Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Which Way Is Best?

I think the best way to learn the craft of writing is by doing it. I'm convinced. Even after the mountain of edits from several people on Televenge, I'm learning my own fine art of editing. I'm finding places to cut, words to change, and scenes to tighten that nobody caught. Not that my editors aren't great, because they are ... but think about this. Who cares the MOST about your work? You do. So become your best editor.

It's an amazing process as you dig deep into the gazillionth edit. You know your story backwards and forwards but things begin to pop out at you. I know they say to step back, take a few days off from the editing process, and come back to it with a fresh start. The trees will step aside and you'll see the forest. That's true, and I've done that. But something is happening to me as I polish this piece. I'm finding my own editing skills are sharpening.

I'm also aware you can edit a story to death. Eventually kill it. But that's not the case here. Oh, no. I'm getting a clearer picture of the finished product. I suppose I would liken it to a painter making broad strokes with his brush. At first you can't see the picture, and he often begins again and again. But soon it begins to take shape and the end result is a true result of his talent.

I looked hard at this story two weeks ago, and then had an interesting conversation with Kevin Watson from Press 53. We agree stories have to be written as intended. We can study scene, pacing, structure, conflict and resolution until we're purple. And everybody has an opinion. But the story must be written in the author's voice. What is sometimes criticized as being a weak part in your story, is actually conflict that has moved the reader/editor. And true, depending on what it is, you may need to clarify, strengthen, or make changes. But quite possibly, you leave it as is.

Are you getting what I'm saying?

We can go to every high-priced writing conference out there. I've been to quite a few myself. And by attending these day-long or week-long events, we do learn and grow as writers. But there comes a time when we have to "get off the pot" and start writing. Or as one of my beloved colleagues said to me once, "Stop traveling all over the countryside, stay home, and write your ass off!" She meant well. But in truth, I'm sure she wanted to make a point. If you want to be a writer, you have to write and quit talking about it.

In the end, we must see conferences for what they are. They are a business. Writing conference people make money by drawing attendees every year. They're not cheap. And sometimes the same folks go year after year. You have to wonder why.

I know there are the friendships, networking, and the opportunity to eat/sleep/discuss writing all week. It's a cool thing, being immersed in the world you love. I've been caught up in it and loved every minute of it. Talking to agents/editors/writers all week. I agree, it's a high that's hard to come down from. And everyone should hone their craft from time to time. One never stops learning ... BUT ... I'm realizing the best way to learn the craft of writing is by doing it. I don't want to take away from any one's experience, or even my own as I treasure my memories of the conferences I've attended. Again, they are an important part of learning the craft. But they cannot replace the results of sitting your butt down every day and writing, editing, submitting, and writing again.

I guess I'm a rebel. Looking back, I may have learned the hard way, but I learned. I don't agree that one conference or one "expert" is always right. Telling isn't always a bad thing. Backstory, if well-written and doesn't go on forever, is part of story, too. And I don't know everything. I am, truly, my own worst critic. But the rules of the craft can be bent and shaped. Not all at once, and not always in your first book. Walk softly here. The true test, I suppose, will be when the book is presented to the public.

In the meantime, I've got to get it past the big dogs. They have to like it first if I want to go by way of NYC. I'm going to see if I'm right ...

Time will tell which way is best.

. . . and the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom . . . Anais Nin

Blessings to you and yours.

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