Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't be afraid to ask for help

by Brittany Geragotelis

It's a funny thing, this book-writing thing. See, it starts out as this very solitary, solo project, but by the end it's turned into a bit of a group effort. At least, if you plan on getting published. Because the truth is, even though the book started out with your vision, it takes a lot of different people with different opinions to get to the finished project that you seen in stores. Whether it's from friends, writing critique groups, agents or editors, a book will no doubt receive several "suggestions" of how it can be stronger along the way.

Only about five people have read Painless and every one of them has had something to say about it. All have enjoyed reading it, but the suggestions on what I should change have varied from choosing a new last name for a character to making the main character older to completely re-writing the ending. One of those five people was an agent who gave me my first rejection. She said that some of the book was Best Seller material, but other parts weren't quite there yet. As a writer, you have to be willing to make changes to your MS, because ultimately an agent or editor's suggestions are made because they want to sell a solid product. The problem was, when I told the agent to tell me what she wanted me to change and that I'd be happy to do it (if it made sense to the story), she said she couldn't quite put her finger on what needed to change. So, that was that.

Now, I'm onto Plan B, which includes me going back and taking a look at all the suggestions my friends have given me and making changes where it would help make the book stronger. My boyfriend went to school at Columbia and studied film and one of the things he was taught was how to structure a storyline (OK, script; but same sort of thing). Out of everyone, he's had the most advice for me, but I have to say that nearly all of it was spot-on when I really listened to what he had to say. I think I'll be making about 70% of the changes he suggested and honestly, I truly think I'll have a much better story because of it.

But despite this great advice (and all the others I've received), I couldn't help but feel like I was taking someone else's ideas and passing them off as mine. At one point, Matt was giving me specific lines for a certain part of my novel, and I found myself saying, "Stop giving me your ideas, I don't want to steal them!"

As I've given it more thought though, I'm realizing that this is what all authors have to go through. We write the first draft and then there are several others who come in and help us fine-tune it. In the end, I'm still the one who's created the story and it's all MY writing. If you get a little editorial advice along the way...well, that's just the sign of a real writer. And a real writer isn't afraid to ask for help.



Anonymous said...

love it!!