navel gazing

Kurt Vonnegut – Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

This link (found on ‘s LJ) really helped me this morning.  I’ve been wallowing in something akin to self pity for the last month or so. Reason being I sent the first page of my new book to a couple of friends  – simply because I was pleased that I’d written it – and neither of them liked it. Then yesterday I sent chapter 1 of Junction X to a brand new critique group attached to The Macaronis and had a few hard truths there too.

 I don’t find critiquing easy – I’m a LOT better than I used to be, before I came out into professional land, but I still find it hard to take.  What I need to realise is that it’s hard for readers to “get” a character on one chapter and they aren’t going to like someone if he’s behaving like an arse and they can’t see the reason for it.  However, there is the fear that if I then give them more than one chapter they might continue to hate him.  But – as Kurt says, you’ve got to have one character for the readers to root for, and I think they’ll warm to Edward once Alex comes on the scene.

But I think that critiquing is vital even if it hurts me; it makes me think hard about what I’ve done and how I can make it better.  I’m definitely going to take the prologue out, and shove it out to more agents today.  I was rejected twice yesterday which is probably some kind of record.

I particularly like “rule” 5. I was having real problems with starting the new novel, and the more I fiddled with the start, the further BACK in time it went  – my first instinct was to start it with the Keepers (of the lighthouse) in a boat setting out for the light – but then I wavered and back in time I went, not once but four times… Now I’ve decided to ditch it and stuff them back in the little boat.

Number seven is also pertinent.  Critique is valuable, but you have to, at some point, believe in your own work. You can’t please everyone. I have seen writers changing their stories after every critique session, after every agent’s comments.  If you do that and continue to do that – in the end the story won’t be the story you set out to write. 

I needed this kick in the arse today.  Kurt – thank you, sir. I’m going to print these out in big letters and put them over my desk next to Heinlein’s rules for a human being.

I don’t often have such terrible self doubts, so please allow me this wibble of confidence.

I have new babies. Don’t let them die.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

ETA: “Psmith in the City” is on the radio. I may have died and gone to heaven.

© Copyright 2008 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes
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