Sunday, February 15, 2009

RD's 2009 Mentor Program

...and for those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, and of course--wondering why I'd volunteer when I have projects up the wazoo--it's simple. I need to test drive my theories.

'sides? Have you ever had that feeling you were talking, and wondering if it was the way you were talking, or the other person? In other words, I test drove my ideas a month ago--on some poor unsuspecting person, and I noticed a few things.

Story consulting is hard. It's like this huge, amorphous "thing" with random edges. Say you have a story, and it's going along fine. But there are some set pieces, and bits you don't want to take out because "individually", they sparkle. And I'm not saying in this piece I looked at that the pieces didn't sparkle. There were some damned good bits, and some beautifully done scenes, but the plot holding all the bits together was...not where it needed to be. If a plot isn't working, it's time to tweak.

My plots are never set in stone because I'm not God. I can't see all the bits and pieces. If I discover a personality trait or characteristic which conflicts with my plot, or something I love that doesn't work? Like my fabulous (and understanding) editor says, "You can always use it somewhere else."

Hard work is never wasted.

I have this firefight. I know I annoy the hell out of Cowboy whining, "but it was a good firefight" It was a good firefight, and now it's a good firefight somewhere else.

In other words. You have to let go. And I can't force that on someone. If you coddle your baby, it's your baby. Until you can detach from--your soapbox, your favorite subject, your charity or simply an overabundance of beautifully done prose--that's what editors are for. If you show enough potential.

Sometimes, even the most beautifully done story isn't worth the sheer volume of time an editor sinks into your work, because--hey, there are lots of stories, and better stories, and stories where someone was able to take that step back. It's looking at your work with no expectations other than that the plot is the best it can be for those characters, and wherever you're trying to place the project.

People say targeting is good or not good, depending on whether you talk to someone who's for the book of your heart, or out for the money. I'm all for writing the book of your heart, but if it's not commercial, then--no, you won't sell to a mainstream press. It might be your heart on a plate, but enough people have to want to look at it to sell.

So--in my considered opinion, and I've been thinking about this for awhile--if you want to write the way you want, you have a choice. Write what you want and be realistic about your expectations. Or change what isn't working.

Say, you have a mummified Hawaiian priestess who loves shoes and blood, and has kinky sex in her lair, but is really waiting for the man of her dreams to go back in time to retrieve the magic elixir to restore her to life so she can be young and do bsdm without a squick factor? Then you have a ethnic horror chick-lit vampire bsdm time-travel. And while you might love it long time, you aren't going to place it with some high falutin' Pulitzer Prize winning imprint. The same goes for a first person present tense, but only in the heroine's point of view, because the hero and the neighbor, and the guy down at the 7-11 are all in rotating third--except for the cat who is in omni.

I'm not saying change who you are, or how you write--I'm simply saying, a plot device and genre conventions are only prisons if you perceive them that way.

In the same way I'm saying that streamlining a plot quirk, adding plot quirks, deleting characters, taking out (and saving for later) scenes that don't work, might be an easy way from pt A to Pt B, and I think maybe I was explaining it wrong.

I'm going to give it one more shot.


Unhinged said...

Okay, I just have to faith was restored by these words:

The same goes for a first person present tense, but only in the heroine's point of view, because the hero and the neighbor, and the guy down at the 7-11 are all in rotating third--except for the cat who is in omni...

And here, I know you're writing about romance (not YA), but it's still a big-sigh moment for me. I have all sorts of problems writing in first person pov, but this POV is making such a comeback lately, have you noticed? (Or maybe I'm reading too many YAs, but no, wait, SUGAR DADDY wasn't YA...)

Just thinking in words there.

I know what you're saying, though. Writing is a business. Even though I have never written long enough, hard enough, or strong enough, I get that--I've always been open to other's opinions because ... um ... I'm sure it's part of me being a people-pleaser, but I also know that I want to make my writing/story/character/plot the best it can be. And sometimes that means going outside of myself because hey, I am not the end-all, be-all.

I don't know why, but I've always been open to criticism. I've always invited it. I want to be the best I can be, and sometimes that means asking for help. And acknowledging that I can't always do it all alone.

I guess that's the crux of it. None of us can do a thing alone. And it's crazy to think otherwise.

That said? I've read enough board posts and blog posts to know that you'll do wonderfully well as a mentor.

Can you eat CHEESE, Yodi? Apple slices, cheese and crackers are really a good energizing treat.

Need some energy, you will.

jodi said...

Everytime I hear the word CHEESE I start singing that seventies schoolhouse rock song, I hanker for a hunka cheese. A clink or chank or chunka, I hanker for a hunk o cheese.

But yes, I've noticed the first person tense. It's everywhere. But you can write in third. It's not a requirement. It simply means other people are writing in first. I love third.

I wish I had some brain power now. I just finished a LOT of edits, and my eyes are trying to go one way while my fingers are going the other.

my veri word is corpsepaw, which probably means something very deep. Bed bed bed bed bed/./.?.,/

Kaige said...

Two of the last three YAs I read were in that POV. Not my favorite. One worked, one didn't.

Oh hey, I thought of you when I saw this recipe earlier. Dunno if the mangoes would nix it for you though.

I almost asked you to look over my apprentice app, but I decided you were too busy to bug about it. But I know whoever ends up with you as a mentor will be one lucky Diva!

jodi said...

Kaige, you're always welcome to talk to me. You've helped me out a lot--and you, too Andi.

Mango sticky rice. Hmm...I've never tried it, but I think I'll give it a shot. I love sticky rice and I'm headed down to Uwajimaya's after doing the Access assignment.

Andi, now that I'm up, I hear you. I know what you mean. Sometimes, you just gotta soak it in and be open. Not everyone can write and write and sell out of the starting gate. I know I couldn't. That's why I took the editing gig. I had to learn "how" before I could go do.

I think of it as my apprenticeship.

Alice Audrey said...

I call it "ossification" in writing, and did a long post on it a couple of years ago. It's very, very hard to step back and look at writing objectively, and if you can't do it, then you are ossified. The results aren't pretty.

Alice Audrey said...

I did/am doing my apprenticeship the hard way. I heard most writers will have written a million words before they get published. I'm working on my third million now.

jodi said...

lol, Alice. Then it's about time. :)