The Writer’s Journey, er, the Character’s Journey, no, Writer’s…

I’ve always said to myself, “Self, if you can’t look back on yourself in ten years and not see a different self, then something is wrong.” Well that’s never been more true than now. I’ve been to two writer’s conferences this year, met tons of people, started my own company with a partner, and finally realized I didn’t know what the hell I’ve been talking about.

Like many of us prospective writers I like to think I know everything. I’m smart. I don’t need to do it like the rest because my work is so good they’ll write new rules for me. And when they didn’t, it made me mad. Why did I have to cut my work down by 20,000 words. I’m not going to do that! Why do I have to follow that structure? This works fine. Why can’t I use that in my story? I’ll do what I want because it’s my story. Blah, blah, blah. In short, I acted like a little kid.

Why that has changed now I’m not sure, but it has. Some of it might be my professional relationship with my writing partner, Terri Smiles. I trust her to look at my work objectively and say, “Nope. That doesn’t work,” which she says with alarming regularity. But you know what, my work is getting better because of it. And maybe that’s why I’m getting past all that crap that’s been keeping me off of bookstore shelves. I’m so much past it so that when Andrea Brown told me to lose 20,000 words, I said, “Okay.” I’ve already blogged about that so I don’t want to bore you with the details. But I will share today’s epiphany.

I finished Multiplayer a year or so ago and have been tweaking it ever since while developing new projects. It’s been read by a number of people many of whom like it. But the agents, and yes editors, who ‘liked’ it, also had a comment. They didn’t like the main character. They said he seemed too much like he needed a psychiatrist. In short, he seemed crazy. This incensed me. They just didn’t get it. They weren’t trying. I made a few minor tweaks but nothing really significant so the character didn’t change. I wasn’t realizing that they didn’t get it because I didn’t get it.

In the course of cutting text however, with this new eye on listening to the professionals, I’ve taken pains to raise the sympathy of the main character. And a previous edit by Terri made great strides in that regard. I finished today and realized the arc of the main character is completely different than before. Where previously Hector began crazy and ended simply annoying, now Hector begins as a timid, angry, immature boy, and ends a confident but questioning young man. This novel has never felt like this before and wouldn’t if I hadn’t gotten past my own immaturity as a writer. In essence, my main character couldn’t complete his journey, until I completed my journey.

The truly amazing thing however is that our journeys were the same. We had to learn to trust others. We had to realize that we could be wrong about things. We had to learn that we didn’t always have the answers and that other people have valid points of view. And perhaps most importantly, we both realized that even though someone thinks entirely different than we do, it doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them, not us.

Does this mean I’m about to get published? I don’t know. All I know for sure is that I’m enjoying the journey a lot more these days and thinking less about the end. Because there is no end…

About John

American, husband, father, writer, rocket scientist, soccer player, motorcycle rider, Christian, and proud of it.
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One Response to The Writer’s Journey, er, the Character’s Journey, no, Writer’s…

  1. Terri-Lynne Smiles says:

    Love it, John. But I am pretty sure I don't say "Nope. That doesn't work" with anything close to "alarming regularity." But I will admit to saying it vehemently on occasion!

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