Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Improve or Destroy?

Before I got seriously involved with today’s community of Christian writers, a number of my friends and family read Tangled Strands. I readily admit that the fact that they liked the story (one even admitted to shedding tears over the ending) is what gave me the motivation to bring it up to today’s standards in order to see it published. In fact, though they are polite about it, I’m pretty sure some of them have never understood why I had to “mess with it.”

Today I was going back over a seven-point framework developed by another author. He calls is the “seven beats of your story,” and we in our local writers’ group were challenged to apply it to our “work in progress” (aka WIP). I forgot that I worked my way through the whole thing several weeks ago, so it was most interesting to read my analysis. Perhaps the most interesting thing was at the very end after I’d made a stab at the seven points. This is what I wrote:

A BIG questions is this: If I try to pour my story into a mold made to fit all the “rules” and style matters of today, am I going to improve my story or destroy it?

Ouch! But it is a fair question, and it deserves an answer. There are two issues main to address in the answer.

First, I can truthfully say I am confident the end result is going to be better for all this work I am putting into it. I’ve been sharing some of the reasons with you as we go along in this blog. Some I’m electing not to get into because I don’t want to bore you to death. In fact, it has been an encouragement to me, as I’ve worked on this new beginning, that I never find myself wishing to go back to the original or wishing I hadn’t decided to make the change. So many things in that old beginning had bothered me for years, and they are now gone.

Another important issue is that, in all the things the writers teach about what makes good fiction (and not just in this day and age), they all agree on one thing and say it over and over: “It is your story, and you have to tell it in your voice. All of that supersedes any rules.” Admittedly, that makes for a challenge—to follow the principals of good fiction, to learn from what others have learned along the way, and yet to apply all of it in your own “voice” without destroying your story. (Author’s “voice” is not easy to explain, but it is related to the unique way in which one uses language.)

Another thing that everyone agrees about is that “story is king.” In other words, if the author tells a story that captures imagination and holds readers’ attention, that is more important than whether the author followed a bunch of rules.
So that is my challenge, and I’m doing my best to walk that tightrope between following proven methods and staying true to my story and my own writing style. Feel free to say a prayer for me after reading this (smile).

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