Monday, May 25, 2009

Listen to Yourself
By Patricia Sargeant

I'm sorry I disappeared the last two weeks. The Final Deadline Lap was rough. But I submitted my manuscript to my editor last Monday, and now I'm trying to get my life back into balance. Ha!

But I digress.

I learned several Very Important Lessons while writing Sweet Deception, my June 2009 contemporary romance. I'd like to get your input on one of them.

When I started writing Sweet Deception, I signed up for a hands-on plotting workshop. The instructor was a former creative writing teacher and a very well-known author who consistently lands on the New York Times Bestsellers list. I was excited to attend the workshop.

One of the first exercises was to write the high concept of our plot on a scrap of paper and pass the paper forward for the instructor to read a loud and provide feedback. The high concept for Sweet Deception is, "When a minister's daughter's secret life as an erotic romance author is revealed, she has to choose between duty and desire." Or something like that.

The instructor ripped the high concept to shreds. Thank goodness we submitted our ideas anonymously.

The workshop shook my confidence. Temporarily. I believe in the story. I like the characters. And I have a lot to say about the story's theme, which is identity. So I stuck with the story. I'm glad I did. I'm proud of my work. As I mentioned before, the reviews are coming in, and I'm pleased with them.

You've probably heard this a million times. Let's make it an uneven one million and one. There are only two people whose opinion of your work really matter: you and your editor. If you have an agent, then there are three people whose opinion matter. But First, Last and Always - at the end of the day - the only person whose opinion of your work truly matters is you.

Here's what I think. If you truly believe in your story, never give up on it no matter what others may say. Keep working on it until it's the best it could possibly be. Then work on it some more. Listen to yourself, and never give up.

That's what I think. What do you think?

7 comments:

Eric said...

Congratulations on your upcoming novel. Sweet Deception has been posted at the Books of Soul website -- http://booksofsoul.com/2009/05/sweet-deception-by-patricia-sargeant/

Looking forward to hearing about the book and your booksignings. And, if you're available for an interview, please let us know.

angela henry said...

Patricia,

I agree with you 110%. I also think you should send that NYT's Bestselling author a copy of Sweet Deception. Obviously, this person doesn't know as much as they think they do.

Rhonda McKnight said...

I guess it depends on the individual and the editor. I know too many authors who are over confident about their work and it's not good any more (their work). They also have weak editors and they know it. They're losing their fans and their contracts. If the stories were good, I'd just chuck it up to the business, but the stories suck.

I rely heavily on my critique system, but at the end of the day I do make many decisions about what I'm doing and trust that. So I guess I'm agreeing with you to a certain extent.

Patricia Sargeant said...

Eric,

Thank you so much for your cheers regarding Sweet Deception. And thank you also for posting information about the release on Books of Soul. I'm very excited and grateful. I would love to participate in an interview for Books of Soul. Thank you for the invitation. I'm very honored. If you'd like to contact me, my e-mail address is BooksByPatricia@yahoo.com.

Best!

Patricia

Patricia Sargeant said...

Angela,

You crack me up! The idea of my sending a copy of Sweet Deception to the New York Times Bestselling author is hilarious.

This isn't the first workshop presented by this author that I've attended. This author does have a tendency to present information as though there's no other way to write. As I've learned a bit more about the craft of writing, I've realized there are as many ways of writing as there are writers. I embrace those differences. Every author is a different adventure even if the authors are writing very similar plots. I love that about books. Would you agree?

Best!

Patricia

Patricia Sargeant said...

Rhonda,

You raise a very good point.

I have several critique partners as well, and I rely on each for different reasons. But, as you said, at the end of the day, the story must be yours. That's what makes your unique voice. We hear over and over and ... well, you see where I'm going ... that editors - and agents - are looking for strong, unique voices. At the end of the day - and the end of the story - that's what we have to protect.

As to your point about the quality of authors' work suffering as they become overconfident, another really good point. Donald Maass addresses this really well in Writing the Breakout Novel. We should never stop challenging ourselves.

Wow, Rhonda. With one post, you've given me topics for two blogs. Thank you! :)

Best!

Patricia

Rhonda McKnight said...

Yes, Maas does make a good point on this subject. Writing the Breakout Novel is one of my favorite craft books. Glad I could give you blogging material! :o)

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