Rule #8

Wow – I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since I reviewed Rule #7 from Pixar’s 22 Storytelling Rules. Time truly speeds by when you are having fun (or working too much).

So, let’s get right to it, shall we?

Pixar’s next rule is one that I struggle with the most, I think. Well, okay, I struggle with character, and plot, and voice, and a lot of other things, but unlike those, this one truly scares me.

With experience and practice, a writer can master all the craft issues that entail a well-rounded story. You can learn to give your characters depth. Plotting is just about organizing your scenes to draw the reader on a trail of questions they feel compelled to find the answers for. And voice comes with confidence, which, in turn, comes from experience (I hope).

But this next rule? It takes courage.

I don’t mean the wimpy everyday kind of courage we talk about. No, it’s not about getting enough gumption to ask your boss for a raise. Or demand better service from your local grocery store. Or, even, face your neighbor about their late-night parties.

Nope. This is about baring your soul. To the world. To an unsympathetic, haughty audience that is just looking to knock you down a notch or two.

What am I talking about?

This:

Finish your story, let go, even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world, you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

Last month, I started to let some of my stories go. I submitted several to various markets. Half have been rejected. The other half I am waiting to hear back, but I’m expecting more rejections.

And that’s okay.

I’ve gotten enough rejections in the past four years that I’ve developed a fairly thick skin towards form rejections. However, I wasn’t prepared for…how shall I word this properly…oh…let’s say… insulting personal feedback.

Apparently, one of my stories confused an editor so much, they wrote back to let me know I submitted the most confusing story s/he had ever read. They also mentioned I should learn to “paint a picture (with words)”.

Yikes.

That hurt. For a moment, I thought, I should just stop. Why am I trying so hard? I obviously do not have a gift for writing. Story-telling is difficult for me, and I’ve been earnestly trying since 2009. Why am I putting myself through this torture?

In my very next thought, I answered myself:

Because next time, I’ll do better.

Write well, my friends, and heed the Pixar legend – do better.

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19 thoughts on “Rule #8

  1. Yes, this rule is tough and I have trouble following it myself. I’m glad you’ve taken it to heart though. Especially after that personalized rejection letter. I’ll never understand how some of these “professionals” can be so unprofessional, but that’s just how it works out sometimes. I have a lot of respect for someone like you that decides to keep on marching forward anyway. Keep it up!!

      1. Eh, I think becoming a serious writer requires a bit of both. 🙂 If we were smart, we’d stop banging our head against the wall so much. But then we’d be too smart for our own good, never getting closer to achieving the dream! At least that’s what I tell myself…

  2. We can never stop looking to be better and there will always be someone better, but don’t let that prevent us letting go and discovering what people think.
    I read a post by another blogger the other day, about rejection letters of famous authors – there were some big names in there. Hemingway received some very harsh rejections telling him he couldn’t write at all and Agatha Christie was rejected more than 50 times. There were many more. If I remember where I read it I’ll come back an let you know.

  3. Yeah! More rules, I love these although that rejection letter you mention *was* painful. Kudos for brushing it off and moving on.

    It’s a hard lesson to learn- you read conflicting advice: “polish, polish, and keep polishing, you’d hate it if one more revision would have earned the big sale”. And yet, there is a time to move on.

    I was reading another blog the other day by a writer who has been working on a novel for 5 years, and have revised from 200,000 words to 100,000 words. Given the nature of the post, I didn’t have the heart to suggest it might be time to move to a new project. Besides, there are some authors who were widely successfully spending so much time on the project (Tolkien comes to mind 🙂 )

    For me, it was said to leave my last project behind but at this point, I don’t think I’m going to go back to it. Instead, I’m planning to do story dev on my next project after I finish the current revision and send it out to readers. I think it may help to have overlapped projects so that everything isn’t riding on the one & only project.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Yes that overwhelming desire to tweak is incredibly powerful. Resist, resist… I know I can’t always but there comes a point where you have to step back and accept that it is as good as it is ever going to get.

  5. What I would add is not only to accept that the work is finished, but believe that you have learned from the writing and start your next project. Indeed, the next story will be better.

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