Author A. LaFaye is known for wandering -- both physically by traveling here and there and back again to visit schools, speak at conferences, and visit a zoo or two along the way AND mentally when she goes off topic on a wordy little tangent about who knows what. Read and find out.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Building A Persona:
The Public Side of Being an Author
Crafting a Public
Craft advice is essential to building a career as a writer,
but so is consciously crafting your writing persona. By its very nature,
writing is a solitary act that requires us to
plumb the depths of our subconscious as we create literary worlds out of the
reimagined fabric of our own lives. In order to do that in a way that is not
only self-sustaining, but also promotes growth, we need to have a healthy
approach to the public side of writing.
Making Our Work
In the comfort of our own computer, mind, or office, our
writing is a creative extension of the process we went through to create it.
We’ve taken a four-dimensional world and reduced it to squiggly lines on the
page. It makes sense to us. It’s a fully fleshed out representation of a
fictional world we’ve created.But
something happens on the way to sharing this piece with others.
Our work loses the tendril connections to our subconscious,
the invisible little lines that fill in all of the spaces others see in our
writing, but we can’t see this spaces because we fill them in automatically as
we reread. How many times has someone critiqued your writing and your first
response, is, “But that’s not what I meant”? We’ve all been there.
Let’s talk about a step we could all take before we ever
show our work to others and that is to “divorce the draft,” a concept
introduced by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane, in Discovering
the Writer Within (a composition textbook).When you “divorce the draft,” you separate yourself psychologically from
the manuscript so that you can view it as a public work versus a private piece
of art.It’s still your story, but
you’re sharing it with the world. Now you have to see it through the eyes of a
reader who doesn’t have access to your writing process. By distancing yourself
from your work, you’re better able to see and accept constructive criticism as
a means of helping you grow as a writer.
Divorcing the draft also makes revision exponentially easier
because you’ve taken a step back to look at your work anew and can find
exciting and inspiring ways to expand your work.
“Revision” means to re-see your work, so if you approach
this process with an adventurous spirit— asking, “what new things can I
discover?”—you’ll find the critiquing and revision phase to be a much more
creative and inspiring process.
Sending Your Work Out
Into The World
When you send your work out into the world, you’re often on
edge about how it will be received. At this state of the game, it’s important
to separate the intertwined influences of taste, market, existing list, and
craft. To know more about what editors
and agents are looking for and why, check out the wish list http://mswishlist.com/mswl/by/editor
An editor once rejected a manuscript of mine because a
central character was an octogenarian and she didn’t really feel a connection
with elderly people.This response was purely
based on her own personal tastes and we can often read that as the main reason
for a response to a manuscript in statements like, “this isn’t for me.”Taste is one of the main response agents work
so hard to learn what different editors prefer and have an affinity for.If it’s a matter of taste, you just need to
keep looking for an editor/agent whose tastes are more in line with what you’ve
Unfortunately, the market is often the biggest hurdle for
agents, editors, and authors. Often all three parties love a particular style
of writing or a certain manuscript, but they know that it will not have enough
of a broad appeal to sell enough copies to earn a large profit.When this happens, it’s usually the case
where the editor takes the manuscript to acquisitions and the “bean counters”
aren’t sold on the accountability of the piece. When this happens, you can try
another house who can see new ways to market the book, consider a smaller house
that has lower sales expectations, or you can wait for the tide of public
interest to change to the genre you’re writing.
Sometimes a rejection can purely be based on the fact that a
particular editor or agent has other manuscripts or clients with manuscripts
that they’re already publishing or pitching for publication.In this case, it’s just a matter of moving on
to a house that needs a book like yours to fill out their list.
All of the above issues are based on the publishing world
and you really have no control over them at all.Craft is a whole different story. If there are elements of craft that are
holding you back, then you need to address those issues with education,
exploration, and revision. When you receive comments about inconsistent voice, variations
in plot development, expository vs. experiential sections of the piece, then
you know that the situation is more about your ability to fully polish the
manuscript.If that’s the case, then you
need to go back and dig in.It’s also
helpful to pursue opportunities to expand your own skills with webinars like
those offered by Kidlit College, develop writing groups with fellow writers who
have a keen critical eye for craft, delve into excellent books on craft, and/or
consider coursework in craft.Making the
study of craft a life-long journey is an essential part of your growth as a
Here’s a great list to get your started on writing books. My
thanks to Bethany Roberts in compiling this list.
Your desire to advance your career may often push you to
change yourself and your writing to fit the market and it’s important that
you’re not resistant to change and growth, but it’s also essential that you
don’t sacrifice the unique contributions you have to make to the field in order
to “get a sale.” Be yourself. You are who you are for a reason. You have a
unique perspective on life and art and writing that only you can share with the
world, so be true to yourself and your art.
Speaking of Being
Yourself: A Little Bit About Me
I’m a writer and a teacher who teaches English Department as
part of the Center for Visual Culture and Media Studies at Greenville College
and the low residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hollins
University and I love to offer craft based webinars through KidLit College. I’m
also a huge supporter of other authors and independent publishers like Milkweed
Editions https://milkweed.org/ who have
published a handful of my books and I’d love to see more folks pick up a copy
of Water Steps this spring in preparation for facing their fears and heading into summer.Kyna nearly drown as a child and was left
with a pathological fear of water she’s overcoming one step at a time thanks to
her adoptive parents, but now they want her to live on a lake for the summer
and she’s having none of it.Especially
not their silly story that it’s inhabited by shape-shifting silkies.This could be her most exciting summer if
she’s will to take her her biggest “water step” ever.Can she do it? Pick up your copy of WATER
STEPS and see.