Ever do that thing where you take a necklace or some sort of pendulum, hold the chain lightly between your thumb and forefinger and ask “it” questions? The first few being of course: which way for yes, no, can’t tell and won’t tell? And then you draw the lines in the various directions?
For the pitchfork totin’ villagers it may smack of divination and witchcraft, but way back in the day, my psych teacher said the “it” you’re askin’ is really your own subconscious. Thus the “can’t tell,” because your subconscious is only going to answer things it knows. Except for that pesky “won’t tell” bit.
So if you’re in a family way and you’ve had one itty bitty tax deduction born recently, you might be successful in “asking” the sex of pending tax deduction because hormones are hormones and the brain recognizes them. But if this is your first romp into parental bliss, you’re gonna get a “can’t tell.”
So back to the “won’t tell” bit and what it has to do with you, the writer.
There’s this thing called Truthfulness. You as a writer need to familiarize yourself with it on multiple levels.
Your readers, should you acquire them, can sniff out a lie faster than a millennial can swipe for a Starbucks. If you lie to your readers, you will lose them. This is why we are so often encouraged to write what we know. Even the wildest fantasy plot, character mix, and setting must have some element of truth to it or it simply will not be read to the end. We also must be truthful to ourselves as writers.
Never ask your subconscious if you’re a good writer. Your subconscious protects your ego, but it doesn’t like to lie to do it. So you’re gonna get that pesky “won’t tell.”
Ask your heart instead. If you are brutally truthful, you already know. Don’t delete your novel and take acid to your hard drive if the truth finds you inept as a storyteller. We all start somewhere and there is another T I didn’t advise my editor I was divulging, and that is: Training.
If you have the time and the talent and you are truthful, training is your friend. By the way, your friends are not your friends when it comes to truthfulness. They may tell you if you have food in your teeth, but if they know your level of passion regarding the written word, they may feel compelled to feed your ego rather than dash your dream. Editors, should you manage to get your work to pass an editor’s field of vision, will definitely advise you of the excremental aspect of your work because they are not your friend. (Except me. I love my editor. She’s my bestie. She also tells me straight when my stuff stinks.)
So do yourself a favor. Go to your mirror, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself honestly that your writing is awful. Admit that you need an editor. Own up to those plot holes and flat characters. Then be truthful about your goals and ambitions as a writer. If you don’t care how awful you are, fine. But if you desire publication, you must put in the time it takes to develop your skills and prepare your work for that finicky editor.
And finally, if I may be truthful with you, it’s easier on your little heart if you yourself gut your work and redo it a bazillion times than it will be if it’s handed back to you in pulpy pieces.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor