Saturday, 31 March 2012

Competition and the all important question of 'why?'

It's a simple question really isn't it?

It's one that I've neglected a fair bit writing Blackbrooke. In my quest to create something mysterious and creepy, as well as focusing on the relationship between my characters, I'd neglected this all important question.

My last edit of the book was to cut things out. The agent who gave me the feedback was right - I was overly descriptive on the movements and mannerisms of my characters, resulting in it reading like more of a screenplay than a book. It was like I didn't trust the reader to imagine it for themselves. Well, I've relinquished this control now and cut most of the 'stage direction'.

It reduced my page numbers by about 20, which I thought made all of the difference when the book stood at 334 pages. Too long for a teenagers novel, I'd thought.

However, once I'd finished, something made me go through it one more time. And it was that very question of 'Why?'

When you're writing something straight from your imagination, you're living it. You're so entrenched in the story that you fill in the gaps yourself, assuming the reader will reach the same conclusion.

So, I found Blackbrooke in a strange place - I didn't trust reader enough to let them imagine whether or not my heroine scratched her nose or bit her lip as she spoke, but I left them to build the history of the town I'd created and the people in it.

Dos went to see The Hunger Games at the cinema this week whereas I've spent the last few days devouring the book. I found it remarkable whereas Dos curled his lip at the film, saying there were too many things unanswered. So, he asked all of the questions the film refused to answer and I filled in the blanks for him.

It got me thinking about Blackbrooke and the fact that I don't want people to read it and come away with a whole bunch of unanswered questions. My third edit is completely ruining the 'cutting down' of edit number two as the page number has increased by ten and I'm still going.

It's time consuming, but quite fun to go into the things that matter in a bit more detail. It's helping to shape my heroine a little more as well and make her more likeable to me, whereas before I found her aloof yet a bit pathetic at times (yes, even I couldn't figure out someone I'd created myself!) but now I can see her filling out and gaining some much-needed colour.

It's not just her, its all of them. The town of Blackbrooke too. I can really feel a sparkle of magic from it and I'm really excited to get it back out there, under the noses of agents.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm now reading the The Hunger Games trilogy which was something I've been avoiding for a really long time. I was scared to read something, aimed at the same audience as Blackbrooke, in fear of it being just that bit too bloody amazing and rendering my writing skills completely useless.

You see, I'm not a competitive person, not in the least. In fact, quite the opposite - if I found myself suddenly placed in a race against others (or, fittingly, in the Hunger Games themselves), I wouldn't fight. I'd cower away and let someone else win while watching from the sidelines. I've always been this way, even from my school days where I'd try and opt out of netball and rounders so I could just watch instead.

If someone tells me that I'm down to the final two in an interview process, my first reaction is to hold my hands up and say 'let them have it', and I remember a team building exercise in a previous job where I failed miserably and came last by absolute miles because I had to pretend in my own head that I was doing it alone in order to get through it. By the time I'd rejoined my team on that particular occasion, they were halfway through lunch and eyeing me as though I was mental. Or just a complete loser.

I'm not a shy girl, but competition renders me useless and uncomfortable. I can't even join in with a computer game where I have to play against someone, unless I completely zone out. You'll find me in an arcade at an amusement park, slipping a pound into House of the Dead, closing one eye and taking aim with my gun. Just me against the zombies. I always do pretty well, levelling up, managing to take down dozens of the things, that is until someone comes and stands at my side. As soon as they pick up the gun and place the money in the machine to play alongside me, my gun goes down and I let them kill me. I'll shrug hopelessly and smile, while I return to my usual place of cheering the other person on.

It's most odd.

Anyway, the Hunger Games is a similar story. I didn't want to read because I thought that I'd wilt that little bit more after every turn of the page. Almost as though, Suzanne Collins was reaching out from the paper and waving her finger at me.

"Give it up, Emma. This is the sort of stuff you're up against." 

It was that thinking that would lead to me slamming the book back down in the shop and stalking out, red-faced. But I decided enough was enough. With a defeatist attitude, I don't stand a chance of getting published and even if I did, how would I react when I saw my book on the shelves with all of the others? Cry and run away? Or would I (and I can actually see myself doing this...) just buy every single copy of my own book just so it didn't have to sit next to all of the others with their fancier covers and more intelligent plots?

It's silly.

I gave up on the idea of acting and singing when I was a teenager, despite loving it, because I couldn't compete against others and wound myself up to the point of sickness.

I refuse to let the same thing happen again with writing. I'm stronger than that and the first thing I need to do is embrace the competition.

I read The Hunger Games and rushed out to buy the others from the trilogy straight away and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Between reading the Hunger Games, I've gotten stuck into my Point Horror books and also bought some other teen horror books by different writers. I'm having a ball. I thought it would make me feel inadequate but instead, it's just inspiring me to be a better writer. Reading is like exercising the writing muscles. You don't examine the words too closely (especially if the story sweeps you along) but its opening your mind and making you better at what you do.

I'm not preaching to anyone here but myself.

When I was buying a stack of books yesterday, the lady who served me pointed at one and asked if I'd read the other books by that author. I had to admit I hadn't (even though I desperately wanted to sound well versed and lie) and she smiled and said: "Well, they're really good, I recommend them. She's an amazing writer."

I left the shop with my new purchases and got a tiny rush of excitement that maybe, just maybe, someone will be saying those words about me one day.



1 comment:

  1. Great piece of writing and inspirational. It's a symbol of strength to hold your greatest talent close without a desire to publicly boast it. I wonder if this is the reason so many great writers chose an alias to face the competition?