Thursday, August 27, 2009

On Being Stubborn

That's me.

I blame my German heritage, but I am certainly Little Miss Stubborn.

I get it stuck in my head that I'm right, and that's that, and ain't no one gonna change me.

And :P to all you haters who disagree.

Of course, that's not the right attitude to have. Especially when it comes to writing.

See, I'll often hang on to beginnings. I always think I have the *best* beginning, and I am very resistant to changing that beginning...even changing it from the rough draft form. I can mutilate middle chapters like nobody's business, but I despise changing the beginning ones.

Lemme back up and explain myself. First: the Massive Revision Plan is going quite well. I've sent to Alpha, Beta, and Gamma readers, have cut out 10k words, have completely mushed together the middle into a more cohesive unit, have made the characters consistent and the clues stronger. I certainly didn't do *everything* they each suggested, I'm just saying big things were changed.

But, somehow, I missed a series of suggestions.

  • Alpha Reader: You know, that opening's not as strong as it could be...
  • Beta Reader 1: Oh, I really like all this stuff after Chapter 4!
  • Beta Reader 2: Ugh, hated this character until well after that first scene.
  • Gamma Reader 1: Doesn't your character sound weak in the opening?
  • Gamma Reader 2: Are you starting in the right spot? Maybe you should make Chapter 4 be Chapter 1...?

Ugh. These ladies are all much more polite than me, but what they all--each and every one of them--were essentially saying was simple: YOUR OPENING SUCKS WITH AN ALMIGHTY SUCK FOR THE LOVE OF TNR CUT THE FIRST CHAPTERS!!!

But I wasn't hearing that. Sure, I tweaked things. I added a paragraph explaining the character, I changed a part of the scene, I added some more information.

But it was like putting a Band-Aid on the side of the Titanic.

I'm stubborn. Especially with opening chapters. And I'd gotten it into my head that the opening of my WIP wasn't the best way to open the book--it was the *only* way. I had truly, 100% convinced myself that I *could not* start the book in any manner other than with the original opening.

And part of me being stubborn is believing that it was "good enough." Those two, innocuous words are the bane of all writers everywhere. Good enough. If you look at a scene and think to yourself, "Hey, that's good enough," then you are WRONG. It isn't. Cut that scene and start over. NOW.

So I did.

I cut the first three chapters, moved Chapter 4 to Chapter 1, and changed the primary scene with the male main character.

Part of it was because of the day I did my read-through of the novel. I noticed that with those first three chapters, I was still partially thinking like a writer, marking a few typos, staring off into the distance with a sullen look on my face. But when I hit Chapter 4, *I* became absorbed enough to forget the red pen and forget the castle in front of me.

Clearly that's the better opener.

So it might take 5 critiques, wallowing in my own self-doubt, a massive red pen, and a castle to make me realize that I need to change something, but at least it's good to know that Little Miss Stubborn *CAN* actually change!

So, how about you? What are you stubborn about in your writing?


Christine M said...

I think I've become a lot less stubborn. As you know I'm willing to make major changes - but sometimes it takes me awhile to get to the point where I realize that the focus of the story is off. It's not individual chapters - it's more a big picture kind of thing.

Indigo said...

I had a friend who had already been published himself warn me, "You have to be willing and able to let the editing process work for you."
I didn't give it any thought until I watched what I thought were huge chunks getting removed from articles or something I had written.

When I stopped being pestimistic and anal and actually read what remained of my writing...I was genuinely surprised how much smoothier the words flowed.

This same friend went on to tell me, you get edited because you're good enough to get edited. In other words what remains is the heart of you, the best of what you have to offer. (Hugs)Indigo

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Hahahaha Im the total opposite, Im ALWAYS convinced that I started the story the wrong way! I'm stubborn about little scenes-I get attached to a scene that maybe doesn't work or isnt neccessary.

Scott said...

Oh, my, you're my father! Kidding, but he was always right. Trust me on that one.

I feel your pain! I thought the beginning of my project was slammin' (in a good way! I mean, it was great, brilliant, fantastic, and there was no reason in the world to change a single word.

Yeah! Right!

Multiple revision drafts later - the prologue is gone, and the first part of Chapter 1 has totally been reworked.

Hate! It! When! That! Happens!

I'm glad things are working out in the revision process for you. Best of luck.


PJ Hoover said...

You're cracking me up!
But ... it didn't suck. Just not the strongest opening.

I'm getting better on this. I threw out essentially the first 150 pages of THE EMERALD TABLET, the first 100 of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. They were fine. And fine is like good enough, right?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beginnings are so hard. There is so much pressure for it to be fabulous with a hook no reader can resist. But when we start writing we are like wanderers looking for the trailhead. Later, we may need to remap. I've rewritten my half-a-dozen times and still don't know if it's right.
I can be stubborn about my writing but if several people tell me it's shaky, I change it, even if it hurts.

nomadshan said...

Glad you like the changes better! When I first had people reading my book, they commonly said, "This reads like middle grade," but I was convinced it was YA because some of the subject matter was adult. I was wrong. I had a middle grade book with unneeded adult subject matter. :)

I'm also stubborn about dumbing down language use. I like simple sentences that promote imagery. I also don't like describing characters too much -- I'd rather readers were able to fill a few things in.

Heather Zundel said...

I think I know which reader I am. Is that bad? It really is quite incredible now. I'm so glad you relented.

Mine? It's names. Hands down. If I have a name for a character long enough and then someone says to change it, I'm like "NOOOOOO! That is their NAME." It's like changing your name. Or your cousin's. You just can't DO that. :)

I'm getting better, I promise (actually I'm just getting better at not naming them something bad in the first place). Avoidance issues and all that. :)

beth said...

Haha, Heather, don't worry about it! It made everything better after all!

Shannon--you and I are twins! My last work was MG hiding out as YA, and I'm SO with you on not dumbing down the language.

Trica--beginnings really are very hard. I never think they are hard to write, but they are def the hardest to edit (imo).

PJ: Wow! The first 150 pages?! I wonder how big the manuscript was to start with...

Scott-- Oh, yeah...prologues almost always have to go!

Frankie--I'm willing to get that the beginning you think you got wrong, was actually a part you got right (whereas I think I got it right but actually got it wrong!)

Indigo--SO TRUE. I read an article somewhere where the writer lamented to his editor about the scene the editor wanted him to cut. "But it's so good!" the writer said. "But if you cut it, you'll be the only one to miss it," the editor said. In essence, the idea is just that you're closer to your actual words than anyone else, and the reader can't miss something that you cut.

Chris--For me, that's both a blessing and a curse. I think having focus off means broader changes, therefore more editing work, but if you can spot that problem, it's a more exciting, do-able type of change.

Anna C. Morrison said...

I am laughing so hard, I think there's a tear in my eye. haaaaaaaaaaa Oh, I know we've all been there. Aren't people polite when they try to say to cut things? It's so cute. And then finally, you realize, hey, I should cut this, and then you remember someone said so before, but until it's YOUR idea, it doesn't happen. LOL Thx for sharing!

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