First of all, for those of you who don't yet know me,
This (that) is me.
Welcome to my blog,
and Friday Feedback.
I assume many (most? all!?) of you here today are from Teachers Write!
If so, KUDOS! You are in for an exhilarating writing summer chock-full of tips and advice from some awesome guest authors, "super-speed flash edits" (tm) (okay, fine, lie, not tm, sue me) and camaraderie that will make your head spin.
Well, something like that.
At any rate, forgive today's looong post, lots to cover. Future posts will be short and sweet and succinct (maybe). But today, not so much.
First, let me first tell you about Friday Feedback and why I started it. Let's do that interview style to break up the monotony:
Okay, Gae, so, what is the point of Friday Feedback and how does it work?
Why, the point is to get and give feedback in a fun and supportive environment (with some basic hard and fast rules).
Under the theory that "brave is as brave does" (that's a theory, right? Precept? Well, whatever), I -- or one of my guest authors -- will post a BRIEF writing tidbit and then an excerpt from something we're working on and we ask for some basic feedback in the comments (see below for details). I will offer (and hereby am offering) you the same opportunity to post your own BRIEF excerpt in the comments and receive the same feedback from me or the guest author, or both, plus from any of my writer or non-writer friends who might happen to stop by the blog.
Why do you love this feature?
Why do you love this feature?
Good question! You see, writers often write in a vacuum.
or if it’s crap.
Sure, you think we're exaggerating or being humble when we say that, because you’d think we’d know -- that we could easily tell the difference between gems and crap. But sometimes, honestly, we just can't.
Sometimes, the chasm of self doubt we writers stare down is just that gaping and wide.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a quote I often cite from an interview with the master, William Goldman (Marathon Man, The Color of Light, The Princess Bride), IMHO, one of the greatest writers and storytellers of all time:
“One of the things I love to do when I work with young writers is
to disabuse them of the notion that I know what I'm doing.
I don't know what I'm doing. . .
as we are speaking, I am looking at my computer, tearing out my hair,
thinking, well, is this horrible, or is this going to work?
I don't know. Storytelling is always tricky."
|gosh, how I love this man's writing. . .|
So, yes, I admit it here and now: I often have no idea what I'm doing.
Really? Okay... well, then, I'm sold on the concept. I'm in! So what are the rules about feedback and BRIEF excerpts, and why do you keep capitalizing the word BRIEF? Do you think we're thick?
Yay! Glad you're on board! And, no, of course, I don't think you're thick at all. But sometimes, in our exuberance, some of us aren't always the best listeners. *tsks*
So, here's how it goes:
I, or my guest author(s), will prepare a post always followed by a BRIEF excerpt of our own writing, sometimes rough, sometimes more polished (our excerpts may be longer than yours. Hey, we run the place ;)), for which we would love the following feedback -- and will offer the same to you on any BRIEF excerpt you might provide in the comments between Friday and Sunday (we make no promises on excerpts posted after Sunday):
• If the excerpt is from the opening of the story, please tell me/us: does it "hook" you enough to make you want to keep reading?
• No matter what point in the story the excerpt is from, tell us what works for you, and why?
• What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?
See? Totally simple. :)
As for why I keep emphasizing the word BRIEF, there are two reasons: (1) for my and my guest authors' sanity. Some weeks I/they/we am/are reading up to 30 or more excerpts, and this summer I have a feeling it could be more! and, (2) (and perhaps more importantly) I have no way to protect your work from reading eyes -- and make no promises to. Place an amazing opening up here and someone could always snatch it up. As a writer I don't worry too much about this myself, because there's plenty of content floating around out there, and anyway, any such thieves would have to be able to run with it and that's not (as we all know) as easy as it sounds. Still, I don't want to be responsible for someone lifting a whole chapter of your work from my blog.
This means that, no matter how much I -- or my guest authors -- choose to post at our own risk, when you post, PLEASE limit your excerpt to between THREE and FIVE paragraphs, and no more. Three if they are long-ish, up to FIVE if they are short. If there's more, I may only read the first 3 - 5 paragraphs. If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments.
Once in a while, if an excerpt lends itself, I will perform a "superspeed flash edit" tm (okay, fine, not tm) on it to illustrate some concept, for example, that you've overused a word, or you've used a tense or unneeded words that slow the piece down. Consider it a bonus not an insult (or so I hope!), and, as always with the feedback provided here, take it for what it's worth. If for some reason you don't want me to superspeed flash edit your piece, just tell me so, and I won't. It's just sometimes a great way to illustrate a point.
As for our feedback: use what you like, toss out what you don't. It's your work. They're your words. It's your art.
Also, if I don't already know you and it's the first time you're posting, please identify yourself as a Teachers Write! camper if you are... if you are a student from a particular class I've Skyped with, etc., please identify yourself too. Even if we met on Twitter a few nights ago, please reintroduce yourselves. It may take me a week or two to get to know you.
And, remember, we're all trying to be constructive here. So be honest, but be kind, and expect the same in return.
Okay, got it! Now you're sort of just rambling on and on. So, um, can we get started?
Yes, let's! (Geesh you're all so bossy already). Here we go.
So, why I titled this blog post the way that I did: I think Teachers Write and Friday Feedback couldn't have come at a much better time for me. Because, I've been really struggling with a manuscript and, thus, having to take my own crap advice a lot these past weeks, namely to let my writing be garbage. MOST FIRST DRAFTS ARE GARBAGE. That's how it is for all of us. It's only in the struggle of revision that the real beauty takes place and storytelling gets done.
|My baby |
in its paperback incarnation
I originally wrote JKiDtM about four years ago, as a follow-up option book for my The Pull of Gravity editor, but after I completed it, I was worried it wasn't going to be right for her. Right around the same time, I had started a second ms called Frankie Sky -- now soon to be released as The Summer of Letting Go (Algonquin Young Readers, March 2014) -- and as soon as I got into the meat of that story, both my then-agent and I thought it would be a better choice to submit as my option. Alas, my editor didn't connect with the story at all and turned it down, and it took me several more major revisions, a new and wonderful agent, and another year to sell it to my new editor at Algonquin.
(and, yes, I am excited!)
Anyway, now working on next books, my current agent read the rough draft of Jack Kerouac (which I hadn't worked on in a few years) and thought it had a lot of potential (seemingly seeing past the crap writing, the poorly-drawn characters and the wholly pornographic content of the story *coughs a little more*).
He gave me some great direction and I've been working on revisions since early May.
But, here's the thing: IT SUCKS. IT'S GARBAGE. AND IT'S MAKING ME CRAZY!
So, I'm trying to take my own advice to let this early rewrite be crap, to breathe through the panic, and to trust that I can -- and will -- get to the core and beauty of the story through revision.
And now that you're all here watching me, I have no choice but to take my own advice and make it happen.
So, without further ado, here is the current (but wholly revised) opening of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, up for your feedback.
- Does it hook you?
- What works?
- What doesn't?
Looking forward to returning the favor in the comments!
Be brave, and don't panic if it takes me an hour or three to get back to you in the comments.
Mostly, have fun.
p.s. yes, I get nervous too!
p.p.s. do feel free to offer the feedback to other writers who have posted in the comments!!
I don’t think that I can do it.
These kinds of videos always lie. They make it seem easy when it isn’t, and when you try, it never works out like the guy on screen said it would. It seems impossible that pinning the butterfly down this way won’t kill it. Then again, it’s as good as dead with this break in its wing, so it’s either this or do nothing and watch it struggle and die.
I press play again. The video starts up and the man races through the instructions matter-of-factly, like it’s no big deal. Like he’s explaining how to fix a flat tire.
“. . . now that you have it immobilized . . . use your toothpick to dab a dot of glue over the break site. . .”
I take a deep breath and hold it, press the loop down, fighting the inclination to close my eyes. Poor little butterfly. Its wings pulse futiley – once, twice against the restraint like a heartbeat – before settling.
“. . . glue over the surface of the cardboard splint . . . dry a minute or two to set. Now, using your tweezer, and making sure the wing is lined up perfectly, carefully place your cardstock splint over the fractured area . . . no ability to redo, so take your time. . . dusting powder gently over the wing to counteract excess glue.”
My hands shake ridiculously, and I want to pause the video again but can’t, so I plow forward. Besides, I’ve watched it three or four times now. I know all the steps. So why don’t I trust myself?
“. . . When, the glue is dry, grab the butterfly up gently and remove him from the cloth surface. He may even be stuck. . . release him free. He’s good to go. . . Cheers!”
Yeah, right. I haven’t even dabbed the glue.
I take another breath, hold it, get the glue on the wing and the tiny rectangular splint, exhale, and blow gently over the spot a few times, giving it time to dry, then place the tiny splint down over the split in the wing. I dust that with powder using a q-tip, say a prayer, and lift the wire loop from its body.
The butterfly just lies there.
I should know better than to try to fix anything.