Friday, August 5, 2011

LIBBA BRAY: Writing It All Wrong: A Survival Manual

The delightfully funny and terribly wise Libba Bray (BEAUTY QUEENS, A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, Printz Award winner GOING BOVINE, and more) sets the scene...

You spend several hours writing, you hold off on the M&Ms, your poetic ovaries shutter with creative life. Then next day you open up that same manuscript...and the characters have all the depth of a Colorforms sticky. Your plot twist is pedestrian. You despair. You think there's just one way out of this: fake your own death.

I'm here to be bring you good news, (just like Jesus), Libba says: your novel probably does suck. It's OK--embrace the suck. Gettting it wrong is a necessary part of getting it right.

Libba talks about spending all day every day writing a novel that was ALL WRONG. She turned it in six months late and then got a 12 page, single spaced editorial letter calling out the wrong. She revised for months. And months. 12 or 13 hours a day. She gained 20 lbs. The novel had also put on weight--ballooning to 900 pages. And it still was not right, she says. But she soldiered on. And after more painful revision and bouts of self-doubth, she eventually got it right.

Here are some of Libba's suggestions on getting through getting it wrong:
  • Gather your tools for survival. Your book is in there, buried under the book you hate. Find the tricks that help you dig it out (play lists, writing groups, Pop-tarts...)
  • Ignore external voices. That thing you are writing it awesome--it's the only thing that matters. What's hot doesn't matter.
  • Lower your standards. Your writing will never be perfect. If you strive for perfection, you're setting yourself up for failure. Don't stive for perfect; strive for better.
  • Be open to changing format. Maybe you need to change your point of view. Or write in verse. Or change tense. Find what works for your story.

1 comment:

  1. I so very much needed this! I am knee deep in revisions of a novel that I was in love with, then wanted to burn in a metal can in the yard, now cutting away and adding to in order to bring out the story I am finding there. Thanks for the hope :)