Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Pluto isn't a planet and WriteOnCon changed my novel's first pages.
So I had a great experience at WriteOnCon this week. (WriteOnCon is an online conference for children's book writers, for those not in the know.) At first I wasn't sure what I could get out of an online conference, but it turns out the answer is a lot!
The livechats and vlogs were all fascinating, but I personally got the most out of the forums. That's where I was able to post my query letter and first five pages of my novel and get them critiqued by random (awesome) strangers.
After a day of review by others, something was clear to me: my opening 2 1/2 pages needed to be rewritten. Almost entirely. I was shocked. Shocked, because I had worked my novel to perfection months earlier. It was the best I could write it. And before that, I had worked it to perfection last year. Again, to the best I could write it. And the year before last year, I had done the same thing.
Huh. Noticing a trend, here.
Could it be that the quality of my novel decays over time as it sits on my hard drive? I think it's great, and then a couple months later it's gotten all gross and soggy, with mold spores galore?
Or...perhaps I've just become a better writer over time. Perhaps as I learn more and apply that knowledge, it forces changes onto things I thought were pretty set as they were.
As a scientist and a fiction writer, I can't help but notice things those two professions have in common. By spending time studying and experimenting, we grow in our knowledge, whether scientific or literary.
Pluto doesn't do that. We didn't know that before 2005, because we didn't know all those other tiny icy things existed. We just plain didn't see them before then.
Whoops. Well, at least Pluto is finally grouped where it should be! Congratulations on finding your true family, Pluto!
Likewise, my first few pages of my novel were scrutinized closely by myself and my critique group over and over. They changed many times, but finally settled out into awesomeness...
But that was back in 2011. Back before I learned how to see the "tiny icy things". Back before I knew what I know now.
It's a silly mentality. Once I set my stubbornness aside, I was able to spend two straight days crafting a wonderful new opening. An opening that demonstrated my protagonist's character and conflict neatly and clearly. An opening that fits with how the rest of my entire novel reads.
Pluto found it's rightful category in space, and my book just found it's new rightful opening.
Thank you, WriteOnCon.
So what does the future hold? Will my first pages stay the same forever? Almost certainly not, no. Will Pluto remain categorized as a Dwarf Planet? Honestly, probably not. We'll change that around as the need for new categories emerges in the future.
Science and writing are both about adaptability. When you learn something new, you apply it to the old and change it. Update it. Help it make more sense.
Maybe that's why I love them both so much. They've taught me the beauty of change.