Helpful, that’s what people like to be when you tell them you’re writing a novel. Help is good, no doubt but writing is a solitary endeavor most of the time. Though really, success is found in embracing a community of editors, beta-readers and dogs…no not dogs, unless you’re thinking of Snoopy who has a lot of experience with unhelpful people like Lucy.
Today’s lesson from the Comics, is from Peanuts. Lucy informs Snoopy that his writing is terrible. She doesn’t say that, family and friend critics often don’t. She says it lacks ‘feeling’ then gives the great advice of a plot of ‘boy meets girl, loses her, finds her again’. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. This is Lucy’s interpretation of feeling, a simple plot with an emotional path.
Okay, so a backbone of a three sentence plot is a good idea but I challenge you to look a little deeper in your current work. What feeling pervades it? Is there one? I think the easier that you can identify the feeling of your novel, the more likely the story is sound and therefore able to handle the structure and bulk of a novel. I took this challenge myself. I debated and searched in my novel “Kill Words”, but I cannot say what overarching feeling the story carries. I’ll have to think about that, which means I’ll have to think about why that is and if it is fixable. In my defense, I haven’t been working on it for several weeks. I’ve lost my way a bit. However, the storyline in “The Roady Series” on my flash fiction blog Entylerywords.com is easy to state. The story is saturated with rejection and acceptance juxtaposed. Hmm, also something to think about.
Lucy doesn’t stop there with her editorial advice. She insists on helping Snoopy by looking over his shoulder to provide him with instant feedback. Is that the answer to a great first draft? Would immediate criticism ensure writing and the story stay on track? I’m thinking, no. As much as reader’s opinions are essential to perfecting a novel for publication, feedback over the shoulder is as helpful as a back seat driver. I’m likely to drive off the road in nervous reflex to one more instruction on how to improve a sentence. Even so, I would take someone up on the offer. I have found even one pointer on how to improve my writing is worth any amount of feeling like my hard work is derailed to the junk yard; a truth I want to face early on. What about you? Is there a brutally honest ‘Lucy’ in your life?
Write on, even if you have to start over. Sigh.