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Friday, February 28, 2014

It takes a (well-informed) village ...

Not to be trite but yes -- it does, in fact, take a village.

I've been working on finishing off and polishing up my novel, with a weary eye on the word count. For the story I'm telling, I know that I'll be expected to have at least 70,000 words down. With about 14,000 to go, and just a handful of obvious holes to fill in, I've been focusing in more on identifying where my story lacks development or depth.

This is where the village has been helpful.


Hopefully your village is better than a painstakingly diverse group of stock people.
Photo copyright 2014 iStockphoto LP. 

Here's my confession: tvtropes.org has been an invaluable resource to me in the editing process. Followed by my partner, a trusted friend, and then the handful of writing blogs I follow. Followed then, most strangely, by the advice I solicit from internet friends on a fitness site I frequent.

There are a lot of hands in my novel, finding the questions and prodding me for answers, or supplying me with answers on the rare occasion that I actually know the question.



Despite how it seems, writing is not a solitary task. Even if you are not one to broadcast questions or actively seek the input of others, you are not only the sum of your parts. You are comprised of the questions, ambitions, and pet passions of others as well. You are a product of the information you consume and the people around you.

When I sit down to write, I begin with the pieces that are important to me. My personality steers more towards questions about identity, relationships, ethical and moral quandaries and sociology. I am primarily concerned with people, and how people think and act and treat one another. Perfect for writing, right?

Well ... no. Because there is more to writing than characters and people. This is where my village comes in. My village will provoke questions I may never ask on my own. After giving a gloss over of my novel's setting the other day, my partner looked at me and flatly stated, "You gave them Stone Age technology. How are they weaving and they don't even have bronze? That doesn't make any sense."

Me: That-- but ... well, you see it's because -- it's just that-- buh...

And so on for about 15 minutes. Because I hadn't even thought about it, nor would I EVER have thought of that on my own. Did I have any compelling reason for their abysmal progress in technology or their lack of retained knowledge? If not, then this was a glaring error/omission that I never would have seen.

Sometimes it's not only a matter of a thoughtless error. I was poking around the other day and came across the All Periods are PMS trope and was angry that it even existed. How sexist! How chauvinistic! How feminist-angering! "Hey," I suddenly remembered. "I'm writing a novel." Which means that I have an opportunity to subvert this trope for the benefit of women everywhere. You're welcome, ladies.

I have made a habit now of browsing through TV Tropes to pinpoint what tropes I've been relying on, and questioning my use of them. Not all tropes are bad (just like not all cliches are to be avoided), but many are just the result or thoughtless or careless writing -- neither of which do I have a desire to be guilty of. If I'm going to subscribe to a trope, I want it to be purposeful.

So when you sit down to write your novel, don't shut yourself away from the world. In this time, with our privileged access to information be it via library or computer or phone or friend, there is little legitimate excuse for ignorance. So be daring and challenge your writing, your prejudices, your beliefs, your notions -- all of it. And let the village lend a hand.


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