Monday, November 21, 2011

Kick-@$$ Books, and How You Write Them

This pep talk is inspired both by NaNo, my GR friend Jillian, and Kat Kennedy's recent post onWaif-Fu. Random? Not really.

Dear Writer,

By now you are probably sick and tired about hearing how your novel can't be perfect on the very first go. I beg to differ - your novel will be perfect. It will be amazing. In fact, it'll be so good you'll want to query it on Dec 1, and become famous for having written a bestseller in 4 weeks.

That's why Stephen King usually waits 6 months between drafts, and only does two.

You need to love your book to make it work. Hell, you need love in every aspect of your life if you want it to work, because there will always be moments of frustration, sadness, and even borderline hatred, and you'll wonder why you even bothered in the first place. Love is wonderful, but it also makes you blind to some of your work's shortcomings.

A few days ago, I taught Time Management, and in that session, I informed my students that perfection is absolute bull-jazz, and that striving for perfection is not only undesirable, it's actually harmful. Of course, as one of them pointed out, there's math, but math is a correct science... for the most part, and there is no subjectivity... for the most part. But in general, in life, perfection is not something that can be attained, and punishing yourself for not being able to attain it will only drag you down, instead of make you better at what you do.

What does Waif-Fu got to do with it, though? Well, as Kat puts it, it is rare that heroines in real life are these perfect, tiny creatures that are always ready for action and wear skintight leather like it's flannel (for somebody who owns a lether jacket, I can attest that it's very stylish, but not something you'd want to fight in).

Book covers give us an illusion of reality which is usually how (male) graphic designers and (male) readers imagine kick-ass heroines. It's an ideal which is rarely upheld in the actual book (nine out of ten times, the heroine has to get saved), or in real-life.

Real-life heroines and heroes are the everyday people. Joe the milkman or Carla the teacher, who might be at the right place and the right time to save a life, or just contribute to our daily lives in a very unappreciated way (teachers, in specific, have my undying gratitude and respect for everything they put themselves through to educate the ungrateful masses).

The same thing goes for books - perfection is fantasy. It is illusatory. It is painful to strive for because it ends up discouraging you even before you begin to write. Look at the little things in life that make you happy - a new book after a long week, a cup of coffee your special one made you, a kiss by the autumn river, a teacher who fought through your cynicism and got you by the heart. Those are the things that make a book resonate and connect. Those are the things that make readers laugh with you, cry with you, and think of your characters as real people, maybe even real friends.

Those are the things where the love lies. And, in my experience as a reader, they're enough to forgive a gaping plothole or two.

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