Friday, January 24, 2020

One Writer’s Rx for Achieving 20/20 Vision in 2020!

TeachingAuthors continues to celebrate 2020 - a New Year that begins a New Decade - with New Opportunities to refract our eyes so we can see our world with 20/20 vision.

20/20 vision - as in, “normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet.”

That’s swell ophthalmologically. (Think: eye drops, dilated pupils and eye exams!)
But how might that work for writers, especially those RE-visioning their stories?
How might they see their stories more sharply, more clearly, so they can tell them to readers the best way possible?

As luck would have it – and I mean that sincerely, since I’m always grateful for opportunities to get my stories right, I’ve spent the past two months revisiting two picture book manuscripts that received requests for revision.
So here’s my step-by-step Rx for achieving 20/20 vision when returning to your manuscripts with refracted eyes:

• Look backward.
Return to your very first draft to take a second look at the story you were telling yourself. Then reread the subsequent drafts to see the choices you considered and the choices you made to tell that story to your intended readers.
Ask: “Better or worse? Better or worse?” 😊
Wallow in your early notes, your first stabs at story starts, character names, plot points, to uncover nuggets that still serve your story.
Smile at your “darlings” – those favorite phrases, names, lines, possibly lamenting their loss.
Think about where you’ve been (conferences, webinars, classes, retreats, Writing Groups) and how much you’ve learned since starting the story, then pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve come since that very first story spark brought you to the page.

• Probe inward.
This is the step in which you see with your heart.
Determine why this story grabbed you.
[Note: I addressed this question in my February, 2019 post.]
Ask yourself what your story is truly about and describe your Reader’s take-away.
Perhaps your original premise and take-away need to be distilled and refined.
Ask yourself why the world needs this story and why you are the perfect person to tell it.
Reflect on just where you are in your story.
You can do all of the above in a letter to yourself.
Digging deep not only ensures your story will connect with your Readers. It will keep you on task.

• Press forward.
This is the true “doing” part because you’re sufficiently fortified by earlier insights.
First read – several times – the suggested and/or recommended revision needs.
Restate in your own words what’s being put forth. Separate the requests into doable tasks – for instance, language concerns, format requirements, reader accessibility, elements of narrative – the plot’s sagging middle, a two-dimensional character, inorganic actions, etc.
Then read those recommendations and suggestions again.
Find mentor texts that address those recommendations and suggestions. (Think:  genre/format/tone/subject matter/characterization, etc.) Read, study and parse each text. Type out the parts that are relevant. Read reviews of each.
One by one, return to your newest iteration willing to address each task, each request, if possible.
Evaluate honestly: "Better or worse?"
Put the manuscript away for at least 3 or 4 days, if not a week or two, or even a month, then re-evaluate.

• Reach outward.
Sometimes we’re still too close to our manuscripts to honestly evaluate how well they're working.
Share both the editorial requests and your revision with your valued trusted Writing Group or Writing Partner.
If neither option is available, consider receiving a critique via a conference, contest, webinar.
Again: ask "Better or worse? Better or worse?"

• Gaze upward.
IMHO: this step requires no further explanation. 😊
We’re not in this alone! Seek help everywhere!

• Continue onward!
This last step may well be prefaced with admiring declines, or even more suggestions that require lots of response verbs that begin with the prefix RE – as in, again.
In other words: there might be some repetition of the above steps.
Or not!
This step offers all sorts of possible verbs, like breathe, believe, sign, celebrate, thank, but best of all, connect and resonate – with your readers.
The truth is, whether we take two steps forward or one step back, when our vision registers 20/20, the possibilities to get your story right are endless

Of course, I’m well aware the above step-by-step Rx for achieving 20/20 vision IS NOT LIMITED to only writers telling their stories to readers. Indeed, it can prove most beneficial to human beings seeking clarity in their lives, regardless of purpose.  We have 365 chances to see the light to get it right, “it” being whatever seeks our focus.

Perhaps "clarity" should be my Word for 2020? Though “upward” and “onward” are mighty contenders.

Thanks to children's author and poet Karthryn Apel for hosting today's Poetry Friday.

And Happy Visioning to our intrepid TeachingAuthors Readers!

Esther Hershenhorn
If you're looking for a time and place this summer to refine your vision and your stories, I'm again honored to continue facilitating Barbara Seuling's Manuscript Workshop July 12-17 at the beautiful Landgrove Inn in Landgrove, Vermont.  Innkeeper Tom Checchia is currently offering a discount on Room and Board.  Learn more by visiting my website and scrolling down the page and/or emailing me. Those gorgeous Green Mountains are downright magical!


Bobbi Miller said...

Endless possibility! What an inspirational post. Thank you!

Carmela Martino said...

Terrific suggestions, Esther! Thanks for sharing. I wish I could attend your workshop!

David McMullin said...

This is fantastic advice. I feel very motivated after this!

Carol Coven Grannick said...

What a fabulous (and in my near-sighted but cataractless eyes, familiar!) framework for re-visioning. I particularly value the focus on holding onto, re-visioning as necessary, or even reframing the "heart" of the story. For me, if I feel somehow that I've lost sight of it during revisions, going back to that first draft is where I'll usually find it. And - best wishes for those two PBs!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

So glad my post proved inspiring!
Thanks to all for taking the time to leave a comment or email me privately.
Onward and upward!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Esther ~ I love the backward/inward/forward/outward./upward ideas. I've printed it out to reread.

And always, I love your enthusiasm <3