Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mixed Messages...

They talk about relationships being full of communicative pitfalls. Well, lemme tell ya! Boy/Girl snafus ain't got nothin' on the writing world!

When every new writer starts out, they write for the joy of simply writing. They put words to the paper. They tell a wonderful story. They read it over a few times. It's perfect, they announce. They have their family and friends read it over and receive rave reviews. They send their baby out into the cold, cruel world of harsh editors, who read the first few lines and cringe. A rejection wings the baby back home to the new, happy writer. Whose world crashes as innocence is stripped away taking the simple joy of writing along with it.

And thus begins a new phase in the writer's life: learning all they can about the craft. And thus begins all the mixed messages. Ready for a few? Here we go!

POV: Never head-hop, Ms. Writer is told. Stick to one POV per chapter. No, stick to one POV per scene. Wait! Stick to one POV, period. No, it's okay to switch POVs mid-scene if you do it well. Halt the presses! If your name is Nora (as in Roberts!) or Jayne (as in Ann Krentz!), it's okay to switch POV several times within a scene...but only if you own that name...which by the way (some snide crit partner will shatter Ms. Writer's world...again...) you're not, and never will be... so don't do it. Oh, and then, there's all the different types of POVs. Ms. Writer wonders quite innocently: What the hell does POV mean anyways... For the means Point of View... Ms. Writer begins to feel a tad overwhelmed.

Then...there's the outline vs. pantster way of writing... there are elaborate methods to help Ms. Writer create the perfect story. Diagrams, Boxes, Spreadsheets, Sticky Notes, White Boards... anything one can think of...the writing world has created to help Ms. Writer along in her quest for publication. Problem is, every method sounds so stinkin' good until you try it. And of course, there's the panster method where one just sits down and writes. But Ms. Writer is now a bit leery of that method since it's what she did the first time around and Baby got sent home with its tail between its legs... So at first she wonders, do I do all these methods at the same time...or one at a time. Do I have to do one of these methods. And then...suddenly another message is hurled her way: do what works for you. But herein lies the problem: Ms. Writer has no clue what works for her. She ain't succeeded yet!

GMC: Gotta love this one! Ms. Writer worries: GMC. Sounds like the car corporation. Then she learns it stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Ah! Okay. Gotta have that in a story. Realization hits. Her story doesn't have any of that, will never have any of that, and the reason why: who knows what the heck any of those things are! And so, the learning quest continues... and Ms. Writer's head continues to spin.

HEA: A romance has to have that...right? Ms. Writer yanks out her code-deciphering guide. Oh! HEA = Happily Ever After... okay. Sounds fair enough. But ChickLit instantly breaks that rule and it's okay. So does Women's Fiction, which has strong romantic elements but not necessarily a HEA. But you gotta have that. Right? Right?? Well, maybe not... Ms. Writer suppresses the urge to scream and pull out graying hairs. Maybe a glass of wine will help clear up matters.

Then there's the whole genre thing... Historicals are dead. Especially Regency Historicals. ChickLit is on its way out. Sex is hot. Inspirationals with no sex are hot. But as she pours the last of the wine into her glass, shaking out every last drop and then peering into the bottle to check for any lingering liquid, Ms. Writer reads what editors are looking for: Historicals. Regencies. ChickLit. But aren't these dead or on last legs? Maybe...maybe not! Where's the chocolate? Bring on the chocolate!

So...what's a girl to do. Write, that's what! Just plain old write. Develop her own voice, her own style. Return to that innocent stage of writing when it was fun. But keep in mind all the rules that make a story tight, that make it publishable. Hey wait!!!! Isn't that another mixed message??? You betcha, Baby! And isn't that what makes this business fun? That makes it a challenge? That makes it so damned rewarding? It sure is... or is writing just a free pass to eating all the chocolate one can consume and slugging back lots of fine Merlot...


Interesting insights. POV needs to flow with the story. Breaking the rule doesn't matter if it flows, and, following the rule doesn't matter if it doesn't flow.

I have to admit that while I do take note in the back of my mind of various rules when I write, I don't get caught up in them. If it all makes sense and hangs together well, then I'm happy.

With all the rules out there, many of which are conflicting, it's no wonder that a lot of talented people get scared away and never attempt to publish their works.