Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a little investment goes a long way.

I remember the days when I was an aspiring writer. I wanted to make it, and in a sick way, I wanted to prove myself not to the arses who said, "I couldn't" but to myself. Every story was a labor of love and so much sweat there were days when I wanted to tear my hair out. It all boiled down to one thing – investing in the story.

Today, that's changed. There's so many publishers out there that it's more a case of pick your poison on their side than sweating out the little stuff in the story. You see, when I started writing there was no internet. Shoot, a computer was something that took up a whole room and needed fifty workers to care for it.

It was an age when every story had to count. Each page had to have that spark that got your foot in the door and, potentially, a contract in your hand. That's what I come from. Where it was the effort you put into the story that counted.

Maybe I should hang up my old typewriter and say, "Characters don't count. Plot doesn't matter. It's all about banging out the story and selling it then waving the credit in front of all your crit partners because somehow that makes you bigger or better."

Sorry, but that's sad. It's not that I don't think prolific writers don't exist. I know they do. My main beef comes down to how much garbage is out there. Don't say there isn't because we've all come across at least one crappy story in our days.

You can tell who's invested in their story. It's obvious and if nobody is willing to tell you that then I will. In my own mentor's words this is a matter of sit-down-shut-up-and-listen.

There's another side to my beef. That's where an author has the unmitigated gall to say – "I wrote it but it's the editor's job to fix it".

What planet are you on? And how did you get lucky enough to get a contract?

Then you get the author who will sit there and say – "But my crit partners tell me this or that or the other thing."

Wake UP!

You didn't enter into a binding contract with your crit partners. And for the record, about fifty percent of them are about as helpful as a pilonidal cyst. They tell you to do one thing, so you follow that. Then another says something else, so you follow that. Finally you end up with a mishmash of words that has stripped your story down to a lovely skeleton that's baking on the desert sand or have twisted it inside out. (Can you tell I could go on and on about this?)

Invest in your story. Use your common sense when it comes to crit partners. And take the time to create the best story you ever could have.


Okay, I'm done ranting. It's your turn. Can you tell when an author isn't invested in a story or am I just blowing smoke? Do you think it matters and that authors have to get tougher on themselves when it comes to investment?


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,



Sandy said...


You have come up with another terrific post. I used to listen to every one until I met my mentors, and they told me to only listen to them so I wouldn't get so confused. Believe me that was sometimes confusing enough. lol

I have read books that were published that I couldn't believe they got published. I thought they should be embarrassed to have that work in print.

I've learned a lot from my mentors. I'm digging deeper. A lot of the things they have told me takes a long time to stick with me, but eventually it did.

Diana Castilleja said...

How very true. I'll be the first to admit I write in superficial veins, but it also gives me room to deepen pretty much any portion of the story. Characters I can do, motivation is my weak spot, but you have to know what is right for the story. Three opinions will have you strip three things out of your story and leave it worse than bare--it'll leave it down right naked.

Anastasia Rabiyah said...

I can't help but invest in my stories. If I don't believe in them (the plot, the characters) then I never finish them. It's too difficult to force the words out.

Yes, having edited for years now, I have seen things that make me cry, literally. I have edited manuscripts that would make an editor quit--and never want to edit again. I have read plots with so many loopholes they should be Swiss cheese. I won't even go into the grammar. It's made me a better writer, a more selfish writer, and it has made me selective about what I will and will not edit.

I long ago came to the conclusion that all writers are crazy. This includes me. Our motivations are not always clear.

The really, scary, crazy ones are the ones that believe their story is so awesome that they don't have to worry about motivation, plot, grammar, or any of the other basics that go into building a book.

Methinks T.J. just read something stinky, and that's why she wrote this post.

Anastasia Rabiyah

"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum." -Grace Harmon

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more about crit partners.
But you can have readers you trust implicitly for their opinions I think.
However, for me, I find that I can't send something to be critiqued each step of the say. General feedback on something sure, just to see if the story is gelling. But that's all. It's either going to be good or it isn't. And I think I'd become too self-conscious if the critiques were ongoing throughout the entire story process. I think all creativity at the point becomes constipated!
I agree that there are poor stories and mediocre ones. And I do absolutely agree that they tend to come about because the writers didn't care enough.
Just as an example: Margaret Mitchell had an idea for a story about a strong-willed woman living at the time of the Civil War. But!!! Without the research it would have no doubt been superficial. The characters would have still be strong, but there would have been no world for them to have existed in, which actually would have affected everything.
Thought provoking post and very important!