Pet Snakes, Gidget and putting yourself out there: Update on Jocosa of the Earrings
This is a picture of me and my new best friend - my niece's snake Aphrodite! Do I like snakes? Not particularly. But I told my niece I would step outside my comfort zone of furry domestic pets with paws and claws and hold her reptilian pet snake. As writers it is good to step outside our comfort zones - whether it's opening an emotional vein and spilling ink like blood all over the page, presenting at a conference, doing interviews or whatever scares you. We put ourselves out there every time we submit a manuscript or go to a blue pencil or pitch session with an editor or agent.
One writer who put herself out there is Jocosa of the Earrings. It's been almost a year since the Surrey International Writers' Conference where she declared that she wouldn't cut her hair until her book was published. She'd pitched to Donald Maass and he requested the first fifty pages of the re-write. She spent the last year re-writing it. Here, in her words, she picks up the story.
When we left off, the last two thirds of my manuscript was sculpted, but the first third was a protoplasmic mess. For inspiration I trekked down to NYC to see a play and agent stalk. Did it work? Yes and no. I was juiced to hone the opening pages, but alas, my muse refused to oil my fingers. The keyboard remained silent, the computer page white.
Fear plagued my psyche.
Had I destroyed my creativity because I was too focused on the joy of having an agent’s interest? Was my passion for my story deflating? Was my lack of craft showing? Was I fooling myself about being a writer? What had I been thinking when I agreed to have my journey to publication chronicled on Three Dead Moths?
Maybe I was only a dreamer.
Fortunately, there’s a bit of Gidget in me. For those of you who don’t know—Gidget is a fictional character created by Fredrick Kohner in his 1957 novel Gidget, The Little Girl with Big Ideas--about a teenage girl and her surfing friends in Malibu. In 1957 it became a hit movie starring Sandra Dee and James Darren (one of my favorite fun flicks). And in 1965 it became a successful television show starring Sally Field.
Besides being a girl with unflappable patience and persistence, Gidget also learns practically everything she needs to know from books. Love it. I have scoured many a craft book throughout my journey. Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, both by Donald Maass, The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens both by Noah Lukeman, and The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler to name a few.
But the Gidget in me said, “Not this time.”
I chose to consult my notes from the 2009 SIWC. And once again, clarity came through the voice of Lisa Rector. One of the first things Lisa said during The First 50 Pages workshop was, “I’m not going to talk to you about what you are doing wrong. We’re going to talk about what you are doing right.” If you identify what you do well as a writer and repeat it, you can prevent a lot of mistakes, such as too much back-story, go-no-where dialogue, absent tension and sagging middles.
Works for me.
So, what was it I was doing well in the last two thirds of the book that I could steal from? I admit to feeling weird about identifying what I was doing well. Felt a bit conceited and made me want to look over my shoulder to make certain no one was laughing. But if you can’t identify what you’re doing right, how can you be sure you’re doing anything wrong? And if you can’t figure out what isn’t working how will your story ever make it on to the shelves?
Next installment: Jocosa, Jocosa let down your hair! We'll have a pic of her (and another pair of her fabulous earrings) and her growing hair.
Now, from the Gidget school of not taking no for an answer...