Great news and great writing tips to kick off a marvelous Monday here in Mavenland!
First, the news. Our pal (we really need a cool name for Maven faves, like Miss Snark had the Snarklings and Smart Bitches has the Bitchery...) Anyhoodles, our [pal / maveness / maveninja] B.E. Sanderson tagged us with the Roar For Powerful Words Award, in which recipients give 3 writing tips and indicate 5 writers that rocked. B.E. tagged... us! Look at that! There's 5 of us! Go, Mavens! (P.S. We were also nominated for a Readers Choice poll--check out all the fab links on the list of poll choices!)
So, this week, I'm pleased to announce we will each be giving you our favorite writing tips, as well as links to writerly blogs that changed our lives. Being the Monday Maven, I get to go first...
Erica Tip #1: Every character hits the stage with an agenda
Think about this for a second. Most of us plot out extensive GMCs (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) for our protagonists. Many of us do this for the hero, heroine, and villain. Some of us create both internal and external GMCs for those characters. A few make sure at least a superficial GMC drives secondary characters.
But I say to you, the advice that changed my writing life in 2006 was that every character should hit the stage with an agenda. Every character. If there isn't something they want and a reason they want it, what the hell are they doing in the scene?
Bonus points if other characters' agendas directly alter, deepen, or conflict with your POV character's scene goal! (POV = Point of View, technically perspective if you're writing 3rd person)
Erica Tip #2: How to overcome critique defensiveness
This one changed my life in 2007, and I'll tell you why. I like to write. I write fast. I hit The End fairly quickly, all things being equal. I come up with a zillion ideas, and by the time The End hits, I'm ready to roll on the next one. I have never minded making line-edit level changes to a manuscript, but for the first 3 novels I wrote to completion, the moment I got a brutally honest (and extremely insightful) piece of criticism that undermined the entire plot, I chose to move on rather than rewrite the entire story.
My fourth book was a little different. First, I really liked the story. (For those other three, the crits illustrated to me how flawed the original concept was for plot and/or tone and/or character, and I didn't love the story enough to bother rewriting 100,000 words.) Second, this time the "please rewrite it" suggestion came not from a CP (critique partner) but from... my agent. Yeah. Hmmm.
Realizing she might know a thing or two about what makes a story sell and what makes it divebomb into the flaming fires of Drecklandia, I stared at the story I loved and gorged myself on Ghirardelli while waiting for enthusiasm to strike. (Note to readers: Ghirardelli strikes the tummy, hips, and @ss, not your enthusiasm.)
Here's the bit that changed everything: When I stopped thinking of what I had to do as this complete rewrite of 110,000 words I loved OMG whatever will I do, kill me now, lord, kill me now and started thinking to myself, "You know, it's not that I can't do it. In fact, I bet I can do it. It's a game, a challenge, nothing more than an easy-peasy writing exercise starring characters I know and love and a story world I inhabit when I sleep" that suddenly it became not only doable, but fun.
The next time you'd rather throw yourself on a machete than rewrite a scene, a chapter, or an entire story, remind yourself that you were kick-butt enough to write what you've already got in the first place, and that this is nothing more than a writing exercise you could do with your eyes shut. (Well, if you don't need to see the keyboard to type. But you get me.)
Because the truth of the matter is this: You do not HAVE to incorporate anyone's suggestions. Seriously. Even my agent tempered her edit memo (aka revision letter) with something along the lines of "All these are my suggestions/opinions, whether you do anything with them or not is up to you."
So, knowing that, what's stopping you?
Last month, Maven Darcy gave me a crit of one of my Touched scenes that would require a complete rewrite because it involved changing time/venue/setting. I was like, gaaah, do I really want to do this? (D happened to mention she even liked the current version, just thought it would be stronger another way.) Given that she liked the current version just fine, I wasn't inclined to stop what I was doing and completely rewrite it.
But... would it be stronger the other way? I didn't think so. I was pretty sure it would suck the other way. But I reminded myself that incorporating crits was nothing more than an easy-peasy writing exercise that in no way required the newer version to appear in the final story, meaning there was no reason not to give it a try. So, I tried it out. And Darcy was right. (Damn her.) The new scene was so much better, hardly took any time to redo, and I managed to keep a great attitude throughout.
Try this at home! You'll like it! =)
Erica Tip #3: Start in the manner you mean to go on
I've heard this about child-rearing and I've heard this about dating, but it's just as true in the writing world. Here's an example I've overheard from many an aspiring romance writer:
"I'll just start with Harlequins, because it's so much easier to get published there, and then I'll break out into the Single Title genre I really want."
No, no, no, no, no! Terrible idea!
First, write [XYZ genre, LMNOP publisher, ABC style] only if you love it. Otherwise, you may box yourself into something you hate. You're writing because you love writing, right? Not because you wanted to gift yourself with a new form of self-torture by making yourself contractually obligated to write a [style, theme, size, character type, plot element, etc] that makes you want to stick your head in the oven.
If it's not what you want to do for your career, why bother wasting time with it at all?
Flipside of that coin: If it is what you want to do, then by God, DO IT! regardless of what the naysayers say.
Harlequin category romances somehow aren't "real" books, just because they're half the wordcount and some of them advertise the plot hook right there in the title? Screw that thinking! Any published book is a real book! If you love them, write them! I have tons of writer friends who have successful careers writing various Harlequin category lines. They love to sit down in front of the computer every morning, and their paychecks are such that they don't have to leave the house and 9-to-5 anywhere else. If that's not a real job, I don't know what is!
Other genres aren't exempt from this either. Want to write a gritty suspense with blood flying everywhere and envelope-pushing serial [killer / rapist / balloon artist] crimes? Then do it! Do not worry about what your neighbor or pastor or mother will think about you if the prologue includes hoodoo rituals or death or erotic circus mime fantasies. If it's what you want to write, write it!
The idea is that writing is a career. If you've wanted to be a neurosurgeon all your life, why the hell would you pursue dentistry just because someone told you it's "easier" to get a dentist degree? And if your dream job is to man the counter at a record store (er, CD store?) then WTF are you doing wasting 8 years of your life in neurosurgery school, just because it's more "respectable" or brings in a better paycheck?
Do what you love. Waking up happy every morning and "playing" instead of working are worth their weight in gold. I truly believe that.
Inspiration in the Intertubes
Okay, I've preached to the choir long enough for one day. What sites out there turned my frown upside-down? Well, everything I needed to know about agent-hunting, I learned from Miss Snark. If you don't have an agent, read her archives. It'll take a week or two, but it will be extremely eye-opening. If you're more focused on the writing (whether you're agented or not) a good choice might be the Jenny Crusie / Bob Mayer Year of Craft blog.
Oops, I only meant to give one link because all 5 of us Mavens will be providing them this week... Well, I can't decide which one to can, so I'm leaving them both up. So there. =)
YOUR TURN: What are your favorite writing tips? What are your favorite writing sites? Did you vote for us over at the Preditors & Editors' Readers Choice poll? (Oops, how did that shameless self-promo get in there?!)
Monday, January 7, 2008
Great news and great writing tips to kick off a marvelous Monday here in Mavenland!