Tuesday, February 12, 2008
In my various stints as a contest judge, I’ve had more than a few of my peers tell me, “I can’t believe I’m judging the same manuscript this writer entered last year, and she hasn’t changed a thing!”
If that’s being said about your contest entry, then you’ve wasted your entry fees and the chance to learn from the critiques. Not that every judge’s comments are spot on target--as has been emphasized any number of times here in Seekerville--but there isn’t a manuscript out there, published or unpublished, that couldn’t be improved upon.
Revision is not a dirty word.
Even so, it may be slightly easier to swallow if you think of it as re-vision.
The idea of re-visioning is taken from a writers workshop I attended several years ago taught by David Michael Kaplan. Re-vision: Looking at your story a different way. Going at it from a new angle. Seeing it with new eyes.
And contest judges’ remarks, if you’re open to them, can help you do just that. What questions do they bring up about the way you’ve drawn your characters? About the direction of the plot? About the believability of the action? What are the judges saying about your target market? Your title? Your theme?
I’m in the middle of re-visioning one of my earlier manuscripts right now. I saw it as a longer, more involved book, but realized it went off on too many tangents, so I’m cutting back on the subplots and targeting a different market.
Another manuscript I’d originally written many, many years ago as a YA had a teenage protagonist with her stepmother as the antagonist. After it piled up its share of rejections, I shelved it, only to bring it out awhile back and re-vision it as women’s fiction, this time with the protag/antag roles reversed. With this change of perspective, it has become a much fuller, deeper story.
Success in writing means growing and learning with every effort. And one important step is listening to the questions raised by your critique partners and contest judges. It doesn’t mean you must acquiesce to their vision for your story--it’s your story, after all.
But if something isn’t working, maybe your vision needs altering. Don’t be afraid of the process. Polish those bifocals and take another look!