Archive | March, 2010

Delicious Pride

One of the hardest parts about being a writer is taking feedback. Usually my first response to notes (in my head at least) pretty much matches this photo.

When I was younger, my wining, crying refusal of criticism ran rampant. It wasn’t that I thought my writing was infallible, it was more an uncontrolled, defensive reaction to suddenly realizing more work needed to be done on a piece I thought was (if not completely, at least close to) finished.

I was just a baby writer. These days I can say with confidence that I am solidly in my tweens.

These days, when I get feedback, I still FEEL like that little, baby writer. My face flushes, my throat tightens, and sometimes I even want to cry, but here’s what I figured out; in absolutely every case – I ASKED FOR IT.

It just doesn’t seem right to lash out at people who have taken the time, at my request, to read my work and prepare notes. It’s no small task. They are doing me a serious favor. So when I feel that tantrum coming on I just keep quiet. I shut my mouth. No matter how badly I want to speak in my defense – I don’t.

Usually by the time I’ve heard about half of their thoughts I start to realize they are right. My creative brain starts spinning on how to incorporate the feedback to improve the story and I forget all about melting into a pile of tears.

On the rare occasion that I think the feedback is dead wrong I just say thank you (they still put in the time after all). Then I go home, thinking “that was a big waste of time,” sleep on it, and wake up with the sudden realization that they were totally right. It happens every time. The more wrong I think someone is, the grander that midnight revelation will be. (This, I think, speaks largely to the caliber of writer that I’ve been privileged to work with. I have been very fortunate in deed.)

So I’m getting better at taking feedback, and as a direct result, I’m improving as a writer. Who knew that pride could be so delicious?

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Such A Long Road

“The Feathered Tale of Talulah Jones” is a brilliant masterpiece. Told by breakout sensation April Dávila, this charming story of adventure, love and ostriches sucks you in and keeps you turning the pages up until the very end.

This is how my first book review goes – in my head. I think every artist has a fantasy of being the next big hit. We rehearse what we want say to Oprah when she has us on the show, we think about what to wear in our head-shots, we even carefully word the advice we will give to youngsters who are just dying to stand in our shoes.

Of course, no one is going to pay any attention to you at all unless you’ve told a damn good story in the first place. So for now it’s work, work, work.

As I continue to move through this process of writing my first novel, I feel I’m making good progress. I have 120 pages of a decent second draft that reads like this:

Lovely prose about whatever survived the first draft. Painstakingly chosen words, good imagery, all that.


Then back to the prose. And so on…

When I finish replacing the sections that are currently in all capitals, I’ll have a completed second draft. The scary thing is, I’ll still be far from done. I fully expect to do about fifteen drafts. When I actually stop to think about how long that could take, and how sick of this story I may be by the time I’m done with it I get overwhelmed.

No wonder I avoid these thoughts, and instead chose to mentally peruse my wardrobe for what I will wear for my first visit to The View.

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Ostrich Races Here I Come

On Friday morning I am flying to Arizona for the Ostrich Festival taking place this weekend in Chandler.

I am so excited. In addition to the races, there is also an ostrich parade, and a whole mess of other events such as stunt shows and petting zoos. I’m not exactly sure how many of these are ostrich focused, but I can’t wait to find out.

My hope is to soak up as much ostrich culture as I can. I want to know if there are slang words people use for ostriches. How does one get into ostrich racing? What are the finer details of racing or even just raising ostriches? Why would one want to race an ostrich?

I am so curious. I feel like a kid on Christmas eve.
If anyone out there is, by any chance, attending the festival, please let me know. I would love to meet up and talk some shop.

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I Found A Pulse

I spent the last week working on revising just the first 25 pages of my novel. I’ve been focusing on the “heart” of the story and I’m happy to report that I think I’ve found a pulse.

Let me give you an example.

I have a scene where a young version of my character is being picked on by her uncles. In my draft as it read last week, she was all cool and calm about it. After some delicate tweaking, she is vulnerable and scared. Now when I read the scene I get tense. Even though I of course know she pulls through just fine, I actually feel what my character is feeling. That must be a good sign.

Another thing I’m trying to do is give my character room to grow. I’m used to short stories, where my characters don’t have that much time (in terms of pages at least) to change. Realizing that I have hundreds of pages to let Talulah mature, has allowed me to go back and hone who she is at the beginning of the story – and, like in the scene I mentioned above, she starts out more timid. She may very well become a sassy bitch by the end (I don’t know yet), but she definitely doesn’t start that way.

So this approach of taking one 25 page chunk at a time and looking (scene by scene) for the heart seems to be working for me. I’m hoping to turn in fifty revised pages to my advisor next week. Hopefully she will feel the difference in the story. We shall see.

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