Friday, November 28, 2008

Sometimes the best way to deal with fear is not just to face it, but to take it apart. It’s the same with writing.

This sums up my approach to one of my novels. Although three agents are still looking at it, the fact that I haven’t heard from them in a while doesn’t bode well. Plus, I’ve had a feeling that there’s more than one problem with story, and this was confirmed recently by someone knows. His suggestion – scrap it and start over, sort of.

Well, you know the feeling – what do I do now, I can’t go back and redo it all. So, I consulted someone else who said, essentially, why don’t you go back and read it again. If you like it, (in other words, if you can deal with what it would take to fix this thing), then give it a shot.

The fear is in taking that look – what horror will I find? It’s like coming up to an accident and thinking, “I can’t look at this.” Well, the hardest part is that first step. I sat down with the manuscript and didn’t read it all, per se. I recall it well enough because I just finished it. But I thought about it as if it weren’t my manuscript. The irony for editors is that you can see problems in other people’s stuff, but not always your own – much like life.

I saw the problems pointed out by the person who said it wouldn’t fly, and he’s right. But I also began taking those problems apart and thinking about ways to change the story so that the theme remains intact and the characterizations remain true, but the book is fashioned so that it could actually be marketable. This may sound like selling out – but think of it more as resetting a gemstone, or any stone that has some value that’s not being featured in the best possible way. The setting of the stone, and in this case I don’t mean the setting of the novel, although I’m altering that slightly, too, but the way in which that stone is featured in the ring makes a huge difference, as anyone with a slightly smaller diamond knows.

The upshot – don’t just face your writing fears, dismantle them. Ask yourself not only what’s wrong with the novel, but how it can be fixed. Either you’ll realize that although it will take work to make changes that an agent or publisher would ask you to make anyway, or you’ll realize that it’s best to start fresh with another story. The work is largely the same either way, but now you’ve faced one of your worst writing fears and survived. It makes facing subsequent fears much easier. Happy writing!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Upcoming Writing Workshop

For those interested in a library-sponsored writing workshop in Connecticut, I'll be doing the innovative "The Art of Editing in Writing" on December 6. The workshop is for fiction and non-fiction writers, and is based on the six "Rs" of editing — reading, revising, rewriting, restructuring, researching and re-reading. The workshop includes a critique session with Q&A. It's sponsored free by the Friends of the Library, so if you're interested, leave a response with an e-mail address, and I'll send more information.
If you're interested in great Web sites for writers, check this one out:

Agent Research
Agent Research seeks to match writers with the right literary agent based on the writer's stage of career. The Agent Research staff communicates with writers to produce an in-depth report that lists who's selling what you're writing and how well they're doing it. The site works only with legitimate agents who charge no upfront fees. They work based on the principle that "if a writer's work is publishable, the writer can get a real agent." The reports have various costs, but agent verification is free.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I could say it's been the best of times and the worst of times, but the start of a new novel is so much of both that it can be hard to tell which end is up. I guess that's part of the romance of writing, those first-date days when you're not sure what each moment will bring.

The new novel I'm writing is partly the offspring of a recent writer's conference — this one was good— and partly the result of a casting off of the old journalism garb. As Hemingway once mentioned, in paraphrase, journalism is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there, at least not if you're planning to write fiction that goes beyond boundaries to capture the reader's imagination.

Trading the "just the facts" approach for the "writing without borders" method is a little like walking onto a stage the first time or anytime; there's a sense of endless possibilities — that great thrill of being out there and engaging the audience, then suddenly becoming aware that you don't quite belong to yourself anymore, and neither does your work. I'm not sure why there's more of this feeling with fiction, but it's there, and not for the fainthearted. Then again, neither is anything these days.

Happy writing!