Friday, April 11, 2008

Novel Writing: Vision

I'm taking time over a few posts to discuss novel writing. This week I'm going to talk about confidence in your unique vision. Alexander Pope, an English poet, wrote a famous verse: Essay on Critique. He understood the artifice of criticism. I really think that authors will just hand over too much power to others. We all want approval and blessing. For that approval and blessing, we will throw away our vision for an offhand comment by a supposed expert.

I think to write a really good novel you have to be willing to be a fool. Like Pope shared in his poem, you have to rush into a place where angels dare not tread. You have to be sooo hopeful -- bursting with hope. There is an agony to creating books, and you will have to embrace that agony if you wish to write a book that will stir the hearts of readers. It’s really painful to write a novel. And after you managed to spin out the first draft, it’s painful to hear critique of that novel.

What are you to do? Always remember the first audience of your work is you.
Write the story you want to read, and when searching for critiques, find people who share your passion for your work. I really wouldn’t take advice from someone who didn’t care deeply about my work. I want passion on every level of my work, and people that are weighing in on my work need to be invested. So many writers want an editor of a major publishing house to look at their work. They fork over piles of cash at conferences to have a disinterested soul cast tired eyes on their words.Is this really all that helpful?

But we want to sell work! Well, if no one but your critique group shows any passion for your work, be happy you have a critique group and keep working. I firmly believe your gift will make a place for you. I think that it is useful to give yourself freedom to not listen to the popular opinions of the hour. We tend to chain ourselves with ideas of what the market wants or the blinding hope that a publisher will be interested in this work if we will rip out half the plot and recast all the main characters.

In the end you, you must write your heart out. Write the story that burns within you. Don’t let all outside voices stop you. If you fail, let it be when you are “daring greatly.”

Think about this quote and then fearless follow your vision:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt


Vijaya said...

I wish I could remember exactly what Anton Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille said, but I think you'd agree.

MollyMom103 said...

Yah, Vijaya, Brad Bird and his folks are genuis!

Anton Ego in Ratatouille: In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more.
From Brad Bird (genuis) and some other guys.