Writing Relationship: on loving your story (and other things)

Let me ask you a very pointed question: Are you in love with your story?

So, what if you answered yes? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I wouldn’t want you to hate your story. That’s probably a bad thing. But a head-over-heals, my-love-can-do-no-wrong kind of love is definitely too much of a good thing. Which is true in human relationships as well. Take it from a veteran (and beneficiary) of thirty-five years (and counting) of successful marriage: a lasting positive relationship with a fellow human being requires maturity and commitment. You have to get past that starry-eyed stage, because let’s face it, nobody is that perfect! And the same goes for you, and for your manuscript.

You’ve heard about being willing to kill your darlings? Yes, you have to do that sometimes – and whatever else it takes to make the manuscript work well enough to achieve what you decide you want it to achieve. That’s where maturity comes in. You have to be able to see things clearly and you have to be willing to make adjustments – revise your wording or your plans – in order to balance conflicting needs. It’s taken me years to get there with respect to my fantasy series, but I’m finally at a point where I can be quite calm and matter-of-fact about doing significant surgery on the manuscripts. The glamor of first love has worn off. The combined weight of all the advice I’ve read, and heard, and personally been given has certainly contributed to this change. That, and time: As I ready the manuscript of book 1, Gift of Chance, for publication, I’m working with passages that I originally wrote literally years ago. I find that over time I’ve gained the benefit of perspective.

Now for the bit about commitment. You see, one thing that hasn’t changed is my determination to put my work before readers. I still love my story, just with a more mature kind of love. Commitment to me means having a deep sense of the value of what you’re doing, from which springs the determination to follow through with what you’ve started. The love that sparks commitment has an element of vision in it that both acknowledges and transcends the level-headed logic of maturity. When it comes to a marriage, this is the slow-burning fire that starry-eyed love hopefully turns into – that causes you to deliberately put what you feel ahead of what is most expedient in solving some issue that has arisen in your lives. Because you can see, clearly and maturely, that what you feel is what is really important. When it comes to your manuscript, it’s what leads you to reject some suggested change that would have made your project more “commercial” at the cost of it ceasing to be the story you want to tell. It’s not that your vision can’t undergo some adjustments in the cold light of mature analysis; it’s just that there are limits beyond which it would be wrong to go.

There’s a limit to how far you can stretch any analogy, and this one feels about to snap. I don’t know, maybe you think it already did a while ago. As always, please feel free to tell me what you think.