Welcome to March Madness Mondays! For those of you participating in the challenge, how's progress? For some, I know the weekend meant a break from the madness. For others, it was an opportunity. For me, it was a weird mix of both. I didn't manage quite what I'd intended to accomplish, but I made *some* progress. I'm up to Chapter 15 in my second pass read-through after making a major change. (More on that in a bit.)
Which brings me to my point.
Do you ever get attached to something? An element in your story. A certain creative habit. Even reading in a particular genre. Whatever it is, it's easy to fall into a comfort zone. We like it just the way it is and we don't want to let it go. So when someone tells us it doesn't belong or that we need to stretch ourselves or do things differently, then it rankles and if we're attached enough, the criticism falls on deaf ears.
But what if that means that we get so attached we refuse to make a change when we really need to? (Yoga pants, I am looking at you. Yes, you're comfortable. Fashionable everyday wear? I wish.)
So, what was it for me? Well, I always thought I was pretty flexible. Editorial suggestion? Sure! If something's not working, I can make changes. As long as the essence of the story remains, then if it makes things better, I can do both the story and myself justice by making those fixes. I'm not adverse to learning new things. If I have the opportunity to be a better writer, then I really ought to embrace it, right?
Yeah, but there was one little detail I'd decided was a non-negotiable.
Some of you already know the story, but I might as well explain it from scratch: My WIP, SIGN OF THE STAR, was written in first-person, present-tense. And even though some of my beta group told me that it didn't work for them, I chalked it up to a matter of opinion. The original was written that way. And that's how I wrote the revised version, too. But I clung to the idea that that was how the story was supposed to be. Even when one of the Magical Words folks made an excellent point that present tense comes at a heavy price. (Seriously, check the comments. See Moira Young's—my cursed pen name at the time—naive response.)
Then last month, I had tea with an awesome beta reader who doesn't pull punches, and she nailed the problem I'd been having with it when editing by telling me that "it was like watching through a veil". She had trouble connecting with the characters because the present tense created an artificial distance. Which was exacty not what I was going for.
So I caved. And before February was out, I'd changed the story over to past tense. (Really not hard, even though for awhile there I was mentally changing the tense of any text I encountered. Hooboy.) Now I'm making a second pass for clarity, voice and flow. And I love the story so much more. It feels more accessible. Janni's voice has never been more clear. Did I damage the story's integrity, or change my heartsong? Surprisingly, no.
Sometimes we have to make the change. Sometimes it can be scary. And sometimes it can be exactly what we need.
So, have you gotten stuck on or attached to something in your work? Have you asked yourself what the cost would be to you to try something different? What are the possible rewards? What's the worst that could happen if you gave it a chance? March Madness, #wipmadness, is about putting yourself out there, being daring. Let us embrace all that it can offer.
Update: Forgot to add, don't forget to check-in tomorrow (today actually) at Denise Jaden's blog.