Sunday, September 11, 2011

When To Defend

As a writer, I know it's always a good idea to be humble. More than anyone else, I am aware of how much I can grow, the potential I have, and the need to be open minded with what others tell me. I do not know everything--that actually was a bit painful to type out--and when it comes to my writing, I know I can improve...a lot. (I have a feeling this is going to be a painful blog for me)

The truth is, there is no 'perfect' writing.

There isn't! Not even Cormac McCarthy or Bret Easton Ellis are perfect.

It isn't because they have editors who comb over their work looking for mistakes and plot holes. No, it's because someone, somewhere won't like what they create. Someone, somewhere will always have something negative to say about whatever they pen.

There are some authors I think are the bee's knees. Authors like Christopher Moore and Chuck Palahniuk can do no wrong, in my opinion. But other people hate them. Other people despise them. Can you believe that? It's true! I'm not making it up.

We, as human beings, have this little thing called an opinion. It's really an annoying thing--well, when other people are battering you with their own. You see, one person might tell you to do something one way, like wear your hair in pigtails, and another person might tell you to do it a completely different way, like a beehive. (Actually, if anyone tells you to wear your hair in either of these fashions and it isn't for a themed party or sexy times in the sack, don't listen to them.)

But, in the big picture, it's nice to be open to other people's opinions, their expertise and advice. From time-to-time, what they have to say might actually benefit you. This can be applied to many things in life, like what route is the fastest way home from the football game when you've downed a badder buster soda and the three 'everything' hot dogs you scarfed in the last twenty minutes of the game just aren't sitting quite right.

Sometimes, in instances like that, we welcome the advice. We embrace it. It's good to do this. It's good to accept what other people are saying is right. And it's healthy to concede and be wrong.

But, and here is the big old but, you have to be prepared for the consequences if they are wrong. Like when there's roadwork on the bridge of the 'faster' route home and you end up...Well, let's just say those hot dogs aren't going to wait for the construction crew to wave you through, if you know what I mean.

So, to review, it's good to trust other people, but you have to be prepared to suffer if they are wrong and everything backfires (Taking into consideration the 'hot dog' example, this is kind of gross). Now, you're probably sitting there thinking, "Okay, what are you getting at, Blondie?"

Well, here we go...

Just like knowing when to fold them, you have to know when to hold them. Sometimes, you are right--probably not as much as you think though-- and in these instances you have to be able to defend yourself. To use a cliche, you have to know when to put your foot down.

Especially when it comes to your writing.
Oh, it's a writing blog! Suddenly, you're more interested. You lean closer to your monitors and eagerly read on. (Or so I imagine.)

Writing is a form of art. Just like painting or playing the cello, it takes talent and work, it takes tenacity. It also takes knowing your art form to turn out something you're proud of. This is where you need to know what you are willing to cut, cull, bend, re-write and twist and what you aren't. You have to know when you don't want to change something integral to your story. Most importantly, you need to understand why you don't want to change it and how to defend yourself if there is backlash from it.

Anyone who has participated in the on-line writing community cicuit knows how ridiculous people can get when giving their opinions. You hear things like, "Agents hate it when..." or "Publishers won't take you on if...". It's a bit out of control, to be honest. People will tell you to change your characters names, the location it is set, how graphic a violent scene is, whether or not you use too many speech tags, to ditch the head hopping, and to consider a pen name because yours really isn't all that writerly.

Most recently, I have had people tell me to rewrite the novel I have posted on Authonomy so it is in past tense. Yes, the whole novel. And, no, they weren't joking. Apparently, agents hate first person present tense and won't pick it up, ever, never, not in a million years!

But, this just happens to be something I'm not willing to bend on. If an agent or publisher asked me to do this, I might consider it, but as it is, I like the tense of my novel and will be keeping it as such. I've gone to the mat a few times over this issue with people who think they are a spokesperson for agents and publishers everywhere. The truth is, I've even been called names over defending my tense (shocking!) and, even worse, told the only reason I won't do it is because I'm afraid of the work involved. 

PLEASE! I love work. Work is my middle name! I'd rewrite all my books if I thought it would land me a fancy pants agent or big shiney contract. Rewriting isn't the issue. Changing my book for someone who read three paragraphs and who has never worked in the industry is my issue.

Also, not too long ago, I had an agency interested in Seeking Eleanor, but they wanted me to rewrite the book in first person to get into Eleanor's head more. The issue I had? The book is predominately from Devon's point of view (third person limited). How could I possibly write the book from Eleanor's POV when she isn't present for half the stuff? It made no sense. And so, I passed on the agency and Eleanor is sitting on my hard-drive, collecting dust. But I feel good over defending what I thought was best for my piece of 'art'. Because, in the end, it is MY art. No one else's. And once it's out there, in the world, I want to be proud of it. Not doubting it.

The hard, cold truth is: Pussies Don't Get Published.

And yes, you can quote me on that.

You need a backbone. You need balls. You need drive. And you need to know when to say 'yay' and when to say 'nay'.

Know when to defend yourself and when to acquiesce and say, "Okay, teach me."

This is, I feel, the most important thing in the industry we are so striving to break out in.

Don't settle. Know your art. And my favourite, 'Stay true to what you do.'


Jamie said...

I did a blog very much like this a while back. If you had used a different font and maybe used the word "and" less you might attract more blog follows... Just kidding. Keep rocking it TL you know what you are doing, the haters... They be hating no matter what.

Debbie said...

When you do your vlogs, do you write them out first? Your blog "sounds" exactly the same - I can almost hear you saying it aloud to the camera...

I love it.

Jasmine Walt said...

But Tyson, I like wearing pigtails! They actually look good on me! :3

Seriously though, you write such great blog posts. This is something I'm deliberating on even as I write-- my book is getting more positive reviews now that I've tweaked things here and there, but there are some areas that I've changed that, now that I think about it, may have done just fine not being changed at all. But that could just be me being too attached to this one particular scene I cut that I really didn't want to cut, so I'll think on it some more. And now I'm just rambling. :)

T.L Tyson said...

@Debbie - No. I never write my vlogs out. I think I might write like I talk, does that make sense? :)

@Jasmine - Okay, YOU and only YOU can wear them. The thing is, with that scene, you can always put it back in. Sometimes your readers know best, but SOMETIMES you do. Right now it sounds like you are undecided, which probably means you aren't right. Trust me, you will know when you are right. You just won't want to do it. No only because it will jeapordize the integrity of your plot but also because it will contradict your writing style.

Ted Cross said...

No publisher will touch your book if you have your character examine themeselves in the mirror in chapter one ;)

julie shaw said...

Doh!!! Sorry, I was about to mention my pigtails, when I then saw the comment above. :) Great blog, sweetie and you're exactly right. x

T.L Tyson said...

@ Ted, for some reason I read that examine as something sexual. O_o