Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Say that to me again!

I'd like to believe that I'm a smart guy. In fact, I pride myself on my ability to listen fully. Also, I'm not defensive on most things (most) and fairly open-minded to the possibility of anything.

So far, this has translated well with my writing. Every feedback that I've gotten I've been able to find a way to make my work better.

Maybe not so true with my second novel. I've been revising Rocky Peak for a few weeks now. My mentor, Michael Levin, gave me fantastic feedback (as usual) but he wanted me to push the conflict and the problem further. Make it bigger.

So I did. After I shared it with him, we had what I thought was a repeat conversation.
"Good, very good. But we've seen that before. Escalate it, bring something new to the reader."

Hmm... okay. So I  brainstormed some more and come up with the ground breaking idea. Send it off.

And again... "Yes. I get it. But, we've seen that in x book, and y movie. It needs to be fresh. Escalate it."

It didn't quite sink in until I watched Nacho Libre. Nacho Libre???? Yes, my friend, there's a lot of wisdom that comes from the lips of Jack Black. The specific scene is the one where his "Luchador" partner (Esqueleto) tells Nacho, that he hates all the orphans.

The reality was that I didn't want to hear what I was being told. I wasn't ready -- emotionally -- to take my characters there. Because I knew what it would imply -- There would be hurt, pain, and possibly loss. I didn't want to do that to them. I am too attached to them. I care for them. But isn't that when it really hurts in life? We suffer over people we know, scenarios that we can relate to, pain that we've experienced in the past. We may not want to open those wounds. We may not want to relive them, but if we don't, are we being honest. Are we really writing what is in our heart?

Last night was tough. When reality stares at you, do you look away, or face it with courage?

I outlined my thoughts and got ready to kill my darlings. By just past midnight, I had what I thought was powerful -- and painful. I haven't made the revisions yet, as I'm waiting for feedback. But when I do, I will drop head first into a roller coaster ride. And that's good. I should go through that, because if it hurts me, then I will give my reader something that will be meaningful.

I must do right by my reader. And the reader is who really counts... after all, I'm one of them.

Fight the good fight.


  1. Hah! I love Nacho Libre.

    Being fully honest with myself was one of the hardest things to do. It took time to realize how badly some of the changes were needed, but I'm very happy with the outcome.

  2. Anne, thank you for the comment. I think what you said is a very common realization for writers. When we give it up, and get ourselves out of the way, then the writing, the story, take over and make it that much better. Of course, it doesn't mean we won't repeat it, just that with experience we learn that when we do give in to the changes, we know something good will come out of it.

  3. I worried that by punching my characters in the gut I was doing wrong, punishing the reader with my characters. You make me think that maybe I'm not. Maybe a good gut punch is just what the reader wants, so they can pick themself up with my characters.

    Am I doing what has been done. Yes, I'm sure I am. I only hope I brought enough uniqueness to the situation to stand out. Thank you for making me think about it again. (and making me wonder if my WIP is a lost cause...)

  4. Excellent post, Ara, as always. It's hard to take the criticism sometimes, but once I'm emotionally distanced from it, I usually see the value. Invariably, the work is better once I suck it up and make the changes.

  5. Kimberly, I love what you said. A gut punch endears the reader to the character. They are now susceptible and the story that much better, IMHO. And any writer that suffers over these things will create better, more powerful stories. My vote? Your WIP is not a lost cause, because you are conscious about wanting it to be unique and special for the reader.

    Gwen, you are too kind. Emotional distance is exactly what I needed. When I thought of it objectively is when new possibilities and paths presented themselves. It'll be hard for me, and I hope I'm a worthy scrivener to translate those emotions in an honest way.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...