Monday, August 15, 2011

MS or BS?


You start with an idea. A little seed of an idea that sprouts to life the moment you put pen to paper. As you write, that idea becomes a rough draft...a rough draft that needs to be critiqued, reworked, and polished.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King says that when you write your first draft, you should write with the door shut. Once you're finished you can let others in and see what you've got.

Some of you will disagree with this. Some writers like and actually prefer chapter by chapter input as they are writing and if that works for you then great. Just make sure that it really IS working for you. Have you finished that first draft yet? Or are you constantly revising because of that input?

Betas/critique partners are great. I love mine. They've helped me learn and grow so much. But be wary of taking every bit of advice they give you. Even though the advice is good intentioned (and it should be) if you feel like it's draining your voice...take a second to really think about what they're telling you. This is your story, your characters, and you know them better than anybody. If the change they're suggesting doesn't sit right with you then don't do it. It doesn't matter if your Beta is a best seller and has written more than fifty books. It's not their story.

I know what you're thinking..."But there's no such thing as a perfect MS!"

Totally agree with you. There never has been and never will be a perfect book/story/MS. Never. And yeah there is ALWAYS room for improvement.

Edit until you love the story. Not until your Beta reader thinks it's good enough. Not until it follows every writing rule ever created. Not until it's perfect. Until YOU love the story.

I do believe that improvement is a good thing. It helps you grow, makes your story better. However, I also believe that there has to be a peak. A point where your MS is as good as it's gonna get before it starts sounding like washed up, formulaic garbage. If you keep pushing beyond that point, the fire and magic that makes your story stand out. Don't do that to your manuscript. The things we love most often have imperfections. Sometimes those imperfections are the very reason we love them.

Agents/publishers want to FEEL passion in a story. They don't want to read something too smooth and polished to be interesting. Let your voice bleed through your manuscript.

Study the craft, yes. Use grammar correctly, punctuation, and please don't forget to hit the spell check button...but you shouldn't be obsessing over every rule that was created for writers. And when it comes to critique partners--they ARE there to help you, but what they say isn't law. This is your story. Yours, yours, yours.

The literary world is a place built on emotion. Edit. Cut. Revise. But don't take the magic or the heart out of your story.

Happy Writing!

3 comments:

  1. This is exactly the reminder I needed right now. I've been letting others into my head so much lately that it keeps stalling my WIP in it's tracks. How is it that you know exactly what I need to hear? So often your posts nail the very issue that seems forefront in my mind at the time. Thank you, Ree. :D.

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  2. I loved this post. 'Let YOUR voice bleed through the manuscript' needs to be etched onto a plaque and hung in offices or wherever you write :D You have to claim ownership of your own story.

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  3. I can always tell when an author has tried to hard to adhere to the rules we're so often told to follow. While good tension and steady climax is a good thing, it can often seem too forced and readers notice. They notice because it's too damn perfect. Great post. Getting back to my writing now. Keep it up guys. This site is wonderful for aspiring and published authors alike. I know I get a lot of help from it.
    thanks
    ~Scott

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