Monday, February 16, 2015

The Comparison Game (Spoiler Alert: No One Wins)

So. A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with someone on Twitter about how easy it is to get swept away in the comparison game. You see amazing things happening to other writers—heck, to your friends—and sometimes, all you can think is, “Why not me? I'M DOING MY BEST, HERE."
Look, I get it. I know what it’s like when your story more closely resembles a 1,000-piece puzzle that just spilled onto the floor (and a piece has disappeared under the couch, and your dog has eaten a piece, and your kid swiped a couple…), and then you read someone’s post on how they wrote a book in two weeks. I know what it’s like to feel completely lost and wonder whether or not you should keep writing or hop on the next bus to join the circus, and then you wake up to someone’s 6-figure book deal announcement.
But here’s the thing: Comparing yourself to others can be a dangerous game. It hinders your work. It stunts your growth. Because in this crazy writerly world, there are so many different paths to get where you need to go. The path set out for you may not even be on another person’s map. That person who wrote a book in two weeks? Sometimes a story simply pours out of you. Or maybe that person is a pro at fast-drafting and this is their method. And the one who got big bucks for their book? There's no telling how long, or how hard they worked on that book. While it may look like these things happen overnight, they don't. I know it's difficult to see that when you're trudging through the mud of a difficult story (believe me, I KNOW), but they just don't.

It’s been said time and time again, but I’ll say once more, with feeling: Eyes on your own paper. If that means taking a Twitter break, do it. If that means cancelling your Publisher’s Marketplace account, do it. My motto lately has been “head down and WORK,” and let me tell you, it’s been a sanity-saver. I love when great things happen for even greater people. And when I take regular breaks and focus on my own work, I find that I'm able to be even happier for them. Sure, jealousy may flare once in a while - we're only human. But it's possible to turn that into motivation to work harder on my own stories.

There's no way to win the comparison game. When you compare yourself to others, you take away from the amazingness that you have to offer. No one can write the book you’re writing. So don’t shortchange yourself, ‘kay?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is It Done Yet?

Why is overediting not recognized by MSWord? Does that mean it's like drinking water, eating vegetables, and walking--it's pretty dang impossible to do too much of these things?

My second manuscript got some early attention from some very kind persons in the agenting and publishing world. They only saw ten pages mind you. But something about my words sparked their interest. The novel wasn't completed yet, so I was encouraged to take my time and send it to them when it was ready.

Well, once I typed The End, I sent the novel off to my Beta Readers and went over it line, by line, by line...  I made sure it was grammatically and mechanically shiny. I took all the feedback I received and implemented it. Without question. I even cleaned those first ten pages because, hey, even though they were liked, surely they weren't pretty enough.

I never heard from the publisher, but the amazing agent (who had it in her heart to look at the full on two different occasions from me) nicely told me that somewhere in all those edits, I quit trusting my character's voice. I had to separate myself from the book for several months. Then, I took out the ten pages I initially wrote and compared them to those edited pages. They were as if they were written by another person. I'd turned my snarky teen and her slightly uptight boyfriend into a butterfly and a marshmallow.

As I pound away at my work in progress, I try to implement the things I've learned through trial and error on my other manuscripts.  Now that I'm older and, hopefully, slightly wiser, I will edit, edit, edit... but I'll also remember why I wrote something a certain way to begin with.  

photo credit: Proofreading marks example via photopin (license)