Thursday, July 09, 2009

Divorce Your Story

I'm not an advocate of divorce but I've learned to be when it comes to my writing.

How many times have you written the perfect short story or the perfect first three pages of a manuscript? You know it's the best work you've ever written. You can't wait to share it with your friends, your family and maybe even your writer friends.

But then it happens. Someone makes a comment about it. It needs what? I need to change it where? !!!!!!!!! How can that be? I wrote it perfectly! It will sell just as it is!!! They don't know good writing when they see it!

Sound familiar?

It does to me. Because I've been that person. Unwilling to appreciate that some comments are correct. That maybe I do need more help.

Maybe we need to let go of our work and not hang on so tightly to something that isn't working. Maybe our work can improve if we take some well-meaning advice.

Divorce hurts. Letting go of a cute phrase or entire chapter hurts too.

But in the end--maybe we'll find the perfect marriage for our work with an agent or a publisher.

Are you hanging on too tightly today?


Melissa Marsh said...

Hmm. I really don't know. I'm always open to criticism and other opinions, but one thing I've learned is to trust my instinct on making changes. So maybe that's a type of divorce...or maybe it's more a separation. ;-)

Jan Cline said...

It's so true and so hard to do. There is always so much to learn - it seems never ending. Most of us are impatient and want to be writing smart as soon as possible. Those baby steps will get us there - even if it's slow going.

Greg C said...

I am a hanger but I am learning to let go. Thanks for the great advice.

Jody Hedlund said...

I've definitely learned to humble myself as a writer! While we definitely need to accept criticism, we also have to know who it's coming from. If it's an expert (i.e. editor) vs. fellow writer. It's much easier to accept the critique when we know it's from a professional vs. another writer!

Lin said...

good advice for me today. I've fallen into a rutt with publishing each month for the same magazine then they stopped accepting my now it's time for a change or divorce and a new look at what I'm doing.

Andrea said...

Great reminder...
I have clung too tightly in the past.
Blessings, andrea

Warren Baldwin said...

You definitely caught me with your title!! Yes, I've had an experience like this many times. Hurts! Ken Rand has a neat little book, "The 10% Solution." He says we should go back through everything we write and shorten it by 10% before we submit it anywhere. This little book has helped me get over "the divorce" a little better. Good post.

Ginger said...

Great advice...there's always room to grow!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Terri: One of the best things that happened to me was when an editor said, "I like this, but can you cut it in half?" In excitement I nearly shouted, "Yes, I know I can!" becuase I wanted to sell it.
But when I got my divorce papers out, I wondered what posessed me to think I could say goodbye to all those wonderful phrases and paragraphs.
When I finally managed it, I was amazed at how it sparkled, even with half the original word count! I have since sold several other articles to that editor.
I'm not saying shorter is always better, but in my case it worked.
Thanks for this post-- it hooked me!
Audience on ONE

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Some of the best writing advice I've received was, "Don't fall in love with what you've written." The speaker was talking about words, phrases, paragraphs, scenes and chapters that YOU love, but maybe just don't work. When that happens, cut 'em out. I do...I hope.

Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Jessica said...

Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. I'm learning how to be flexible with my writing and how to discern subjective advice and advice that is necessary.
I know I phrased that wrong, so hopefully you get what I mean. :-) I used to have the problem of changing every little thing pointed out, so I'm trying to learn to be a little more faithful to my stuff. LOL!
Great post!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

This post reaches the heart of every writer.

It hurts when an editor runs a red line through my favorite sentences. After the initial reaction, I take a long, hard look at the axed verbiage. Did it move the story along or add to characterization?

If I'm honest (and I aim for it), I can see their point. Sometimes all it takes to make the sentence acceptable is a stronger verb or a small detail.

Maybe it's not a divorce from our manuscript that we need, but rather an editor's eye and a reader's perspective.

Susan :)

Rose Mary said...

It really is easy for me to hang on to something that I've written, even though I really do know that a certain phrase or section needs to go away.

I'm working on 'letting go' and slowly getting better at it!

Angie Ledbetter said...

I used to try to implement every suggestion from my writing group pals, then I learned to look for comment trends or a consensus. That helps. Now I depend on them for great crits and feedback. Like everything else, the cutting and weeding of words gets easier with time.

Sassy Granny ... said...

What a font of wisdom are you for writers! This is such a practical application of the letting go principle.