Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do the Work. Even if It's Work.

 I now have a few hundred tutoring sessions under my belt, and I can say that I am pleasantly surprised at how much most of the students really want to learn. Where my instinct is to just correct and edit, I am required to actually explain and work through examples with the students, and I thought they might balk about it, but mostly they don't. They really do want to know WHY a comma should go here, but not there.

On the other hand, there are the students who come who don't want to work. Who want me to do the work for them. And not just on editing, but on the actual writing.

I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I can help you generate ideas and clarify your position. I can help you outline and develop a strong thesis statement. But I can't actually write this for you. You have to do that hard work yourself."

And it is hard. I know that. For some people, having ideas are very different than putting those ideas down on paper into words that flow and have meaning and structure. But still, that is their job as a student. Do the work. Even if it's hard.

I've come to a part in revising my novel where I've hit a snag between the old version and the new. The old version is one point of view, the new is two, and trying to shift some of the story into someone else's eyes has gotten tricky.

Yesterday I realized that the chapter I was writing in a new point of view had lost all the magic of the first version by putting it in another character's eyes. All the zing? Gone.

My impulse was to just ditch the idea of alternating chapters and let the girl take this one, even though she had the last chapter, and the chapter after it. Or make on long, long chapter with her. I wasn't looking at that as the easy way out... I just thought it would work better.

But it didn't feel right. It felt like I was reneging on a bargain I'd made myself when I began revisions.  I closed the computer and began to turn it over in my head. How can I keep this chapter in her POV without losing the need for alternating POVs?

If I kept this chapter as it was, I could add another, new chapter, in the boy's POV before it. That's a seemingly easy answer, of course, except there isn't anything that needed to be said between the last chapter and this. Time-wise, they bleed into each other.

I couldn't just throw in something random. It had to mean something. The whole point of the male POV is to offer the reader pieces of the puzzle the girl doesn't have. Something the audience knows that is important, but that she doesn't. A tension thing, really. So this newer chapter would have to have that. And what else could I throw in that wouldn't seem like I was just throwing it in?

I twisted so many things around, my brain hurt. It felt like work, this figuring things out.

But I did. Finally. After hours, I figured out a chapter for him that would throw a huge wrench in the plot - and strengthen a part of the book that was already a bit weak.

Win win!!

Could I have done something easier? Absolutely? Was taking the harder task on of fixing it right worth it? I sure think so right now.

Sometimes, I have to tell my students, "Do the work. Even if it feels like work."

It's good advice for me, as well.


  1. Excellent advise. I'm working on doing the work. Even if it feels like work. I'm glad you figured out your snag and strengthened you book in the process!

    1. Thank you, Robin! And good luck doing your hard work. :)

  2. Writing is hard. And so many people in this world just think it's easy - sit down and put together a story. But it isn't easy. At all. I've been grappling with problems in my revision, too, and the best thing I can do is walk away, mull it over, think about things, let my brain sort it out. And it IS hard. Sometimes so much so that I want to scrap the whole thing. But when the answer comes and it works so beautifully...oh, that makes all the hard work completely worth it!

    1. You said that all so well, Melissa!! I think writing does come easily to some people. I know some of those people. :) But not to me, and certainly not to most of my students. And sometimes you have to just sit down and write through that, and sometimes, especially when plotting, it's important to step away. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in that. :)

  3. I don't think people realize how hard writing is until they try it. Like you said it's one thing to have great ideas, but quite another to put it on paper in a meaningful way. Still struggling with that one.

    1. I keep writing and the comment keeps disappearing!!

      Writing IS hard! I can know exactly where a book is going - have an entire scene planned in my head when I sit - and still not be able to put it into words. Ideas are not the problem! Those I have in spades! But getting them into words... sigh. I think I have writing dysplasia! But maybe I'm not alone?

  4. Thanks for your stories!! I appreciate that. When I war working for, I tried to write as fast as I could. However, I did not manage to do this. My books seems shallow. Now I'm trying to do my best and do not hurry. You inspired me to do this.