Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Truth! Get Over Yourself!

The officer's face is taunt with anger as he leans forward to snarl his response, each word punctuated in loathing and hate, "You can't handle the truth!"

Perhaps it isn't quite that dramatic when you receive another rejection notice but still, there is a truth there. As a writer do you live in a "Pollyanna" world where you actually believe your writing is so perfect that to change even one word would be catastrophically wrong? Then you really can't handle the truth.

First, let me give you a little advice.  GET OVER YOURSELF!

Trust me, nobody's written word is so pure that it can't be changed.  No plot so contrived that it can't be improved.

Once more addressing the rejection letter - whether it be snail-mail or email - you must learn to look at the reason it is rejected.

An acquaintance of mine opened a rejection letter while I was visiting. I'd had the opportunity to read a small segment of his latest work being circulated and personally, I had my doubts.  Anyway, he read the rejection and then said "These publishers just don't get what I'm trying to say. They're obviously obtuse and stupid."

Hmm?  A publisher doesn't get what you are saying.

If you describe a roundish fruit that is bright yellow, longer than wide and I say lemon and you meant banana. Uh, yeah, the publisher isn't grasping your writing. If you place a lighted fifty foot icon on top of a three hundred foot building and state it can be seen from fifty miles away.  Yup!  The publisher isn't getting your vision. Also, if your double-spaced paragraph starts at the top of the page and runs to within two lines of the bottom, has no punctuation other than ONE period at the end of that paragraph.  Yes, one sentence, one paragraph. Hmm? I think the publisher might have some issues with your writing.

If your protagonist is washed ashore on a deserted island and has no memory of anything including who s/he is, you are going to have problems. To begin with, if they have NO memory, the jellyfish washed ashore beside your protagonist is going to be the master in this situation. The jellyfish has something of a functioning brain. Waking up with a wiped brain would put your lead at a terrible disadvantage where even seeing fingers for the first time could be a startling experience. This person wouldn't have motor skills nor would s/he be able to consider building a fire or even seek protection.

As a writer, you must do research.  Remember, the Earth (or any other planet) has a curvature. Even the flattest of the flat areas still disappear into oblivion at the horizon. Now I live about fifty miles from Toledo, Ohio to my east and Fort Wayne, Indiana to my west. I know those two cities have buildings much taller than three hundred feet tall and to this day, I haven't ever seen them from my home.  And, yes, if all the trees, structures and whatever were removed, I still don't think I'd see them. My community has a very tall castle-like court house and I know I can see it about five to six miles outside of town, especially in the winter and at Christmas time when it is decorated with lights... but at fifty miles?

Now about that paragraph.  I am not kidding. It was almost one full page of double spaced lines. The sentence started at the beginning of the paragraph and had a period at the end of the paragraph.  There were no commas, no semi-colons, no colons -- not even em dash.  When you write, learn to breathe. Does that sound crazy?  I remember an English teacher I had back in elementary school saying that. A sentence should not be any longer than what one can speak in a breath, or else add punctuation to allow the reader to get a breath. If you think she was wrong, re-read this sentence. You actually stopped at the comma. It allows you to gather the thought together and process that segment.

If the publisher isn't getting what you are saying, then the fact is obvious. You aren't saying what you think you are saying. If it looks like an apple, smells like an apple, tastes like an apple - then it is an apple. BUT, if it looks like an apple, smells like a grape and tastes like a grape with an apple consistency -- then it isn't an apple but a ®Grapple.

So what is the truth?  What is so terrible that many writers can't handle the truth?


Writers need editors.  Oh, don't even go there!  I don't care if you are an editor. The truth is there if you're getting rejects -- it keeps coming back to you.

This work needs edits!

I'm a writer. I'm an editor. I edit my stuff to the nth degree THEN I get a professional editor (not my high school English teacher or college professor) to perform the magic with it. Why? Simple. As an editor of my own work, I'm too close to my art. Those flaws I can spot in another's work actually disappear in my own masterpiece since each word I have chosen is perfect and flawless. I sent three chapters to my editor to review. This had been written, edited by me, sent to three alpha-readers (2 in genre, 1 not) for fixes and suggestions, re-edited by me and then sent to her. What I received back was appalling. Like any other writer, I expected back nothing less than "laud and magnification" of a work so outstanding I'd hear a chorus of angels. What I saw reminded me of a red marked up term paper with a C+ grade.

I reviewed the suggested changes, the flaws and saw the light of truth in all the red markings. I rewrote the chapters and sent a copy to a friend to read. She had read my original pass before my edits and alpha-readers had had their say. To say she loved the new version would be an understatement.

So, here is the truth.  Get over yourself.  Write the best you can then edit the crap out of it. Have a friend or two read and edit it. Fix it again -- don't ignore their suggestions. THEN get a professional editor to review and make suggestions to correct your work.  Note 1: Did you see the word "suggestions" in that last sentence? Editors are making suggestions to improve your work, not necessarily change your work. What they suggest is not carved in stone. Note 2: A professional editor is one who knows writing and the genre in which you write.

There are a lot of books out there in the market.  Some are books, some are good books, and even others are great books. There are no bad books -- just books that didn't have proper editing applied to them. More often than not, this applies to several self-published works with little or no editing performed.

Rejects are truths. Learn to handle them.

Until next I ramble on...

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