One Hundred Thousand Pieces of YouJune 24, 2009 at 8:59 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing, Writing Advice | 6 Comments
Writing, like singing in the shower or popping zits in the bathroom mirror (hey, this is teens writing for teens), is an intimate activity. I’ve always found it strange when authors are asked whether their characters are “based on” them – of course they are, at least in part. Every character and plot twist begins with our dreams, anxieties, and experiences. When a well-meaning relative tries to sneak a peek at my first drafts, the urge to beat them over the head with my keyboard stems as much from the fear that I have not hidden myself well enough in the unpolished words as the embarrassment of early draft adverb-itis.
Which is all well and good for first drafts. But what about second drafts, or third? If the 100,000 words of your novel are all pieces of you, how do you learn to let go and view your work objectively? How do you accept rejections from agents with grace and read editorial letters without cringing? Your manuscript may be your “baby,” but someday you have to let that kid grow up, boot him out of your basement, and cut off his access to your credit cards.
When we write, our primary goal is usually to tell a compelling story (with the possibility of publication sometimes thrown in). To create distance between myself and my WIP, I find it helpful to think of words, analogies, conflicts, villains, and even protagonists as nothing more than tools I use to reach that goal. Then when an agent or beta reader tells me something isn’t working, I don’t have to kill my “darlings,” I just have to switch out a monkey wrench for a ratchet to help me tell the story I want to write. If I am having an especially hard time staying objective, I copy and paste the section I’m working on into a separate word document and deconstruct it sentence by sentence – breaking it down into the most basic elements to prevent my general angst from getting in the way.
I’ll admit this isn’t always easy, and I don’t always pull it off without breaking a sweat. But to be fair to myself and my story, I have to try to see everything that is not essential as subject to change. No matter how pretty that chainsaw looks stuck between the gears of my manuscript, I need to pry it out for the best parts of me – original concepts, three dimensional characters, polished words – to shine.
What tactics do you use to maintain objectivity towards your manuscript (be warned – if you say you always view your writing dispassionately, I may suspect you of zombieism)?