There are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.
As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.
This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.
It may be hibernation season for some. Others might curl up with a remote and surf the television channels. In my house, we dust off the sketch books, sharpen our pencils and start creating.
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Many times I’ve sketched characters or created maps for my stories. For me, writing and sketching go hand and hand. I’ve passed my love for drawing onto my children.
Last fall, my sister gave me a 4×6 photograph I had never seen before. At least I didn’t remember seeing it before. It was of me and my sister, taken on a summer day at Liscomb Mills. If I had seen this picture shortly after it was taken, I probably wouldn’t have liked it. I never liked pictures of myself. However, time and forgetfulness has changed my opinion. I do like this picture now.
This change of heart reminded me of a folder of writing I had found not long ago. I had begun reading one of the stories and was impressed with how well it was written. I didn’t remember writing it, but it had to be mine. It was with other stories I had written. Although it wasn’t finished, it had great potential.
While reading another story in the file, one I was familiar with, I made a different discovery. It wasn’t as great as I had originally thought it was twenty years ago. It was filled with bookisms, bad dialogue and shallow characters. The spelling was fairly good, but the punctuation needed work.
The other stories in the folder were similar – some better than I remembered and some worse than I could imagine. Being able to read these stories with an open mind was a great exercise. Ideally, we should all put ten years between our so-called final draft and the copy we submit to an editor, but that’s not practical.
Many how-to books and writing websites recommend putting distance between you and your writing, snipping that umbilical cord to gain some perspective. Almost every writer becomes emotionally attached to their writing. It is why we fight against any changes, scoff at negative comments and roll our eyes at helpful suggestions.
But we shouldn’t ignore comments by others. Helpful criticism is just that – helpful. If you feel like rejecting comments without considering them, put them away for a while. Comments, like our own stories, need time to ripen, time to become void of emotions.
After a week or two or a month, read the comments again and then read your story. Try and imagine the suggestions put into action. Does it make your story better? Or have the suggestions missed the mark? If you disagree with the suggestions, see if something can be tweaked to see avoid any future similar suggestions.
For example, the person reading one of my stories added a few words to describe how a character was feeling. It was a simple addition in place of a missing emotion, but the emotion the person added was the opposite of what I had in mind. So instead of ignoring or adding the suggestion, I added my own, giving the character the emotions I wanted her to have to avoid future misunderstandings.
You don’t have to toss things in the closet and forget about them, but . . . who knows, after several years, you might discover a gem, a gripping story or a photograph you’d love to share with the world.