Monday, May 13, 2013

Using every tool

The Craftsman is a bit of a perfectionist. You know the kind - he measures the wall from every conceivable angle before he hangs a picture. Me? I hold it up, decide whether or not it 'looks good', then drive home the nail. That's just one of many reasons why he makes beautiful furniture and I stick to words that can be changed, altered, or revised. 

That's not to say everything made by The Craftsman has come effortlessly. Quite the contrary. Once or twice I've seen him improvise and deviate from his original concept.

I try to remember this whenever I find myself at odds with a character or plot that isn't working the way I had envisioned. Believe me, I know how hard it can be to face that blank computer screen and pound those keys until you have something that flows and falls in line with what you had planned. All while keeping in mind that you also need to be flexible enough to be open to possibilities.

In other words, it takes work, YOUR work, to find the right path, to add a new plot twist, depth to the characters or emotion to the conflict. That's where the work really begins. It's actually quite easy to come up with an idea, a set of characters, conflict. The hard part is sustaining it through all the trials and tribulations that keep the reader turning pages.  

If you're as lucky as I am you have a terrific critique partner that will help you through these rough spots where you question your direction. If you're as lucky as I am, that critique partner will be honest and tell you what you need to do to improve the story.

I recently experienced this when I sent my last chapter to my critique partner. She was as supportive as always but she also didn't hesitate to tell me she thought a different approach to the last scene would be more powerful.

It would be easy to ignore her, after all these were MY characters, MY story idea. But I took a lesson from The Craftsman and looked at the project from another angle, measured all the components using different tools. And have a much more beautiful project as a result.

A writer uses every tool at her disposal.


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