I’m trying this click bait thing. Sorry. Is it working? You’re here, at least! First, don’t get worked up. Plagiarism is abomination. I still get mad thinking about the college kids who thought I wouldn’t notice their wiki-reports. I own my writing. Its copyright is in my name. The words come from my mind and my hands. But I can’t claim all of it exclusively. I am a HUGE proponent of collaboration. Not necessarily co-authoring, but definitely haranguing loved ones nigh constantly for input and validation. Do this all the time always.
My signif-o is also a writer, so I am blessed that I have someone to talk shop with. This is so helpful. He tells me repeatedly when I’m being too nice to Summer and Lia–which so far has been about all the time. He lets me know when something sounds funny or boring or what other things I should be thinking about because that’s what my audience will be thinking about. And let me just say, according to him, some of y’all are very deep, and some of y’all are chuckleheads.
My friends are comprised of several writers and the otherwise-creative, too, and my stories wouldn’t happen without them. We talk about nuance, we talk about race and sex in books. I’ll ask for synonyms, and they’ll give me back Shakespearean responses. And, when I hit that point in editing when I’m pretty sure every word I wrote is an affront to our language–nay, our species–they are there to keep me from deleting all of it.
And that all seems so…common, right? But it’s really not. We see a lot of books that you want to ask “Hello!! Did you even mention this out loud to anyone before you said it? Because it MAKES NO SENSE!” The one-dimensional story is real, and a problem. As authors, we get so caught up in the minds of our characters that we forget that all the things we know but aren’t communicating effectively don’t exist for our readers. Alpha and beta readers help with this (I recommend having ten people read over books before you send it into the world). But don’t stop there. I recently gave the mile-high overview of the rest of the series to a friend who only said this:
“Wow. Intense. I’m not sure I love X, but that’s just my own worldview. It sounds really cool though.”
And by him saying that thing about X, I gave it another thought. I was out of my own head for a second, and the tweak I made to address his feelings? Oh, man I am so excited to write this story. I thought I was excited before. But now it almost writes itself. How could I not have seen that! I was so caught up on what I knew about my characters that I didn’t think about what it’d be like to read that part of her story. And now that I have, I can’t imagine it making sense the old way. It would have been so trite. Now it has a new twist. Because my story isn’t mine, you see. It’s my world, my characters, my words. But I’d really like it if y’all read it and loved it, too. And for that, sometimes I need a poke, prod or a cannonball to the chest in the right direction. It’s my book, but the story credit goes in large part to the patient, creative, honest people who give me feedback I can use to make the story you’re reading be the story we all want to read.
So my advice, if you’re looking for advice, is: ask around! People often have great ideas that they don’t want, just lying around. It feels good to help people, to get swept up into a wave of creativity you don’t have to then finish and put in a home. It’s like being the aunt to an adorable but energetic child with whom you can go on adventures, and then send home when they get crabby. And really, while we love our own stories, isn’t being an aunt to one sort of the best?