Thursday, June 27, 2013

Second Guessing Myself

So a couple of weeks ago, after the thunderstorm I think, I told you I had a couple of stories roaming around in my head. One night last week I decided to sit down and put one of the openings down on paper. (okay, actually written with the keyboard in a word doc.)

What I thought was just a mere couple of pages in my head, turned out to be a full chapter. Which was okay. 2k words in one sitting after not writing for 6 months is pretty good I think. Baby steps.

Now, this story is a contemporary romance, with paranormal elements, (I guess that's what they are, I'm not really sure) flashback scenes, women's fiction elements, and it starts with a plane crash. Oh, and it's only a short story. Yeah, totally a hot mess.

However, here's the thing where I'm second guessing myself. I have 6 and a half pages of what I like to call lead-in material -- others call it backstory, (but let's not quibble) before we even get to the actual plane crash. And then we only guess the plane crashes. We don't really find out it crashed until Chapter 2 or maybe 3. Because the opening of Chapter 2 is a dream type sequence so we're not really sure of anything until "he" shows up. And even then, we're still not sure. Because I am such an awesome writer. *snort*

Anyway, the "rules of writing" are messing with my head. Don't you hate that? We need to begin with action. But if the reader doesn't have empathy for the character right from the get-go, then the story falls flat, the reader can't engage, and no one buys the premise. Hence my 6 pages of lead-in material.

Sarah, my MC, is at the airport, returning home after meeting with a client.  We find out in these first 6 pages --

Sarah is an architect, up for a partnership if she can get the client to sign on the dotted line
her mother is worried - mother hates to fly
her father is picking her up at the airport
Sarah's been up since 4am with too much caffeine in her system
she likes chocolate milk
she has a fiance named Ted
Sarah doesn't want to get married until after she gets the promotion
there's a client she hates coming to the office that morning
she needs to be back at the office by 9
she meets a woman named Mavis who looks like Gladys Knight
Mavis is going to Providence to sign off on her late husband's estate so she can get his money
Mavis is wealthy
and there is a severe thunderstorm looming on the horizon

So what's a poor writer to do? Do I cut some of this? Do I keep it? Do I condense it? I have no idea. If I weren't a "seasoned professional" (again *snort*) I would just go blindly along and write the story any old way I durn well please. Right?

But when do we chuck the rules? When we know them? When we hate them? When we can't do anything else other than to write the story we want to write and the hell with what we know is correct?

I've already decided I'm going to write the story the way I want to. I'm chucking the rules. You know why....because I have awesome critique partners who will tell me what sucks and what doesn't. THEY will make the determination on what I keep and what I let go of.

More and more, I see other indie "professionals" who openly acknowledge they rely on their critique partners instead of an "editor". Who knows us best anyway? Writers who know us and our work, whom we TRUST, or someone who's paid to edit our work.

You could pay me to edit your masterpiece, but I don't know you. I could tell you to take out the whole of chapter 4 but that would lead you to call me nasty names because chapter 4 relates to the ending and the next book in the series. Who am I? If you paid me enough I would tell you the book is fantastic and there are no changes to be made at all.

My critique partners have no problem telling me when the writing sucks. And I believe them. Because they know me and have been with me for years. And yes we disagree from time to time on the amount of suckiness in my stories, and sometimes I do disregard what they say, but that's my right as the creator of the story. (What if Stephen King's editor told him to make Cujo an Airdale instead of a St. Bernard? Yeah, right.) But see what I'm saying? It's MY story. I can do whatever I want.

So, I guess this post is all about whom we trust when we second guess ourselves and our writing.

Tell me -- What do you do when you second guess yourself? Do you have a back-up plan? Do you have a critique partner(s) who tell you what to do? Or do you just write blindly into that good night?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013


J.B. Chicoine said...

I have a tendency to second-guess, even with my awesome crit partner! In the end, you know your story better than anyone else...but if the consensus is that your "backstory" is dragging the narrative, cut it--if not, good storytelling is good storytelling.

Robynne Rand said...

J.B. -- it's so important to have second readers that are writers. They can spot a drag in the narrative faster than a cat with a canary.

Another important thing is to let the manuscript sit for as long as possible. Once you see it with fresh eyes, it's easier to cut what you don't need.