Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Perspective

I have no idea how the first Wednesday of the month snuck up on me like that, but boy howdy, it’s the first Wednesday of May! Happy Beltane! But it’s also the day we release our fears and insecurities into the world. Feeling good today? Then spread some of the joy, but don’t forget to head on over to the Ninja Captain Alex, and his cohosts, Lynda Young, Mark Koopmans, and Rachna Chhabria, for this month’s installment of IWSG.


This time, I'm not feeling so much insecure as I am feeling like a bit of a n00b.
 
I don’t know how many of you know this, but last year about this time, I was going crazy for a little thing called The Writer’s Voice (They’re doing it again, and you might want to go read Brenda Drake’s post about it here). We were all desperately signing into Mr. Linky (or not), and I entered a manuscript that wasn’t quite ready yet.

It still got me a spot as an alternate.

I was so thrilled. I mean over the moon ecstatic. Until that moment, my work had never received any recognition as something that might be worth reading. I thought I was on easy street to getting an agent. I got a partial request. I spent a lot of time doing the happy dance.

Then, that partial came back with an “uh, yeah, not for me.” (I always envisioned the agent getting to some deal breaking part, dropping the manuscript, dashing off a no, and then running like mad in the opposite direction).

I was disappointed, but I figured “hey, I’m getting experience. I’m learning how to handle the whole rejection thing. This is really important for my work, etc. etc.” That novel didn’t pan out. I realized there was something broken with it right around October. I revised it, but it seemed, you know, good enough. (hint: good enough just isn’t)

I sort of blew off the manuscript around December, deciding that I had other fish to fry, and I needed to work on a different project (which I did, and it’s incredible and I love my query bait. I shall love him and squeeze him and call him George). I revised another manuscript, and got it ready for the trenches. I’ve been slaving away on my WIP (go pirates!), but then, something came up. Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robots is opening up to unagented submissions.

Now only a fool would pass up an opportunity this good, especially since the only YA manuscript I have is that one I pretty much abandoned in December. It’s free and clear of any obligations, just the sort of thing that can be sent out into the world for a lengthy engagement. I figured, “oh, what the heck, I’ll dust it off. That story is great fun, everyone loves the humor and the world, but all the agents hated it. Maybe some editors will like it.” So I thought I’d just pop open the manuscript, tweak some minor bits of grammar and send it off to do battle in another circle of query hell, the unagented submission hell.

Just a few little grammar tweaks…. Sweet mother of Science, I am so naïve.

I opened up that novel, and to my complete horror, it was awful. And by awful, I don’t mean filled with awe, I mean filled with the stuff that falls out of the south end of a north-bound horse. BAD. (OMG There’s even a shower scene!!!! Who the hell was I kidding?? Did I think no one would notice that I spend a full page taking a bloody shower???!!! ON PAGE 10!!!! **hangs head in writer shame**).

Which is to say that for the better part of eight months, I labored under the false pretense that my novel was pretty darn good, well polished, and otherwise only lacking the stamp of approval from an agent. I was wrong.

So what was the difference between how I felt about that novel in October and how I feel about it now? About 200,000 words. If writing is like walking down a path, and the number of words is how far along the path you are (which it isn’t, but go with me), 200,000 words is a lot of experience. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, there’s this moment where you’ve been going through some lovely terrain, full of forests and what not, and then you turn a corner, go through a tunnel and there is Yosemite Valley. It’s just laid out before you. There’s a sign on the road for people who haven’t been. The sign says “Hey, idiots, don’t stop driving, the people behind you aren’t gawking yet.” 

Yeah, this isn't that view, but it is this spectacular.
  
Okay, it doesn’t say that, but it should. Sometimes in writing, you can hit these turning points where the view becomes vastly different on the other side. It’s called perspective. If you have it, then you can look at your work objectively**. If you don’t… well, you have shower scenes in your first ten pages of your novel and think it’s fine. So, I guess this is yet more advice that boils down to “Keep writing, it gets better” and “be sure to give your manuscript space.” (which, by the way, I thought I had… le sigh).

It looks like I’m going to interrupt my writing schedule to do some rewriting of my YA to see if I can get it into a place where it won’t be embarrassing to send it off. I mean, rewriting is a skill I have to learn too… (If I sound less than enthused, it’s only because this novel is like a zombie, I hack off a leg and it just keeps coming. I take off an arm, the arm crawls after me. It must really want to get out into the world).

**Some people get perspective like this really quickly. Some people have to grind away at the wheel for a long time. Some people never get perspective, and worst, you have to get perspective for each manuscript (oh writing, I would totally stop being involved with you if I didn’t go crazy every time I stopped).
 

23 comments:

  1. Ha - what a brilliant post - something I bet most of us can identify with! I'm taking your advice on board! Best of luck with it! :-)

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Yeah, I'd had the experience before, but I'd sort of thought I'd outgrown it... ummm, no. Turns out, I was still in "unable to actually read my work" mode.

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  2. Any experience is good experience! You got this!!

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    1. Thanks Tammy, and Yes, I've got this (that old manuscript isn't going to know what hit it!)

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  3. Any experience is good experience! You got this!!

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  4. Ha! I totally know what you're saying. If it helps, Stephen King has revised some of his earlier works because he felt they lacked the polish they deserved.

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    1. Yes, I've seen some of that. In this case it's not just a revision, it's a full rewrite of several chapters and a fine toothed comb through all the rest. We'll see what it looks like in the end.

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  5. Yeah I've done that! Dug something out that I thought was perfect only to have it slap me in the face like a wet fish! After the initial cringe moment though it is worth sitting down and reworking it. It just proves we are learning and improving all the time. Good luck :)

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    1. Ha, I've actually been slapped in the face with a wet fish. That was pretty uncomfortable, and VERY much like realizing my manuscript was not the sweet little darling I'd thought.

      It always makes me want to kick myself with the "What was I thinking" shoe. Ah well, at least I can see the problem, and acceptance is the first step...

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  6. I totally done this. And I think it happens to all of us. It's so true that 200K to a writer can make a HUGE difference.

    Good luck on the rewrite.

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    1. The funny thing was that I didn't think those 200K words would have made such a difference. It's not like I was totally blind, but something major has shifted. It reminded me of that saying "Experience, what you desperately need just before you get it."

      It's like that.

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  7. I'm doing the same thing. Trying to decide to fix my first one or fix the one I'm working on now. Good luck.

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    1. Yeah, it took a lot to make a choice. I hate interrupting my schedule to work on something I'd already cast off, but on the other hand, every bit of writing, even the rewriting helps all of it get better.

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  8. If you don't have that feeling about your earlier work, you're not progressing as a writer, in my opinion. Yes, it was great last year, but since then you've been learning and crafting your skill and now those parts that aren't up to scratch are screaming out at you. Good luck with the rewrite!

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    1. This is absolutely true. I do wish that all of my writing was just awesome, but the scary thing is that I thought this novel was really great. As in, I thought it would only need a little touching up before it was absolutely ready to publish.

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  9. I've done it at least a million times, Rena,and your dedication will pay off. I wouldn't worry about getting an agent. I think they're totally overrated! Keep finding houses that don't require agents and submit until your finger bleed! :)

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  10. I run into the same problem all the time. I stop working on a chapter, thinking it's in pretty good shape, and move on to subsequent chapters. A few months later, I'll come back to that earlier chapter, perhaps because someone has offered to look at it, and it doesn't take more than a few minutes of reading to realize how much more work it needs.

    Sometimes you just need to take a break from your WIP for a while in order to see the problems.

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  11. Oh this is so true. I'm working on part two of my zombie novel right now and when I look at part one I'm worried I need to rewrite the whole thing. I've done so much in between and really improved as a writer. (Which is to say I am now okay, as where before I sucked.)

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  12. It happens to all of us, time is indeed our best ally. Though we feel like we are horrible writers with no talent at all, in reality we should feel happy that we are getting better and realizing it.

    Best of lucks!!

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  13. Oh, I feel your pain!
    In my excitement to write my very early story drafts I totally neglected to put them in the proper point of view, and now I look at them and wonder what I was thinking ...
    The thing is, once you see the problem, you can begin fixing it. What I always think is so cool about writing is that you get better by doing the very thing you love doing most. :)
    And I don't doubt that you are getting very, very good at it by now.

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  14. That's why I took almost a year to edit my book. And had six crit partners. Because if I don't get distance between me and my writing, if I don't have neutral readers telling me what's wrong with what I wrote, I'm totally clueless.

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  15. exactly what we need! time & space & experience! makes a better book! you go, dr!

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  16. Rewriting is a big part of the whole process, and the more you do it, the better each now project will become. You've got the talent and the determination. That makes a winner of anyone. :)

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