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January 17, 2009
Posted at 12:12 pm

What people really think

First of all, this blog entry isn't for everyone. It's for those of you who participated in the discussion of the last two entries, about criticism I received and what I should do about it. So if you didn't participate in that, you won't have any idea what's going on. Just thought I'd say that up front so that nobody would waste any time.

OK. The votes are in. They're still coming in, but most of them are similar in one of four or five ways. I intended to just copy them into a blog entry, but it turned out that this is a subject that is near and dear to a lot of hearts, and it would take way too much space to do that.

I was somewhat astonished when I got over 200 responses. Just so you know, that's more responses than I've ever gotten for any story.

So, instead of posting all of them, I'm going to do a synopsis of the major themes that ran through them. With one exception, which was so succinct and represented most of the responses so well that I'll post it:

I like John Wayne. He always plays the same character.
I like Meryl Streep. She always plays a different character.

I like Louis L'Amour. He always writes the same book.
I like Orson Scott Card. He always writes a different book.

I like the Bay City Rollers. They always play the same song.
I like Pink Floyd. They always play a different song.

I like Beating off Bob. He always writes the same story.
I like Lubrican. He always writes a different story.

Umm, what was the question again?

And here are the major themes that ran through your responses, not necessarily in the order of their popularity.

1. I'm the author, and the stories belong to me. What I write is my own business. Because no one gets charged for them, they shouldn't demand anything.

2. People like both kinds of stories, and would like to see both kinds continue. They like the short stories because they're for stroking or role playing. They like the longer ones because they like to get to know the characters. This was clearly the majority view.

3. Authors change. It's a fact of life. If you don't like what an author is putting out, don't click on it. An alternative way that was said was, "You can't please all of the people all of the time, and the people who aren't pleased should remember that." It's inevitable that you'll lose some readers as you evolve, but it's also likely you'll gain some new ones.

4. On the "Does he speak for you?" issue, I'm going to have to estimate some things. There were two or three responses that more or less said, "Yes." They agreed with him on pretty much all points. There were another 15-20 responses that said they know how he feels, but then went on to say that I should write what I want, or that they enjoyed both kinds of stories or something like that. There were maybe 30-40 responses that said he didn't speak for them at all. Some of those were a little hostile toward him. The rest didn't really mention him and said they liked both kinds of stories.

Actually, in all fairness, Bdraft wrote back to me himself several times, saying that I misunderstood him. We had a nice discussion about that.

5. Peaches is an important part of my writing process, and the stories have improved greatly since she started riding herd on my fast and loose grammar and spelling.

Now I distilled everything down into those few paragraphs up above, which look pretty sterile to me now that I read them, but I was trying not to put my own thoughts in there, so maybe that's why.

But this wasn't a sterile exercise at all. Some of you wrote pages and pages. You talked about individual stories that you liked and didn't like and why you liked them. Most people didn't really know why they DIDN'T like a particular story. It just didn't do it for them.

And in the process of reading all those responses, I learned some things. So that's all for the good.

I'll give you an example.

I've written three stories for my editor, Peaches. Probably a dozen or more people said that they love Peaches to death, but don't enjoy the stories I wrote specifically for her as much as some of the other stories. There was speculation about why. Some said that it's obvious that the story is FOR her, and not everybody else, so they didn't feel included. One guy said he feels like a peeping Tom when he reads one of those, like he's looking through her window. Others guessed that she just has a slightly different kind of fantasy than most of the people who read what I normally write.

And I think that's all true in many ways. But I had no idea that it would show through in my work. I was completely unaware that my "aim" was so clear to all of you. To me, while it was written for a particular purpose, it was still just another story.

Now, I must address that majority view that people like and want both kinds of stories. There might be a problem there. You see I loved writing the short stroke stories. I had a great time with them. I kind of ran out of plots, or at least felt like I was going to have to tell the same story over and over again, which many of you said doesn't do much for you. In fact, it was YOUR feedback that got me writing longer and longer stories. And now I have to make a confession.

I'm not really sure I CAN write a short stroke story any more.

I've tried. Believe me. And so far every one of them has turned into a long story. Here's a list of some of them.

Arden and Gloria - A Summer Camp Romance
Bobby's Good Deeds
Buffy, The Erection Slayer
Fiddling Around With Uncle Bob
How the Women Got Plastered and Patrick Got Busted
Jack and the Beanstalk - A Twisted Fairy Tale
Little Sister's Sculpture Project
Rubber Dicky, I Love You
Stranded Daddies
The Honeymoon Blues
The Making of a Cocskman
The Making of a Gigolo was supposed to be three short stories with an ending where he went to the big city and became an actual gigolo.
The Masters Project was supposed to be three short stroke stories.

Eventually I basically gave up trying to write stroke stories and just wrote whatever came to mind.

I don't know what happens. It's frustrating, in a way. I get this idea for something quick and dirty and then, while I'm writing it, it just goes hog wild. I started a story while this blog conversation was going on, just to see if I could do it. I envisioned it in three parts: Brother and sister get involved; Uncle Bob gets involved; both men breed the fuck out of her (no pun intended). Now that's simple, right? I finished part one. It's 67KB long. That's about the size of one of the old stories!

So, basically, I'll keep trying, but don't hold your breath. It's not because I don't want to. It's because I might not be able to.

Well, that's pretty much it. I want to make sure that you know I don't think for a minute that this wasn't worth doing. It was fantastic. I loved it and I'm really tickled that Bdraft got me all worked up, and got you worked up in the process. Nothing about this was humdrum or boring. I thank you all for telling me what you thought, what you want, what you like and what doesn't do it for you. I want to thank you for the obvious honesty that you laid on me, even when you were saying what was wrong with me. One of the indicators of friendship is that friends can be honest with each other. Bdraft started with his honesty, and you continued with yours and I feel good that all of you were comfortable enough to do that.

And while my gut feeling is that it really won't change the way I write, I also have a feeling that all your words sank into my subconscious. It's true that I write for myself, but I'm not all that different from many of you, so I'm writing for you too.

It's complicated, huh?

Just like life.

Thanks for reading and writing.