Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'm Naked!

Yep, that's right! I'm naked. Utterly and completely naked... every time I put my writing out on the table I sit and wait and feel like I'm bare to the world. It's like those dreams where you're running around either in your birthday suit or in your underwear and everything seems normal until that one point in time when you realize that something isn't quite right. The rest of your dream usually involves running around looking for clothes, and you're always inexplicably late for one event or the other for some reason.
As writers, I'm sure we all feel that way to some degree when we display our writing to the world. When you send your work off to be inspected and prodded, you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is, if you're in tune with reality. There are some people out there who take to writing and feel a natural sense of how easy it is. They send off that manuscript with self confidence and are so sure it will be welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, statistics aren't in their favor. Am I saying it can't happen? That you won't be accepted on the first try? Not at all, just don't count on it.
So what are some things you can do to avoid feeling quite so apprehensive?

Try a Critique Group

Before sending out your writing, try having it critiqued by fellow writers. Obviously you won't need to cater to all of the suggestions they give you, but it could provide valuable insight into the comments you might get back from an editor or agent. If there are repeat suggestions about a certain aspect of your writing I highly suggest you take a closer look at the potential problem. Don't feel overwhelmed! If you're told your character dialogue doesn't seem genuine, try reading it out loud like a script. Take a look at your characters and make sure they are consistent. Remember, you should treat your characters like real people. They should have consistent mannerisms, natural growth within story confines, and unless they have some kind of emotional problems they shouldn't experience unnatural fluctuations of emotion. Don't try to tell too much story through dialogue.

"Hi Jane. Can you believe we're in this really creepy old house that seems to be falling apart?" Bob asked
"Why, no, Bob. I can't believe it at all. Why did you take that dare from Fred anyway?"
"You know me, Jane. I never back down from a good dare." Bob replied.
"What was that!?" Jane exclaimed as she jumped in fright.

Sorry, that just doesn't interest me in the story. There are certain conversations that are fun to eavesdrop on, this one just doesn't do it for me. There are so many things that could be said from artful description alone. The hairs prickling on their arms and neck in response to the creaks and moans of the of the aging timbers, the sudden flash of movement and the clang of a tin can falling from a pile of trash stacked at the end of the long hallway.

When I was in High School, I did a self-imposed stint at a private school. When I say stint I mean like 2 weeks. Anyway, before I decided to head back to public school, my English teacher told a story about one of the pieces she had written. It was about a real event in her life and consisted of a conversation she had with her husband. She let someone read the story and they told her that the conversation just didn't fit, "Real people don't talk like that," they had said. "But that was our exact conversation!" She exclaimed to the class.
Apparently the reader felt that the dialogue didn't match up with the version of the characters she had written. While it may have been her and her husband in real life, they could very well have translated to totally different people on the page. After all, she wasn't writing about her and her husband, was she? She was really writing about her perception of herself and that of her husband.

I'll stop belaboring the point, just note that there are some things other people will see that you might not, simply because you are far too close to it.

Move On To the Next Project

Don't just sit around waiting! Get working on that next story or article. Get started on the next book in the series! Whatever it is, get on it. It will help take your mind off the piece you just sent out and you'll have more going for you by the time you get your reply. Some people say the publishing industry is slower than snail snot, if you wait on a response you are wasting valuable writing time. The more you write the more experience you get. The more experience you have the more likely you are to become better at writing. (I make no promises! :) )

Be Successful!

Haha, some people will try to tell you that being a successfully published author will make you feel more confident about your writing. I may be accused of being an idiot here, but can you imagine the extreme pressure to produce high quality material as a previously published author? What if your agent tells you that your new manuscript is utter crap? What if you've misquoted someone on an article? Your reputation will be ruined!!! There is so much at stake!!!!!
Listen, it isn't going to get any easier if you're famous. That's why it's important to learn good stress mitigation techniques. Put your best foot forward and move on. Life is a journey so get your butt movin'! Consider this your official kick in the pants. You'll thank me later.

Writing Exercise:
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