Today, I am a guest on Mysti Parker’s blog. I courageously accepted her A-Z blog post challenge with the letter X.
I know I’ve been around and around with this before (and I seem to complain a lot), but in the last couple of days, I’ve finally come to understand how I got here.
My first pitch resulted in “Send me a full”. That tells me I have something worthwhile. I can write. But at the same conference, I learned that I’m not there yet. I learned that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
To my logical brain, that meant I needed to work to improve my writing before sending in my manuscript and facing rejection.
And there’s the rub. Fear of rejection.
When I was young, I paid special attention to all those “lessons” they try to teach kids. Learning from others’ mistakes seemed the guaranteed way to keep from making so many myself. I worked hard to do right and endear myself to those in authority over me. After all, the lessons taught me that peer pressure just made people do stupid things. Listening to adults and experts was the way to go.
The problem with this is that writing experts don’t agree. There’s no standard to follow because it’s all subjective.
There are as many how-to books on writing and editing as there are writers and editors. Some of them say the same thing in different ways, but none of them can ensure that you apply the proper lessons to your own work.
In The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell had this to say about backstory:
I was in a crowded elevator at a writers’ conference after teaching a class on great opening chapters (wherein I had been cheeky enough to use one of my own as an example). A bespectacled fellow complimented me, then added, “I did notice, though, that in the opening chapter of your novel, you had backstory. The rule is no backstory.”
Almost everyone in the elevator nodded in silent agreement.
This was under the title, “Give Backstory the proper respect, and it will help readers bond with your characters.”
And that’s just one rule that has gotten blown out of proportion (and proper understanding).
So how does one navigate the revision process with confidence and not bloated arrogance? How do you ignore the bad advice and find and apply the right “rules” to the story? How do you even know what’s best for your story?
I’m still trying to find out.
But at least I know that fear of rejection and a desire to make no mistakes are part of what is driving me.
In any enterprise, quality is job one. Quality is defined by two things:
1. Appeal of the workmanship
2. absence of defects
Never flag in the pursuit of writing excellence, for that is your workmanship. The Japanese were inspired by the concept of kaizen, the philosophy of seeking constant improvement in all aspects of business, every day, all the time.
At the same time, keep learning about the common defects found in unsuccessful writing and in the operations of the publishing world—so you won’t engage in them.
Sun Tzu wrote: “He wins his battles by making no mistakes.”
Next time, I’ll talk about another step I’ve taken in the pursuit of finishing this revision.
I’m still surprised that I managed to pull off a nano win. Just after Thanksgiving, at a week out, I only had around 12,000 words. (oy!)
I wrote furiously for the last week and discovered that I didn’t want to finish the novella I’d been working on (Sabrina and Vincent’s post FB story). So, I started other scenes and wrote whatever I felt like (usually dialogue). My characters started talking and I discovered that I have 4 novellas now that will bridge the gap between books 1 and 2. Crazy!
It really helped to write this and discover even more about the characters I’ve met in this novel. Turns out that the oldest Quechop had a bit of a crush on the girl he eventually proposed to, but after what happened with Vincent and Julia, Vanyal decided to leave emotions out of it. Poor Mai. But though she’s outwardly demure, she’s no shrinking violet. It was fascinating to watch her blossom from the most bad-ass ninja Ptolem has ever seen into a beautiful Jasmine flower with a core of steel. She’s perfect for Arcturial and for Vanyal.
Then Orianna and Jordan popped up. Apparently it’s easier for a relationship if the guy is the mind-reader. Poor Jordan. But he’s got a heart of gold and knows a good thing when he sees her. Helps that he developed the technology that will let him watch all of her comings and goings. And he’s decent enough to let her know he’ll be watching. (Dude, that sounds so much worse when said that way.) But since he’s having a hard time adjusting to being the boyfriend of the most powerful princess Arcturial has ever known, she uses the technology to record video diaries to her beloved. Monsieur reluctant CEO will never know what hit him. Ah, l’amour.
And what about Trey? The one whose singleness necessitated the novellas in the first place? This is what made it into my nano:
This is the story all about how my life got quick turned upside down … it’s how Trey became the prince of Arcturial. Ha.
Erm, ever have a moment where something sounded so much more clever in your head? Yeah, me neither. *sigh*
So, once Fictional Boundaries gets completed, I’m really looking forward to developing the continuing stories of our amazing Quechop.
I can’t resist questionnaires.
- Do you usually sleep with your closet door open or closed? It used to bother me to leave it open, but I do it for the cat.
- Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotels? Yep.
- Where is your next vacation? Going to Tampa for a wedding later this month, does that count? =)
- Who do you think reads these? OCD people like me.
- Do you have a calendar in your room? Nope, just a couple in the kitchen – cuz 1 is never enough, right? On my computer I use timeanddate.com
- What’s your plan for the day? I usually sleep during the day. Tonight: laundry, bills, editing
- Are you reading any books right now? Yes, mine.
- Do you ever count your steps when you walk? I find myself randomly counting a lot of things. It’s not consistent, I lose count/start over/repeat numbers, and I’m not doing it for any reason. And I’ll stop as randomly as I start. (Wasn’t originally my answer, but it’s the truth.)
- Do you ever dance even if there’s no music playing? Define ever.
- Do you chew your pens and pencils? No.
- What is your “Song of the Week”? People have those?
- Is it okay for guys to wear pink? Depends on the article of clothing…
- Do you still watch cartoons? Just animated movies. Oh, and I like the new TMNT
- What do you drink with dinner? Water usually.
- What do you dip chicken nuggets/tenders in? McDonalds Sweet n Sour sauce or Chickk-fil-A sauce (honey roasted barbeque)
- What is your favorite food/cuisine? Dessert
- Name three movies you watch over and over and still love. John Carter, Avengers, Hunt for Red October
- When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper? Can’t remember.
- Can you change the oil on a car? No, why? Can someone turn it into wine or something?
- Favorite thing to eat for breakfast? I love breakfast foods, but eggs probably take the cake, oh, cake, too…sometimes…not that I’ve done that.
- What is your usual bedtime? Anytime between Midnight and Noon it seems.
- Are you lazy? More of a procrastinator.
- Afraid of heights? Only if there’s a possibility I could fall—I have a very definitive fear of falling.
- Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid? teacher, writer, singer, actress
- Hot tea or iced tea? Yes, please. Really wish I could still drink caffeine. I would live by iced tea alone.
- Tea or coffee in the mornings? milk…but it’s usually just water
- Favorite kind of cookie? White chocolate macadamia nut and sugar cookies
- Can you swim well? Not really. Never got the hang of the whole breathing in the middle of a stroke thingy.
- Can you hold your breath w/o manually holding your nose? Not if I’m jumping off a diving board.
- Who do you want to see right now? a man about a horse was the first answer that came to mind…