Monday, August 03, 2009

Brass Tacks

I think one of the reasons I work so hard to break down the steps involved in the craft of writing is that it IS mysterious and can feel impenetrable, especially when you’re standing on the outside looking at the process and trying to understand just HOW one goes about making leaps in one’s abilities.

Part of this is fueled by my own experiences. The VERY day my first book came out, it got an absolutely vicious, savage review. One that not only made it clear what they thought of the book, but wanted to ensure I never picked up a pen and tried to write again.

The truth is, they almost succeeded. To say I was crushed is an understatement. Luckily I’d sold two more books before the review came out or it would have been doubly hard.

But of course, we learn more from mistakes, and they force us to grow stronger. So I doubled down in trying to do two things: one, see my own work more objectively and two, improve my craft.

For me, all this analyzing is a vital tool--perhaps the only tool I know of--that allows me to gain some semblance of objectivity over my own work. It doesn’t guarantee that everyone will love it or that it will speak to all readers, but if I go through these checks and balances, then I know that at least in some regards, it is solid.

However, sometimes my gut tells me to ignore one of these questions. Or to do something anyway. And sometimes I'll go with my gut. Or sometimes these very questions that are my lifeblood with one manuscript, will feel constricting with another. Then I toss them aside, write the mss the way I want to, then put it aside to gain some distance. And I mean, I really put it aside. To my saintly agent's dismay, I have at least two or three mss that are finished, but stewing in a drawer waiting for me to decide how to tweak them one last time.

Also, perhaps most importantly, these same things that work for me might not ever work for you. In fact, they might paralyze you. In that case, tiptoe away as fast as you can and ignore everything I say. I'm dead serious about that. That simply means my process is not your process, not that either one of us is wrong.

I do worry a bit because I know blogs are supposed to be entertaining, and I don’t entertain, I inform. But I am sorely lacking in skills with which to entertain you. I’m not intrinsically funny or live a particularly interesting life. I do have a finely honed sense of the absurd, but mostly in regards to politics or personal morals, and those areas are probably best for me to avoid in my public persona. :-) So you’re stuck with inform. But that's okay because I figure anyone who was looking for something different left here a loooong time ago. :-)

Now for the last of the revising posts....


Dave Johnson said...

Oh, pshaw - you're entertaining. Then again, I can be entertained anywhere (well, not *anywhere* - the radio and reality TV baffles me), but I come here for information. I've dropped off reading a lot of popular writer's blogs because although they give me a laugh, I always left feeling like I'd had a pop-tart instead of eggs, bacon, and toast. And I'm not one to skimp on breakfast. Mmmm, breakfast. What were we talking about again?

Vonna said...

Thanks for sharing about the vicious review you received on your first book's debut. If that can happen to a wonderful writer like you it can happen to anyone. Forewarned is forearmed!

Robin L said...

Thanks for the pshaw, Dave. I, too, am working hard to reduce the pop tarts in my life.

Vonna, you are SO right about forewarned being forearmed! That is exactly why I share that kind of stuff with other writers. And nice to see you here, btw.