Thursday, July 22, 2010

Debunking the "It's MINE, Don't TOUCH IT!" Ideology

Me! It’s mine! Don’t touch it!!

That seems to be the pervasive force behind the bulk of writers in today’s newbie industry. “It’s my baby.”

You are really going to hate me, because today I am going to debunk this theory and why it causes so many writers to stifle themselves in a corner and refuse to grab hold of any editor or agent’s words of advice.

When I was writing my first historical novel (what do I mean first? There was only one!) Anyway, when I was working on my HF novel, I hired a wonderful lady, Tiffany Colter to edit it for me. We spent hours poring over my poor prose and weak dialogue. At one point early in the process of working together, I hired her for a phone consultation. And because I had heard it so often, I said the first words that popped into my head “It’s my baby and it is hard to hear tough, mean things said about it.”

I paused.

What? My baby? I sat back and stared at the computer screen. Was I crazy? I could barely stand this story, it was stale and trapped in the middle of a busy intersection. No manner of prodding from me was going to get it to move.

No. This was most definitely NOT my baby.

And forgive me, I am going to be mean and then get nice again: that is problem with many writers. Especially…. new ones.

Okay, are you still here? I am really sorry, but I do believe that we seriously need to step back from our own rose colored glasses and look at our writing and this topic objectively.

I will not deny it, it is hard to have someone look at your work and tell you it needs…. well…. work. It can even sting because words on the screen can often come across as much harsher than in real life. And often times we need to get away from those words and well, if you are any of the other ladies here, eat plenty of chocolate or if you are ME go pig out on a jar of carrots. It is much healthier! O-kay, we won’t go there right now, that argument has already hit the loop, don’t want to start up World War III here-- again.

Seeing the overflowing red ink that stains the computer screen in the form of comments is hard and uncomfortable and the suggestions will not always need to be headed, take it with a grain of salt, but don’t throw in the sweetener in just yet and the spices to cover the bitter taste. You want to see what needs to be fixed in your manuscript, but let’s face it. Adam and Eve sinned and nothing has been perfect since. I know, it stinks, but it is true. None of us are perfect and though we would like to think that our manuscripts are without their faults that is a gross understatement.

The intent of our heart should be to always make something better, even when it hurts us.

Because when it comes right down to it, the story we have written, once it leaves our hands, does not become a part of us. In some ways it is like a child, as that is must be freed into the world to stand on its own two feet. And yes it does hurt the parent when they hear that their baby is being damaged, but just like with children, at a certain point the training wheels have to come off and you have to let ‘er glide on their own.

No great work of fiction ever languished in the drawer of babying. It was brought forth and honed and perfected until it shone.

Because in the end, this willingness to separate yourself from the hard work and sweat and tears you have put into this manuscript will have to land on an agent or editor’s desk and they will either love it or hate it depending on which side of the bed they got up on, and when it comes back either rejected or marked up with plentiful changes, you as the writer, need to be able to see that the person on the other end of the red pen is not murdering your baby, but making it stronger. There is a big difference and I think all too often, we only see the former and not the latter.

Being a person who is easy to work with and is always willing to learn no matter how difficult the lesson may be, is someone an editor/ agent wants to work with. If they have to fight you every step of the way, because “you’re baby” had its feelings hurt, they aren’t going to want to work with you. And in the big picture, this really prepares you for readers, who I am sure from your own experience of writing book reviews or reading them, can be ruthless.

So right now, throw out the ideology that is your baby, and view it as a project, a craft that needs to be honed and perfected, only through hard work, sweat and maybe a few tears. Nothing good ever comes easy.

So, do you agree, disagree, are you hurrying to your blogger account to stop following the Alley? Making a note on your calendar to NEVER return on Thursdays? Go ahead, tell me, so I can go cry that you didn’t like my baby. : (


Sandra Stiles said...

I so agree with you. I am not yet published yet when I received my first rejection letter with advice for my work I was so happy. My friends thought I'd lost it. I believe that there are those in the profession who know more than I do and I can only bring my work up to a publishable standard if I look at it through their eyes and step back from using mine. Thank you. I knew there had to be someone out there that would confirm for me that I wasn't looking at this like I was a nut case.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Yep. We gotta be able to handle the criticism and gladly embrace it if we are ever going to make it as writers. And yes, Casey, I will DEFINITELY be returning on Thursdays! You rock!

Casey said...

Sandra, so sorry about the rejection, but congrats on the great learning attitude! I know being told it's not good enough is hard, but there is so much learning to be done in that rejection, learning that will strengthen our writing. No, you aren't the only nut case and I think if you keep looking you will find others the exact same way. :)

Casey said...

I think they refer to it as thick skin, Sherrind and I will admit I don't always have it. Learning can be hard, but I must admit it does excite me.

Phew, so glad someone will be coming back. ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

You can't get rid of us that easy Casey. The Bible also says--Oh I can't think of the verse right now...but it talks about the value of words from a friend. Someone help me with the verse I'm thinking of.
Great post...can you get carrots in a jar?

Casey said...

Mary, I think it is in Proverbs, is that the one you are thinking of? A friend sticks closer than a brother?

And yes, you CAN get carrots in a jar if you peel, cut and slice them up. :)

Glad you liked the post.

Pepper said...

HA, Case!
Great post and very to the point.
Criticism is tough, but babies will never grow up without a bit of fine tuning (or maybe even reshaping).
Growing pains.
Necessary, but they hurt.

Thanks again, Case.

Casey said...

Growing pains is a good way of putting it. We won't get anywhere if we aren't pushed past our comfort zone. Glad you liked it and took the time to read it-- or at least skim. ;)

Pepper said...

Skim? Come on now, Case. I read all about the red-ink, chocolate, and 'being a person who is easy to work with'.
and boy, do I understand. Any time I receive scores back from a contest, or a critique from my agent, I cringe. Lots of the comments are things I need to hear. Some are subjective, but many of the things I needed to hear. Sigh. And CHANGE. LIke a stinky diaper ;-)
You just can't ignore some things. LOL.

Casey said...

Now, Pep I wasn't accusing. ;) Sometimes time just does not allow for a full read, something I am afraid I am guilty of all to often. I try not to let it happen here though. :)

I still cringe at harsh comments, I don't have a thick rhino skin, BUT I try very hard not to get too attached to my work. And know that the judge isn't being harsh to ME, they are just looking at the quality of the work.

I still haven't fully gone over my Genesis scores, but I know somewhere in there will be a nugget of truth, I just have to find it.