Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stop Making Things Up!

by Lee Ann Setzer

I’ve been working through the book we received at the CFI writers’ conference, Get Off the Beach!, by keynote speaker Eloise Owens. She uses surfing metaphors to illustrate principles of salesmanship and marketing.

She quotes a famous surfer: “Essential requirement for a big-wave rider is not courage, daring, or fitness but a non-arousable imagination.” Owens emphasizes the “mental strength to stay quiet while executing through the unknown.”

So, how’s that supposed to help a novelist? We’re using our imaginations to “execute through the unknown,” and if they're "non-arousable," we're in trouble! This reminded me of advice I heard years from authors Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith: “Stop making things up!”

We’re novelists. We have great imaginations. We can create a whole dramatic chain of events from one minor occurrence. We make things up for fun and profit. The problem comes when we write the query letter, put the manuscript in the mailbox, and start waiting—and making things up.

It’s the worst thing they’ve ever received. I haven’t heard back because they burned it and scattered the ashes. Not only do these editors hate this manuscript, every editor in the world (or universe, if you write science fiction), is destined to hate everything I ever write for the rest of my short and miserable life. I should have become an accountant.

So, fellow authors, how do you avoid making things up? Or do you guide your limitless imagination in positive paths, and put it to work for you?

Me, I have a goal to receive 100 rejection letters.


Brittany Mangus said...

How do I avoid making things up? I write non-fiction. :p

Shirley Bahlmann said...

I keep working on another project. It keeps my mind focusing forward.

Christine Thackeray said...

Well, you just explained me to a "T". I worry too much about everything and then when I'm totally frazzled out, I write the most tense of my scenes because I have the angst for it.