Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writers and Rescue Options

A friend today told me how much she loves a show where people move to their country dream house, and tonight I watched an old episode of Country House Rescue. It got me thinking about the analogy between those who call in an "expert" to find them a house, or fix a horrible house, and those who ask for help with their writing.

In a writers' group or a class, there is a sense that everyone is there for the same reason, and you are all focused on the same thing - improving your work. Fixing the story or poem that doesn't engage your reader, or looking at how to rewrite the novel that drags in the middle. We all know the myriad ways a piece of writing can run off the rails. In a class, I think there is a sense of camaraderie, and also an acknowledgement that once you receive some good feedback, you'll go away and work hard on rewriting (and those who clearly don't are somewhat scorned by the others!).

But while watching some of the house rescue shows, my husband and I often become frustrated. Why don't they listen to that good advice? The advice of the expert? Why ask for expert advice if you are not going to follow it? We watch people who are told "Don't sub-divide that room as buyers won't pay for a house with tiny bedrooms". And they still do it. Or more often, they are advised to spend more time and money on making something look top-notch, and they don't, and then they can't sell the house.

OK, that's no doubt got a lot to do with TV producers deliberately choosing obtuse or stubborn people who are guaranteed to provide a more "stimulating" viewing experience! But I couldn't help comparing this to writers who want to write publishable work - usually novels - and pay for critiques, classes and writing "doctors" and still will not or cannot do the work required at a professional level. It's as if they're paying for what they hope will be a person who will say "A totally marvelous novel and you are a brilliant writer". And then they don't need to fix anything.

All the money in the world will not produce a good, publishable novel without a bit of talent and a whole lot of hard work. Just like it won't produce a renovated house you can sell for a profit unless you knuckle down and learn and do a whole lot of hard work. (You can pay someone else to do it but you won't make a profit - you could pay someone else to write your novel for you, but what on earth is the point?)

On the show I watched tonight, a participant was shown the rotting wood and holes in the ceiling and asked, "What are you going to do about it?" And her answer was, "I'm resigned to it." Imagine if an editor pointed out your lack of characterization and poor dialogue and asked you to revise, and you said, "I'm resigned to it." Are you resigned to settling for a first draft? Or are you going to get out your hammer and drill and chisel and renovate your writing?

1 comment:

Sarah Allen said...

So true! Its amazing how much we can do simply by being open-minded and professional.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)