Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Learning Curves

As much as I would love to say this blog is all about writing a contemporary romance between a curvy gal and her hero, it’s not. Far from it. Although…no! Focus.

Do you remember when you were in school and you encountered a tough subject you just knew you’d never be able to grasp? Maybe you didn’t understand it so therefore it remained a mystery. Maybe you just needed a nudge in the right direction. Maybe you needed someone to tell you straight up what you were doing wrong and how to fix it. Regardless, I’ll bet you learned the subject and then went on to excel at it. (Just FYI, Algebra was my Achilles’ heel and I never did master it. That was because of a lack of a dedicated teacher. To this day I don’t “get” it.)

Writing is no different.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve gone through my life with a pen in hand, scribbling like mad on a notebook that’s always with me. I still carry a notebook, but most of my ramblings go directly to the laptop these days. The drive to create something that was both a part of me, but outside of myself at the same time burns bright. All through the years, creative writing teachers said I had talent. I could make a career as a novelist if I wanted. I entertained my fellow students with my stories. Impressed my teachers. Life was good.

Then real life did a drive-by on me and it would be another fifteen years or so before I attempted to Get Serious and Do Something about my scribbling.

I won’t go into the trials and tribulations about my road to being published. I’ve talked often on the subject and have an upcoming guest spot somewhere about that first time. I’m attempting to get to the point of this blog entry before my mind interjects “too wordy” or “sentence structure off. Please revise.”

Writing’s a whole big mesh of talent, turn of phrase, a bunch of rules you can or cannot break, skill and finesse. And through it all, you need to learn.

If you’re not learning, you’re fermenting, and eventually your writing will wither and die.

Enter a new editor. Good or bad tidings? (And no, ominous music is NOT playing) And just like that I entered the next phase of my writing life.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting a handful of editors over the course of the last year, and only a couple rise head and shoulders above the rest. These individuals take me outside my comfort zone, make me think about my writing, how the characters got to where they are, and why I wrote what I did.

In short, a good editor is worth their weight in gold. And these people are more valuable to me and my writing career than anything I can pull from a self-help book.

Why? They don’t take excuses, so I might as well not even try. And because I want to learn. I want to soak up the knowledge like a sponge to improve my writing and turn it from good to something fantastic. Remember when I said if you’re not learning, you’re dying? Insert that advice here in a really loud, booming voice. Don’t assume that something you wrote years ago is still as good today or that if you feel like turning in lazy, sloppily written work it'll be accepted. It can’t be. Everyone’s style evolves. It has to or the writer grows stagnant. So, don’t close your mind to a learning opportunity. Learn. Evolve. Excel.

Oh sure, upon meeting a tough editor, you might rant and cry, go into deep denial that someone could have the audacity to mark up your work, shuffle around in depression a bit, but let me tell you, you’re going to be fine. You’re going to pull yourself out of the muck and you’re going to take a good, hard look at those suggestions in the margins. You’re going to think and think some more. And thank God one crossed my path.

So, if you’re serious about succeeding at being an author, check your ego at the door. Then you’re going to learn and start again, this time making your story into something great.


Unknown said...

Excellent blog post Sandra.
Thank you for sharing.
Great pictures too (especially the white/black angel).
I love the wisdom you impart.
All the best,

Rebecca Royce said...

I've had nothing but the best editors so I've been very lucky. Great blog.

Annie Nicholas said...

Avoiding stagnation once published is a pitfall all writers will experience at some point. Just being aware of it is the first step to avoidance.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks ladies. Annie, I think the problem goes beyond publication. Your writing has to evolve no matter if it ever sees a publisher or not. If not, the writer just stays status quo and never gets better :-)

P.L. Parker said...

Very good post. Remarkably, my skin has gotten thicker over the past 3 years. Now I take every criticism with a grain of salt, learn from their suggestions and go forward.

Annie Nicholas said...

Sandi, I understand what you're saying. I find when trying to attain the goal of being published it's easier to evolve and learn because your more aware you need too. Once that goal is achieved it's easier to forget. I see it in well published authors who get stuck in the same formula. They seem stuck in mass production than and lose that creative spark they started with. Keepint it fresh.
Can you tell I'm disappointed with my recent read? LOL

Sandra Sookoo said...

Annie: I hear ya. It's disappointing to read an author using the same old tired story. Whatever they're chasing now, money, time, publisher deadlines, it's definitely not the same thing they once felt passion for.

P.L. - Thanks for stopping by. I always joke this is the toughest job I've ever done, then a new round of edits ends in my box and I wonder if I'm out of my mind. Then I walk away, think on it and get back to work and say "oh yeah, it's the most awesome job in the world." :-)

LM Spangler said...

Excellent post, Sandra.

My editor has been absolutely invaluable to me and my writing evolution. I have to say I've been lucky. I've heard horror stories about authors having terrible editors who did nothing to help them, just change some words around with no explanation as to why.

Again, great post!


The Word Place said...

Wonderful advice, Sandra! I've always believed that when we stop learning, we stop truly living! And it's so great to hear from someone else about how they "always wrote" and finally got serious! It took me over 60 years--and it's nice to feel a kinship here!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!
very informative for me--extremely so!
Thank you!
I loved what you said about life doing a drive by! Can I ever relate to that!

J Hali Steele said...

Sandi, what a phenomenal post! And Algebra - I still don't get it either! Oh well...

Like you, I've been lucky with editors too. They've pushed me to a level I would have never achieved and I thank each one for that.

I've also had some awesome critters that had a hand in my growing and they still 'SHOVE' me towards being a better writer.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Very good post, Sandi! The advice was spot on!

I had the same thing happen to me when one day I crossed path with the one who would become my mentor. She took no bull and though it was hard at first to take the punches, I learned to roll with them and lol, now they come very erratically!

I know what you mean about learning though - to this day I still don't 'get' calculus and trigonometry, though I did feel a kinship with algebra and loved balancing equations (insanity, I know. I think it runs in the family coz my bro's an accountant!)



Rae Lori said...

Rockin' post! I so agree about the best editors. Especially when you come across some not so good ones, it makes the really good ones all the more valuable because they know their stuff, work with you to put out the best product and kick your story up so many notches. I'm forever grateful to my editors who helped me and my books!

Annie, you made a great point. It's sad when you can tell when an author is just churning work out for money and not really putting their all into the books. Sometimes it seems like they resent the work but it definitely shows than when they had that passion in the beginning. So sad. :-(

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks Z. Thanks Rae. :-)

Kathye Quick said...

Great post - love the pictures

Usually if I love me editor she moves. I have had both good and bad in the past. So I guess it's relly up to you to put out th best work you can to begin with.

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

I've nothing to add, because you said it so well.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks for coming by, Kathye. It's seems that no matter how hard I struggle to submit my best book, there's always more work to be done!

Thanks for the support, Marie-Nicole!