Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fixin' It


By Mark W. Danielson

There’s an old phrase that says, “Ya can’t fix what ain’t broke.” While this may pertain to assorted things around a farm, it hardly pertains to “fixing” manuscripts. You see, in writing, the problem is most authors are too close to the problems to see them. For lack of a better word, let’s call it tunnel vision.

Anyone that’s ever given driving lessons to a teenager knows that as an observer, you see plenty of room for improvement. When you safely reach your destination, hopefully you share words of wisdom that will help the teen drive better the next time. But when you put yourself in the driver’s seat, suddenly you’re the only safe driver on the road. Isn’t it funny how our perspective changes from seat to seat? Isn’t it amazing how everyone else suddenly becomes a bad driver? If you see some parallels to writing, then we’re on the same track.

Getting back to manuscripts, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from another writer who had proof read Diablo’s Shadow for me. She thoroughly enjoyed the book, but then said I didn’t need the first chapter. What say you? I thought to myself. The first chapter is the whole setup. But truth be told, she was right, so I deleted it. Afterwards, I looked back on it wondering how I could have been so blind. The answer is I was so emotionally attached to that setup that I couldn’t see the forest through the trees.

Letting that chapter go was easier than I thought, though. After all, I had a lot of respect for this lady. After all, she does chair our MWA chapter’s critique group. Once I deleted it and re-read the story, everything made perfect sense.

Each week, I spent a lot of time writing articles on various topics and not enough on my manuscripts. True, it slows progress, but diversity also allows me more objectivity. In other words, when I do go back to my manuscript, my tunnel vision has expanded. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re driving, keep your eyes on the center of the road and note the difference in your peripheral vision between twenty miles per hour and eighty. The same holds true in writing. If you keep hammering away without every taking an objective look, you may miss the obvious. Too often, manuscripts that are sent off without that objective look are returned. To correct this, take heart, find someone who will provide an honest critique, and listen to what they say. Remember that if your goal is to produce a solid story, then time is always on your side. The caveat is you must plan ahead if you’re meeting a deadline.

If there is anything I’ve learned in this business, it’s that there is a distinct difference between writing for yourself and writing for publication. By necessity, publishers are most interested in a book’s marketability, therefore, if they want you to make changes, so be it. If you’re not willing to make their changes, then withdraw your manuscript and walk away. It’s as simple as that.

Keep writing, stay focused, and have fun, but always remember, when it comes to professional writing, your job is to please others.

5 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree, Mark, although I think you have to please yourself before you can please others. Blogging takes an enormous amount of time away from my manuscripts, but I've learned so much from interviewing other writers.

Btw, I'm afraid that I disagree with anonymous. :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

As I said, Jean, a published book is the result of a delicate accord between the author and publisher.

Anonymous said...

I wish you health and happiness every day!
Ich wunsche Ihnen Gluck und Gesundheit jeden Tag!
Je vous souhaite sante et bonheur chaque jour!

網路行銷
seo

Anonymous said...

I wish you health and happiness every day!
Ich wunsche Ihnen Gluck und Gesundheit jeden Tag!
Je vous souhaite sante et bonheur chaque jour!

網路行銷
seo

Beth Terrell said...

I agree, Mark. I'm extremely grateful for my wonderful critique group (of which Chester is a member). Their insights into my work have been invaluable.