I got a critique of one of my short stories back from an author today. She hit a nerve that has been my issue from the beginning. One part of the story just hasn't rung true with me even though I've edited in numerous times. I just can't seem to figure out exactly what I want this character to say with his life/story and it has been very frustrating. I sent this story to her with no background information and she came back to me saying she didn't believe that part.
Aha! I knew it! Ugh, I knew it.
I'm struggling today with how to fix it, so I've given myself a pep talk of what to do next. If you're stuck, this might help too. Here's a few ways: Let the story sit for a while.It's been four months. I think that's long enough away from it. I can go back to it with fresh eyes and see what the problems are. (Note to self: Maybe don't wait for 4 months next time. That's a lot of down time.)Interview my character.For issues like this where I don't know what I want my character to say, interviewing him to find his life goals and his visions for his life in the next 5, 10, 20 years can really help to figure out what he's all about. Gather.com has a great set of interview questions. The morality questions are specifically helpful in my case today.Edit from different angles.One time, grammar and excess. Another time, adjectives and cliches. Another time, characters and their representation. Another time, cohesiveness of the story, and so on.There are likely many other things to do, but first I may just have a chat with my character. This means that yes, I'm having a conversation with an imaginary person. Don't call me crazy. Call me a writer.
My days lately have seemingly been swamped with the mundane happenings of life that are necessary, but that take away from my writing life. I have a desperate need to write, so much so that my insides start aching if I don't, so I've decided that I'm making changes in my life to make room for this. I have many stories on the go that need fixing, finishing and starting and I've got to get them out before I start whispering in corner of the room in the middle of the night about them.
The challenge I've come up with for myself to get old habits revved up again is what I'm calling the "Write On Challenge". For the month of October, I am challenging myself to write a minimum of one page a day every day. With my days already jammed full, this means I'm going to have to force myself to find space somewhere else, which probably means the morning. Since I need to fix my lazy morning problem anyway, this is probably where it will come in. Part of my process of forcing myself not to procrastinate involves rewarding good behaviour (writing at least 1 page or more) and disciplining "bad" behaviour (writing less than 1 page, or none at all), thus I will reward and discipline myself accordingly. The reward will be a chance to relax with my husband in the evening instead of working like I usually do, and the punishment will be cleaning construction areas of the house that need to be cleaned but that my husband said he'd do for me (I guess this means it's technically not a challenge...?). He will also be the enforcer of discipline. Part of this process will also involve blogging about my progress, or lack of it.
I hope to learn some new good habits and getting the juices rolling again. If you'd like to join the challenge, even for part of the month, leave a comment of what your reward and discipline will be. Make sure the reward is something you really want to do and the discipline something you absolutely abhor, but don't make it anything outrageous. I want you living! Also make sure someone is around to enforce it.
We are fortunate to live in a country that believes in free speech and print where we can say and write whatever we want. This is a beautiful privilege, but with it comes a barrage of disappointment. People have many, many opinions (myself included) which are spouted off from everywhere. I am guilty of this. I write about what I believe and feel and think, and that is the beauty of living in a free country. But, with this beauty comes ethics and responsibility. Just because we think something is one way, should we write about it? Should we put it out there? Will good from it or harm?
I read a blog post yesterday about depression that has intensified this line of thought for me. What was said about depression on this site was partially true, but within these partial truths were devastating accusations and statements that blamed the sufferer and created stigmas about the disorder. Anyone in the throes of depression would not benefit from the words on this site.
Now, obviously, these sites are everywhere. Some might say some things here are like that (though I would beg to differ). Nobody is ever going to stop these mis-information sites from operating, and I don't expect to, but I wondered how I was contributing to this. There is nothing wrong with writing based on opinion or experience, but when it comes to topics that are beyond my knowledge and are extremely sensitive, I have realized it is best to write responsibly.
I have always known, obviously, that the readers are the most important part of writing because without them what would be the point of writing anything? But I have come to a deeper realization of this relationship since reading that post. I can't write things that I don't know about. If I do, I must have facts and information from professionals because it is incredibly damaging to tout something to be true when it isn't. It is partly the reader's responsibility to vet what they're reading because of the hoards of mis-informatin out there, but if it's the reader's responibility to vet, isn't it also the writer's? If the writer vetted from the beginning, wouldn't that minimize the reader's responsibility?
It's a precarious balance. What do you think?
You've obviously heard of the music show The Voice and it's awesome, right? Well, guess what? There are some people out there doing an internet, non-film version of it for writers called The Writer's Voice. It's a multi-blog, multi-agent competition and it's super cool. I'm wishing my stuff was together enough to get into this competition. Next year!
Basically, you send in your query and first pages. Coaches pick their favourites, help polish it up, and then present it to agents who choose their favourites. I haven't figured out yet if representation is the prize, but critiques and editing help with seasoned authors is an awesome prize regardless.
I seriously hope this contest keeps going on. I will be tuning in.
Learn more about it here
Spring has arrived! This time of year usually spurs on the ceiling-to-floor scrub of every inch of my house. I like to go through closets and bins and purge my belongings of things I really don't need. Often this results in extreme measures where things get down to the bare essentials.
"SEVEN pairs of underwear? You don't need that many! Three is all you get."
Of course, this also means that when He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named loses his valuable possesions, they were most definitely thrown out by me. To be fair, I actually did throw out his $150 Stiletto hammer head that he was going to fix once. (Hey, I didn't know Stiletto hammers are equal to Chanel clothing!) But I'll take the blame if it means that I get to enjoy every inch of space of the house we worked so hard for. And since I like this ritual so much, you'd think I'd like editing my writing, right?
Editing my work can be compared to someone picking apart my children and pointing out all their faults. First, it makes me want to cry. No one should ever be so mean. Second, it makes me want to scream and yell because "who are you to pick them apart?" But the truth is my work really isn't my baby. I've got to let go and get objective because editing is so important.
Spring cleaning for writers doesn't, or shouldn't, just happen once a year. It should happen hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever writing occurs. Editing is the most important part of writing, besides the act of writing itself, because it takes a story from mediocrity to superiority. Every written word should be stripped of anything that is just extra "stuff" that doesn't move the story forward or serve a specific purpose to the sentence or paragraph. As Dr Seuss once said, "So the writer who breeds more than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads."
How do you feel about editing? Leave a comment and let me know how you get through