Thursday, June 7, 2012

That Don't Impress Me Much!

For reasons unbeknownst to me, especially since I like country music about as much as the requisite root canal, I have Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much!" stuck in my head this morning.

Strangely enough, though, the sentiment of that rather insipid song is a pretty perfect lead-in to tackling the question from Gracie, one of our Scribble Chicks readers.

She asked...With the first book that you submitted/put forward I'm sure that you doubted your ability. Do you look back on that first attempt now and feel embarrassed at what you were trying to sell? How do you know that your writing is good enough? How do you separate thinking your writing is boring (because you've read over that particular scene a thousand times already) and realizing that, hey, the first 40 pages really are yawn worthy?

Speaking from personal experience, I knew the first draft of what eventually became my debut novel, Around the World in 80 Dates, lacked a certain something after I gave it a thorough read-through. There were scenes that just weren't gelling for me, characters that needed a little more oomph (or better yet, deserved the ax for their sheer lack of memorability) and dialogue that needed tweaking. I also needed better pacing in spots and a couple of minor plot overhauls.

So how did I arrive at these conclusions exactly? Well, first off, I didn't try and have any perspective mere moments after typing "The End." In fact, I stepped away from my manuscript for probably three weeks before revisiting the story I'd dedicated the better part of a year to. As writers we can't help being close and protective of our own words, but with a little distance, it's far easier to be objective.

Also, something that helped me discern the quality of my work is that I'm also a reader. You've probably heard this a million times already, but that's because it's true...good writers are big-time readers. Think about your favorite book and what you liked about it. Chances are, it wasn't a plodding, boring storyline with dull, lifeless characters, no real resolution and lots of passive verbs.

No, I'm guessing your favorite novel is nothing short of a masterpiece because the author whisked you away to a captivating new world that you had a connection to. It's a story where the characters feel like real living, breathing humans, not cardboard cutouts, and the story's accompanying themes resonate on a deep personal level. And when a book you're reading is something truly extraordinary, the turns of phrase will be so dynamite that you wish you'd thought of them yourself.

If you aren't feeling those things when you're reading your own work, it might not be ready for the masses just yet. But it's also important to remember that you won't always be impressed with something you've read again and again and again. You might be thinking "That don't impress me much," and that's because anything, no matter how wonderful, is a drag if we're too familiar with it.

And if that's the case, you might consider passing your draft along to a trusted but honest friend, family member or editor for his/her feedback. Now I can't stress this enough, but make sure that person is someone you respect, someone who gets you and has your best interests at heart. While it's never easy hearing negative things about your work (and trust me, you will have to grow a thick skin over's just part of the process), these comments ultimately help propel us forward. Perhaps, the story you merely thought was "good" will become something "great," which is precisely what every writer wants, right?


  1. Thanks, that really helped me. :) I know that self doubt will always be a part of what I'm doing, whether that's my writing, music - anything really. But I guess that a first draft, in some ways, is the best place to be. You can take it basically anywhere!


  2. Do you hate ALL country?
    Thanks for the post, I just put my first draft to rest. I want to edit it though. I do know when I go back to it I won't be impressed. It's likely a mess, I haven't read any of it since 8k, lol!
    And now I'm trying to figure out what to work on next. I'm freaking out like I did trying to find my first idea. I thought id be more confident with my 2nd book idea, nor so. I'm trying to choose between little sparks of ideas I have scribbled. I'm trying to tell myself tonight its not the end of the world of I pick a dud, I move on! Yet I still stress over finding the best idea I have .
    What do you scribble chicks do? Pick one & go with it? Try to flesh out a few & the decide?
    Any advice?

  3. I think everyone's different, but an idea has to pass what I call the three-day test. If the idea I'm flirting with doesn't thoroughly excite me after three days (and when I find an idea I like, I can't get it out of my head, no matter how hard I try), I drop it like the proverbial hot potato. But if the idea has legs where I can't stop thinking about it, then I work on developing it further. If it ends up sputtering out after a couple of chapters, then I reconsider whether it's really the right one. Some days, you're just going to feel short on inspiration, but if the idea is a solid one, you'll want to continue. Or that's what I think anyway. :)

  4. Grace, soo glad I could help. And yes, that's the beauty of the first draft...that endless opportunity to do whatever the heck you want. :)

  5. What do you do when you have an idea you've been "flirting" with (love how you put that) for FOREVER just isn't coming together from the first sentence? Is it possible to know something SO well that you don't know how to get it started because you're already in the middle of it?

  6. If you love your idea, maybe try working on it from another if you aren't getting the beginning to work right, nothing says you can't work on the ending. Or the middle or basically any part where you're making some progress.

    Maybe a new character, a different setting or a little twist on the idea could help, too. They say the definition of insanity is doing something the same way over and over and over and hoping to get a different result, maybe you just need to approach it a little differently than you have been.

    Here's hoping for progress for ya, Ashley!

    :) Christa

  7. I agree with Christa, Ashley! If something gets you stuck, try to rearrange the order. I've had to do that before when a scene was just begging to be written. I kept telling it to wait it's turn but it was sort of like my three year old - needy ;) I finally wrote it and then factored it into the story later in order when it was time. Perfect compromise!

  8. I have a couple questions about ideas,
    - what do you do if you have an idea that you feel is beyond your skills to do it justice? Save if & work on simpler things?

    - do you think a beginner should focus on only one story at a time?

    - they say not to go with the first thing that pops into your mindl. It's it better to push to brainstorm first OR write a messy first draft with the simple idea and then work on making it bigger in editing?

    - and lastly, and tips on nor taking it so seriously? I think my want to write a really good book is getting in the way of learning to write. If that makes sense? I don't want to do it wrong or devote so much time to something that s bad. I notice I get stressed over the "right"choice most of the time. The feelings of this is really good don't last long sp I end up stopping and getting frustrated because I'm not getting anywhere.

  9. Another question! Haha, we like to keep you guys busy. :) Something that I've really wanted to know (and have been searching Google for) is if there are any Christian Publishing Houses in Australia. Or, since I'm beginning to doubt this possibility, if there are any other Christian Publishers who would publish Australian authors. For that matter, any agents who would sign to one!!

  10. Gracie, I don't know of any Houses right off down under but I know that the Christian fiction industry in America publishes people who live in Canada, Bermuda, England, etc. (those are just the countries where I personally KNOW published authors in the CBA)

    That shouldn't be a negative at all when pitching to an agent or editor. I see it at as a non-issue, since 99 percent of everything know is done online anyway! :)

    Suri, great questions! I'll tackle at least one on Wednesday :)