Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Paul reminded us to do just that. Writing is hard. It isn’t sitting around daydreaming about what to write, as I’ve been accused of doing by people who don’t have a clue what goes into creating a story.
It isn’t like a recipe where all the ingredients have been listed, usually in order of necessity, with the exact amount of this or that, and even a time limit. Although deadlines probably resemble cook time, or more aptly, pressure cooker time. You have to create characters (people)–even though you won’t see them walking down the street, they must be real and three-dimensional, so your readers can see them walking through the pages of your story and think of them as real people. Then there is the setting, or where your story takes place. Next comes the meat of the story. What is the conflict? Why can’t these two people be together? What will happen to them that will change them so that they could be together if they work really hard and get through the conflict they are facing on those pages. And lastly, my favorite, love conquers all.
I wrote the above paragraph to give you a glimpse into the semantics of what goes into creating a story. You still have to mind your “p’s and q’s”, i.e. grammar and formatting and stylistic requirements. That list of “should or should not happen” situations in your story are what lure your reader in, teasing them that you have found a fresh and creative way to tell them a story that involves a situation they’ve already heard. But your story is so compelling and so unique, we must read it to see what the author did to make their rendition so appealing.
And after the writer has done those things, either via a detailed outline, a synopsis (summary) of the main points in the story, come up with a blurb that’s catchy and compelling for the back cover of the book, they still have to sit in a chair or in bed with a mound of pillows propped up behind them (guilty) and weave all those craft lessons and workshop applications they’ve studied into a viable and evocative story that draws you in with the opening sentence and keeps you turning the page until you whimper because you’ve reached the end and there are no more pages to turn.
But while the author has sweated blood and tears in the process of doing this, no one gets that they aren’t being paid for all that time and thought. They are writing this story in the hope that they can sell it to a publisher who will, in turn, market it to you, the reader and you will love it and buy a ton of copies.
Along the way, the writer enters contests to garner feedback from fellow writers on the outside chance they final and are blessed with the opportunity to have an agent or editor read their contest entry and hear their “voice” or appreciate their humor, or connect with the theme of the story. Or not, and go back and cut and rewrite and polish in time to submit to an agent/editor/ or another contest.
At each segment of this long endeavor, they have to put aside the comments that don’t address specific issues within the story as they make revisions. They even have to put away the fan-mail equivalent feedback that says this story is perfect and nothing needs to be changed. These judges are anonymous and wonderfully gracious to offer their time to read your submission. But each author is the master of their own story, so the comments/suggestions require consideration before jumping in and making changes.
But you can do everything “right” as per a gazillion How To books, and still be left with a manuscript that you’ve done all you can do to give it life and a chance to spread its wings and fly out of your writing nest instead of offering up the pages on the wind.
After all that, you usually ask yourself, “Why?”
The answer, “Your eye is on the prize.” The prize is having that exactly-right-for-you editor read your submission whether it be due to a contest entry that finaled or that your agent has queried them and they find your theme unique. And when someone within the industry asks to read your entire manuscript, you have come close enough to the ultimate prize of publication that you can taste it. And it tastes like creamy vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup and caramel sauce drizzled over it.
But, you won’t get to that table to feast if you take your eye off what’s important–the prize. When life hands you a bag of lemons, make sure you have enough sugar to sweeten your pitcher of lemonade.
And no, I didn’t write this because any specific thing has happened. It’s that I’ve starting creating a new town and a new set of players within that town and I’m spending time imagining (daydreaming) and reflecting on who they are and what will make them unique and interesting for you, the reader.
So chin up and fingers crossed. I have work to do.
Wishing everyone all the best and apologies for my ramblings.