Creating thinly veiled characters based on these people is easy and it's therapeutic. However, after you do it, a few months later, you feel guilty or the piece has lost its meaning. The heat of the moment is good for writing but it shouldn't be something so personal that it can hurt someone. I prefer to use that kind of energy and passion to create something new, something unrelated to that which has riled me up. Angry writing can be the best writing of all but there's a fine line between literary therapy and slander.

I don't have a clue what will happen on March 16th. If I get the elusive email that says I've made it through, I'll be ecstatic. And, if not, I'm going to treat it as an experience. After all, I have written enough novels that I could actually choose which to submit. I suppose I was brave enough to put my work out there. These are things to be excited about.

Regardless of what type of email I do get, I will say thank you to all the other entrants for keeping me entertained on the forums. While some of you are a little scary, you're also providing entertainment which, as writers, you're supposed to do. You writing is getting out there, people are reading it though I think, perhaps, it might not be what you had in mind. Nevertheless, I say Fight on, people. Fight on!

Happy Wednesday

1 comment:

Samantha Elliott said...

Amusing musings, as usual, Cap'n.

I went ashore for some much-needed r&r and came back to find the ship aflame and scurvy dogs forcing each other to walk the plank.

I backed away slowly and found another ship.

Maybe when things have calmed, I'll be back. But my writing's suffered enough at the hands of my addition to the goodship ABNA. I think it's not very likely I'll return, even if the ship isn't sunk by the ruckus.

I'm still checking out blogs, though. And I hope we can share a celebratory e-drink in a weed and a half.