Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tenacity--the Successful Writer's Secret

I went to the Solstice Writing Conference a couple of weekends ago. Not only was it delightful having a conference in my home court, but the invited authors, including Ann Cannon, Louise Plummer, and Dean Hughes, were a delight as well.

In Thursday's panel discussion, the topic of bad reviews came up. Louise Plummer mentioned how a bad review (from a random person posting on Amazon, not a knowledgeable critic) stopped her writing for some time. Even Louise? Ann Cannon made a great point. "If you want to write, you have to be tenacious." She said not everyone is going to like your writing, but the writers who make it have one thing in common: they don't quit.

The next day I got to test this maxim when I made the mistake of discussing a current plot idea with a non-writer. Bad idea. After hearing the message that my plot had completely unrealistic, impossible ideas, I changed the subject and spent the next hour depressed.

 I tend to be too concerned about what people think, according to that same plot-wounding family member. I take critique suggestions seriously, and have learned to listen rather than argue. I've never been the it's-my-story-and-you-just-don't-get-it's-brilliance type. So why wasn't I scrapping the entire book?

 I finally went for a walk in light rain that turned into a thunderstorm. As I darted from awning to awning, my brain sifted through ideas on how to rework my plot egress. Soon I had a potential solution, and felt good that I hadn't quit. But how do you know when to keep working on a book, and when to realize an idea just isn't worth continuing?

 At WIFYR, our workshop asked Martine Leavitt that question. She told us to hold onto the stories that are in your heart. If we're going to put our work out there in knowing it may end up with critic heel marks, it has to mean something to us. We have to believe it in knowing not everyone else will. If we are writing just to meet someone else's expectations, our ideas will shift as quickly as the newest trend. But when we write the story that means everything to us, it's different. We may shelve it for a time, wait for the ideas to ripen or even for our ability to write it to increase. But if it keeps coming back to us, we must at some point get back to the story.

Don't get me wrong. I refuse to blindly move ahead with a bad idea. I will continue renovations to make sure the plot is solid, the story line doesn't wander, and in this case, remove any plot twists too unrealistic to allow the reader to continue her path of suspended belief. But I can't give up the book itself. Because even as I'm taking a long, pouting walk through a rainstorm, the story is in my head with every step. It's stuck there, because my heart can't let it go.

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