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Monday, May 2, 2011

Attached At The Hip?

Before I get into today's post, I wanted to mention something that happened to me last night when I fell asleep with the tv on. An hour after I fell asleep, my subconscious woke me up instantly when it heard a reporter announce that Bin Laden was dead.

I don't discuss politics on this blog, so I moved my 'contribution' to Facebook. I've waited a long time to repeat this joke. Stop by when you get a chance.

***

On to today's post.

People sometimes ask me if it's hard to sell my chicks or the other animals I've raised. Or worse, put them in the pot. They want to know if I get attached to them.

Sometimes. But I try very hard to remain detached while they're with me. (Obviously, that never works with dogs--which is probably why I've had so many in my life.)

But writers have similar issues. I'll bet every writer who reads this can say he's been attached to his characters or stories at some point during the process, or they know someone (even themselves) who thinks of his novels as children.

When there has been sweat, tears and sleepless nights over a story, it's hard not to become attached. For the sake of your sanity (not to mention ease of editing) you must fight the urge to get all parental with your work.

There's nothing more suicidal than loving a story so much that you can't be objective about what to cut and what to enhance. I love my stories, but I'm not 'In Love' with them. Does that make sense?

And let's hear it for getting older. I have a terrible memory, but it has one terrific benefit. It helps me retain my distance by forgetting pieces of my stories.

My books are not my children. I don't have secret relationships with my characters, and I don't cry when I torture them. On the contrary, I actually get giddy when I find a new way to make life difficult for them.

(Admit it, you get that way too.)

The published book is history. It's past tense. It's a story that's already been told. I gave it the best I had at that particular moment in time. The rest is for the reader to decide.

But how about the books I'm working on presently? Am I intimate with those characters? Are they my children?

I hope not. I try not to create a dependency because my ultimate goal is to be completely objective when I edit. Yes, my critique partners help a lot in that regard, but ultimately, it's my responsibility. It's not my CPs' job to catch every problem area. It's mine. 

When the time comes to let the book go to a publisher or editor, I have to feel I've done all I can to make it the best book possible. It's up to my characters to sink, swim, or go in the pot.

How attached are you to your story once it's done?

24 comments:

Marianne Arkins said...

I admit to being a little attached, and I struggle with torturing my characters ... but not because they are MINE. I really hate when things go badly for people. I even struggle with reading books when things are THAT bad... I'm not sure what that says about me.

Happy Monday! :-)

Maria Zannini said...

It's a very happy Monday today.

Ref: bad things happening
Oh...you might not want to read Apocalypse Rising. I was absolutely brutal this time around. Meaner than usual. ;-)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Once I'm finished with a story, I'm like "Bub-bye". LOL!!
I start getting a little attached at the black moment when I'm writing it, because I know the end is coming but other than that, I'm ready to start something new. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: LOL. Maybe instead of typing 'the end', I should type: bub-bye. Love it.

Miss Good on Paper said...

I like to think of sending out stories and other pieces of writing as sending my babies out into the world. I'm attached, I guess, but not enough to hold onto them. I want to share!

Thanks for posting this. Happy Monday!

Maria Zannini said...

Miss GOP: Ref: sending children into the world
Yes, I'd want my children to get jobs and not mooch off me. They need to support their mother. LOL.

Marian Perera said...

After working in laboratories I don't have a problem with disposing of animals for a good reason (food, research, etc), but those animals don't have names. Is it more difficult to eat an animal you've named, like Oopsie?

Ellie said...

I must admit that I relish putting my characters through all sorts of trouble and strife, and if I started to get sentimental over them I'd probably kill them off. Mind you that doesn't stop them reminding me their mine!

Ellie Garratt

Angelina Rain said...

I’m kind of like you, I try not to get attached to any of my writings. I’ve only been attached to one story that I wrote. I was in my late teens when I wrote it and it was my first full-length romantic suspense novel. After I finished writing the story I became a bit depressed that I was done with those characters. Once I was done with that story I learned that 1, I love writing and creating the story and the characters, and 2, it’s not a good idea to get that attached to your work. I would love to get that story published someday, but I’m not ready yet to submit it. I don’t think I would handle its rejection well. Although I call all my stories “my baby”, that one is my only written baby.


Oh, and with that story, I learned how to torture my characters to death... well, almost.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: Oopsie was sold a week ago. With any luck she'll be a girl and live a long and happy life. If he's a boy, let's hope the new owners thinks he makes a beautiful rooster--too pretty to eat.


Ellie: I always ask myself, what's the worst thing that can happen to that character? Then I multiply that by two. :)

Angelina: I think the first story is always the baby. Most people never publish the first one. And maybe that for the best. It's like a piece of our soul.

Rula Sinara said...

Very Happy Monday!

Great post. I think it's kind of an issue of tough love. As a parent, you love your kids but you don't (or shouldn't) want to spoil them. You have to make yourself do what's good for them...which can include some suffering (growning pains) and letting go when the time comes. I like to think that I 'tough love' my characters.

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: Touch love. That's a perfect way to treat our characters.

raelynbarclay said...

I have a cross-stitch hanging by the door of my office that says: There are two special gifts we should give our children, one is roots, the other is wings

I guess that fits how I look at my stories too. I love them and am attached during that first draft or two but then I want them to fly.

Maria Zannini said...

That is beautiful, Raelyn. I like that a lot.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i've yet to get really attached to my books. Cutting things is easy, as is hurting my characters.

Darke Conteur said...

I still have an attachment to my stories once they're done. It's hard not to considering all the time you put into them.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I think I'm pretty much like you. I love, but I'm not in love. My beta readers have learned not to get too attached to my characters because if the story calls for it, I'll kill anyone. Which, taken out of context, totally makes me sound like a murderer...

Meghan Schuessler said...

I haven't finished a story yet, so I can't be sure how attached I'll be by the time I do. I do get very attached to animals though! I don't think I could ever foster a dog, cuz after a few days with him/her I would never want to let them go!

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: I did mean 'tough' love, not touch love. Totally different kind of love. LOL.

Sarah: You're sinfully mean. I like that about you. :)

Darke: Trust me, you'll get over it. Most people do, though I think we always have a special fondness for the first one.

Barbara: LOL! As writers we are lovers, fighters, sinners and murderers. That's what I love about this job. Great benefits!

Meghan: We've thought several times about fostering, but I don't think we can do it either. A book may not be a child to me, but a dog, yes. I love my dogs more than some blood relations. :grin:

Kay Theodoratus said...

If revising is a sign of attachment, me and my stories are Siamese twins.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Once I sign a contract for a story, I try to believe the story is no longer mine. It belongs to a whole raft of people: editor, copyeditor, blurb writer, cover designer, etc. I'm just one of many contributing. Of course, I have a clear idea about the story and respond from there regarding revisions. But signing that contract is my big moment of "handing it over".

Of course, any negative reviews are completely mine and I worry over them.

Maria Zannini said...

Kay: LOL! I like the line in Master And Commander: "He says there's enough of his blood in the woodwork for the ship to almost be a relation."

Fits for writing too.

Jenny: It's a hard thing to divorce yourself from your work, but that's exactly what I do too once the contract is signed. It's not mine anymore--not exclusively mine anyway.

But don't you go worrying yourself over reviews. In the end it's all subjective. One person will love it, the next person will hate it. All you can hope for is more people will love it than hate it.

Cate Masters said...

I love my characters too, but mostly the ones I'm writing at the moment (any given moment). My biggest problem with letting them go is that I always think of something later to change. I'd probably revise forever if I could, lol.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I think I always love who I'm writing about at the time--as it should be, otherwise you couldn't feel the passion beneath the words.

Ref: edit
Every once in a while I read a passage from a published book and think" Man, I should've written it this way.