I once had a boyfriend that none of my friends or family liked. He wasn’t a bad guy; he just wasn’t the best guy for me. So what did I do? I married him. Truthfully, that first husband and ALL of my boyfriends before or since met that description. Until my current lovely husband . . . but that is another story.
I tell you that to tell you this: I have a history of not listening to anyone. My initial thought will always be “they don’t know the whole story like I do.”
This flaw in my character was brought home to me this month during two online workshops. I took both of them because I knew my synopsis skills were weak, and I’m to the synopsis stage of pitching. Imagine my shock when the instructors started pointing out flaws, not in my synopsis but in my story — the dearly beloved, finished story that I’m ready to submit.
My initial reaction was the same as with all my past boyfriends – “they just don’t understand.” Then it struck me . . . maybe they did and I was just being stubborn. I had two options: I could take it personally, or I could learn. And, truthfully, why take a class and not learn something?
Rather than being hurt and dismissive, I sat down and tried writing my story differently, and I learned a valuable lesson. My manuscript has more direction; it has a center from where all the action can build; and there’s a purpose to it. The bigger point is that the whole story is on the page for the reader to see and follow. It’s a better story.
My own romantic life would have been much easier if I’d listened to all those friends and family members who tried to keep me from making bad decisions. Instead, I beat my head against a wall for years wondering why I never got anywhere. I could have done the same thing with my writing, probably with the same result.
There’s an irony to this: I used to tell my composition students, “don’t fall in love with your first draft.” You can’t help but fall in love with them. Much like those not-right guys who I think of fondly (well, most of them anyway), I will ALWAYS love the first draft of my story. But, just like my extraordinary second husband, there was a better one out there waiting on me. All I had to do was learn.