Search This Blog

Loading...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Embracing Change (March Madness Check-In, Day 5)


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.

56 comments:

  1. Hey there, and happy Monday!

    Great going on making the present -> past tense change! I totally hear you on caving to a change like that. I just made one too--one that I'd really wanted to work. Mine wasn't as huge as yours, but I still had to admit that it wasn't giving readers what I wanted, so it had to go.

    I'm making good progress on the #wipmadness overall. As a stay-at-home mom, my job is kind of 24/7, so weekends are pretty much the same as weekdays. I'm for fitting in the Madness whenever, wherever. Yee-haw!

    Kip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kip. Sounds like you're making great progress all the same. So have you managed to coordinate nap times, or do you have the boon of school to watch them at all? Either way, glad to hear you're managing to squeeze in the time when you can.

      Delete
  2. Too many of my stories about male characters. To stretch away from that commonality, I've been writing about females, and liking it. To take it another step further, in my novel-in-planning, my MC is going to be an genderless alien. Among other things, she will not understand human need for contact because all her people are spawned by their queen. I'm hoping I can write past the male/female MC dichotomy that rears its ugly head all too often. Besides, I think it will be a great way for an alien life form to discover humanity.

    As for March, the only madness thus far is life and my inability to find time to write. I suppose that happens when you're packing all you own and planning a move from NE USA to western Canada. Hopefully today I can squeak in some time, given that I've mostly packed.

    Good luck all...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you, switching to the other side! I've tried. Although, I completely see the need for more "boy books," I find the male voice is artificial in my writing. My newest goal with current wip is creating a voice for my female protag that appeals to both genders, such as a Hermione or Katniss type character. Best of luck with your new adventure in writing. :)

      Delete
    2. I've thought about this a lot lately, as my next WIP will have a dual POV male/female and I'm hoping I can pull it off. As secondary characters, I never worry too much about, so I guess I should be okay? Right?

      Delete
    3. Of course, it'll be alright! You can do whatever you set your mind to. :)) (I know, I'm supposed to be working!)

      Great day to ya!

      Delete
    4. I do dual POV a lot. Then again, I feel like I've always been in touch with the non-mutated part of my genes. ;) I love writing stories where the two, though both strong yet flawed in their own right, can come together to face the challenges and prevail. I really enjoy writing the female side and bouncing my writing off my wife, who will tell me when it's something she doesn't think works. I've read some romance, but she's the romance reader and is the one who told me I had a way with writing it. Only hope I can prove her right eventually. It is both challenging and rewarding writing the opposite sex.

      Delete
    5. Wow, Dave. I think moving for a possible career change totally takes precedence. The fact that you can squeeze in any writing time at all is an awesome bonus.

      Trying something new can lead to learning a lot more. Now that I've switched to past tense, I no longer have the present tense acting as a barrier to my skill progression as a writer. (Yes, sigh, it was that necessary.)

      Delete
  3. Good morning! I definitely took advantage of the weekend by catching up on edits, writing, and reading. Especially reading - just can't go wrong there :)

    I'm a HUGE creature of habit. I can get stuck on a phrase and even when I'm doing a read through and know it doesn't fit, or it interrupts the flow - somehow I've decided I like that phrase so much that I'll rearrange the rest of the paragraph to "try" and make it work. But it still doesn't. Finally after a ridiculous amount of time spent on one paragraph I take it out and boom - the flow is back. I do that a lot. So frustrating.

    So far this morning I've continued my Wake up and Write goal, and plunked out 1k. Have also made Monday's schedule/to do list. It's yoga or weights this morning...not sure which...gotta love yoga pants :)

    Wishing everyone a terrific day! #wipmadness

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marie, I *totally* get too attached to certain turns of phrase. I'm trying hard not to anymore. I'd rant about it here but ... well, I already did a few months ago. (See "When Waste Not, Want Not is a Bad Thing", about 4-5 posts ago.)

      Fantastic progress! I envy your prolificness.

      Delete
  4. I ran into a similar problem with my WIP that's currently out with betas - I'd completely rewritten the whole thing and was much happier, but there was still something that felt *wrong* with the beginning. It seemed to drag on and on. But I LOVED those scenes, I HAD TO have them b/c they showed BLAH and BLAH. Finally, I decided to chop them, and add them in as brief backstory. And...yeah...well, the story is so much better now...hah. As writers, we really are our own worst enemies sometimes :)

    I planned to write several thousand words yesterday, but I topped off at about 600. I'm at one of those roadblocks where something feels off. Of course the solution popped into my head as I was trying to sleep last night. I'll have to work on it this evening after work. It involves some cutting. Ah well.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My most challenging goal for March Madness #wipmadness will be the total rewrite for my YA novel. It currently sits at 100,000-wd (and that was 18,000-wds cut right off the bat). It's in 1st person / past tense, which I think works, but the story just drags. My biggest mistake when I began the draft almost 3 years ago, was a play-by-play story-teller method, which I now realize, does the ms a huge disservice. My other challenge will be deleting the unnecessary scenes / character(s).

      Last month, I pulled the ms out, for the first time in 6 mos. and read it like a beta. I couldn't even finish! I was so frustrated with the blah, blah, blah, I was ready to trash the whole idea.

      Luckily, my CP, who loves the main character and the premise of the story convinced me not to. Instead, we discussed the possibility of using the 1st draft as "notes," and hopefully, the 2nd draft will rock!

      Hope all of y'all have a productive March Madness Monday. :))

      Delete
    2. Making mental note here: *Must change out of so-not-fashionable yoga britches before leaving the house*

      Delete
    3. Oh, Candy, if only. They're black. They look okay. I *love* writing in them. But apparently some fashionista decided that women wearing yoga pants in public was too gauche.

      Jennifer: Isn't that always the way? It's like a Murphy's Law for writers. And I'd like to think that if we didn't get the planned work done, it was for a reason. Our subconsciouses were busy at work, even if we didn't feel like we got anything done. Best of luck with your progress!

      Delete
  5. Oh yes, change is so hard! I had to finally change my YA to women's fic and take the character POV from daughter to mom.

    I have been making excuses, but I've been writing ALMOST every day. I missed Sat and though I wrote yesterday, I didn't blitz. But all-in-all, I've been making a lot of progress. And as Jaye so kindly reminded me "failure" is not in our March Madness vocabulary. It's "try" and "do" only.
    So I've been trying! And I've been doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And don't forget Stuart Smalley - "Because gosh darn it, I am good enough, I am smart enough, and people like me!"

      Delete
    2. Yay, Lora! That's great to hear. I think that's what matters. Was your story better for the genre/POV switch? If so, then double-yay. :)

      Delete
  6. What a great post! As a horseback rider a trainer once used the word homeostasis:

    homeostasis |ˌhōmēəˈstāsis|
    noun ( pl. -ses |-sēz|)
    the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, esp. as maintained by physiological processes.

    For our bodies, this means we have a tendency to hold it and move it in the same way and even when we try and change we naturally gravitate back toward that place of comfort (even if it's bad for us).

    This post is appropriate for me today because I missed my early morning writing hour. I couldn't wake up once I found out we had a snow day from school. Stayed zonked out, snoring. Now I have to convince myself that I can go and write just as well, even though it's almost noon. My inner editor typically doesn't wake up until ten or eleven so for drafting, those early hours are awesome.

    But I will try to CHANGE and get my words in.

    Yesterday was productive. Not only did I write 1.5k, but I finally did my Weebly website. Go check it out! www.jayerobinbrown.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Off to check out your website...way to go!!

      Delete
    2. JRo - unexpected events can throw a person off, can't they? I hope you were able to make the most of the rest of the day. And if not, hopefully you got to curl up with a good book!

      Onward. That's our only option.

      Delete
  7. I've painfully ripped off the band-aid of many much-loved story elements over the past year, but am usually satisfied with the end results. I've rewritten stories from first to third and back again. Changed the tense. Dumped an entire draft and started again. You name it, I've done it. And I've never regretted the work because the end product is always better.

    Last night I got an author interview posted on my blog and five pages of revision done. Today is a stay-at-home day, so I have high hopes for accomplishing many things, mostly writer-related.

    Here's to a fabulous week, Wipsters! I am encouraged and heartened by all of your determination and progress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can be painful, can't it, Angelina? And soul-scouring. But it's one of the reasons I decided to add the tag "for the good of the story" to this post. To remind me that it may have been necessary, but it helps me tell the tale better. And the stronger a story I have, hopefully the more people I can share it with.

      Great progress, yourself. Hope you've managed to get work done today!

      Delete
  8. Probably the biggest reason I'm writing this manuscript from scratch is so I can let go of things that might keep me tied to the current plot. Killing Your Darlings is something all of us have to learn eventually (and is probably an ongoing learning process!) It's been a difficult week getting going, but I've been pushing through each day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And every little bit counts. Hope today was a productive one for you. :)

      Delete
  9. There's honestly not much I'll balk against changing if it'll make a sale. There are a few things though. Which kind of brings on my latest dilemma. The work I had out was rejected, again, and I'm beginning to feel like I don't know what to do with it now. I'm considering revising it again, just tearing it down and putting it back together, hopefully shinier. I may even *GASP* remove the sex element entirely. A couple people have mentioned to me that some of the other elements (some of the technology, more specifically) in the book may be making it a harder sell in Romance because it's sort of new ground. A part of me knew it might be more difficult, but also hoped that breaking newish ground would be a good thing. Perhaps not...

    So now, after yet another rejection on it, my head's kind of distracted and torn. Do I leave it alone, forget about sending it out to anyone else for now, and continue with the goals I set out to finish this month? Or drop trying to get the current WIP finished to burn through a (yet another) complete revision of the space opera romance and get it back out there? If I cut the sex element, I may even be able to send it to traditional sci-fi markets like Baen. I guess I'm just beginning to feel discouraged, despite the positive nod from at least ONE rejection that at least said they liked my voice and style. ... ...

    So, that's where I'm at. I'll be back later to update, after I've actually worked on something for the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess the real question here is, what do you *want* to accomplish right now? It sounds like maybe you need to take a break, just let it sit for awhile while you focus on something else. It doesn't mean the story's dead, just that you could use a breather.

      Let me know how it goes! :)

      Delete
    2. 1,513 words today. Brain's still a little preoccupied thinking of the other work, so I'm a little short of goal, but gotta stop to work with the little'n and her homework. If I don't get more tonight, I'll try to get the extra tomorrow to catch up.

      My wife told me to leave it be until I finish my current. I probably will, but it rankles not having more than one work out to one place. Don't know. I may still send it somewhere else as is. We'll see, I guess.

      Delete
    3. Sleep on it. Hopefully things will be clearer in the morning.

      Delete
  10. Having a hard time getting going today, so I thinking an hour at the gym might clear my head. Then back to it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You go, Girl! ;) A physical break can be energizing. *glances wistfully at her gym bag* Later ...

      Delete
  11. Like Angelina, I've changed POV multiple times, and tense as well. And like Dave, I've tackled writing from a different gender's POV for a change. They've been like writing exercises... not within my comfort zone but what I thought would be the right approach for a particular story. I guess that says I'm not adverse to changes, although sometimes they didn't work for me and I abandoned them.

    I hope everyone's off to a good start in this new week of #wipmadness. I'm glad my goals included a variety of activities because I'm not getting nearly as much new writing done as I hoped, but I'm revising at a good speed. That's something to celebrate, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, I think what matters most is that you've found what works for you and what doesn't. If the story feels right in a certain POV and tense, and it goes over well with beta readers, then go for it.

      And fast revising is pretty dang celebration-worthy! Yay!

      Delete
  12. Now that I've found one account that will let me publish a comment I should say that's me above... Carol Garvin. Sheesh!! Blogger rejected me a dozen times this morning, even refusing my Wordpress and Open ID identities. Some days technology gets in the way of productivity. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That really is weird, Carol. I checked and none of the comments were trapped in the blog's spam filters. Hope it stops giving you trouble after this.

      Delete
  13. Hey! Way to go on the tense switch and hitting chapter fifteen! Yes...er...yes yes on attachment. And for me it was some plot issues on a YA paranormal I wrote years ago. I had everything in there except the kitchen sink. And I thought, until a while ago, that I needed. it. all. Nope. Distance and learning more about novel writing made it clear that I had way way too much going on.

    Speaking of change...I changed my March Madness goals by adding in blogging and reading to the writing. So, right now am in the midst of putting serious dint in my TBR pile of books I want to review and or book talk. Work continues on changing HAPPY MEDIUM and rewriting from scratch. Today--for sure, for sure--I am writing out a new chapter one to get a feel for the direction I am taking it.

    Have a great day and happy #wipmadness-ing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Deb! I shouldn't be entirely surprised. With another WIP that I eventually want to come back to, I learned to discard ideas and let the story evolve. But this one I was so *very* attached ...

      I saw your changed goals! Way to go on adding more dimensions. May the reading go as well for you as the writing!

      Delete
  14. Hey All,

    Great post, Laura. Well written and an important thing for us to remember - not tying ourselves to things so tightly that we can't see the potential in changing them.

    Well, for March Madness I did nothing on the weekend other than have a great coffee pep talk with fellow writers and get a good check that I'm not super woman and therefore cannot do everything all the time (though I'm still having trouble accepting that one).

    Today I just want to plan out my next scene - currently a minor road block - and get at least 500 words written in my WIP.

    Good luck everyone!

    Cheers,
    Deana Holmes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Deana. Yep, couldn't have learned it better. I wonder if it's just a matter of falling too deeply in love with the characters and story that causes us to resist making those changes. Rose-tinted glasses and all that, huh?

      Also: progress is still progress. Every little bit counts. Something I've come to realize about coffee-shop meetups is that I come away with more energy and enthusiasm, so it's great that you were able to experience that, too. Good luck with your scene!

      Delete
  15. My Monday didn't go so well. I didn't sleep much on Sunday night and then had a crazy day at the day job. I really didn't think I'd have it in me when I came home, but I sat down with my laptop and wrote a small scene.

    I think I'm more proud of that small scene than all the big ones I wrote on the weekend when I had plenty of time and energy :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear about the lack of sleep, Bethany. But that you were able to write a scene despite that is pretty fantastic. Hope tomorrow's a better day for you, and that you can get some rest tonight.

      Delete
  16. I'm ending up going back and changing the tenses. I thought it would be fun doing my story in present tense but it's just not working. I'm also rewriting so much of my novel. This has been painful at times as I'm trying to slow down and flesh out scenes more. Today I was able to go over one of my revision chapters.

    I was bad again with social media as husband woke me up to show me the new trailer to the Avatar cartoon: Legend of Korra. Of course then I couldn't get off! I know, I know. Excuses. Tomorrow I'll be better. Tomorrow I'll be at library/Starbucks as son is at his satellite school. I commute to take him there and end up spending day there. A great way to get more writing in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, that sounds like a great plan. I can get distracted by social media, too....ummm .... Sorry, what was I saying? ;)

      I know what you mean about getting more work done away from home, though. I do a lot on my lunch break at work and at the weekly coffee-shop write-ins I attend.

      Delete
  17. Laura, now I'm paranoid about whether my present-tense WIP will work. I guess I'll know when I finish and start letting folks read it.

    Checking in for March Madness since I don't know whether I'll write any more tonight.

    Today's word count: 1250

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, I think that it can work. It worked for The Hunger Games. But as the Magical Words authors like to say, "There is no one right way to do this." First person present-tense did not work for me and my methods, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Good for you on deciding to finish it as it is to figure that out for yourself.

      Delete
  18. Ugh. So, I know this wasn't the point of your post, but I keep hearing this - that people don't like present tense. I didn't want to write in present tense - I didn't think I liked it, either. But it's how my story wanted to be (present/first), and I haven't gotten any negative comments on it from readers. I've tried switching a couple chapters and it feels so wrong, and I don't want to switch it just cause I'm hearing rumblings against the trend. At the same time, I'm feeling a little paranoid, too.

    Anyway, just embarking on today's work, and it's fitting that today's task is cutting out a chapter I thought I need but have realized I totally don't.

    (And I don't know why it's calling me unknown - I tried to sign in via Google. Anyway, I'm JoyMC on all my other posts.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Blogspot seems to be acting up today.

      Joy, see my response to Linda above. There really is no one right way to do this. That's what *I* needed, and what the voice called for. At the time I wrote it, it came to me in present but eventually present became too stifling. That doesn't mean it can't be done.

      Good luck with the cutting!

      Delete
  19. Today was crazy. Only wrote 1300 words. Hit my quota though! Good luck all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1300 words? That's fantastic, Brandon! Sounds like you're right on track. :)

      Delete
  20. After years of sticking to 1st person/past tense, I've only recently relented and tried 3rd person/past tense to appease the nagging feeling I got (probably from the secondary characters that wanted to be heard, as well).

    Thanks to editing while writing and changing voice/POV repeatedly, I'm only now at 80% completion of the 1st draft, but decided to put a note stating: FROM HERE ONWARDS WRITE IN 3RD PERSON/PAST TENSE. Looking back only at the previous chapter as a starting point, I forced myself NOT to start over from scratch, but to continue and get the rest of the story out first.

    I've been able to write more fluidly rather than trying to come up with what just the 13 year-old MC would do. I've drafted 120 scenes in the last month, and within the last week, I've written out a dozen or so in full, pleased with the outcome, so far.


    Hope everyone's doing well,

    Tonette dela Luna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. T, I think that's a great idea for you to get to the end before you try to go back and fix everything. When the characters want to be heard, it can't hurt to listen. Hope the new POV works goes well!

      Delete
  21. I'm trying to be bold as I do this new draft. Bold and brave. :) But you know, the more drafts I do, and the more novels I write, and the more years' "wisdom" (so to speak) I gain, the easier it is to let go of stuff that isn't working, even if I love it. (We'll see if that holds true when I finally sell a book and get my first editorial letter, lol.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's heartening (and rather reassuring) to hear, Shari. Best of luck with your new draft!

      Delete
  22. I'm a little late on my Monday check-in. Meant to do it after work but fell into bed instead. Since I write historical ghost stories, there are matters of period slang that I struggle with sometime. It's a tough balancing act: authenticity or clarity. I'm afraid it's going to take me a while to work through this one.

    Monday was not so hot for #wipmadness, but I did manage to get a little more tuning up done on the synopsis, thanks to Angelina!

    One more pass and back to the finale!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Synopses are hard to write. I'd call that noteworthy progress. May the rest of the week be as or more fruitful. :)

      Delete
  23. I'm also late, just added my goals to Denise's blog. I'm with you on this whole story, except mine is opposite! I changed my entire novel from first person past tense to present tense and it made a world of difference for the story! It made things more compact and helped me be less wordy! New follower here, I'm excited about this March Madness-ness. Hmm, does that even make sense? :-p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries, Cortney. Makes perfect sense. That's great to hear I'm not the only one! All for the good of the story, right?

      Delete