WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Now that income taxes are done (THANK YOU!!!!), two things are on my mind this morning. Well, actually, three things, but two apply to writing so I’ll chat about those.
The first thing came from a phone conversation I had with an editor friend this morning. She read me a bit from a work that was a gem. The first thing that went through my mind was that this story has serious potential. The second thing was wondering if it’d be realized. I hope that it will.
What spurred the first thought was a knowing from line one that something horrific and significant was about to happen. The second thought came from the mechanical challenge in the area of psychic distance.
I’ve done an article on psychic distance for anyone interested. It’s in my writer’s library on the writing website (www.vickihinze.com).
Why was it a challenge? What was happening was intense and yet we, the readers, were viewing it from a distant point versus up close and personal. This was definitely a scene for deep point of view. Intense situation, high stakes, incredible obstacles and horrendously important consequences. Being somewhat removed, the work was good. But if the author closed that psychic distance, the work would be great.
When the psychic distance is broad, immediacy suffers. And this was and required immediacy. What happened had all the elements required for elevated reader identity and it was darned captivating. But it suffered the handicap of that distance.
So double-checking psychic distance is on my mind. It matters. A lot. It makes the difference between good and great. It makes the difference in snagging the reader and giving them a license to set a book down.
Ask yourself, why is this happening now? Must it happen now? What impact will it happening have? Who suffers, gains or loses most?
If it doesn’t have to happen now, there’s not a significant impact if it doesn’t happen, and no one suffers the fallout, gains or loses, then you don’t need it. Doesn’t matter how well written it is, how exciting or thrilling or chilling. Immediacy is required or it’s out of there.
The second thing on my mind came from a phone conversation I had with another author last night. It was about author voice and established genres. Actually, she had read a story I’ve been writing called TENDING GRAVES and shared two observations with me:
1. There’s something in my first person voice that adds an extra element to the work. That’s a plus and something I’ll be remembering. I haven’t explored first person voice a great deal in my work, but I’m going to spend some time doing so. It’s natural, comfortable and adds immediacy–and it lends itself well to her second observation…
2. “You’re creating a new genre again,” she said. I seem prone to do that–and I find it extremely exciting, so I’m going for it.
Is this an easy way to build a career? Absolutely not.
It’d be wiser, I suppose, to write within the confines of an established genre. For marketing purposes, it’d be wise.
But writing to fit has never been my goal or my mission. Writing what I feel driven to write, writing with purpose and for purpose is what motivates me. The stories I can’t wait to get to the computer to write, the ones that awaken me in the middle of the night–or interrupt with thoughts in the middle of other conversations–stories that captivate me. That’s my path.
Many writers get story ideas that fit into established genres and traditional slots, if you will. Others don’t. I’m not sure who is lucky and who has the chore. Opinions on that will vary from writer to writer. What I can say is that it’s essential to be true to your nature to respect your gift. If your gift fits into a defined slot, that’s wonderful. You’re blessed.
But if it doesn’t, don’t despair, because you’re blessed, too. You might not get a lot perks that others do, but you’ll get ones they don’t. Yours.
Blazing trails gets you some scratches and dents and bruises and sometimes you get banged up a little. But you also get immense satisfaction. And when you watch those behind you get excited and join you, well, that’s a pretty special thing.
I can’t speak to it being easier or harder to sell. I will say that when I first blazed a trail, I had to explain what the book was before I could pitch what the story was actually about. And I can say that I got mixed reactions. Some were “Ewe, that’s weird.” Some had light dancing in their eyes, as excited by the prospect as I was excited. And I’ll never forget the editor who literally got so enthused she bounced in her seat.
You know, when it came to that sale, she didn’t offer the most money. She didn’t offer the best contract. But she offered her enthusiasm. She was invested. And I chose her for those books. It was a good choice.
Money’s nice, guys, and I like it as much as anyone else. But I’ll take a fair deal and enthusiasm–an editor with vision who trusts me over more money any day of the week. It’s by far the better bargain.
How do these things relate? Immediacy. One is in the work. One is in the author and the editor selected for the project.
See, I just seem to have scattered thoughts today. Actually, I’m very focused. Well, considering I just spent two days working on income tax… ☺