Thursday, September 10, 2009
Got an Opinion? Bring it on, Babe!
Got an opinion?
Get in line, Toots.
You too, Bud?
Right over here, Sir.
Join the club.
Bill O’Reilly fans are familiar with the phrase “if you wish to opine…”
Who doesn’t wish to opine? Whether your opinion weighs value vs. outcome, great hairstyles of the 1980’s, (GAG) Oprah by the decade,
grits vs. potatoes, pink vs. pink (I mean, come on… You ladies understand this. Nothing outweighs pink in its multiple shades. Are ya’ kiddin’ me???) fall vs. spring, cold vs. hot, Jeter vs. …
Okay, well that’s just silly. No one compares to Jeter. I mean, let’s stay serious here.
Whatever the subject, everyone has an opinion. Some are informed, some are just heels-dug-in stubborn, but the equalizer is simple: They’re all valuable.
Potential, guys. Come on, work with me. Follow along.
They’re all potential customers or editors or agents. This is it, in a nutshell. Ya’ ain’t gonna please ‘em all, so figure out WHO to please and then do it.
Sound too simple to be true?
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Are you wringing your hands and exclaiming you can’t modify your work to fit X, Y or Z market???
You might want to take up macramé. Or crocheting. Knitting is nice. Soothing. Therapeutic. Gardening, too.
Because the fact is, you will have to adjust at some point to either editor, agent, audience and hopefully to all three. Why?
Because they control a portion of the market you desire. So here’s where we get to opinions, i.e. contest judges.
“While your writing is very nice and I found your hero and heroine to be engaging, I just can’t believe in the whole idea of her sister coming into town and him having a history with her. It just seems too coincidental. Your story lost plausibility for me there.”
“I love the way you threaded the sister’s story into the heroine’s back story because it added a degree of realism I find lacking so many romances. I’ve seen this situation time and again and you captured it beautifully.”
Two mutually exclusive points of view, both thoughtful and well-written. Who should I believe?
Both. They were both right.
Because a year later two editors looked at the very same story. One said, “Ruth, I love this story, love the plot line, and this seems so workable, but the sister’s former presence seems a little too coincidental to me. Could we rewrite this using a different thread that brings the hero and heroine together under the same circumstances without the sister’s history?”
Sure I can. I have a keyboard. I can rewrite anything they want. Are ya’ kiddin’ me? I wasn’t married to the sister, right? It’s not like they’re asking me to offer one of my children as a virgin sacrifice to the volcanic goddess Pele. She just wanted a story edited and there’s the ticket: It’s a STORY. Not perfect, not universal, not To Kill a Mockingbird profound, but a delightful little romance that needs an audience and we need to trust editors to know their audience, their line, their job.
The other editor said, “Ruth this is delightful and engaging, a thoroughly wonderful piece of work and I love how you drew me into the story with the plausibility of the back story, so real, something I could genuinely identify with. Readers will love this.”
So there you have it. Two strong, well-respected, savvy editors with opposing viewpoints on one book.
(FYI: Although this did happen, I’ve taken poetic license and changed the book layout because I really want you guys to read Winter’s End and tell me what you think… Without ‘seeing’ the plotline ahead of time, LOL!)
Contest judges have a tough job. We know that. Been there, done that. Imagine being the editor and bearing the responsibility to develop a team or stable of writers who follow the pragmatics of the line, engage the readers time and again, work hard without making excuses or whining, deliver work in a timely fashion, stay upbeat and positive (because although you work alone in your home or office, you deal with an editorial team, marketing team, art team, etc. and other writers for that house) and take advice well.
It’s a story. If we can remember that, bear that in mind, we’ll all be better off when we read those judges’ and editors’ comments. It’s changeable, adaptable, editable and workable as long as you, the writer, allow it to be.
As I ran the contest circuit, I found judge’s comments like the ones above way more helpful than the sweet newbie cheerleaders who thought I was the cat’s pajamas and the dyed-in-the-wool miserable snarks who told me not to quit my day job.
Oh, yeah, dyed-in-the-wool snarks???? HA! Who’s got a book coming out in five months, huh??? Oh, wait, make that TWO books!!!! Yeah, that’s right!!! Bring it, baby! I’m here and I’m ready to rumble! Who’s da man, now????
Oops, sorry, that was alter-ego Ruthy sneaking in. I thought I had her under lock and key but she's got a way of sneaking out like a teen on the party circuit. Back! Back, you!
Opinions are part and parcel of our job as writers. Dealing with the negative and positive feedback helps us build grit and muscle, strength and panache. If you’re sincerely in this for the long run, keep your chin up and value each and every opinion that comes your way. If nothing else, some of them will remind you how not to act or react to another person’s work, LOL!
And now to the important segment of the day.
Need some. Now. Wait. Before now, actually. Grinning here.
I brought a catering van loaded with breakfast goodies. Pastries… Stuffed cheese croissant puffs and almond crescent croissants. White-cream stuffed donuts with chocolate glaze. Apple kuchen (did you know most dictionaries don’t even list the word ‘kuchen’ any more???? Kuchens were a huge part of Western New York bakeries when I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed. I love making kuchen. Feel free to ask me about kuchens.
And raspberry cheesecake, sided with slivered almonds and topped with a sour cream chocolate ganache.
Grab some coffee and a plate. Eat hearty because there’s little shelf-life for good pastries! Let’s talk opinions and how to sort the good from the bad. And how to bulk up our self-esteem so we can handle those opinions with God-given grace and dignity.
In public, anyway!