Thursday, June 7, 2012
That Don't Impress Me Much!
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 time...it'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?