Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letting Go

"When you come to the edge of all the light that you know, and you are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly." Barbara J. Winter

So, the other day I was convinced I’d written myself into a corner. It was a very nice corner, nice things were happening in the corner. I just didn’t know how to make my way around the corner to what I knew had to happen next. Of course, the whole idea behind being a fiction writer is writing your way out of the corner. I didn’t mind the idea of navigating around the corner. Only what popped into my mind felt more like reconstructing the corner and the surrounding area. Stripping down the walls of the corner down to the studs and re-evaluating the placement of electrical outlets, etc. Major changes. Again.

I resisted. I pondered. I looked for an efficient and neat way out.

Why?

Because I don’t want to be writing this one book FOREVER.

No way was I breaking down walls, ripping out electrical wires, and starting even a small-scale remodel. At some point I have to be able to say enough is enough. It’s as good as it’s going to get at this point in time. So I’m mapping my way out of the corner, finding the best course and making my way down the short corridor to The End. I mapped out ten or so probable route ideas. Picked out the most interesting possibility and noted how it worked with The End and made it happen. That’s what you do when you’re a writer, right? Make it up as you go along. Change it to work for you. It is after all fiction. I still chose the path of least resistance.

Because if I don’t, I’ll be writing this one book FOREVER.

Never mind the last minute big changes that come to mind, there will always be some little thing I can change or improve or tweak or fiddle with or …well, you get the idea. Small things to be reworked, minute changes that will make no difference to the plot, the characters or their goals, motivations and conflict. I think it would be fair to call the act of constantly implementing this small revisions, stalling. Because the next step is almost as scary as writing the darn book in the first place. The business of writing query letters, attempting a synopsis, sending them off to an agent. What will an agent think? Will it ever be perfect? Should I keep at it until it is?

I can’t, or I’ll be writing this one book FOREVER.

So in the spirit of moving forward, I plan to send The End off to Lesley, my fellow SRW member who has been reading and helping me along, and see what she thinks. I will write a first draft of a synopsis (thanks Jana for the valuable information given in Monday’s post) and send it to Janet (thanks for the links) to see what she thinks. I have people who are cheering me on and helping me out so I'm inspired to sit down and figure out which agents/editors to query and perhaps post the letter on our SRW private blog for review.

For the sake of my wonderful and supportive husband who is beginning to wonder if I’ll be writing this one book FOREVER.

And who could fail to be inspired to push forward as we watch the Olympic Games and cheer on our athletes, many of who have trained for years in their respective sports. So I’ll gather up my writing nerve and put myself out there. I’ll work on the confidence to knowing when to let go. I’ll start working on my next project. I'll see what come next.

But until someone else tells me there is more work to done on Common Ground. I’m done. It’s hand off time.

Did you have a hard time letting your first manuscript go? Did you tweak forever? Are you like me, an avid Olympic Games watcher? Are you inspired by their determination, drive and courage? What’s your favorite sport?

11 comments:

Silver James said...

Karyn, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news? You get to tweak some more once the book sells. :D The bad news is you have to tweak some more once it sells. (Notice I didn't not say "if", I said WHEN!)

One of the first books I wrote is still unsold. Every time I drag it out, I tweak it. There's always some little thing, some suggestion from a writer I trust who has read it, that keeps me fiddling. It may never sell. And that's okay, even though I think it's a good book. The problem is, it will always have a problem finding a home.

I'm proud of you for typing THE END. That is the most exhilarating, scary thing, and at the same time, such a let down. Get your "business" stuff prepped and ready, but start that next WIP, too! Because there are a lot more books you want to write!

Vince said...

Hi Karyn:

Your post reminds me of a lesson I learned by having to continually cut words out of short stories. I like to write stories that are between 500 and 1000 words. Usually the first draft is 2,500 to 3.000 words long. It can take a week of painful pruning to get the word count down to 1,250. At some point I am convinced that additional cuts will ruin the story. All I can see is how wonderful the story could have been if only I had a full 2,500 words to work with. However, here’s what I found out: the reader does not care what the story could have been. The reader only cares about what is in front of her. Is the story in front of her a good story?

I found out that after a week or so, I could read the condensed story and not even think about what it could have been. The story as it stood was just fine and enjoyable. Many times I come to the realization that the story is actually better in the condensed version that it would have been at ‘full’ length.

I think this phenomena applies to your advice of not tweaking a book FOREVER. A book is so long, it can always be improved. I think I could even improve a sentence or two in any of the greatest classics.

So don’t worry about how great the book could have been. Just consider what the reader has in front of her. If it’s a good story, then it’s a good story. The end.


Vince

Karyn Good said...

Hey, Silver. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I embrace the idea of editor recommended tweaking. I'm all for that concept! So as you say, on to the business end of things and on to revising my NaNo project. I'm so looking forward to working on Kate and Seth's story.

PS - The business part of this adventure, as in the darn synopsis writing, is proving more difficult then I antcipated.

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Vince. Thanks for sharing what you learned by writing short stories. Writing short and condensed is a talent I'm only beginning to have a deep appreciation for and don't seem to have to knack of, yet.

I love your line: The reader does not care what the story could have been. I've never thought of it that way and it does put things in perspective because as it stands now, I do think it's a good story. It's time to step back and see what the powers that be think!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
Congratulations for getting to "The End"! Major accomplishment! Give yourself a pat on the back, and then go back to work!

If you're convinced this puppy is as good as you can make it, then it's time to send your baby out into the world. Both Silver and Vince are right; you can tweak forever. There's always some small phrase that can be changed. If it's a good story, if the plot holds together and the characters are engaging, that's what's important.

And like Silver said, when you sell I'm sure your editor will want tweaking, if not major rewrites (speaking from experience here).

Good luck. Let me know if you need a reader for your synopsis.

Jana

Janet said...

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" Of course, said with a Robert De Niro accent :)

Yes, I'm afraid you're talking to me - and I'm sitting up and taking notice. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Karyn. There are times in one's life they must let go and move on - this is one of them.

Synopsis - yuck!

BTW - great post ;)

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Jana. Thank you, I'd love for you to read my synopsis! I'm supposed to have a first draft done by Sunday. Yikes. I've got a lot of work to do.

When I think of how far this story has come from that first draft, I'm pretty happy with the outcome. I certainly learned a lot about writing revising it :) But will I produce better writing in the future - absolutely. I've got a lot more learning to do yet.

I eagerly await the day an editor says there's rewrites to be done! Thanks for the encouragement. Getting back to work now!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Janet. Yes, I'm talking to you! I'm kidding. But seriously I've know we've discussed this before. It's a tough one! Even now I find myself going but, but, but...

I'm holding firm. We'll hold firm together. I know it's the right decision for me.

Yuck doesn't even begin to describe it! Who knew. Frankly this synopsis thing is throwing me for a loop. All I can say is thank goodness I'm not doing this alone!

Erika said...

What a great post. I've been working on the same TWO books for what feels like FOREVER. I like the idea of moving forward, not tearing down and remodeling. I may put that idea to good use, I'm not sure when, but I know it will happen eventually. In time. Okay, when I make the time. :)

Congrats to you! You are my inspiration!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Erika! I know you'll make it happen when the time is right and then it will be my turn to clap and cheer.

Take care and I look forward to more BB postings :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, I read this yesterday as I contemplated my own post for today and because you you, I decided to write what was on my heart...

By now you may have read the status of my wip and know that I'm very, very envious of you. And thrilled for you that you're at the end.

I want to say I don't know if I ever will be done but of course, I know I will. I just have to work at it some more.

Because the boys are home this week due to Winter break, the TV is going to be on... so yes, from noon til evening, it's on for the Olympics because I'd much rather listen to the cowbells than the bombs and bullets of their warfare games.

I can't pick a fav sport to watch because it's not so much the sport I like, but the people and stories who make up the sport.

Karyn, your post gave me the confidence to give a status on my own wip. I wasn't going to, but everyone keeps asking how it's going and this seemed the perfect place to explain. So, thanks for leading the way. :)