It’s one of those days when I have too many little snippets of thought running around in my head, none of which want to coalesce into a solid post. So, you’re just going to get a random mish-mash.
1. First, a great quote from PCW’s blog this morning:
“For myself, I don’t write novels in order to ‘create a relationship with my readers.’ I write to tell stories, and it’s the stories that matter, not me. Thinking too hard about ‘the audience’ is absolutely deadly when I’m writing. It’s a distraction I don’t need.”
2. Second, I love my beta readers. I do. But sometimes they make that little insecure author wannabe inside me want to voluntarily commit myself to a place where the walls are padded and I get to wear a nice white coat that keeps me from typing.
(If you’re one of my betas, you might want to skip to #3. You know who you are.)
So, one of my betas keeps e-mailing me ideas for improving the book. (This is the fellow writer beta.) Yesterday’s idea was to tweak the book so I can call it a dystopian fantasy. The one a week or so ago was to change the age of one of the characters so I can call it YA.
This was my response:
“I like the book the way it is and am happy to query it as it is. I am not going to tie myself up in knots changing a book no agent or editor has even read yet. In my opinion, that’s the path to insanity. If I submit it and get an R&R from an agent then I’ll consider what they say. Until then, the book is done and I’m happy with the way it turned out. I don’t expect it to work for everyone, but it worked for me.”
I’ve decided that I really like the writing part of being a writer, but all the getting feedback, querying, etc. stages are not near as fun. At least not yet. (See my prior post about negotiating against yourself.)
It’s too easy during this stage to doubt myself. To wonder if I shouldn’t have focused my novel on the younger characters so I could call it a YA novel. (Even though the story arc for that character will follow him into his 20’s.) Or to wonder if there aren’t more modern authors I could compare the book to. (Right now I’m using Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler in my query letter because I think it shares the same sociological/psychological approach I saw in their works. It’s possible there are modern authors like that, but I just haven’t managed to read their books yet.)
There are eight million ways to paralyze yourself as a newbie writer. But the only way to get somewhere with this writing thing is to keep moving forward. (That’s pretty much true with anything. Except maybe walking off a cliff. Don’t move forward if it’s just going to take you over a cliff. Unless you can fly. Or have a parachute strapped to your back.)
So, anyway. Love my betas, but they may be my undoing some day.
3. On a personal level. I want to be in a different country right now. But I’m not even sure I’m allowed to be there at the moment. (That little issue I was dealing with a month or so ago.) And my work wants me here. And it is nice to pay my bills. So, I’m stuck here for a while and it annoys me and distracts me. And I’m spending way too much mental space on how I can somehow manage to go there for just a little bit of time. Just a few weeks. Right now, if things don’t change I’ll have been gone from there for seven months. And that is far too long for me to be happy about it.
I don’t fall in love with actual human beings, but I am definitely in love with that place. So it sucks to be gone from there.
(Must remind myself that it’s nice to pay my bills….although the last time I said to hell with that and quit my job and went backpacking, I came back and found a better paying job that gave me more flexibility and let me avoid office politics. Hmmm. Well. The reason I had that opportunity was because I honored my work commitments. (My last day before I quit I was in the office until 10:30 PM to wrap up a project.) So, I am committed to this current project and need to see it through. But after that…)
I think the best betas tell you where the problems in your novel are. Its up to you to fix it so that the problems go away. Betas shouldn’t tell you how to fix it, only what to fix, and if it IS fixed. I’ve done a little betaing and it is so tempting to try to adjust the story to how I would write it. They mean well but sometimes their help isn’t that helpful.
That’s the general approach I take with beta feedback. Unless it’s obvious (like include character descriptions at the beginning of the book), I take beta feedback as a symptom that something is wrong, but not necessarily an accurate diagnosis.
(And agreed that as a beta it can be really hard not to try to fix things to the way you would want it. As my poor friend who asked me to beta would know.)