Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time Out For a Little Humor

Thanks to my friend Tracy Farr, we have another installment of his very important advice for writers....

The final step to becoming a writer is to let someone read what you've written. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But it's not!

After you've spent weeks, months or even years on your story (I limit myself to an hour, and I'm sure it's quite noticeable), the hardest thing you, the writer, can do is hand over what you think is a masterpiece to someone who may or may not like it, may or may not give you honest constructive criticism, and may or may not still be your friend depending upon what they have to say about your story.

"Well, I think your opening really caught my attention, especially the part where the bad guy is chasing the good guy on a John Deere tractor through a hay meadow, looking to turn the good guy into goat feed, but I really think the second page was, how should I say it...it really sucked, and it kept sucking from that page to the end!"

Yes, indeed, we hope for good reviews, but way back in the back of our minds (and for most of us, way up front in the front of our minds) we fear that nobody will like our story, which means they don't like us, which means we are total failures, which means we ain't going to be buying a Rolls anytime soon...

...but we keep writing anyways because writing is not about money, fancy cars, dining with fancy stars, rubbing elbows with the most georgous women in the world because now we have access, which leads to Letterman, Leno, and Oprah, and before you know it we're under a lot of pressure to come up with a blockbuster second novel, but we can't figure out what it's going to be about, and now we have no more paychecks coming in, we've bought so much crap that we need a storage shed to store everything, especially since we defaulted on our home loan, and now we're living from day to day under some overpass, hoping that "lighting" will strike again before we get run over by a semi!

Nosirree! Writing is about writing, and if you don't have the balls to let someone read what you've written without getting all teary-eyed and suicidal, then you might as well stick to watching television and reading trashy novels from authors who DIDN'T give up!

So, it's up to you. Write, let someone read it, write some more, and continue until you're done. And how will you know when you're done?

Try poking with a fork. If the juices run clear, you're done!

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Posted by Maryann Miller with Tracy's permission. He likes to share his humor here with a few more people than read his blog, which by the way is pretty darn funny. Trust me. He isn't paying me a penny to say that.

Maryann's Web site - where you can find information about her books and editing services

Tracy's Blog

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10 comments :

  1. Hey i like your article , the way you represented is very good, i came through several of new ideas as well

    Cheers

    Nehal

    new headway beginner

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  2. Goodness! I think I've found a new friend. Reading this, I had an epiphany: I don't expect anyone to LIKE my story, because I realize we all have different tastes, when it comes to what we like to read. I can't stand James Joyce, but I've known very nice people who built entire careers on the study and teaching of his work. And maybe that's why I don't take critique so personally. The real kiss of death, for me, is for my writing to be so boring even a friend didn't make it from page one to "the end." But even that just means "work harder" in my mind. It doesn't mean "YOU suck." And maybe it helps that, not only do I have some confidence in my ability to write, it's not the only thing that DEFINES me. I do other things reasonably well, too.

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  3. Very well said, Holly. One of the things I really enjoy about Tracy's work is the message that is inherent in his humor. What a nice way to learn something.

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  4. Tracy always causes a smile.

    Friends were hurt for me the last time I had an article published and there were some online comments that weren't all, shall we say, positive. I had to calm folks down by saying..."Look. First of all, there were positive comments too and secondly, everyone is entitled to feel differently then I do." Only after I assured them that I had received many more responses from traditional sources (letters and emails) did they relax for me. The truth is there will always be someone who doesn't care for your work. That doesn't mean that it is automatically bad...sometimes it's as simple as a difference in opinion.

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  5. "I limit myself to one hour"--still laughing!

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  6. Thanks for my first chuckle of the day, Tracy! I enjoyed your article and will check out your blog for more of your humorous insights!

    On a slightly more serious note, I always tell my author clients to get as many other people as they can to read their manuscript over and give them some feedback. However, they should choose carefully who they give it to. It's best to avoid immediate family, spouse or signifant other, and closest friends. Either they'll be afraid to say anything negative for fear of jeopardizing your relationship, or they will, and it will. Also, don't bother giving it to your coworkers or neighbors who don't read fiction, as it'll just be a chore to them, and their opinion will be next to useless.

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  7. Good post, Tracy. Being a glutton for punishment and having a very thick skin, I share my work with more than one group and then with a first reader (who is not a writer).

    It's comforting, in a way, because each person sees the work in a different way. It helps me understand that I can't please everyone in story or character. What I do pay attention to and work on in revisions are the problems noticed by several readers. I wouldn't give up those readers for anything.

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  8. What a teaser! I want to read more about the guy on the John Deere tractor.

    I think letting go of your work and letting others read it is one of the hardest things a writer has to do.

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  9. So glad everyone is enjoying Tracy's post. Since he teaches, he has probably not seen this, so if you get a chance drop by his blog and leave a comment there.

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  10. Thanks for all the great comments. Sorry about using "suck," "crap" and "balls" all in the same story. I really need to watch my language!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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