While I was trying to figure out where my file of reminders for today had gone, about 20 minutes ago (it’s now midnight) which tells you how my day went, I came across a ridiculous ditty I wrote some years ago (and if I remember my fans piled on and added verses) called “If it was good enough for Shakespeare, it is good enough for me.”
Now, I didn’t re-read it. If I remember it read like a drinking song, meaning it sounded like it was written while drunk. So, I won’t inflict it on you. But the spirit of the thing is not a bad idea.
So when you’re talking and you say “I’m not a real writer, because I only write fanfic or perhaps disguised fanfic.”
We have reason to believe pretty much all of Shakespeare’s work was either based on other existing work, or on legends that were pretty much universally known, or on ballads sold on the street corner.
The important thing is not what you’re writing, but making it yours. Yeah, if you’re playing in fanfic with copyrighted properties, making it yours means taking out stuff that might bring lawyers with shark teeth to your door. So, you learn to file the serial numbers, but other than that? Don’t worry overmuch, because Shakespeare did it. He just took what he found laying around and made it better.
Or when you think you’re not a real writer because you almost had to break the structure of the story to make it come out the way you wanted?
Oh, heck, go watch Much Ado About Nothing. Starts as a comedy, heads to tragedy, comes back around to comedy through major act of author. Still staged. Why? Because even though those of us who understand story (and a lot who don’t, consciously) know there is something wrong there, it’s enormously entertaining.
So, if you have to indulge in a bit of structure breaking, remember Shakespeare did it.
Or when you think you have long passages signifying nothing? Eh. As long as they’re funny, you can probably get away with it. Or as long as people are in the mood to keep reading. Drunken constables, and verbose grave diggers and all.
The bit with the dog is hard to do in books, but you can try (And I know right now a bunch of you lunatics are doing just that. Just to show me.)
But, you say, you have really icky situations and terrible romances, and and and…. Oh, please. Go Watch Midsummer’s Night Dream. I mean, the fairy queen falls in love with a guy with the head of a donkey. An actual donkey. You can’t get much weirder than that, even in modern day shifter romance.
And Romeo and Juliet? She’s barely a teen. Just go with it.
But you say, my dialogue is unrealistic!
No, really. What? Do your characters have long soliloquies contemplating offing themselves? Do they pause in the middle of action to compare themselves to various very strange things?
But, you say, sometimes I pander to what seems to be prevailing opinion.
Well… there are limits to how much one can do that before one hits the wall — trust me — and I don’t think Shakespeare’s Historical Plays (Which largely amount to Tudor propaganda) are his best work, but heck, they’re still performed.
But… but …. but…. sometimes I am not sure I’m using a word right. Ah! Shakespeare made up words wholesale. Because he needed one at the time, and wasn’t about to give up on a certain rhythm just because he didn’t have a word to hand.
But, seriously, you say, I make puns and am very silly half the time, even in the middle of serious stuff.
So, was Shakespeare. It’s called comic relief for a reason. And as for puns! Well. At one time older son started explaining Shakespearean slang and why some things were funny to his 7th grade class. (Yes, I DID get the phone call. Yes, some of the puns were off color. Fortunately the teacher was susceptible to being snob-shamed and didn’t want me to think she was positively Victorian. The truth I couldn’t tell her was that my kids had long since decided mom’s research books were fascinating, and you try to keep a kid who is determined to read something away from those books. You might as well try to stop rain from falling.) Even Jane Austen who has been called Shakespeare’s little sister named a character Fanny Price. And if you don’t think that’s funny, I’m not explaining.
Let it go. Let it all go. If you are mortally embarrassed by what you’re writing, feel free to write it under Ima Nidiot. But be prepared for Ms. Nidiot to become a bestseller.
You don’t have to be perfect to be good. You don’t have to be stunningly original to be worth reading. You don’t have to never make a craft mistake to be worthy of being a writer.
Say it with me: if it was good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.
Just keep the reader reading, and keep them entertained. And they’ll come back for more. And give you a lot of money.
Master Shake-staff understood that. Which is why his plays are still performed when playwrights that were, at the time, considered much more accomplished and highbrow are utterly forgotten unless your local college is holding a
I’m snobbier than thou Obscure Playwrights Week.
Be like Shakespeare. Just write it. And make it fun.
All the rest is irrelevant.