Monday, June 18, 2012

Progress Report: 6/18/12

A big shout-out to my friend Sharon Bayliss. She's publishing her first novel! It's called The Charge.

I had the privilege of reading some of Sharon's early drafts of her novel and offering some C&C. In the process, she demonstrated a lot of traits that I think are essential for a writer who wants to succeed.

One trait is perseverance. Sharon actually got shot down by all sorts of agents, and ultimately went directly to the publisher, who gave the project the green light. This story runs contrary to a lot of the wisdom I've heard about needing an agent. Hmm... interesting.

Another trait is a willingness to change her own work. Between the last draft that I saw and the one that got published, Sharon took her story back into drydock and did some major refits. She changed the setting significantly and reoriented the whole narrative to focus on a different main character. These were changes that made the story stronger.

I see a lot of writers who aren't willing to do that. I think one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a writer is that their work gets too precious to them. Every idea must be cherished, every decision preserved and defended against those who would dare edit it. I've heard writers talk about writing as an act of supreme vulnerability, of exposing your soul to others... and while that's true, it doesn't mean that any change to your work is somehow a violation of your deepest self. I could go on in this vein for some time, but the point is that writing is a blend of inspiration and craft, and that the craft part must involve a willingness to knock down some walls, sand surfaces into different shape, punch through the floor, and do all the dirty remodeling work that turns your story into something worth reading.

Sharon did that, and I hope I can be as courageous as she was in reshaping her work. The version I read was a very good story. I'm looking forward to reading the final result.

As for me... ever have one of those moments where just as you're hitting the SEND button on an email, you've realize just a moment too late that you've made a mistake? Yeah, I did that last week. Sent off a query to an agent and misspelled her name. I sent to "Kimberly," not "Kimberley." Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Let's hope she's the forgiving sort.