Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Nepalese Cheese Man: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Welcome to Tuesday - it's time to be accountable again.

This last week has meant adjustment. There was decidedly less drama this week, so that certainly made everything easier. Whew!

1. Unfortunately, for me because I'm no morning person, my schedule has necessarily been adjusted to accomodate - *gulp* - morning writing. Yes, my writing bretheren, I am now getting up at 5:30a.m. to write.

While it is generally painful, it is more painful not to write...and that's exactly what was happening these past few weeks. Bronwen has given up naps and therefore keboshed my writing time. I admit to a certain level of irritation at this.

But! Apparently morning writing is a successful alternative. I've added a chapter and a half since last week. I'm planning on finishing the rough draft of this puppy in two months TWO MONTHS! Note it, dear blog readers! Hold me accountable! Rough Draft Done in Two Months!!!

2. This past weekend was also writers group weekend and I have to say that I learn something about myself as a writer every month because of these beautiful people.

But first, a seeming tangent:

Do you guys watch House Hunters International? I do. I greatly enjoy learning about different parts of the world and especially the challenges facing those who choose to live somewhere other than their hometown/country.

There was recently an episode of HHI in which a French man decided to pack everything up and head to Nepal to become a cheese maker. My first thought was: Really? Then, when he confessed to not having a great deal of experience in cheese and that he'd been something like a computer engineer (I can't remember now what he actually did), I thought: Really?

Then they started showing the 'houses.' By 'houses' I mean shacks along the side of rutted dirt roads where running water was a luxury. And I thought: REALLY? And by now I'm convinced this guy is bat-shit crazy. He knows nothing about cheese, nothing about the area, nothing about whatever else he might need to know about!

Crazy!

I watched the whole show with bated breath, dying to see the six month update where the show follows up and sees how folks are doing.

Six month update: The guy was doing great. He'd revamped the shacks, hired local workers, developed a small factory, had a stable for the animals, storage for the cheeses, equipment to make the cheeses, and vehicles to take the cheese into town to sell. He managed to harness the water, smooth out the road leading to his land, and looked way better groomed than I thought he could've managed.

It struck me: the Nepalese cheese man had a vision. And in order for me to buy into it, he had to show me. His talking about it was not good enough. All his talking and explaining did was convince me how dead wrong he was.

Cut to writers group.

I submitted a revised first chapter. It's about ten pages and is a change in tone and style from the stuff the group had read before. This change was instigated based on other changes I made during NaNoWriMo.

The reactions to the change were not mixed. Every single person had the same issue - solutions varied, but the central issue remained the same. Namely, the tone and structure of the new piece was inconsistant with the tone and structure of the chapters the group had read before. They looked at me as if I were nuts, as if I were some Frenchman who was doing a perfectly good job in computer science but suddenly wanted to be a Nepalese fromagier.

I admit, my initial reaction was very defensive.

It took me a little while to work out why I was so incredibly bothered by their reaction. I soooo wanted them to roll with the new digs. And it honestly surprised me when they seemed so confused or worried about the new pages. Normally I can judge what the issues are going to be.

Then it occured to me: I'm 100 pages ahead of these guys. (120 if you count this past week's work.) I've made changes they haven't seen or even heard of. I switched the structure quite a bit. I did a 180 on them and expected them to turn when they'd been reading on another axis entirely.

I was frustrated when they recommended changes I'd already made. A little evil part of me went: Why the hell are they being so obtuse? Can't they just trust my genius?

Well, no Nepalese Cheese Man Jenny, they can't.

Here's why:
1. They have no access to your brain.
2. They have no access to the pages you've written/rewritten - they have only the context you've given them.
3. And you're misunderstanding them anyway. They're only pointing out shit you've already acknowledged needs to be corrected.

Here's what to take away from that: it's not enough to tell people your vision - whether as a writer or a Nepalese cheese man. For people to buy into your work, you have to do the work well and show them. Otherwise they'll argue against you, convinced that you're dead wrong. You're defensive. You're obtuse.

Show don't tell counts in life as well as fiction. Remember that.

Now...what did you guys learn? Get a lot of work done? (Yes, Fleur...I know about your rough draft. Punk. Whom I love. But...punk.)

6 comments:

  1. Quit calling me a punk, lady! :-)

    Actually, you're so right, I linked to you on my blog today. This is all in an effort to make myself look smarter.

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  2. Love your explanations and connections! I was typing up a scene while staying overnight at a chalet with friends this weekend and someone was reading over my shoulder... I was kinda hoping for a "what happened next?" and it didn't come. Guess that scene needs revising!

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    1. This just proves you're a better writer than me...if I was staying overnight at a friend's chalet, I wouldn't be worrying about "what happened next" I'd probably be drinking. =)

      (Ya know, unless it was a writing retreat...)

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  3. Brilliant post :) Nepalese Cheese Man. I think that gets to be your new name.

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  4. I'd love to go on a writers' retreat!

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