So this month’s topic is that thing I always screw up. Honest to goodness, at some point I think I have screwed up every possible thing. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
- Write in the wrong genre–Check–I have a paranormal with a decidedly less than alpha hero, a western historical romance that you’re never allowed to see, and I once wrote wrote a book specifically for Harlequin that had a mortician as the hero.
- Stuck foot in mouth in front of VIP–Check–I don’t know where to start with this one. My foot lives in my mouth. I’ve almost fainted dead away in a PRO workshop out of fatigue (after a 13 hour day on 3 hours of sleep) only to be accused of being drunk, introduced myself to Catherine Coulter as if I were a somebody, and got lost while driving an editor from the airport to Moonlight & Magnolias. Ah, fun times.
- Turn in my first AND SECOND manuscripts without page numbers–Check
- Send my manuscript in the body of an email because an editor/agent requested a partial but said no attachments–Check.
- Toss out all critique info because my critique partner made one comment I didn’t agree with–Check–In my defense that was my first attempt at critiquing. I was young and stupid.
- Damned homophones and word repetition–Check–why do I have trouble with this?
- Not have business cards on my person–Check–I finally corrected by this by solemnly
vowing that any time I needed a business card and didn’t have one, I would have to post an unflattering photo of myself.
What I’m hoping you can see here is that you can make some pretty big mistakes and still get the job done. The problem comes from willfully repeating the same mistakes over and over again or from being unkind or arrogant. I think it’s much harder to recover from the last two in particular. Heaven knows, I’m not perfect, but I try to be kind and humble and easy to work with. Like many writers I’m neurotic enough that I doubt I always succeed, but I try.
I do have to say there’s one problem that keeps cropping up again and again in my work, and it’s the one I can’t ignore: I avoid conflict like crazy. Every first draft I’ve ever written doesn’t have enough of it. Even now, I’m revising book three and guess what? Not enough conflict. The seeds are there, but the draft I turned in danced around the possible conflict points because I actually like my characters. I want the best for them. I forget that I have to put them in the crucible and burn off the dross so we–and they–can see their finer points.
So, I guess what I’m saying in a rather round about sort of way is that there are so many things you can screw up, but the good news is that almost none of them are fatal. Tell a great story, do your best to be a hard worker, and be kind. Kick any sort of professional jealousy to the curb, and good things will come your way with patience and perseverance.
P.S. I just moderated a panel with Meg Cabot, Robyn Carr, and Kristan Higgins. They each agreed with something I’ve just learned the hard way: whatever manuscript you think is crap is actually golden. Whatever manuscript you think is awesome? Actually needs a crap-ton of work. –Check–NYT, here I come?