Tuesday, September 1

If It's A Good Story... by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

Nan had a duh moment and didn't get her post done today (ask her why--it's entertaining) so we switched days. She'll be here Friday! - Liz


I've taken a few heavy hits in the rejection department lately. It's...yeah, depressing. With each one, I take another step toward closing the door on my book-writing career. No, let's say I'll leave the door ajar, because as many of us know, stopping writing and stopping breathing are about the same. But it's important in the heading-into-winter stage of my life that I do what makes me happy and doesn't harm anyone else. Writing books isn't making me happy these days.

Which isn't even what I'm writing about, but one of those rejections did give me my subject. It also listed starting in the wrong place...hmmm. But the big thing the rejection note mentioned, that I've heard talked about all the years of my career, is backstory. Nan ended up almost totally removing the first few chapters of Once More from the Top because of the backstory it contained. She bled for years, I think, even though it was a very good book even without those pieces of her heart in it.

But here's the thing. I like backstory. I don't mean just mine, although of course I'm very fond of it because I lived every minute of it as I wrote it. I like it in books that I read. I want to know where the protagonists' scars come from. In detail. I want to know how they felt that day, what the weather was like, and if they had a box of tissues handy or had to sob into a paper towel like the rest of us. What were they wearing? Did they burn it or do they still wear it because it's a reminder of how they kept on going after the backstory that changed their life. Who else was there?

I guess I am a recalcitrant reader. Although I'm not a fan of head-hopping, I can usually keep up and--if it's a good story--it doesn't take me out of it. I like having lots of characters in stories because I think they make things more interesting. I like writing voices to be distinct instead of "classic," which means (to me) that if you're 70 years old and you write like you're 30, you're stuffing 40 years of your writing experience into the closet with your bell-bottoms and the dress you wore to the prom.

But what I said there, if it's a good story, that's what makes all the difference, isn't it? Except that a good story isn't enough. And sometimes that's a shame.

My goodness, I do go on, don't I? Thanks for listening to me complain. Now, to get back to something happy, head on down to Last Chance Beach. It's Summer's End and there are 14 of those good stories I was talking about just waiting for you.

And, while you're shopping, Jar of Dreams, a favorite from my backlist, is 99 cents right now.


10 comments:

  1. Thank you, my friend! I appreciate you trading with me since I've been a bit of a mess for the last couple days... details on Friday. And yes, I'm a backstory junkie--I love it and my previous editor hated it. My new one, not so much, but "start in the middle of the action and dribble in backstory" seems to be the way we're supposed to be doing it. Ah, well... I, for one, never want you to stop writing books. I am a Liz Flaherty fan, but I see where you're coming from. Do leave the door ajar... Hugs!

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  2. Like Nan, I never want you to stop writing.

    So, maybe, to get your “spark” back, why not play around in another genre? Even if it’s just crafting a fantasy short story or magical realism short story created by looking at a picture and thinking, “what if?”

    Years and years ago I belonged to a Yahoo critique group—there were like six or seven of us(?) and each week one member would sent out exercise story starters. I wrote sci-fi, fantasy, poetry...probably not anything publishable but I loved experimenting with new subjects and ways of writing.

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    1. Thanks, Margie. I am thinking of moving...just a little, anyway. It's not really a bad place to be, but I so appreciate the assurance of my friends that I'm not out to pasture quite yet! :-)

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  3. What's "good" writing changes with the times. Now, everyone's supposed to hide backstory in bits and pieces through the manuscript. You're so good, maybe you should play with beginnings to see what you come up with. Why not experiment? I love to write urban fantasy but can't sell any if I paid people to read them. So I've played with other things, and it's fun. Kick up your heels a little and shake things up:)

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    1. You're right about that--it's what keeps it fun, isn't it? Thanks, Judi!

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  4. Ah, Liz, I can so empathize with you, sweet friend. Rejections are hard, especially when the reason for it is exactly the opposite of what you feel (and, obviously, your many fans feel) is what makes your books so strong. When I was writing for Kensington, my editor (not Nan, she was too wise to tell me the following) told me to be careful about not getting too bogged down in the history of the time and place and people. Well, when the book came out, an Amazon reviewer really knocked the lack of history in my books. Sometimes you can't win for losing. But we didn't get in this line of work for the accolades as much as we did for the reason you stated: Writing goes hand in hand with breathing. Hang in there! You're a wonderful writer. And your many, many fans will gladly tell you so.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Janie. We do have to remind ourselves of the breathing part, don't we?

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  5. Don't ever stop writing, Liz. And don't let the rejections get you down. Remember, it's just one person's opinion. There are plenty of us who love your work.

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    1. Thank you, Jana. We do need to be reminded, don't we?

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