Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You want me to do what?

Can there be more painful words to an author than when someone says "I like it... but this portion didn't really make sense to me.  I think you need to rework it."  What makes this difficult is when the part which "doesn't make sense" comes right at the beginning of your piece and the "reworking" it means pretty much taking the whole story apart and putting it back together but with the pieces now all rearranged in another fashion which is still pretty and relevant and "makes sense" just not in its original format.  I don't know about you, but I find this daunting sometimes.  In fact, it makes me want to just throw the whole story out and forget about it.  But sometimes, something else happens (and this JUST happened to me).  I put the work aside for a few days, weeks, months and let it sit and gel and stew and whatever else it must do.  Then later (maybe days, weeks, months or even years) I get a sudden inspiration of how to rearrange it to "make sense."
For me, I loved the story I had started.  I loved the characters.  The male lead was fun and I was enjoying his personality.  The female lead... she was strong and not a wuss even though tragedy had followed her around like a lost puppy.  I didn't want to throw them out.  I wanted them to thrive!  I wanted them to have a sunny day after so much rain.  I wanted them to be like Harry Potter... and you know, be the characters who lived!
Now I am currently in the throws of being excited about this piece again.  I can see the possibilities of how to make it work and I am ready to get my fingers going on the keyboard (but I figure I need to get off the pain meds from a recent sinus surgery first).  But still, the ideas are flowing again and I am glad I didn't throw the story away.  I am glad I let it sit, gel and stew.  I appreciate the critiques from my reviewers even though I don't always like to hear them because I know it is only going to make a better story in the long run.
So if you get a response from Stephanie at Astraea saying "This isn't quite what we are looking for but would you be willing to do...."  Don't get down or throw it away!  Take it as an opportunity for sitting, gelling and stewing.  Perhaps you will realize your story is like fine wine, it becomes better with time.
Happy Writing!


  1. I understand where you are coming from Jane. Got an edit back for a digital short I'm doing from my editor before Christmas. I read the initial thoughts page, then turned off marking, and read it with all his changes, then let it set for two weeks.

    When I returned back to it I kept a lot of what he had changed but then couldn't really see how to do the restructuring at first. One phone call later of just talking it out made all the difference. I find for myself being able to talk it out is one of the best tools.


  2. As a writer who has not yet made it, I like to think if I got ANY feedback I would take it to heart and make the necessary changes. But even in my own self-editing modes, I sometimes find problems with plot/timing/characterization/motivation, etc. and when that happens, if I keep writing on that project, I only write stuff I will later delete. Stew usually tastes better after it has had time to sit a bit, and this is sound advice, whether we are told by an editor to make changes or whether our inner editor says something is wrong.

  3. Kay, I think you made a very valid point. Even when you don't want to admit it, usually you already know something is wrong! At least in my writing experience, I know this to be true. Now that I'm on the other side of things, I have to say it's hard to say I can't accept it (I'd love to accept EVERYTHING), but most of the advice is already something you know, deep down. It's learning how to deal with it that takes practice.

    Yell, scream, throw things all you want. We all do it (or want to do it) when we get the big R, but after you've had time to cool off, it's time to look at it objectively do what needs to be done.

    And speaking of know we're looking for more, right Kay? ;o)

  4. I am a writer and a graphic artist and the first time someone told me to move A to B and B to C and to delete C, I got my feelings hurt.

    Now I've learned to be more Zen about it ... just let it go. If there's a bit I'm passionate about, I'll fight for it, but the other stuff I just change. It's usually a better piece once I've done as requested.

    Well, except for the time my boss thought segue was an archaic word and no longer in use. For weeks after that whenever any of us saw segue in an article we'd cut it out and tape it to his door. Poor thing.

  5. I think being in a critique group is a good way to learn some of these things. There are times when I know a scene isn't working, but might not be able to pin-point exactly how to fix it.

    Having another set of eyes is ALWAYS helpful (smiles).

    But I've also gotten into the habit of never quitting on a story, even if I know it's not the best one I've written. I have to see my characters/story through to the end. Once it's written, it's easier for me to go back and figure out where to bulk and where to cut things.

    This is also where a crit group is crucial. In my crit group we actually post chapters as we write the story (edited versions of those chapters), that way if something isn't working we can go ahead and try to adjust before getting too far.


    I think this sums it up really well? lol.