Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Not MY Novel” – On Accepting That We're Not The Exception

                It happens to everyone. You’re reading a blog post or an article about writing when you come across a phrase that you really don’t want to hear. Sometimes even the title is enough to make your heart sink.

                Maybe the post is about that area of the craft where you know you’re weak. Maybe it’s about the harsh realities of the literary world, such as the potential difficulties of finding an agent, getting published, and actually profiting from it.

                For me, the most recent instance of this was when I happened upon two different blog posts that essentially said “You will probably not publish the first book you write. There comes a point when it’s time to move on.” (One of these articles was here, but I can’t find the other. XD)

                Finding posts on that subject not just once, but twice in one day put a tight feeling in my chest. My current WIP is not The First novel I ever wrote. But it is among the first that I ever seriously considered to have publishing potential. It’s been around a few years now, and I’m still excited about it (which is a good sign). I’m [still] working on the first major rewrite. I’m excited

                --but in the space of a few minutes, those blog posts put doubts into my head.

                That’s when They started to creep in. You know the thoughts I’m talking about. They grow like flies from larvae - Those indignant, defiant, and perhaps-a-little-snooty voices, who huff and fume at the very idea that someone would discourage us this way. “This might be good for other people to keep in mind, but I’m sure my novel will never have to--”

                That’s where I usually squash those flies, as I pull my WIP forward for another look.

                I’d like to think I remain very practical in response to things like this – the chest-tightening blog posts, the harsh critiques, or the knowledge that some parts of my writing are still less-than-stellar. Usually, I’m able to put enough space between myself and the writing to bite my lip and admit that “Yes, this area needs work.”

                Certain facts are relatively set in stone. We will make our manuscripts as perfect as we can before we put them on submission, and editors will still find pages and pages of things to fix. Our manuscripts will be turned down, a lot. We will have to make major, major changes to our stories. These are just some of the facts. As much as we’d like to believe that we’re the exception to the rule, chances are…

                We’re not.

                Case in point: For a long time, blog posts that suggested splicing multiple minor characters into one made my stomach turn.

                I love my characters! No way I could ever mold two characters together willy-nilly. No way I could smush all their traits, and actions, and importance into one body. Not in my novel.

                That’s what I thought…

                Until a few days ago, late at night, when I realized two characters were A) very similar, B) not altogether as developed as I would’ve liked, and C) already headed toward a very similar place in terms of emotions throughout the story and where they end up when it’s all over.

                After about five minutes of contemplation and some minor alterations (such as increasing the age of a love interest), I’d basically decided. Two characters melded into one, and now my only problem is picking which name to retain. On a related note, which name do you like better in a fantasy novel? Pole or Feb?

                For so long, I’d half-told myself “I’ll never need to splice two characters.”

                But now that I’ve done it, I realize my story will be oodles better because of it. Oodles, I tell you!

                Squash the flies that buzz “Not my novel.” Don’t give the larvae the chance to grow.

                Instead, let your story burst into something better, like a butterfly from its cocoon.
Have you ever gotten advice that made you anxious -- until you took it? What major changes have you had to make in your WIPs? And again, which name do you like better? Pole or Feb?


  1. Hahaha…this reminds me of ~three years ago, when people were telling me that 140k was too long for a debut YA, and that the writing was probably bloated. And I was like "NO I'M PERFECT" inside, and I made excuses for myself.

    …Then I realized they were right and rewrote everything, cutting 30k total. And my twin has made many suggestions I didn't like at first, but then realized should be implemented—in my own way, of course.

    Major changes…hmm…well, I took out all this random magicalness crap that had no reason to be there except I thought it'd be cool at the time(it wasn't), and I took out the magical language and had the powers governed by will. I also added two characters, which is probably why my word count wasn't cut entirely in half. Technically, I only added one, because the second/Zuko-character was already there, but I made him much more prolific. =)

    Pole or Feb? How about Fole? I kind of like that one better than either of the others, and it's a hybrid, like this character. A way of remembering where they came from. XD Anyway, great post! Some very good points in here. =)

    1. Lol. My WIP's rough draft was 120,000 words, mostly because I infodumped a lot, had a lot of unnecessary scenes... And I reached a point where someone reading it said "You're going to want to plan your ending soon", which got ME thinking, "CRAP, I DON'T HAVE AN ENDING FOR THIS." XD Should be a bit smoother this time around.

      I really wanna see this Zuko-character. T-T
      Fole... Maybe. *shall contemplate*

  2. Funny you should say that. One of my novels has way too many characters (four siblings on one side, and a couple on the other) and I've been told that some of my characters are redundant and I should group them into one....

    Great blog post!