Friday, May 11, 2007

Making a Literary Life Friday: Perspective

Perspective isn't simply a matter of point-of-view, first or third, a way to tell a story within our writing, we must also carefully consider whose perspective matters when it's time to share pages. Whose opinion matters most: your writers' group, agent's, editor's, or do you listen to that voice that's been whispering to you all along? We'd like to hear.

To me, what's most important is that voice inside me. Funny how outsiders are sometimes the ones to remind us to listen to that voice. This past weekend, I had the honor of interviewing Gregory Maguire, a truly brilliant but gentle and genuinely kind person. His body of work speaks for itself: Wicked, Son of a Witch, Lost, Mirror Mirror, True Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Fantastic children's books. The list goes on.
That writer's voice inside me was singing after I spoke with Gregory. It chimed out and for once I was listening. "Let go and write! Write Sad. Write Happy. Write Magic. Write Odd.
The article will be published in the summer quarterly issue of The Grub Street Rag.

The most important lesson I've learned over these past months is to trust that inner voice. The part of the writing process I expected to be the most difficult has indeed turned out to be the most frustrating: revising. This week, however, a break through, thanks in large part to Scott Heim. His advice was - and I'm paraphrasing -- to revise around the original idea, not away from it. It may sound convulted, he probably said it better, but it makes perfect sense to me. Also, HH LeCraw had invaluable advice about POV: make sure your reader isn't skimming through one character's chapters to get to another's. Obvious, perhaps, but how many writers have fallen victim to choosing favorites? Thanks to both of them, and most of all my amazing Writers' Group who always have the answers, I'm no longer lost.

The inner voice is most important. Other voices can be helpful; I find considered assessment useful because my inner voice also tends to have sudden, wonderful ideas that lead me astray. Jennifer Haigh prefers to work in solitude, she says, without a writers group's offerings. There are as many approaches as there are writers. Still, even when you produce a draft worth handing off to trusted readers or an agent, the question is whether you did stay true to that original vision. Is whatever prompted you to spend hours at the keyboard or with pen woven into the final pages? Only the inner voice can make that decision.

I traveled to NY this week to meet with my publicity team at Penguin. Like a job interview, I had the task of shining a light on why my book would stand out among others on the bookstore shelves and why I’m the person to represent my ideas. Enthusiasm filled the room, and since Tuesday my head and heart. Looking back on this whole process, I’m so grateful that I believed in my book through the search for my brilliant agent and through the angst filled days I waited for word of the sale. It all came together on a sunny day in the city, where I sat around a conference table in a room that has heard the fate of many books, and I heard bright eager professionals discuss endless possibilities for mine. My perspective: that moment was worth waiting for.

Debuts: If you didn't pre-order, run to your nearest independent bookstore and get your copy of Tish Cohen's just released novel, "Town House." Don't wait for the movie. Did we mention rights were bought by Fox 2000 and Pulitzer-Tony-Golden Globe Award winner Doug Wright (Quills, Memoirs of a Geisha) wrote the screen play? Congratulations, Tish!

Upcoming Literary Events: Tickets are on sale now for Post Road Magazine's fundraiser. Join us on Thursday, May 17 at the Radcliffe Gymnasium in Cambridge as bestselling author Dennis Lehane reads from his latest book of short stories "Coronado." Hit the link for more information.

On Wednesday, May 23 Buttonwood Books in Cohasett is hosting New York Times bestselling author William Martin as he reads from his latest thriller, "The Lost Constitution" at the Hingham Public Library. Look for this, and the rest of the Buttonwood series, at their web site.


Larramie said...

Have you heard/read that Town House has all but "sold out" on and they've had to reorder more? Way to go, Tish! ;o))

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Wa-HOO, Tish! That's amazing news, but not at all surprising. Catching Genius, Promise Not to Tell, Good Things, and now Town House are all breakout hits. Way to go, Debs!

Anonymous said...

The Inner Voice seems to be such a subjective qty. It is elusive too. Like guessing how much air there
is in the room you sit in.
As a writer I hear a a number of inner voices. When I started my WIP
the inner voice said to write in Omni.
Now, with the rough draft finished; another voice has reared up its ead saying that I should do the rewrite in First person.
It's no more voices, more like a noise inside me.
You tell me : which voice do I listen to? The first one that spoke in omni or the new one that speaks
first person?

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Reality, if I were you, I would give a good first draft to my writers' group for their opinion. If you don't have one, how about a beta reader, someone who understands craft? No? Grub Street offers an editorial service ( If all else fails, put your WIP aside for a few weeks, come at it with fresh eyes. As you revise, be sure to read it aloud. It may take a while, but you'll rediscover the source of your inspiration.


Patry Francis said...

Town House is AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Amy,
I'll look up the grub street site. I don't have a writers group. And even then, I wouldn't give my WIP out right now. It's only a rough draft. Very rough.
At the moment I am just sitting tight. Though I continuously think about the perspective I should use.
Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Patry,I'm going to Buttonwood Books today to buy my copy of Town House. I can't wait. And did you see the review of Rebecca Stott's Ghostwalk in the NYT yesterday?

Reality, I admire your patience. It's an essential ingredient to getting published. Please keep us updated, will you?