For the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year, I decided to use it as an incentive for myself to publish – go real life – wowser – some of my fiction. To a possible audience. Who might or might not read it. Yikes.
Coming out of the closet as a writer was always going to be a tough thing for me. My first foray typically examples just how much of a shy person I am.
My First Virtual Publication
A couple of years back I had a brief infatuation with living a second life – virtually. A “Second Life” where I actually set up a virtual writing studio (on a tropical island I owned and designed, of course) and joined some of the in-world writing groups of Second Life. In a spurt of confidence, I went and entered a short story in a writing competition.
Unlike normal short stories, this one had to be based on a virtual treasure trail – I had to spend a few days following clues around a world that took my avatar through terrifying worlds, an actual hades, foggy islands, and at one point, something spectacularly out of Shakespeare’s MacBeth (one of my favourites of the man). My favourite was the little cottage with a murdered body on the floor.
I then wrote a short story inspired by the travels. I can’t even remember what mine was about. But it took me five separate visits to the virtual drop box before I found the courage to post in my own text files. That was the first time I’d written something in twenty-five years.
Un-expectantly, I won. Along with ten other winners, my short story won the competition. Which is where the real horrors started. The prize – of Linden dollars, wasn’t great. But to collect it, I was expected to attend a virtual writing presentation, where I was also asked to read the story out – using my avatar but my real life voice over a mike. When I arrived at the presentation in-world, the place was filled with writer avatars sitting waiting, gazing up at a stage where the winners were meant to sit. I had to jerk my avatar up onto stage.
Anyone who knows a bit about Second Life will understand when I say that when you get more than twenty avatars in the same virtual setting, you suffer from bad lag. Even staying on Second Life at that point, was difficult. The hosts of the presentation twice got booted off Second Life before it was my turn.
As soon as I hit the stand with my avatar, I entered the limbo zone – Second Life tended to throw me either deep underwater, or into some mythical sky, where somebody’s lost prims of hats and shoes floated by me. I logged off, and back in again, hoping like heck that my clothes came back in with me – often they don’t when high lag affects a setting. For a while I stood there, literally (virtually) naked on the stage, without my animations or my hair for that matter. Then slowly the sound and other visuals returned.
Then onto the mike. The virtual one and the real one. Hearing my wavering kiwi accent come over the computer speaker, and feedback into other’s speakers was a truly awful experience. I’m sure I rushed through the story helter-skelter. A third of the way through somebody moved on stage behind me, and booted me out of Second Life again. I heard them over their own mikes, calling out my virtual name, then realising I’d been booted. By the time I got back in-world, they’d moved on with somebody else. However, I managed to stick around to pick up my money prize, partially dressed at least.
It wasn’t a great experience of my first ever publication of a piece of my fiction, but it makes for an interesting birth into writing. It possibly also shows the origins of my own slightly dark fiction. I write thrillers. I believe that first story was one also.
Living and Learning
Roll forward to this week.
So far, in my new “proper” writing life, I’ve managed to publish all of one short flash fiction piece on this blog. I created the blog to push myself to do exactly that – come out of my nice snug writing closet where I could hide my terror at having my work read.
I managed to write four pieces of fiction to put up for the A to Z challenge this week, but came acropper when the person mentoring my blog through the A to Z pointed out on my first post that it was too long for most people. I’d thought the forewarning and wordcount at the top would have been enough of a warning, and had no expectations that everyone would read it. In fact, when looking back logically and realistically, people read things if they want to – it doesn’t matter whether a blog post is 500 words or 5000 words, people tend to read what they are included into, what they are interested in.That goes across the board. Fiction doesn’t or shouldn’t have to follow such strict guidelines. Nor should bloggers. I’ve visited many blogs over the last few days in the same challenge who have said nothing much at all in 200 words, and the same thing in 1000. It all depends, just like life.
At first, the person’s comment took the energy out of me. It hurt. The comment came on my first ever publication of a piece of longer fiction setting up an entire series. I knew that it was long, but so were several other posts I was reading elsewhere in the challenge. Once I grew a thicker skin (time helps), I got over it. Then I ploughed on. The fiction writing and publishing was for me specifically, and to find possible readers. It was an experiment, and I’m still not sure how it went.
I’ve now decided to stop publishing the rest of the series of stories on the blog. I will continue writing them, and am considering other publication routes at the end of my writing. I feel, three days down the story, relatively comfortable with my approach and learning from it. I also am grateful that there have been a fair few people who have taken the time to comment and like my fictional posts (as well as the other blog posts I started putting up for the challenge). It feels good to come out of that closet – cosy that it was. A few people even like what I wrote, and got drawn into the story. That makes me feel slightly cosier sitting stark naked out of my closet.
A big and heartfelt thankyou to those who did provide supportive comments to my fictional debut. And for the less than complimentary comments which I’ve had, or are to come in my life as a writer. It all helps, in interesting ways, leading me along the path I need to be on.
You will find other insecure writers sharing their feelings and ideas via Alex Cavanaughs (who is also a mentor on the A to Z Challenge) Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We meet via our blogs every first Wednesday of the month.