Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Owning your story - for Writer's. (and this can apply to parenting too)

I'm coming to the end of my Masters Degree in Creative Writing - my deadline is Friday week!

Although I've been working on this degree since July of 2007, I only actually started working on THIS story in April last year (before that I had two other manuscripts I'd started work on but ditched).  So I've been working on this particular manuscript for only about 18 months.  For most of that I've been fairly open to suggestions from my supervisors and other experienced authors - not too invested in the end product - because I really want to do well in this degree so I can get into a PhD and finally get those letters in front of my name (yes, the truth is ugly and full of vanity, but there it is!).

Then again, I haven't sought very much feedback until recently because I haven't had a lot of confidence in my own ability to actually write anything other people would be interested in paying to read.  It was only once I started to circulate my manuscript more widely I discovered that everyone will want to put their mark on a writer's manuscript.  Every person who reads it will compare it to their favourite texts (watching a few episodes of the First Tuesday Book Club on ABC1 also hinted at this early on) and try to make it more like them.  Everyone has a different opinion, and sometimes those opinions are in direction opposition to one another.

As well as this, people bring their own misunderstandings!  Experienced writers have told me that it should be "goodness know" not "goodness knows", or that it's "splitting image" not "spitting image"..

Also, I've come to understand that the process of editing aims to knock the rough edges of your work, however, if you let too many people edit your manuscript you risk EVERY rough edge being knocked off, and while the final product may be sleek and shiny and perfectly smooth, it will more than likely also have lost every distinguishing feature that would have made it stand out from the crowd and have a voice all of it's very own.  You risk actually buffing away the very facets that give your manuscript texture and life and individuality!

Writing a manuscript is pretty much a metaphor for parenting.  We produce a raw product - the early stages of parenting where you discover your strengths and weaknesses - then we look around and compare that to the product of parents we admire and our weaknesses becoming glaringly obvious.  Alternatively, we pick up a good book on Profesional Parenting (TM) and realise that while our raw product has a lot of potential, if would be SO much better IF...

So, we knock a few rough edges of it, and it IS better!  We're happy for a while, but then another Parenting
Editor (aka a Parenting Expert - whether they run their own business or simply toot their own horn) points out more rough edges and soon we seem to be attracting Parenting Editors like seagulls on a hot chip!

c/o www.rachelwilkerson.com
In the end, if we listen to everyone and chip away all those rough edges, we might achieve Perfect Parent status (or the perfect novel!). Technically speaking, we might tick every box for raising happy, self-confident, successful children, but we will have lost those distinguishing mark that make us us - that make us irreplaceable to our children!

At some point the writer (and a parent) has to say, "Enough!" This manuscript might be perfect if I do everything everyone says - chances are though I can't please all the people, and even if I achieve perfection, the manuscript might disappear back into the storeroom unread because it lacks character.  For better or for worse, a writer must be somewhat invested in what they have written and brave enough to produce their own unique voice amongst the billions of voices screaming for attention.  Not everyone will like what the writer produces, but this does not necessarily equate to failure.

And the same goes for being a parent.  At some point you have to own your style of parenting and know your children will be okay because you're giving them the best you've got in that moment!

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Good Job!