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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Channeling Sammy Davis Jr.

Once upon a time, I worked for a small engineering company as a software developer. The company did OSHA required testing for businesses. I wrote the software that analyzed the test data and generated the required reports. All was well until the owner decided we should market the software. I wrote a bunch of new code, a user manual, and some sales material (believe me, writing fiction is a lot more fun) and we started doing demos. The software did what it was supposed to do (quite nicely, too) but inevitably someone would ask, “Does it do _________?” Now anyone in the software business will tell you the answer to that question is either, “Yes, let me show you,” or “Well, we can certainly add that as a custom feature for you. I’ll get you a quote on the additional cost.” My boss would say, “Oh, that’s a great idea, we’ll add that.” Of course, all these free modifications did two things: they made the original program slow and inefficient and they ate up the profit margin…which led to the end of their venture into software development and my employment with that company.

So what does all that have to do with anything? Well, I realized yesterday that I was doing exactly what my boss had done. I wrote a book. I was very pleased with it. My beta readers all loved it (with suggestions for editing, of course). I knew it was too long and I had to do some serious trimming but in general I thought it worked well. Like my original software program. I started editing and, about the same time, I started blogging and following a lot of writers’ blogs. I was getting a lot of great information and some very nice encouragement, but every time I read a piece of advice, or a ‘do this’ or a ‘don’t do that’, I went racing back to page one and started editing all over again. And then I came to a dead stop on POV (see previous blog).

I think the best piece of advice I’ve read lately was 'know the rules before you break them'. If I’ve managed to write a compelling story with engaging characters and a strong voice, I’ll take my chances with that. If I haven’t written a compelling story with engaging characters and a strong voice, all the obeyed rules in the world aren’t going to help. So I’ve decided to use the tips and advice that I’m picking up from a lot of great blogs (and other sources) as editing tools…to help me see possible problems and potential improvements. And I’m going to remember that if, what, and how I rewrite something is still up to me. And I’m going to stop wringing my hands and get back to work.

As Sammy said, I’ve Gotta Be Me.

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 117,302. Getting started again.

I'm currently enjoying: The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais

Quote of the day: Damn the torpedoes Full speed ahead - Admiral David Glasgow Farragut


Dru said...

Remember, it's your story.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Thanks, Dru.

Dru said...

This post is not showing up in my google reader :(

Linda Leszczuk said...

Dru, was it showing up before and now isn't or has it never? Trying to get an idea of what to fix.

Anonymous said...

So true Linda! At some point you gotta just work with what you have and take a chance. I know what you mean about getting caught up in the blogging world. I have to slow down and work on my other stuff, but I have so much fun! I love what you have done with your site. Haven't seen you around lately Hope you are well.

Linda Leszczuk said...


Did you read last night at the Beatnik nite? How did it go?

I'm well. Missing WOWG because of a sick family member.


Dru said...

This post finally came in my google reader today. Weird.

Maria Zannini said...

I had the same trouble as Dru. Your post didn't show up right away on my Reader. Must be a Google glitch.

Ref: Sammy
But I'll bet Sammy had an audience and peers to tell him when he was flat. --not that Sammy ever sang off key, but if he did, I'm sure someone would tell him. :)

Linda Leszczuk said...

Dru and Maria - I might have caused the problem. I was trying to get my blog linked to my FB author's page and it keeps trying to link to my personal page. Probably clicked a wrong box somewhere.

Maria - oh dear, are you saying I'm making a mistake by not listening to everyone's advice?

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: oh dear, are you saying I'm making a mistake by not listening to everyone's advice?

Oh, heck no. That's suicide. That's like Sammy listening to the tone-deaf guy telling him he's flat.

No, you do what you're doing now. You read. You ask questions. You listen to feedback. And then decide what makes sense to you.

But I'll tell you what happened to me in the early days. I had this fantastic crit partner who could zero in on my weaknesses like an F-16.

I was too in love with my novel at the time and didn't want to accept her observations. But guess what? Several months later I opened up one of her crits and reread it. Darn if that woman wasn't right all along. I just couldn't see it at the time.

Sometimes what you think is wonderful today will embarrass you tomorrow. Happens to all of us. Only time and experience cures that ill. Just keep doing what you're doing.

Linda Leszczuk said...


Actually, I've been putting a lot of what I'm hearing and reading into practice as I edit and I think it's making my WIP stronger. Even the POV thing...I've eliminated a lot of shifts as unnecessary. But the scenes between the two central characters still seem to work much better with a split POV. So I'm going to keep it that way for now and move on. Maybe after I've completed this round of rewrites and get it in front of some new beta readers, it will turn out differently.

And at some point I'm going to have to search for some new beta readers because my regulars have read the first draft and already know "who done it". I don't think they'll really be able to tell if the mystery elements work in the new version.

But first I have to finish the unwriting. :-)