June 21, 2010 | By: Tracy

Do You Ever ...

Do you ever get pissed at yourself for becoming a better writer?

I know it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

Recently, one of my Twitter buddies mentioned Noah Lukeman's  "The First Five Pages".  For those of you who aren't familiar with it (I highly suggest you get it ASAP, btw) it is a reference guide to helping writers avoid the rejection merry-go-round. Some of the information was pretty standard, but it was explained in a way that helped me to not only recognize those things I missed that were slipping into my writing ... it also gave me solid ways to fix them. 

More importantly, it was written from the perspective of an acquisitions editor. The perspective of a man who is looking for reasons to reject a piece of work so he can move on to the next submission in his stack. Not only that, he places his chapters in order of what usually (in a bad way) catches his attention first. I'm about a third of the way through another round of revisions using some of the things I've learned in his book, and I'm surprised how much better the ms reads!

That's the good news.

The "eh" news, is that I already thought my ms was doing pretty good.

That sounds wrong.  What I mean to say is that I've finally had to admit to a major flaw of mine: not realizing I still had so much left to learn!!

Storytelling has always been a strength of mine. I'm good at coming up with ideas and finding ways to weave them together that makes it interesting from beginning to end. Through my school years, and with friends and friends, etc., my knack for high-stakes story lines and lovable characters was always enough to get me by with my less than precise writing. (In case you haven't noticed by reading my blog, I can be a little needlessly wordy at times)

Now I'm learning that when it comes to the big bad world of publishing, the littlest of details in the craft makes a huge difference. In fact, it's the difference between a decent manuscript and a wonderful one.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited when I learn a tip or trick that makes me a better writer in the long run ... I just get a bit miffed at myself from time to time that it has taken me so long to realize the need to get better at what I do. For a "smart kid", I sure can be pretty slow sometimes!  ;o)

Reading Update:  So, I started reading Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" about a month ago. I'm still hanging in there -- just about 100 pages in -- but, I gotta be honest. I'm not really sure I have any idea what's going on in the story.  Anyone read it before and can tell me if it all starts to make sense at some point? Or is it just one of those stories that probably isn't going to click for me, if I don't love it already?

9 witty remarks:

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Okay, now I have to have that book! It sounds too useful NOT to have it! Can you call my hubby and help convince him?! Ha ha ha. :-)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I know what you mean. I had those moments too. That's why I revised my first novel SIX times! LOL Yep, and I was pissed at myself too.

PS: There's no crying in baseball! :o)

Saumya said...

I completely relate to what you're saying!! I keep revising and revising from things I learn. At this rate, I'll never stop, haha.

Matthew Rush said...

I thought Neverwhere was great in a fun, not like super deep kind of way. If you're not into strange fantasy like that you might not enjoy it as there is not a "point" to it really - just a twisted and at times disturbing story.

I hear you about honing your craft too - there is always room for improvement.

JustineDell said...

I. Want. That. Book.

Thanks Tracy! Sounds like another tool to help me get around the learning curve!

~JD

Terry Towery said...

Frankly, I didn't enjoy Lukeman's book as much as I thought I would. I found the tone somewhat pissy and condescending toward writers. And that turned me off a bit.

That said, there was certainly some useful information in it that I've been trying to use.

And God yes, I agree with you on the craft-honing thing! I wish I could go back and begin my first ms again, knowing what I know now. ;)

Tracy said...

Terry - I think I like his book as a reminder of not to do certain things. I didn't get the condescending tone (although I do feel that way a little now, as I'm reading Donald Maas' book)

Matthew - Thank you with the Gaiman thing. I thought I was missing something with the girl named Door and all the doors...it's been putting me through the ringer a bit. Now that I realize it is definitely high fantasy, I can take it for what it's worth. Love his tone though.

Terry Towery said...

Tracy: I agree on the Maass attitude. I got some useful information from the two books of his I have, but I always felt he was "writing down" to us lowly writers.

I got zero from Lukeman's book on plots, the name of which escapes me. I still find King's "On Writing" and Lamott's "Bird by Bird" the best and most helpful I've read so far. Although I did learn a lot from Maass' "Writing The Breakout Novel."

Tracy said...

I adore Stephen King, but to me it seemed like most of his advice really only works if you're ... well, Stephen King.

Maass seems to know what he's doing, so I'm pretending not to notice that it's a "Writing for Dummies" sort of feel to it. ;o)

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