Sunday, January 18, 2009

More feedback from my second novel. And, I'm afraid, it's more of the same. The first feedback I received was about 'naming' from the perspective of point of view. The point of view in the novel is that of a main character, a woman. The story begins when the woman is still a child.

Big Dawg, the infamous leader of The Dawg Pack, has *ur-um* strongly suggested that I hit the lines one more time. You see, I've elevated my child, something common in dysfunctional families. However, my child hasn't been elevated to the head of household or overseer of all children within the household as have some of America's children. I've given her, in some cases, the perspective of an adult while she was still only twelve. Not good, so Big Dawg says. I'm back at it, my tail tucked between my legs.

However, my tail not withstanding, the repeated returns to my manuscript does more than perfect this particular book. That perfection has side effects just like that horrible 'fat pill' that's supposed to cause uncontrollable diarrhea. Instead of that horrible add-on to the general beneficial process, my writer's add-on is that since I've worked so hard to correct POV issues in this novel, I'm unlikely to make the same mistakes again.

When I'm teaching at the university, I require multiple revisions of a single paper because, like the Big Dawg, I believe we learn, not so much from all the things we read or study but from the correction of our own mistakes. If my students come out better writers (which I'm proud to say, they do) from multiple efforts at correction, then I can't help but do the same. I'll be better with the issue of POV when I finish the revisions and therefore when I re-vision the current WIP. Yes, that's what it's all about really.

The process of beta or critique isn't to allow the crit partner to release the frustration built up on the job or to exact revenge for some perceived insult. The first priority is always to create a product worthy of publication. The second priority, that side-effect I talked about, is to improve the writer's ability to perfect their own work.

Perfection. Well, maybe not perfection, but as close to it as possible. That's what the newbie is looking for when they send a promising manuscript to an agent. Without a close-to-perfect piece of work, the prospective agent will toss that promising manuscript back on the slush pile from which it came. If the piece is not too far from perfect, the agent may request revisions and resubmissions, but most of the time, he/she doesn't. They don't because they're looking for a writer who knows perfection.

In today's volatile literary markets, it's particularly difficult to make that initial breakthrough. It's difficult for an unpublished writer to become published. If said writer isn't willing to polish and prune, to listen to the voices of others, to be the reader instead of the writer, then the hopes of seeing his/her name on a book jacket diminish, become that infinitesimal chance, that one in seventy-seven million. Assuming your work will stand without crit partner comments and subsequent revision is like assuming you'll win the mega-millions with only one set of numbers.

Writing a book isn't a simple process. It's hard, demanding, and sometimes humiliating work. Yes. It's work. Exhausting work. This work is not for the faint-hearted. Many would-be novelists shrink, slink back into the woodwork. Only the courageous writer makes his/her way to the words 'The End.'

I've never fancied myself courageous. I tell my students that beneath my nine dollar shirt beats the heart of a coward, that if the shooting starts they shouldn't expect me to take the bullet while they scamper to safety. However, pursuit of the dream changes hearts. I'm close. I can feel it. I'm willing to work toward it, to take my mental machete and hack away at the vines and brambles that separate my book from perfection.


. said...

Which is why you will, ultimately, succeed. Because you're willing to work at it.

The other thing to remember is your first line -- this is ONLY your second book.

As you know -- 'cause I've said it hundreds of times -- every writer has some number of words, at LEAST in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, that they have to write before they stop sucking. This is also how they learn to stop making all the newbie mistakes -- like your penchant for "Russian Naming".

Once you get past those hundreds of thousands to millions of words written, then you really start to hone your craft. Then, it can be something small that flips you from wannabe into about to be.

You're not there yet, but you're very close. And you're close because you're willing to work at it. The Three P's are what gets your name on a book jacket, and you're doing them.


WKEverhart said...

Thanks, Gini. I AM working, trying, pruning, listening. I am becoming the reader as well as the writer. It's all about becoming. True, I'm not there quite yet, but I'm well on my way. (Forgive the brag). I'm on my way because I have ears. I listen instead of just hearing. I thank my mother for that ability, the ability to consider the criticism provided and to act toward improvement.

I reviewed a colleague's work some time ago and found it wanting. I made some suggestions which we countered by the writer with a series of "but's". The biggest 'but' came later when the piece was rejected multiple times by multiple venues. The writer kept her "integrity", not budging an inch on what she felt was deathless prose. Too bad, huh?

Anonymous said...

Willie, hey there!!! Ugh, so sorry, but this book is sucking the life out of me. A busy year. Hang in there, you will succeed. You are working too hard not to!!